15 Guantanamo detainees transferred to UAE
Fifteen prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre were sent to the United Arab Emirates in the single largest release of detainees during the Obama administration, the Pentagon announced Monday.
The transfer of 12 Yemeni nationals and three Afghans to the UAE comes amid a renewed push to whittle down the number of detainees held at the United States prison in Cuba that President Barack Obama aims to close.
The Pentagon says 61 detainees now remain at Guantanamo, which was opened in January 2002 to hold foreign fighters suspected of links to the Taliban or the
Al-Qaeda terrorist organisation. During the Bush administration, 532 prisoners were released from Guantanamo, often in large groups to Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
The latest batch of released prisoners had been held without charge at Guantanamo, some for over 14 years. They were cleared for release by the Periodic Review Board, comprised of representatives from six US government agencies.
The UAE successfully resettled five detainees transferred there last year, according to the Pentagon. In July 2008, the seven-emirate nation also repatriated UAE citizen and Guantanamo prisoner Abdulah Alhamiri at the same time that Afghanistan and Qatar each accepted one prisoner a piece.
In the United Arab Emirates, the state-run WAM news agency had no reports on the Guantanamo transfers yesterday and UAE officials declined to immediately comment on the Pentagon announcement.
The United Arab Emirates is a major regional military ally for the US, as it hosts American military personnel targeting the Islamic State group with airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Dubai's Jebel Ali port is the most frequently visited by ships of the US Navy outside of America.
Lee Wolosky, the State Department's special envoy for Guantanamo's closure, said the US was grateful to the United Arab Emirates for accepting the latest group of 15 men and helping pave the way for the detention centre's closure.
"The continued operation of the detention facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists," Wolosky said.
It's unclear what has happened to prisoners the UAE previously took in, though it's widely believed they undergo some sort of
government-monitored rehabilitation. Of those already taken in, there have been no complaints of maltreatment, said Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the British-based advocacy group Reprieve, which represented one of the Yemenis released.