14 Years After Guantanamo Facility Opened, Detainee Transferred to Saudi Arabia

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today praises the transfer of Saudi Muhammed Abd Al Rahman Awn Al-Shamrani from Guantanamo Bay to his home country, but notes that the pace of transfers must increase if the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is to close by the end of President Obama’s term in office. Today’s transfer comes exactly 14 years after the camp was opened, and just one day before President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union address that is expected to highlight his intention to close Guantanamo before the end of his second term.

“In past years President Obama has used the State of the Union address to renew his promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “But the time for just making promises is over. This year the president should outline concrete steps his administration will take to get the job done. Unless the president makes this a priority, closing Guantanamo will be left to his successor.”

Muhammed Abd Al Rahman Awn Al-Shamrani has been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002.

News reports have indicated that the administration plans to transfer another 13 Guantanamo detainees out of the facility by the end of the month, a move that would bring the detention facility’s population to 90 and bring it below 100 for the first time since Guantanamo opened in January 2002. Forty-four of the remaining detainees are cleared for transfer, and another 46 are eligible for Periodic Review Board (PRB) review. During his final White House press conference of 2015, President Obama doubled down on his commitment to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba before the conclusion of his second term.

Over the weekend, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough reaffirmed President Obama’s promise to shutter Guantanamo before the end of his final year in office. McDonough told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that the president feels “an obligation to the next president. He will fix this so that they don’t have to be confronted with the same set of challenges.”

Thirty-two of the nation’s most respected retired generals and admirals have urged President Obama to submit a plan to Congress detailing actions the administration will take to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Signatories to the letter are members of a larger group of retired military leaders who have long advocated for closing Guantanamo. Many of them stood behind President Obama on his second day in office in 2009 as he signed the executive order to close Guantanamo within one year.

Human Rights First notes that PRB reviews should have been completed for every eligible detainee over 3 years ago. Detainees who are not cleared for transfer, or who will face prosecution, will likely need to be transferred to the United States in order to close Guantanamo.

In a recent Human Rights First poll conducted by Harris Interactive, two-thirds of Americans agreed that detainees who have been cleared for transfer out of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be sent to countries that have agreed to take them. The majority of Americans also agreed that the U.S. government can fight terrorism effectively without the Guantanamo detention center.

Human Rights First’s plan to close Guantanamo is outlined in its latest Blueprint: How to Close Guantanamo.


Published on January 11, 2016


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