Pentagon announces single largest transfer of Guantanamo inmates

The transfer of the 12 Yemeni and three Afghan citizens brings the total number of detainees down to 61 at the U.S. naval base.

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo
Chain link fence and concertina wire surrounds a deserted guard tower within Joint Task Force Guantanamo's Camp Delta at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba March 21, 2016.

U.S. officials said on Monday 15 inmates from theGuantanamo prison were transferred to the United Arab Emirates, the single largest transfer ofGuantanamo detainees during President Barack Obama's administration.

The transfer of the 12 Yemeni and three Afghan citizens brings the total number of detainees down to 61 at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Most have been held without charge or trial for more than a decade, drawing international condemnation.

Obama, who had hoped to close the prison during his first year in office, rolled out his plan in February aimed at shutting the facility. But he faces opposition from many Republican lawmakers as well as some fellow Democrats.

"In its race to close Gitmo, the Obama administration is doubling down on policies that put American lives at risk," Republican Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

"Once again, hardened terrorists are being released to foreign countries where they will be a threat," he said.

While Obama's plan for shuttering the facility calls for bringing the several dozen remaining prisoners to maximum-security prisons in the United States, U.S. law bars such transfers to the mainland. Obama, though, has not ruled out doing so by executive action.

"I think we are at an extremely dangerous point where there is a significant possibility this is going to remain open as a permanent offshore prison to hold people, practically until they die," said Naureen Shah, Amnesty International's U.S. director for security and human rights.

Shah said keeping Guantanamo open gave cover to foreign governments to ignore human rights.

"It weakens the U.S. government's hand in arguing against torture and indefinite detention," she said.

One of the detainees who was transferred is an Afghan national, identified as Obaidullah, who has spent more than 13 years at Guantanamo. He had been accused of storing mines to be used against American forces in Afghanistan.

"The continued operation of the detention facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists," Lee Wolosky, the State Department's special envoy for closing the Guantanamodetention center, said.

"The support of our friends and allies - like the UAE - is critical to our achieving this shared goal," Wolosky said.

A State Department official speaking on condition of anonymity said the UAE had resettled five detainees transferred in November 2015. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.