Yemeni Guantanamo Detainee Transferred to Montenegro
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today praised the transfer of Guantanamo detainee Abdel Malik Wahab al Rahabi to Montenegro, noting that the pace of transfers must increase if the facility is to close by the end of President Obama’s term in office.
“We welcome the transfer of al Rahabi, and urge President Obama to pick up the pace of transfers for all those who have been cleared by national security agencies,” said Human Rights First’s Heather Brandon. “President Obama must signal to policymakers that closing Guantanamo remains a priority for his administration, and must act accordingly. Otherwise, failure to close Guantanamo will remain a stain on his legacy.”
Al Rahabi, a Yemeni citizen, arrived at Guantanamo Bay among the first group of U.S. captives in 2002. He was cleared for transfer in late 2014.
Today’s transfer comes one week after the Senate passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill includes language that would make it 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. Both the Senate and House versions of the NDAA would extend unnecessary bans on transferring detainees to the United States until after President Obama leaves office. The bills also extend country-specific transfer bans, with the Senate version expanding the number of prohibited locations. Both bills include cumbersome overseas transfer restrictions that make it more difficult, but not impossible, for the administration to transfer detainees.
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—a number unlikely to exceed 60— 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. There are currently 79 detainees held at Guantanamo, which costs approximately $445 million per year to operate, about $5.5 million per detainee. Twenty-nine 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.