Second CCR Client Also Among Those Released
April 16, 2016, New York – Today, the Department of Defense announced the transfer to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) clients Tariq Ba Odah, a longtime hunger-striking Guantánamo prisoner, and Mohammed Al-Hamiri, along with seven other prisoners. Both Mr. Ba Odah and Mr. Al-Hamiri were cleared for release more than five years ago. Mr. Ba Odah had been on hunger strike since 2007 – over nine years – to protest his indefinite detention and conditions of confinement at Guantánamo. Over the last year of his imprisonment, his weight hovered at just 74 pounds, 56 percent of his ideal body weight.
Of Tariq Ba Odah’s release, Center for Constitutional Rights Attorney Omar Farah said:
The government played Russian roulette with Mr. Ba Odah’s life for more than a year. It stood by as he wasted away on hunger strike to 74 pounds, intervening only to force liquid supplements through his nose, block his appeal for humanitarian relief in federal court, and sabotage a deal that would have secured his freedom and access to emergency medical care months ago. That he survived is not so much a cause for celebration as it is a reckoning that ought to remind the White House of the cost of elevating politics over the life and liberty of a human being. Mr. Ba Odah’s transfer today ends one of the most appalling chapters in Guantánamo’s sordid history. Now that Mr. Ba Odah is finally free, we are hopeful that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will provide him the sophisticated medical care he desperately needs.
In June 2015, CCR filed an emergency motion for Mr. Ba Odah’s immediate release on medical grounds. At the time, three medical experts described him as being at risk of sudden death. In a filing under seal, the government opposed his release, a move over which Obama administration officials were reportedly divided. In late December, a special report by Reuters revealed that Pentagon officials had obstructed an earlier possibility for Mr. Ba Odah’s transfer by refusing to release his medical records (despite Mr. Ba Odah’s authorization) to a foreign delegation considering accepting him into their country.
Of Mohammed Al-Hamiri’s release, Mr. Farah said:
When Mr. Al-Hamiri left Saudi Arabia in 2001 to receive medical care in Pakistan, he could not have imagined he would be torn away from his family in Jeddah for over 14 years. Now, after spending more than a third of his young life senselessly imprisoned at Guantánamo, he will finally be reunited with them. We are grateful to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for allowing Mr. Al-Hamiri to come home, and we are confident that it will provide the support Mr. Al-Hamiri needs to begin recovering from the torment of so many years at Guantánamo.
Mr. Al-Hamiri once wrote from Guantánamo, “When freedom touches the dark walls of life, it brightens them with colors and brings hope back to those faces that have been waiting for so long.” Mr. Al-Hamiri and Mr. Ba Odah anticipated being reunited with their families for years. Their legal team at CCR is hopeful that they will quickly readjust to their new lives in freedom in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Both Mr. Ba Odah and Mr. Al-Hamiri were picked up in Pakistan by local Pakistani authorities and turned over to the U.S. military. They arrived at Guantánamo in their early twenties and endured treatment at the hands of the U.S. military that they described as physical and psychological torture. Like many of the men who have languished in Guantánamo the longest, Tariq Ba Odah and Mohammed Al-Hamiri are Yemeni citizens. For many years, President Obama refused to repatriate or resettle Yemeni prisoners, keeping them trapped in Guantánamo because of their citizenship.
In February 2016, shortly after Guantánamo entered its 15th year of operation, President Obama presented his plan to close the prison. CCR attorneys say issuing written plans, especially with only months left before President Obama leaves office, is too little too late and the president must accelerate the pace of transfers and review boards immediately. They emphasize that the prison at Guantánamo must be emptied and closed, and not imported to the United States, and note that several CCR clients – among them Ghaleb Nasser Al-Bihani, Muhammadi Davliatov, Zaher Hamdoun, and Mohammed Kamin – remain imprisoned despite being cleared for release.
Arabic translation of release available here.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for more than 14 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country, ensuring that all the men detained at Guantánamo have had the option of legal representation. CCR is responsible for many Guantánamo cases in many venues, representing men in their habeas cases in federal court and before the military commissions and Periodic Review Boards, the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking accountability in international courts.