The Pentagon announced on Monday the release of fifteen prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to the United Arab Emirates where other detainees have been sent. This is the largest transfer from the detention center during President Obama’s administration. Obama seeks to close the Cuba-based prison before he leaves the White House but the releases of these prisoners represent a potential threat to the U.S., according to some Republican representatives.
Among the fifteen detainees, twelve are Yemeni nationals and three are Afghans. They had been held in Guantanamo without charges, some of them for more than fourteen years.
To release prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, the Periodic Review Board study the case of each detainee and then decides if they are fit to be sent to another country. The Board has representatives from six U.S. government agencies.
The main reason to sent the fifteen detainees to the UAE is that in the last three years, the United Arab Emirates has successfully resettled five men that came from Guantanamo.
The release of these prisoners in the UAE is possible thanks to U.S. diplomatic relations with the Arabic country. The United States has military relationships with the UAE where American military troops are settled with the mission to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
There are no records about what happened to those detainees that were sent to the UAE. It is believed that they are monitored by a government rehabilitation program, but there is no official report. One of the lawyers that represented a Yemeni prisoner, Clive Stafford Smith, director of the advocacy group Reprieve, said that the Yemeni stay in the UAE has been pleasant, and there have not been complaints of mistreatment, the Associated Press reports.
Smith said once they are released in the UAE, the former detainees cannot travel and are banned from any meaningful communication. The language is not a problem because Arabic is the primary language of the country and they are not far from their homes.
The State Department’s special envoy for Guantanamo’s closure, Lee Wolosky, expressed how grateful the government of the United States is to the United Arab Emirates for helping to close Guantanamo and receive the fifteen detainees.
The Congress of the United States has prohibited transferring prisoners from Guantanamo to the U.S. for any reason. Thus, the help of other nations is very welcomed.
Obama wants to close Guantanamo before he leaves the White House
Wolosky stated that keeping Guantanamo opened is an obstacle for diplomatic relationships with key allies and a weakness to the U.S. national security. The prison drains resources and encourages violent extremists.
Shutting down Guantanamo Bay faces opposition from Republican representatives and Democrat lawmakers, mainly because they fear that those released prisoners would engage against American citizens. They could have been innocent by the time they were captured, but their time in Cuba could make them a potential threat to the U.S.
Ed Royce, Republican Representative and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee stated that Obama’s race for closing Guantanamo is endangering American lives. In his view, hardened terrorists are being sent to foreign countries where they will become a threat.
During the Bush administration, 532 detainees were released from Guantanamo and sent to Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. According to the Pentagon, 61 prisoners remain inside the Cuba-based prison.
Source: The New York Times