White House sources say the order will force the controversial detention facility – which houses prisoners taken in the course of the \’War on Terror\’ – to close within a year.
Obama is also poised to officially ban torture, by ordering that all interrogators follow the guidelines in the US Army\’s field manual when questioning suspects.
Guantanamo Bay\’s prison camp became a symbol of the Bush presidency\’s heavily criticised approach to the battle against terrorism.
“The detention facilities at Guantanamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order,” the draft executive order – posted on the website of the American Civil Liberties Union – said.
The draft said “lawful means” should be used to deal with detainees who cannot be transferred to other countries or tried in US courts.
The draft surfaced hours after Obama acted to suspend war crimes trials at Guantanamo for 120 days pending a review of detention policies and procedures at the offshore US prison.
Inmates to be transferred
But it remains unclear what Obama\’s decision will mean for the jail\’s inmates, many of whom have been there for several years without trial.
It is thought some will be charged and sent to other prisons within the US to await trial, and others will be released.
Where those who are freed will end up is also under discussion – both the UK and Australia are known to have had discussions with the US with regard to taking in ex-inmates.
Republican politician Bill Young, a member of the House of Representatives, told CNN he had “quite a bit of anxiety” about transferring detainees to US prisons.
“Number one, they\’re dangerous; secondly, once they become present in the United States, what is their legal status? What is their constitutional status?
“I worry about that, because I don\’t want them to have the same constitutional rights that you and I have. They are our enemy,” he told the news network.
Camp \’a legal black hole\’
Guantanamo, and the special tribunals set up to try some of its inmates, have been condemned as a legal black hole by rights groups and foreign governments.
Obama\’s swift move to force its closure has been welcomed by many of those organisations.
The ACLU called the draft order “the first ray of sunlight in what has been eight long years of darkness.”
And New York-based Human Rights Watch said: “With the stroke of a pen, President Obama will make great progress toward restoring America\’s moral authority.”
“By shutting down a global symbol of abuse, he will deprive terrorists of a powerful recruitment tool,” Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
However, the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has defended detainees at Guantanamo, said the closure would not come fast enough.
The group expressed its disappointment that Obama\’s order “gave his administration an entire year to sort out its plans.”