[JURIST] The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] has notified Congress that it intends to transfer six Guantanamo detainees to Uruguay, officials said Wednesday. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel [official website] reportedly notified Congress about the transfers last week, which are scheduled to take place as soon as next month. The release had been tabled since March due to backlash over the Obama administration’s decision [JURIST report] to release five Taliban detainees to Qatar in exchange for the release of the last known US prisoner of war Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. The six prisoners to be released consist of four Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian. This includes Jihad Ahmed Mujstafa Diyab [NYT materials], a Syrian who brought legal action [JURIST report] in the US challenging the prison’s procedures of force feeding inmates who protest their indefinite incarcerations by not eating. Their release will bring the prison population down to 143.
The detention facilities at Guantanamo [JURIST backgrounder] have continued to face 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. In April Human Rights Watch published a letter [JURIST report] to President Barack Obama, urging the US to expedite the return of Yemeni detainees cleared for release from Guantanamo. 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 March Uruguayan President Jose Mujica announced [JURIST report] that his country had agreed to take five inmates at Guantanamo Bay. In January 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.