Saturday, June 7, 2014

President Obama Has the Authority - Why Haven't the Guantanamo Detainees Been Released?

President Obama can release detainees when it suits him
This week President Obama authorized a prisoner exchange, turning 5 Guantanamo prisoners alleged to be members of the Taliban over to the government of Qatar, in return for the release of a US soldier, showing that he has the means to keep his promise to shut down Guantanamo.

Cori Crider, the strategic director for Reprieve, a U.K.-based human rights charity, said Monday that the transfer of the five inmates in exchange for P.O.W. Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. Army soldier, underscores that President Obama can move quickly to shutter Guantanamo if he has the political will to act.

“For years we at Reprieve have represented many of these people: a slew of warehoused individuals, cleared for years – meaning that they were determined by every [U.S.] security agency you and I have ever heard of to be no threat to anyone…”

“Many of these are being force-fed daily in a disgusting manner because they have been cleared so long they believe they will die in Gitmo,” Crider said. “Yet they could leave tomorrow with a stroke of Obama’s pen. Let’s hope this deal is a sign of more leadership from President Obama on letting the cleared men go home, too.”

(See The Guardian, June 3, 2014, "Forget the 'Taliban Five' – Obama's real chance is to free Gitmo's Cleared 78" by Cori Crider)

Raha Wala, an attorney with Human Rights First, told Al Jazeera if the administration can make the argument that the five Taliban detainees are transferrable “without any significant problems under the congressionally imposed transfer restrictions,” then certainly “the same argument can be made for the detainees who have already been cleared for release.”

(See Al-Jazeera, June 2, 2014, "Release of Taliban detainees shows Obama has power to close Gitmo" by Jason Leopold)

380 Days Have Passed Since President Obama’s Renewed Promise to Close Guantánamo: Only 17 Men Released as of June 6, 2014

* 149 men remain imprisoned. 141 of them haven’t been charged.
* 78 men have been cleared for release, most of whom have been imprisoned without charge for more than 11 years.
* An unknown number of men are on hunger strike and are being force-fed. Force-feeding is in violation of Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A mass hunger strike began on February 6, 2013. At its height, in June 2013, 106 men were reportedly participating in the hunger strike. On December 3, 2013, the U.S. military stopped daily reporting on the number of hunger strikers.

Join the Chicago Coalition to Shut Down Guantanamo at our vigil every Friday.

Related links

"So the release of the five Afghans, including, by some accounts, known figures in the Taliban, fits a larger pattern in which the many dozens of inmates not accused of any crime and, in fact, cleared for release by successive American administrations languish for years on end. For many, the difference between liberation and limbo has nothing to do with justice or legality, but just the luck of what nationality a prisoner happens to hold . . . . "

June 8, 2014, The New York Times, "A View From Gitmo" by Ramzi Kassem.