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Guantanamo: US clears five more detainees for release

A sixth detainee was denied clearance, in what his lawyers say is the 'normalisation of indefinite detention without trial'
Although cleared for transfer, the detainees will continue to remain in the prison indefinitely until the US finds suitable host countries.
Although cleared for transfer, the detainees will continue to remain in the prison until the US finds suitable host countries (AFP/File photo)
By in
Washington

The Biden administration approved five detainees for transfer from the Guantanamo Bay military prison late on Tuesday, a day marking the twentieth anniversary of the notorious facility's opening.

The detainees, however, are unlikely to be freed any time soon, as the administration continues to work on finding countries that can host them.

A US government review panel recommended three Yemenis, a Kenyan national and a Somali citizen for transfer. The news was first reported by The New York Times.

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All of the men are in their 40s and none have ever been charged with a crime. Instead, they have been held as "law of war" detainees, a term used by the US to describe the individuals swept up in Washington's post-9/11 wars.

Now that they have been cleared, a diplomatic process will begin to find a suitable country that would agree to host the detainees, and also one that could meet the US's security requirements.

Eighteen of the 39 men remaining at Guantanamo have now been cleared for transfer. Half are from Yemen and one is from Somalia, two countries that along with Syria and Libya are on Congress's no-transfer list.

Since assuming office last year, US President Joe Biden has only transferred one detainee from Guantanamo Bay and has not appointed a special envoy - as former US President Barack Obama did - to preside over negotiations.

The Biden administration said it has been clear in its goal of closing the prison, but experts told Middle East Eye earlier this week that the US president has all the tools at his disposal to close the detention facility.

'Normalisation of indefinite detention'

Also on Tuesday, a sixth detainee, Khalid Qasim, was denied clearance due to reasons including "his inability to manage his emotions and actions" and his "lack of plans for the future if transferred".

Qasim, a Yemeni national, was seized in December 2001 by the Northern Alliance, a faction in Afghanistan's civil war.

After making confessions under duress and torture, he was sold to the US military for a bounty and sent to the notorious prison at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, where he was forced to endure freezing temperatures and sleep deprivation, according to information provided to MEE by one of Qasim's lawyers. 

In early 2002, he was transferred to a US air base in Kandahar, where he faced consistent torture and mistreatment by US personnel. In May 2002, he was sent to Guantanamo and has since been detained there without charge.

His lawyer Mark Maher told MEE on Wednesday that Qasim was one of the "kindest, funniest, and most thoughtful people" he has ever known.

"We are beyond disappointed in the Board's decision. Khalid is a thoughtful man and artist who wants nothing more than to restart his life and put Guantanamo behind him," Maher told MEE.

"Announcing the decision on Guantanamo's 20th anniversary only underscores the prison's sad legacy and the normalisation of indefinite detention without trial."