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US Expects More Guantanamo Detainee Transfers

  • Luis Ramirez

The Pentagon is speeding up the transfer of detainees from its detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Two Saudi prisoners were sent back to their country this week, after U.S. officials said they received assurances from the Saudi government that the men would receive humane treatment and that they would not join terrorist groups.

Roughly half of Guantanamo's inmates have been cleared of charges, yet they remain at the facility - in some cases for more than a decade.

President Barack Obama made a campaign promise to empty and close the prison. He signed an executive order to shut it, but restrictions imposed by Congress got in the way. Critics accuse him of not pushing hard enough to get rid of the roadblocks.

In May, the president called on lawmakers to remove the obstacles.

“History will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future - 10 years from now, or 20 years from now - when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country,” said Obama.

That call apparently has been heard. In a rare compromise, Democrats and Republican lawmakers have given initial approval to legislation that will make it easier for the administration to negotiate the detainees' transfer to other countries.

The issue of the detainees had been largely forgotten in Washington until more than 100 of them staged a hunger strike months ago.

Lawyer David Remes, who represents a number of the hunger strikers, believes their action drew critical attention and forced Obama and Congress to deal with the issue.

“People are just tired of Guantanamo. They have Guantanamo fatigue. They don't want to keep hearing about this issue. They want it to go away and I think that they're willing to let President Obama shrink the population if he gets the assurances he needs,” said Remes.

As part of those assurances, countries that receive detainees must promise they will not be tortured and will not engage in terrorism.

However, the ultimate goal of closing the prison is still not on the horizon.

After the detainees who are cleared of charges are transferred out, there are still about 80 who face trial. They include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others accused of plotting the September 11 attacks.

In the case of those five, there is at this time no discussion of ever moving them off the facility.