In the latest transfer of Guantanamo detainees under President Barack Obama’s administration, officials announced the move of 15 inmates from the prison to the United Arab Emirates.
With the transfer of 12 Yemeni and three Afghan citizens out of the controversial facility, the total number of detainees remaining at Guantanamo has been brought down to 61, a release on the Department of Defense’s website said.
Guantanamo has been at the receiving end of condemnation from the international community over allegations that the prison has held a number of people for over a decade without official charges or trials.
When the president took office, his aim was to shutter the facility in his first year. In the face of rising criticism from Republicans and some Democrats, Obama’s plan to close the prison has been delayed. However, with only a few months of his final term remaining, Obama hopes to fulfill this important part of his agenda.
“In its race to close Gitmo, the Obama administration is doubling down on policies that put American lives at risk,” Reuters reported Republican Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, saying.
Obama’s plans include provisions to move remaining prisoners to maximum-security prisons in the U.S. but the country’s laws forbid transfers to the mainland. This has caused the administration to look for countries willing to take in these prisoners. In June, the transfer of a Yemeni man to Montenegro was announced. Earlier in April, nine Yemeni prisoners were moved to Saudi Arabia.
For the latest transfers, the Pentagon said in a statement: “The United States is grateful to the government of the United Arab Emirates for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.”
However, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has a different view on the facility. Vowing to keep the prison open, Trump has said he will fill it with “bad dudes” and “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” if he is elected, BBC reported.
Human rights activists say that this poses great difficulties for the U.S. Naureen Shah, Amnesty International’s U.S. director for security and human rights was reported as saying: “I think we are at an extremely dangerous point where there is a significant possibility this is going to remain open as a permanent offshore prison to hold people, practically until they die.”