Nine Guantanamo Detainees Transferred to Saudi Arabia
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today praised the transfer of 9 Guantanamo Bay detainees to Saudi Arabia, but notes that the pace of the transfers must increase if the facility is to close by the end of President Obama’s term in office. These transfers come days before President Obama is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia for a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit.
“We welcome today’s transfers, and encourage President Obama to make clear that closing Guantanamo is a priority by accelerating the pace of transfers,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “The president should take action to ensure his plan for closing Guantanamo is fully put into action before the end of his term in office.”
The nine detainees are all from Yemen and were all brought to Guantanamo in 2002.
President Obama will travel to Saudi Arabia on April 21 to meet with GCC leaders to discuss ongoing security cooperation and efforts to counter violent extremism. Human Rights First is urging the president to take time during his trip to meet with Saudi civil society leaders, and to publicly raise concern over ongoing human rights abuses perpetrated by U.S. allies in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. The organization is also urging President Obama to press the Saudi government to release three Saudi human rights defenders who are currently imprisoned for their work: Raif Badawi, Waleed Abu al-Khair, and Ashraf Fayadh.
Today’s transfers come weeks after the Pentagon released a plan to Congress detailing how the administration intends to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
The administration’s plan includes the accelerated 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 Period Review Board (PRB) hearings, of those 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—a number not to exceed 60—will be relocated to one of thirteen stateside detention facilities, pending Congressional approval. This will result in annual operating savings of up to $85 million compared to the cost of detention operations at Guantanamo. There are currently 80 detainees held at Guantanamo, which costs approximately $445 million per year to operate, about $5.5 million per detainee. The administration’s plan is in line with recommendations made in Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo.”
Last month 36 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.