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US transfers Guantanamo detainees to Algeria

The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] on Thursday announced the transfer [press release] of two Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] detainees to their home country of Algeria. The two men, Nabil Said Hadjarab and Mutia Sadiq Ahmad Sayyab [Guardian report], are the first to be released from the detention center in over a year and are reported to have been participating in a hunger strike at the prison. The prisoners had been detained since 2001 and 2002, respectively, and had been approved for the release for several years, but their case was delayed because it was a challenge to find a place [WP report] that was willing or able to accept them. It is unclear whether the Algerian government will allow the men to go free or will choose to detain them. The Algerian government has ensured the US that it will not mistreat the prisoners. There are currently 164 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, 37 of whom are participating in a hunger strike. Eighty-six of the detainees have been approved for release, and the Obama administration has expressed a commitment to taking steps towards releasing those prisoners, but fears that transferring them could result in former prisoners becoming more militant, or being subjected to punishment in their home countries.

In June a federal judge called on members of Congress and President Barack Obama [official website] to give serious consideration to formulating a different approach [JURIST report] for the handling of Guantanamo detainee cases. Just days prior Obama had appointed [JURIST report] Clifford Sloan to be the new envoy in charge of closing Guantanamo. The appointment followed a speech [JURIST report] Obama made in May that outlined US counterterrorism policy and efforts. In his speech, he detailed the steps needed to get prisoners out of Guantanamo but cautioned that he cannot close the facility on his own. In contrast, the House Armed Services Committee [official website] approved [JURIST report] the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) [HR 1960, PDF] in early June, which allocates more than 200 million dollars to keep the detention center open.

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