14 Years Into His Detention at Guantanamo, Another One of the “Dirty 30” Gets His Periodic Review Board Hearing
By Alice Debarre
This morning observers gathered at the Pentagon to observe the 26th Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearing, convened to assess whether Guantanamo detainee Majid Mahmud Adbu Ahmed remains “a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”
Majid, a 35-year-old Yemeni national, was captured in 2001 by Pakistani authorities alongside a group identified as the “Dirty 30”– a name U.S. intelligence officials gave them because of allegations that they had served as bodyguards for Osama bin Laden. Last October another one of the “Dirty 30,” Moath Hamza Ahmed al-Awli, had his PRB hearing. In his case, the PRB determined that continued law-of-war detention remained necessary based on “prior close ties to the Taliban,” his failure to “acknowledge or accept responsibility for his prior actions,” and insufficient evidence of a change in his mindset and plans for the future.
As of January 15, 2016, Majid has been held at Guantanamo for 14 years without charge or trial. The government submits that he was recruited to fight for the Taliban, received combat training from al Qaeda, and then became a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. According to his personal representatives, Majid is forthright and honest about the path that led him to Afghanistan and resulted in his capture. They emphasized, however, his very young age—around 19 years old—at recruitment. As an observer, I was struck by his still very youthful appearance. His personal representatives also stressed his genuine desire to pursue a better way of life, reporting that he was eager to participate in the PRB process.
Both his private counsel and personal representatives said that Majid has taken full advantage of the educational opportunities offered in Guantanamo. He took courses in Mathematics, Languages, Health, and Art, earning high marks. His private counsel added that Majid is serious about continuing his education after his release.
Described as “relatively compliant” by the government, Majid was held in the camp reserved for the most cooperative detainees—a communal living situation where they receive more personal freedom. Well-liked by the other detainees, his personal representatives described Majid as having a “warm personality.” Along with several former Guantanamo detainees, Majid maintains contact with his family, none of whom appear to have any involvement in terrorist activity.
The government is concerned, however, that what it assesses as “anti-US sentiments” and “conservative Islamic views” may complicate his relocation in certain countries, and suggests that he would be “less likely to reengage” if he were transferred to a predominantly Muslim country. Majid expressed a preference for this, but also made clear that he is willing to go anywhere the United States deems appropriate. He is also open to participating in rehabilitation or reintegration programs.
President Obama renewed his commitment to shutter the detention facility at the State of the Union, and the administration is taking steps in the right direction. After the largest Obama era transfer last week, 14 detainees have been released this year, bringing the total population below 100 for the first time since Guantanamo opened in January 2002.
Majid’s PRB was the second (read about the first here) held in 2016. The administration needs to swiftly hold PRBs for the 23 eligible detainees. Four more are already scheduled, but two will not happen until March. The administration must also ensure the rapid release of the 34 detainees cleared for transfer that remain at Guantanamo.
See Human Rights First’s blueprint “How to Close Guantanamo” for a detailed outline of how the administration can close Guantanamo before president Obama leaves office.