Guantanamo Transfers Signal Progress
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First welcomes the transfer of five cleared Guantanamo detainees to Europe, bringing the prison’s population down to 143. 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.
“Today’s announcement represents important progress as the Obama Administration works to bring the number of Guantanamo detainees down to zero,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “Despite this action, the administration needs to move much more quickly to transfer detainees who have been unanimously cleared for transfer by all agencies and departments responsible for our national security.”
Of the remaining Guantanamo detainees, 74 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.
“We need to continue to resettle those detainees cleared for release by competent U.S. authority and simultaneously bring those accused of crimes before federal courts,” said Major General Michael Lehnert (ret.), first commanding officer of Guantanamo. “Both actions are necessary to close Guantanamo and to take a recruiting tool away from the terrorists who would harm this nation.”
Today’s transfers included four Yemenis and a Tunisian. Two of the men—Tunisian Hisham Sliti and Yemeni Hussain Almerfedi—were resettled in Slovakia and three—Salah Mohammed Al Thabi, Yemenis Abdel Ghalib Hakim, and Abdul Khaled al Baidani—in Georgia. The administration said the men were resettled in Europe due to instabilities in their home countries.
“In order to meet President Obama’s self-imposed deadline, the administration will need to act quickly to obtain security assurances from host nations for those detainees who have been cleared for transfer,” stated Wala. “In addition, as Congress prepares to debate the National Defense Authorization Act, it should not use Guantanamo as a political football. Instead, it should work with the administration to carry out additional transfers in a way that protects national security and America’s commitment to the rule of law.”
For more information see Human Rights First’s blueprint “Guantanamo: A Comprehensive Exit Strategy.”