Four Guantanamo Detainees Transferred to Saudi Arabia
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today praised the transfer of four Yemeni Guantanamo detainees to Saudi Arabia, and encourages President Obama to continue to transfer the remaining cleared detainees before he leaves office in a few weeks.
“While today’s transfer is encouraging, the president must act swiftly if he is to transfer the remaining detainees who have been unanimously cleared by national security agencies,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “The president has signaled time and again that closing Guantanamo is a priority for his administration; though it seems unlikely he is to complete that goal, he can and should continue to dwindle the population.”
The transfer comes as President Obama prepares to sign the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill includes language that makes it nearly impossible for President Obama to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, despite the fact that national security leaders from across the political spectrum have urged the president and Congress to make shuttering this facility a top priority. The NDAA extends unnecessary bans on transferring detainees to the United States until after President Obama leaves office.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon released the administration’s plan for closing Guantanamo, which includes the transfer of detainees at Guantanamo who have been cleared for transfer by defense, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies. It also mandates expedited review, pursuant to administrative Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings, of the remaining detainees who are not facing trial to determine if they can be cleared for transfer. The remaining detainees who will not be transferred in the near term would be relocated to one of 13 stateside detention facilities, pending congressional approval. This would result in annual operating savings of up to $85 million compared to the cost of detention operations at Guantanamo. Following today’s transfer there are 55 detainees held at Guantanamo, which costs approximately $445 million per year to operate, more than $7 million per detainee. Nineteen detainees have been unanimously cleared for transfer by six national security and intelligence agencies.
Thirty-six retired generals and admirals of the U.S. Armed Forces sent a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, urging them to carefully consider the Obama Administration’s plan to close Guantanamo, and to work with the president to shutter the detention facility. “Closing Guantanamo will not be easy, but it is the right thing to do, and we call on you to work together to accomplish it. We take heart that our nation has elected people who will exercise their conscientious judgment, but who will not allow politics to obscure courage,” wrote the generals and admirals.