Two Guantanamo detainees may soon be moved to Algeria to be repatriated. The White House is seeking the transfer, which would be the first in almost a year.
The controversial detention center currently holds 166 prisoners allegedly involved in the War on Terror. However, the majority of the detainees have never been charged with a crime.
US President Barack Obama promised in 2008 to close the facility, but that has not yet happened. Reuters reports that one reason was Congress, which put tough restrictions on the transfer of detainees in January 2011.
The administration has yet to pursue a case-by-case waiver with the detainees, despite the fact that 86 of them were cleared for release years ago.
A hunger strike involving more than 100 Guantanamo detainees has renewed widespread calls from the public to close the controversial detention center. Lawmakers also criticized the facility’s cost this week. While maximum-security federal prisons cost $70,000 per inmate each year, the per inmate cost at Guantanamo is about $2.7 million.
Because of this, Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated, “It is in the national security interests of the United States to transfer these detainees to their home countries rather than keep them at our isolated military base in Cuba.”
The Boston Globe notes that the White House will not disclose the identities of the two Guantanamo detainees until after they are transferred.
While there is no word on whether the detainees are citizens of Algeria, the country was reportedly chosen as their new home because it is a close US ally that has successfully managed Guantanamo detainees in the past. Of the 12 detainees released in the country in the past, none have come up on the radar for terrorist activities.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little added that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has already signed off on the transfer on the recommendation of an interagency team. Despite the sign-off, not all legislators were glad to see two detainees released from Gitmo. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) commented that the move could create security concerns. Ayotte explained:
“With 28 percent of former Guantanamo detainees re-engaging or suspected of re-engaging in terrorist activities, I am deeply troubled by the president’s plan to release detainees to a country where there is an active al-Qaida affiliate.”
The politician added that, rather than releasing the detainees, “the administration should focus on developing a coherent policy for the long-term detention of foreign terrorists.”
Are you glad to see two Guantanamo detainees will be released in Algeria soon?
[Image by US Army Sgt. Sara Wood via Wikimedia Commons]