Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First welcomes the announcement that four cleared Guantanamo detainees will be repatriated to Afghanistan, bringing the prison’s population down to 132. The transfer constitutes significant progress, though the organization notes that transfers of cleared detainees must happen at an increased pace if the prison is to close by the end of the president’s second term.
“Repatriating these detainees marks important progress as the Obama Administration works to bring the number of Guantanamo detainees down to zero,” said Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar. “National security experts and the president agree that it is in the United States’ interest to close the facility by the end of President Obama’s second term. In order to meet this deadline, the administration will need to act quickly to obtain security assurances from other host nations in order to transfer those detainees who have been cleared.”
Of the remaining Guantanamo detainees, 64 have been cleared by U.S. intelligence and security agencies and should be transferred without delay. The vast majority of the other remaining detainees will face Periodic Review Board hearings—an interagency process that’s currently underway—that will assess whether the they pose a significant security threat to the United States or should be cleared for transfer. Human Rights First calls on the administration to complete all of the Periodic Review Board hearings by the end of 2015.
The transferred individuals are Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani, and Mohammed Zahir, who had been cleared by all relevant national security and intelligence agencies. The transfers take place as President Obama this week signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, which bans the transfer of any detainee to the United States. Human Rights First urges Congress to lift this prohibition.