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Biden admin approves release of 5 more Guantanamo Bay detainees

War-on-terror captives conduct communal evening prayers at the Camp 6 prison building at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on July 7, 2015. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/TNS)
January 12, 2022

President Joe Biden’s administration has approved the release of five men held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. However, the men – who have been held without charge for years – likely won’t be freed anytime soon while the administration finds nations that will take them.  

According to the New York Times, those approved for release include Moath al-Alwi, Zuhail al-Sharabi and Omar al-Rammah from Yemen, and Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu from Kenya. Each man is in his 40s and none were ever charged with war crimes. Rather, they were held as “law of war” detainees, which is a term used to describe prisoners of the war on terror.

The fifth detainee approved for release is Guled Hassan Duran of Somalia.

Lee Wolosky, the U.S. Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure during former President Barack Obama’s administration, urged the Biden White House to shut down the prison on the 20th anniversary of its establishment as a wartime prison.

“Our longest war has ended, yet Guantánamo endures,” Wolosky wrote in a Politico column.

“If these detainees had been white and not brown or Black, is there any realistic chance the United States — a country committed to the rule of law — would imprison them without charge for decades?” Wolosky added. “I don’t think so.”

State Department diplomats are making arrangements for the soon-to-be-freed prisoners, with plans that usually include pledges by the host country to restrict detainees’ travel, assist with resettlement and enroll them in a jihad rehabilitation program. All efforts are designed to deter future anti-American activities.

United States law prohibits Guantanamo detainees from being sent to Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria – but Oman and Saudi Arabia have both helped facilitate successful resettlements.

“The time has come to finish the yearslong process of restoring U.S. moral credibility by untangling the knots that we ourselves tied in Guantánamo,” Wolosky insisted.

Guantanamo Bay still has 39 detainees: nine are held as “law of war” detainees, 18 are approved for transfer and 12 have been charged with war crimes. Two of the prisoners charged with war crimes have been convicted.

Those still awaiting trail include Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others who are accused of planning the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed 2,977 people.

The Times reported that pretrial hearings for the death-penalty case that were set for this week have been delayed due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. Guantanamo has implemented mandatory quarantine for all travelers who arrive at the base.