Guantanamo Bay has released nine detainees to Saudi Arabia today, reports CNN. The transfer of the prisoners brings the number of those detained in the Cuban camp to 80.
President Obama is visiting Saudi Arabia next week, and the Department of Defense released a statement in which it thanked Saudi Arabia for its “Its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility…”
The closure of the controversial camp was one of the president’s first promises after his first election, and these latest releases are a result of “President Barack Obama’s renewed effort to close the prison.”
The plan for the complete closure of Guantanamo Bay involves “transferring the bulk of remaining detainees to other countries and moving the rest — who can’t be transferred abroad because they’re deemed too dangerous — to an as-yet-undetermined detention facility in the United States.” The fact that these prisoners might end up in the U.S. is a problem for many politicians on both sides of the house.
As for the detainees released abroad, the threat is more ominous. CNN writes that “a major concern of lawmakers has been the risk that released detainees will return to the battlefield.” A recent arrest in Spain and Morocco of four terrorism suspects, each of whom spent time in Guantanamo Bay before being released, has brought this unease back into the forefront.
“The United States coordinated with government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.”
The Guantanamo Bay transfer occurred after “the Saudis agreed to accept the detainees after lengthy negotiations, marking a potential turning point in the U.S.’s often fraught relationship with Saudi Arabia.” According to an unnamed Defense Department official, the U.S. has “not promised Saudi Arabia anything in return for taking this set of detainees.”
Interestingly, the detainees being transferred are all actually from Yemen. So, why are they being sent to Saudi Arabia? The answer is that there is a congressional ban on “repatriating anyone back to Yemen amid the unstable situation there. The United States is also not allowed to transfer detainees to Libya, Somalia and Syria.”
There are 22 “forever prisoners” who could possibly be imprisoned in the U.S. remaining at Guantanamo Bay. As reported by The Guardian,“they are joined by 32 men in some stage of the long-stalled military tribunals process, although 22 of those have been referred for prosecution and not yet charged.”
Guantanamo Bay has long been a thorn in the side of the United States, which was caught up in the post-9/11 frenzy to lock up anyone who might be someone akin to a terrorist at some time in the future. The transfer of the nine detainees to Saudi Arabia looks like it is stirring up more controversy, instead of closing the book on Guantanamo Bay as Obama promised.
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