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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs