Two Yemeni men captured in Afghanistan and detained at Guantanamo Bay for 14 years have been released to Ghana, officials said [press release] Wednesday. These two are among the 17 detainees scheduled for release this month [JURIST report]. The men were suspected of training with al Qaeda and fighting with the Taliban but were never charged. They had been cleared for release in 2009, but they required a host country to accept them in order to be released. Ghana has also accepted two individuals from Rwanda who were tried in connection to the Rwanda genocide [JURIST report]. Finding host countries is critical for Obama’s mission to shut down Guantanamo Bay, which has been one of his goals since being appointed to office.
The Obama administration has promised to close Guantanamo but has struggled due to Congress’s opposition to relocating detainees to the US, as well as slowing the process of transferring prisoners to other countries. In November the US Senate passed [JURIST report] the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (NDAA) [text, PDF], which prohibits Guantanamo detainees from being transferred into the US. Obama signed the bill into law, despite the fact that it will delay his plan to close the prison. The NDAA comes after the Department of Defense said [JURIST report] they were sending teams to review three Colorado prisons as part of Obama’s efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay prison in October. The Guantanamo Review Task Force (GRTF) was created in response to a 2009 presidential executive order [text, PDF] to review the status of all detainees. In September White House Spokesperson Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama was considering a “wide array” of options [JURIST report] for closing the prison.