WASHINGTON -- The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday he believed President Barack Obama remained committed to shutting down the U.S. prison camps at Guantanamo Bay after discussing the issue with Obama at the White House on Wednesday.
"The issue of Guantanamo is politically blocked in this country," Peter Maurer told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington. "One important message I brought to all my U.S. interlocutors over the past few days was also that this is an untenable blockage, that they should put their energy and political energy into finding a new compromise that will move the delicate issues forward."
Maurer declined to go into details about his discussions with Obama. He also passed on an opportunity to condemn the use of force feedings during the ongoing hunger strikes at the prison camps.
"If we see a hunger strike today, we interpret this as a symptom, as an indicator about the lack of perspective that those detainees have, the impression of an American government which does not follow up on promises, promises that have been made on transfers," Maurer said.
While ICRC investigators visited Guantanamo during the hunger strikes, Maurer declined to discuss what they saw, saying such information was part of the confidential conversation his organization was having with U.S. officials.
Maurer's remarks came the same day as pre-trial hearings were cancelled in the military commissions case against a man charged in connection with the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. Defense lawyers had lost over seven gigabytes of data because of issues with the Pentagon's computer system. In response, the head of the Pentagon's Office of Chief Defense Counsel issued an order instructing attorneys to discontinue using e-mail communications to transmit confidential or privileged information, and to stop using personal or common drives to store such information.
Activists also organized protests against the Guantanamo prison camps in D.C., New York, Chicago and San Francisco on Thursday, the same day a group of 25 human and civil rights organizations wrote a letter to Obama, calling on the president to "take immediate steps to end indefinite detention without charge and begin closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay."