House approves bill blocking Gitmo transfers
The US House of Representatives on Sept. 15 approved a bill (PDF) that would temporarily block the transfer of detainees from the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. The bill, which passed with a 244-174 vote, would prevent transfers until a 2017 military budget is passed or until President Barack Obama leaves office. The Obama administration has cleared 20 of the remaining 61 detainees for transfer. The bill is not expected to survive, as the White House has threatened to veto even if the bill does pass through the Senate. Proponents of the bill argue it is necessary due to threat of recidivism. To date, more than 693 detainees have been released during the Bush and Obama administrations. According to a report from the Director of National Intelligence (PDF), 122 of these have returned to militancy, while others are "suspected" of having returned to terrorist activity.
Ex-Gitmo detainee hospitalized in hunger strike
A former Guantánamo detainee who was resettled in Uruguay was hospitalized and released on Sept. 6 after a hunger strike left him weak. Since his release from the hospital, Abu Wa'el Dhiab has resumed his hunger strike, vowing that he will continue until he is either reunited with his family or dead. Dhiab is a native of Syria and was one of six detainees accepted by the Uruguayan government after their release from Guantánamo Bay. Dhiab, however, has said that he feels as if he is a prisoner in Uruguay. The Uruguayan government is continuing to figure out a way to reunite Dhiab with his family.
US transfers 15 Guantánamo detainees to UAE
The US Department of Defense on Aug. 15 announced the transfer of 15 Guantánamo detainees to the United Arab Emirates. Twelve of the detainees were from Yemen, and the other three were from Afghanistan. Six of the detainees had been approved for release since 2009, and the others were cleared for release more recently. Thirteen of the detainees had never faced any charges, and two of the Afghan detainees had their military commission charges drops. This marks the largest single detainee transfer so far, as the Obama administration works toward its goal of shuttering the detention center. After these transfers, there are 61 detainees remaining at Guantánamo.
Nine Gitmo detainees transfered to Saudi Arabia
The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced the transfer of nine Yemeni Guantánamo Bay detainees to Saudi Arabia on April 16 as it continues efforts to close the facility. The prisoners would have been sent back to their home country but were instead transfer to Saudi Arabia due to the instability in Yemen. Eight of the detainees had been cleared for release since 2009, after an extensive review, and 26 more are also cleared and expected to be released this summer. At the end of March, a US government official said the DoD told Congress that it plans to transfer as many as 12 prisoners from Guantánamo in the coming weeks. Eighty detainees remain at the facility.
Is Obama really helping Cuban dissidents?
Just hours before Obama arrived in Cuba March 20 for the historic first visit by a US president since the 1959 revolution, a pro-democracy march was broken up in Havana, with over 50 detained. (Havana Times) Among those arrested was the famous activist graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, nicknamed "El Sexto," who according to the New York Times had increased pressure on the regime to open democratic space in the preceding days by streaming live broadcasts from the newly unveiled wifi spots around Havana. Activists whose hopes had been raised both by reconciliation with the US and the regime's recent moves to allow greater Internet access were disappointed by the repression. "We thought there would be a truce, but it wasn't to be," Elizardo Sánchez, who heads the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, told the NY Times.
Ex-Gitmo chief ignores French court summons
Former head of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, US Army Major General Geoffrey Miller, failed to appear before a French court on March 1 to answer a subpoena (PDF) to appear for questioning on his involvement in the torture of two French detainees. French citizens Mourad Benchellali and Nizar Sassi brought the case, challenging their treatment during their detention from 2001-2004 and 2001-2005, respectively. A French court overturned their terrorism convictions in 2009. While acknowledging that the general will most likely never appear before the French court, Benchelli and his lawyer agree that the issuance of the subpoena is a victory in itself.
Obama delivers Gitmo closure plan to Congress
US President Barack Obama delivered his plan to close Guantánamo Bay (PDF) to Congress on Feb. 23. This plan comes seven years after Obama first announced he planned to shut down the prison by the end of his presidency. Under the proposed plan, detainees not fit for US prosecution or deportation would be transferred to a yet-undisclosed detention facility in the US. The plan also prioritizes transferring detainees to their home countries when possible, or resettlement in third countries. The plan states that "closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility is a national security imperative. Its continued operation weakens our national security by furthering the recruiting propaganda of violent extremists, hindering relations with key allies and partners, and draining Department of Defense resources."
Amnesty: Gitmo detainee denied medical treatment
Amnesty International USA alleges that Mustafa al-Hawsawi, one of the accused 9-11 ring-leaders, is in desperate need of medical care in a letter (PDF) to the Pentagon that was made public on Feb. 10. In the letter, AI-USA states that Hawsawi is in severe rectal distress due to interrogation methods that amount to torture and that he has yet to receive adequate medical care. The letter further urges the Pentagon to look into the treatment of all current Guantánamo detainees due to ongoing complaints. A government spokesperson declined to comment on the letter other than to say that all detainees receive medical care equal to that of service members.
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