Washington, D.C. – Less than one week after President Obama signed into law an annual defense spending bill that eliminated onerous foreign transfer restrictions for Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for release, the Obama Administration has transferred three Uighur detainees from Guantanamo to Slovakia. Human Rights First notes that the transfer, which took place on Monday, reduces the Guantanamo population to 155 men and is a step in the right direction as the administration doubles down on brining the number of Guantanamo detainees down to zero.
Human Rights First’s Dixon Osburn said, “The transfer of 11 detainees in 2013 is a promising sign that the administration intends to make good on its promise to close the Guantanamo detention facility. The path ahead for reducing the Guantanamo population will likely be a process of whittling the numbers down as the administration obtains security assurances from host nations for those detainees who have been cleared for transfer.”
The Uighurs transferred yesterday are among more than 70 detainees who have long been cleared by U.S. intelligence and security agencies, but who have had their transfers blocked by congressionally-enacted transfer bans. The vast majority of the remaining detainees will face Periodic Review Boards, an interagency process of assessing whether the men pose any remaining significant security threat to the United States. Detainees could be cleared for transfer through the review boards.
“If the administration does not vastly accelerate the review board process and complete all of them in 2014, President Obama will not be able keep his promise of closing Guantanamo before the end of his second term,” Osburn observed.
As reported in The Miami Herald, Yusef Abbas, 38,Hajiakbar Abdulghuper, 39, and Saidullah Khalik, 36, left the remote U.S. Navy base in a secret operation on Monday, according to U.S. government sources. Uighurs are part of a minority Muslim population in China that faces religious persecution and oppression by the Chinese government. Intelligence sources have confirmed that none of the Uighur detainees ever posed a threat to the United States.
This week’s Guantanamo transfers and the recent congressional elimination of transfer bans are both recommendations contained in Human Rights First’s plan to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo.