Getting men released from Guantánamo has become more difficult than getting blood out of a stone, even though over half of the 164 men still held were approved for release in January 2010 by President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force.
Please visit, like, share and tweet the GTMO Clock website, which I launched a month ago, and which shows that it is now 100 days since President Obama promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, in a major speech on national security issues on May 23, but, to date, just two men have been released.
President Obama only made his promise because he had been provoked into action by a barrage of domestic and international criticism, which was in turn prompted by the prisoners embarking on a prison-wide hunger strike in February, to raise awareness of their ongoing and unacceptable imprisonment without charge or trial.
The difficulty in releasing prisoners has arisen in part because of severe obstacles raised by Congress, and in part because of President Obama’s unwillingness to spend political capital overcoming these obstacles.
As a result, just five prisoners were released between October 2010 and July 2013 — three after having their habeas corpus petitions granted by the courts (before the court of appeals in Washington D.C. stepped in to prevent successful habeas petitions taking place), and two as a result of plea deals arranged as a result of being put forward for trials by military commission.
President Obama has now brought that disgraceful situation to an end, by releasing two cleared prisoners — Nabil Hadjarab, 34 and Mutia Sayyab, 37 (aka Motai Saib) — to Algeria. The transfers were publicly announced by the Pentagon last Thursday, and are the first fruits of the promise to resume releasing prisoners that President Obama made on May 23.
The president — and his new envoy on Guantanamo, Cliff Sloan — are to be commended for securing the release of these two men, but the sad and unacceptable truth is that 84 other cleared prisoners remain, and they too need to be released as soon as possible, either to their home countries, to third countries if it is unsafe for them to be repatriated, or to the US if no third countries can be found.
The president secured the release of Nabil Hadjarab and Mutia Sayyab by working with the Secretary of Defense to overcome the obstacles raised by Congress. This involved certifying to Congress that it is in America’s national interest not to continue holding men cleared for release over three and half years ago, and that the government has taken the necessary steps to ensure that these men will be unable to engage in terrorist activities against the US.
These are ludicrous hoops that the president and his administration must jump through because of Congress, and insulting and outrageous in their inference that any of the cleared prisoners intend harm to the US, but Congress has persistently refused to back down from its cynical and unprincipled position, and the certifications must be made again — and as swiftly as possible — in the cases of other men cleared for release. Further inertia, of the kind that President Obama evidently prefers, is simply unacceptable.
About the author: Andy Worthington
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to his RSS feed (he can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see his definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, and, if you appreciate his work, feel free to make a donation.