December 8, 2015, Guantánamo – In a letter to his attorney before he received notice that his status would be reviewed today after a four-year wait, a Guantanamo detainee asked desperately, “Will there be a day when I will live like others live? Like a person who has freedom, dignity, a home, a family, a job, a wife and children?”
Today, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) client Zaher Hamdoun, assisted by military representatives and his CCR attorneys, appeared before the Periodic Review Board (PRB) at Guantánamo to seek the government’s approval for transfer and an end to his 14-year detention without charge. Mr. Hamdoun, a 36 year-old Yemeni, is one of dozens of men the Obama administration designated in 2009 to a nebulous middle category of detainees it does not intend to charge but has not determined if it will ever release. In 2011, the administration established the PRB process to regularly review the status of men in this group and determine whether continued detention is necessary to protect against a “significant threat” to the United States.
“Mr. Hamdoun was eager for his hearing, after having waited four years for it. Mr. Hamdoun will explain why, 14 years after he was brought to Guantanamo, at age 36 looking back on accusations from when he was 19, he is not a threat. He will do this despite a presumption in favor of the government’s information, despite the fact that he will be asked to envision a future with a shackle around his ankle, and despite the injustice that’s been done to him, for which there will be no acknowledgement. It is his hope and perseverance that have brought his legal team along,” said Mr. Hamdoun’s attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, Pardiss Kebriaei.
“While the Obama administration blames Congress for its inability to close Guantanamo,” she continued, “the PRB process has been entirely within the administration’s control. It was inoperative for two years, then proceeded in fits and starts, and still today, dozens of men remain waiting in line, their designations for indefinite detention not reviewed since 2009. Despite this inaction, not to mention the slow pace of transfers, we are meant to believe that the administration is doing everything it can to close Guantanamo and that the population left in detention at the end of the day – in Guantanamo or the United States – will be an 'irreducible number' who simply can't be released, as the administration claims.”
Of the 107 men who remain detained at Guantanamo, 48 are approved but remain waiting for transfer. Most of the rest are waiting for PRB review. At the current rate, the Obama administration will not conclude its review of remaining PRB-eligible prisoners before the end of the president’s term, due in part to the inexplicably late start of the reviews. While President Obama’s 2011 order establishing the PRB process called for initial reviews of all eligible detainees to be complete within a year, the first review of a single detainee was not finished until January 2014.
For more information, including Ms. Kebriaei’s statement to the PRB, see CCR’s case page.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for nearly 14 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country, ensuring that nearly all the men detained at Guantánamo have had the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.