[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday published a letter [text] to US President Barack Obama [official website], urging the US to expedite the return of Yemeni detainees cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder]. The letter notes that 55 of the 76 individuals recommended for transfer by the Obama administration are citizens of Yemen. HRW acknowledges the harmful consequences of the arrest of the “Christmas day bomber” in late 2009, which was executed by a terrorist trained in Yemen. The result was a moratorium on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen enacted in January 2010. The moratorium was lifted last year, but no detainees have been returned to Yemen since 2009. The HRW encourages the Obama administration to reconsider heightened scrutiny against detainees from Yemen because it is only speculative that these men will join militant groups in the future. Moreover, “the continued detention of people based solely on their country of origin runs counter to US values and sets a dangerous example for other countries. Prolonged indefinite detention without charge or trial violates international human rights law. We have long urged the United States either to prosecute detainees in fair trials that comport with international due process standards, or to release them.” HRW executive director, Kenneth Roth, encourages the commencement of the repatriation of Yemenis as soon as possible, either through transfer to US federal court for those convicted of criminal conduct or repatriation or resettlement.
The continuing existence of the Guantanamo bay detention camp has been a source [JURIST op-ed] of frustration for the Obama administration and of political tension within the US, as many have denounced the President for failing to live up to his campaign promises to close the camp. In March Uruguayan President Jose Mujica announced [JURIST report] that his country has agreed with US President Barack Obama to take five inmates at Guantanamo Bay. Also in March the US Department of Defense (DoD) announced [JURIST report] the transfer of Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Belbacha to Algeria. Belbacha had been held at Guantanamo for 12 years without a trial or formal charges. In February Saudi prisoner Ahmed Muhammed Haza al Darbi pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to involvement in terrorism-related activities, including the 2002 al Qaeda plot to blow up oil tankers near Yemen. In the beginning of 2014, US President Barack Obama announced [JURIST report] that 2014 should be the year to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the US shifts away from a “permanent war footing.”