“Mistaken Identity” Victim at Guantanamo Cleared for Release

By Adelma Jakupovic

Yesterday the Guantanamo parole board approved the release of Yemeni national Mustafa Abd al-Qawi Abd al-Aziz al-Shamiri, who was detained in Guantanamo for over thirteen years as a victim of mistaken identity. That’s 13 years of imprisonment as an enemy combatant without charge or trial.

The government initially claimed he was a member of al Qaeda and received militant training in both Yemen and Afghanistan. It also alleged that Al-Shamiri was involved in military operations against the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2001. The Guantanamo Review Task Force appointed by President Obama in 2009 even recommended him for continued detention.

But at his Periodic Review Board hearing (PRB), on December 1, 2015, government officials admitted that they wrongly believed al-Shamiri played a more significant role because he was confused with other extremists. The government file states, “It was previously assessed that YM-434 also was an al-Qaida facilitator or courier, as well as a trainer, but we now judge that these activities were carried out by other known extremists with names or aliases similar to [al-Shamiri’s].”

This goes directly against the myth that all remaining Gitmo detainees are “the worst of the worst.” And al-Shamiri isn’t the first case of mistaken identity. His case demonstrates exactly why holding timely PRB hearings is so important. Forty-four more Gitmo detainees are eligible for a PRB hearing.

Sixteen detainees have been released so far this year, reducing the number of detainees at Guantanamo below 100 for the first time since it opened. The Obama Administration should ensure that the remaining PRBs are held without delay and that the 34 prisoners who have been approved for release are transferred quickly.

Human Rights First’s plan to close Guantanamo can be found in its latest Blueprint: How to Close Guantanamo.


Published on January 22, 2016


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