The US Department of Defense [official website] announced the transfer of four Guantanamo prisoners Thursday. Jabran al Qahtani will be sent to Saudi Arabia [press release], while Ravil Mingazov, Haji Wali Muhammed, and Yassim Qasim Mohammed Ismail Qasim will be sent to the United Arab Emirates [press release]. The prisoners had been recommended for transfer by the Guantanamo Review Task Force [report, PDF], and final determinations for transfer [materials] were made by the Periodic Review Board. The announcements came on the final full day of President Barack Obama’s administration. He issued a letter addressed [text] to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Pro Tempore of the Senate, in which he detailed his efforts [text, PDF] to close the controversial detention center, and his hope that incoming President Donald Trump will continue those efforts.
As President, I have tried to close Guantanamo. When I inherited this challenge, it was widely recognized that the facility—which many around the world continue to condemn—needed to close. Unfortunately, what had previously been bipartisan support for closure suddenly became a partisan issue. Despite those politics, we have made progress. This Administration established a comprehensive, interagency review process to assess whether the transfer of a detainee is in the national security interest of the United States. Under this rigorous process, we have transferred 196 detainees from Guantanamo with arrangements designed to keep them from engaging in acts that pose a threat to the United States and our allies. Of the nearly 800 detainees at one time held at the facility, today only 41 remain.
Throughout Obama’s tenure, his administration tried to find new places to house detainees. Earlier this week Oman’s Foreign Ministry announced [JURIST report] that it accepted 10 detainees from Guantanamo Bay upon request from the Obama administration. Last month a detainee was transferred [JURIST report] from Guantanamo Bay to the government of Cape Verde, a small country off the Western coast of Africa. In September the Obama administration shut down [JURIST report] Camp 5 of Guantanamo Bay, which was a 100-cell maximum security prison. In August Vice President Joe Biden stated at a press conference in Sweden that he hoped and expected [JURIST report] that the Guantanamo prison would be closed before President Barack Obama leaves office.