[JURIST] The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] on Wednesday announced [DOD report] the release of Fouzi Khalid Abdullah Al Awda [ICD case profile] from the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, after nearly 13 years of imprisonment without a trial. Al Awda [NYT profile] is a 37-year-old citizen of Kuwait who was captured in 2002 in Afghanistan for his involvement with the Taliban. On July 14 2014 a Periodic Review Board consisting of representatives from key US intelligence and defense agencies determined the “continued law of war detention of Al Awda does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.” Al Awda is the second low-level prisoner released from Guantanamo Bay in 2014, and his release was a result of a new system of hearings to periodically review whether it is still necessary to keep holding prisoners, established by executive order in 2011 [White House press release]. To date, 148 prisoners remain in Guantanamo [NYT report], and 79 are recommended for transfer out of the facility.
Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] remains the subject of legal debate, and the detention facility has come under criticism in 2014 for treatment conditions, prisoner exchanges and prolonged release dates. In October the US Department of Justice filed a motion in the US District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to stay an order issued by the court earlier last month requiring the public release of 28 videos [JURIST reports] showing the forcible removal and forced feeding of Guantanamo Bay detainee Wa’el Dhiab. In June US President Barack Obama announced that prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl was released into US custody in exchange [JURIST report] for five detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl was the only confirmed US prisoner of war from the conflict in Afghanistan remaining in enemy custody. JURIST Guest Columnist Jonathan Hafetz of the Seton Hall University School of Law discusses the lessons offered by the Bergdahl exchange [JURIST op-ed] as they relate to US policy on Guantanamo. In April Human Rights Watch published a letter to US President Barack Obama, urging the US to expedite the return of Yemeni detainees [JURIST report] cleared for release from Guantanamo.