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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid