US president lifts ban on filing new charges at detention facility he had promised to close within year of taking office.
Barack Obama has approved the resumption of military trials for detainees at Guantánamo Bay, ending a two-year ban.
The US president instructed the defence department to lift an order that had suspended the filing of new charges in the military tribunals at the camp.
It was the latest acknowledgement that the detention facility which Obama had vowed to shut down within a year of taking office will remain open for some time to come.
Obama said: "I strongly believe that the American system of justice is a key part of our arsenal in the war against al-Qaida and its affiliates, and we will continue to draw on all aspects of our justice system – including Article III courts – to ensure that our security and our values are strengthened." Article III courts are civilian federal courts.
Under Obama's order, defence secretary Robert Gates will rescind his January 2009 ban against bringing new cases against the terror suspects at the detention facility.
Closure of the facility has become difficult because of questions about where terror suspects would be held.
Obama had suspended charges when he announced a review of the detainee policy in early 2009, shortly after he took office. The White House said that review was now complete.
Obama also issued an executive order on establishing a process to continue to hold some Guantánamo detainees who have been neither charged, convicted nor designated for transfer but who are deemed to pose a threat to US security.
However, the White House said Obama remained committed to eventually closing the prison at Guantánamo, at some point.
There are still 172 detainees at the Guantánamo prison and about three dozen were set for prosecution in either US criminal courts or military commissions. Republicans had demanded the trials be held at Guantánamo.
Charges are expected to be filed soon against three prisoners the administration has already identified as eligible for trial. All three had previously been charged during the Bush administration but their cases were dropped in 2009 so the Obama administration could conduct a review of the Guantánamo detention policy. Here are details of the cases:
• Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri - Saudi Arabian national of Yemeni descent, accused mastermind of the attack on the warship USS Cole in 2000. The attack by a small, explosives-laden boat in the Yemeni port of Aden killed 17 US sailors and wounded 47. Nashiri is accused of being al-Qaida's operations chief for the Arabian Peninsula. The CIA has acknowledged using the simulated-drowning technique known as waterboarding on him and Polish prosecutors are investigating Nashiri's claims that he was tortured by interrogators at a secret CIA prison in Poland before he was moved to Guantánamo. He was captured in Dubai in 2002. The original charges under the Bush administration carried the death penalty.
• Ahmed al Darbi - Saudi Arabian accused of buying a boat and global positioning devices and shopping for crewmen as part of an unrealised plot to ram an explosives-laden boat into an unidentified ship in the Strait of Hormuz. A lawyer familiar with the case said Darbi was given $50,000 to further the plot but spent it on prostitutes and drugs. Darbi has said he used his boat only to ferry sheep across the strait. Darbi is also accused of teaching at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan and meeting Osama bin Laden there. He was captured in Azerbaijan in 2002.
• Obaidullah - Afghan who uses only one name. He is accused of working with al-Qaida in Afghanistan, hiding mines and other explosives at his residence and having a notebook that included instructions on how to use them. Obaidullah has said the mines belonged to a commander who lived in the house during the Soviet occupation, and that he only had the notes because the Taliban forced him to attend a bomb detection class. He was captured in Afghanistan in 2002.