The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] on Thursday announced [press release] that it transferred two prisoners from Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] to the government of their native Algeria. Djamel Saiid Ali Ameziane and Bensayah Belkecem were transferred to Algerian custody despite their claims that they would likely face persecution [JURST report] in their home country. The DOD said on Thursday that they had "coordinated with the Government of Algeria to ensure these transfers took place with appropriate security and humane treatment assurances." Ameziane and Belkecem qualified for transfer by consensus of the Guantanamo Review Task Force responsible for conducting comprehensive reviews of these cases pursuant to President Barack Obama's executive order on Jan. 22, 2009. The releases bring the prison population to 162.
Controversy has surrounded treatment of Guantanamo detainees since it began taking prisoners in 2002. Last month, the DOD ruled that media entities will not be allowed [JURIST report] to sit in on the first session of the Periodic Review Board hearings, parole-type hearings for detainees that were established by 2011 legislation. The week before, a military judge ordered the US government must submit reports [JURIST report] on prison conditions and removed restrictions on communications between lawyers and detainees. In October attorneys for 5 detainees attempted to declassify [JURIST report] the CIA interrogation program that allegedly subjected prisoners to torture. That same month a military judge refused to suspend pretrial hearings [JURIST report] in the ongoing case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-defendants. In September detainee Shaker Aamer [JURIST news archive] filed [JURIST report] a complaint against British security forces for delaying his scheduled release from Guantanamo.