News / Middle East

Yemeni Guantanamo Detainees in Limbo

Yemeni protesters hold pictures of people in U.S. detention at a demonstration outside the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, demanding the release of Yemeni detainees in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. AP Photo/Hani Mohammed
Yemeni protesters hold pictures of people in U.S. detention at a demonstration outside the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, demanding the release of Yemeni detainees in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. AP Photo/Hani Mohammed
Cecily Hilleary
— For 12 years Mahmoud Abd al-Aziz al-Mujahid, an alleged former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, has been held as a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Yemeni native was among the original 20 “worst of the worst” enemy combatants to arrive at Guantanamo’s Camp X-Ray in January 2002.  Last week, after years of investigations, he was cleared for transfer to Yemen by the Pentagon.  But like 56 other Yemenis slated for transfer, he is unlikely to return home until Yemen can show he is no longer a threat. 

In a major speech last May, President Obama pledged to “lift the moratorium” on Yemeni transfers and announced the appointment of new senior envoys charged with making those transfers happen. Since then, the U.S. has transferred 11 detainees --Algerians, Saudis, Sudanese and Uighurs, but none to Yemen.

Yemeni transfers halted for four years

Washington stopped transferring Yemenis from Guantanamo to authorities in Yemen in 2010, after learning that the so-called “underwear bomber” who attempted to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight in December 2009 had been trained by al-Qaida-linked militants in Yemen.  Since then, the fear among many officials is that in the lawless political climate of Yemen, repatriated Yemeni’s could pose a terrorist threat.

This photo provided by Yemen's Defense Ministry shows damaged vehicles after an explosion at the Defense Ministry complex in Sana'a, Dec. 5, 2013.This photo provided by Yemen's Defense Ministry shows damaged vehicles after an explosion at the Defense Ministry complex in Sana'a, Dec. 5, 2013.
x
This photo provided by Yemen's Defense Ministry shows damaged vehicles after an explosion at the Defense Ministry complex in Sana'a, Dec. 5, 2013.
This photo provided by Yemen's Defense Ministry shows damaged vehicles after an explosion at the Defense Ministry complex in Sana'a, Dec. 5, 2013.
A September 2013 national intelligence report on the “reengagement” of former Guantanamo prisoners shows that out of a total of 603 detainees released, 100 or 16-percent  have returned to terrorist or insurgent activities and another 74 or 12-percent are believed to have done so.  
 
As a former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo’s Office of Military Commissions for terrorism trials Morris Davis told VOA nearly a year ago, recidivism is inevitable.
 
“If you sent the cleared detainees home, somebody in that group is going to do something stupid at some point in the future, and the president hasn’t been willing to have his name on that happening,” Davis said.
 
No capacity in Yemen to deal with returnees

Nabeel KhouryNabeel Khoury
x
Nabeel Khoury
Nabeel Khoury
Nabeel Khoury, a senior fellow of Middle East and national security at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He previously served as the U.S. deputy chief of mission in Yemen from 2004 to 2007. Khoury says Yemen does not have the capacity to deal with returning detainees.  
 
“At the time when I was there, there were two things that we were discussing with the Yemenis,” Khoury said.  “One was something that they wanted--a modern prison system. The other thing was some kind of rehab program along the lines of the one the Saudis have.”
 
About nine years ago, Saudi Arabia introduced the concept of ‘soft rehabilitation,’ based on the principle that terrorism can’t be defeated by force, but by incentive and religious reorientation. Saudi rehabilitation centers have been panned by some as being too soft – in at least one center, prisoners have access to an Olympic-size swimming pool, a sauna, a gym and television.  But, as program director Said al-Bishi told AFP last May, "In order to fight terrorism, we must give them an intellectual and psychological balance... through dialogue and persuasion.”
 
And, as Carnegie Endowment’s Christopher Boucek has noted, Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation programs have had positive and “intriguing” results, with recidivist and re-arrest rates of only one to two percent.
 
Funding issues
 
“The problem is money—and the people to staff it,” said Khoury. “Do the Yemenis have enough people with the kinds of skills you need to work with rehabilitating people who have been engaged in war and violence?”
 
Yemen has asked the US for $20 million to cover the cost of building such a facility which some observers say would be a bargain compared with the $800,000 per year the US spends keeping each detainee in Cuba.
 
Andrea PrasowAndrea Prasow
x
Andrea Prasow
Andrea Prasow
Andrea Prasow, senior national security counsel and advocate in Human Rights Watch's U.S. Program, was part of a HRW group that that recently traveled to Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, to discuss the situation with Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi
 
“Mr.al-Qirbi explained that in his view, a rehabilitation facility must be one that is truly designed to help the returning men recover and reintegrate into Yemeni society,” Prasow said.
 
“But security requirements should not be an obstacle to their transfer. These 56 men have never been charged with a crime and, like the others in Guantanamo, have been held in violation of international law for years,” she added.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
January 25, 2014 8:33 AM
Sometimes the law, being a human institution that is not perfect, cannot fit into all the corners of life, existence and troubles these kinds of people bring on humanity. Therefore thinking it necessary to enact all the laws to cage all the criminals and terrorists may be a way of granting them freedom soon again to continue to make troubles to people. It is very wrong not to have death sentence passed on them as soon as they are convicted, because retaining them means to continue to waste scarce resources on useless a venture. Again the issue of charge comes in, for you cannot execute a criminal without a charge and conviction first. Then come to releasing them. Seeing how heroically they are welcomed and reintegrated into such largely terrorist societies of Gaza, South Lebanon and Yemen, it is wrong to go along with Obama's proposed depopulating of Guantanamo just to save costs. Reason is it is better and safer to spend money than more human lives as of 9/11/2001.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid