When President Trump signed the order to keep Guantanamo Bay open, he simultaneously shut down the Special Envoy For Guantanamo Closure, a State Department office that was not only responsible for closing the facility, but also for resettling and tracking released detainees. Now several have gone missing, according to CBC Radio.
The office of U.S. Ambassador Nathan Sales was handed the responsibility of tracking the former inmates, but the original staff who had negotiated all of the resettlement deals for the Special Envoy For Guantanamo Closure were deployed elsewhere, said Carol Rosenberg, a journalist who uncovered the problem.
“They now have brand new staffers– Trump appointees– trying to catch up and manage these deals that went untended for at least a year,” Rosenberg said.
One of the missing former inmates is Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian. Dhiab was a difficult inmate at Guantanamo, who repeatedly went on hunger strikes and was “a thorn in the side to the prison here,” but upon his release was resettled in Uruguay during the Obama administration. Dhiab has since run away and is now in southern Turkey, hopping back and forth across the border into al-Nusra controlled Syria.
Trump closed an office that tracked ex-Gitmo inmates. Now we don’t know where some went https://t.co/abBsmNMuBz
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) November 13, 2018
The resettlement process was designed to keep former inmates away from areas where the United States continues to engage in war. “This is their worst nightmare, potentially,” said Rosenberg.
“This man should never have been allowed to get anywhere near Syria.”
Not only are there issues with the potential repercussions of untracked detainees that exact a certain amount of revenge against the United States after their incarceration, but there is also a danger to the detainees themselves. Two former inmates who were resettled in Senegal were deported to their native Libya, where they will likely be in mortal danger. The U.S. did not originally send them back to Libya out of fear for their safety.
“After two years in Senegal, something went wrong apparently with U.S.-Senegalese relations, and the Senegalese put those two men on a plane, one of them against his will … and sent him back to Libya, even though he said he’d be killed there,” Rosenberg said.
While there was tremendous pressure during the Obama administration for the President to close Guantanamo Bay, there were always questions surrounding how those prisoners would be relocated and what the correct path of justice entailed for them. While that pressure has largely subsided, the current administration’s bungling of the resettlement program may lead to a new discourse on the issue.
State Department officials and the Republican chairs for the House and Senate committees with responsibility for Guantanamo declined to comment.