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

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora