[JURIST] The Periodic Review Secretariat [official website], a national security panel under the authority of the US Department of Defense (DoD) [official website], on Thursday recommended [official determination, PDF] the release of a Yemeni prisoner currently held at Guantanamo Bay. The prisoner, Ali Ahmad Mohamed al-Razihi [NYT profile], was suspected of acting as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and has been held at Guantanamo since 2002. The Periodic Review Secretariat determines [docket] whether certain individuals detained at Guantanamo represent a continuing significant threat to the security of the US such that their continued detention is warranted. In making the determination, the security review panel considered the detainee’s plans for the future and the level of his involvement with al Qaeda [CFR backgrounder], including his behavior throughout detention. The journalist and Guantanamo expert Andy Worthington released a copy of al-Razihi’s statement [official website] delivered before the review board of the Periodic Review Secretariat on March 20.
The detention facilities at Guantanamo [JURIST backgrounder] have resulted in heightened scrutiny [JURIST op-ed] of late, as the Obama administration has pledged to end the war in Afghanistan by the end of the year but has failed to close the prisons which still held 155 detainees as of March 2014. Earlier this month Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] published a letter [JURIST report] to President Barack Obama, urging the US to expedite the return of Yemeni detainees cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay. The letter notes that 55 of the 76 individuals recommended for transfer by the Obama administration are citizens of Yemen, primarily because of a moratorium on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen enacted in January 2010 resulting from a botched terrorist attack by a Yemeni citizen over the Christmas holiday in 2009. In January 2014, the Periodic Review Secretariat concluded its review of detainee Mahmud Abd Al Aziz Al Mujahid, unanimously finding him eligible for transfer [JURIST report] to Yemen, which signaled a change in the panel’s treatment of Yemeni detainees.