As President Obama and President Hadi of Yemen meet at the White House, we call on both leaders to work together to immediately resume transfers of the Yemeni men detained at Guantánamo. Eighty-nine of the 166 men detained at Guantanamo are from Yemen – the single largest national group at the facility by far. More than half of the Yemenis – 56 – were approved for transfer more than three years ago by the nation’s top national security agencies. Yet they continue to languish at the prison, many on hunger strike and in solitary confinement, subjected to painful force-feedings and humiliating genital searches that have been widely condemned. Their continued detention – particularly under these inhumane conditions – must end now.
In May, President Obama lifted his longstanding, self-imposed moratorium on transfers to Yemen. Ending what was a policy of open discrimination against the Yemenis was an important gesture. The time for gestures, however, has long passed: Lifting the moratorium is meaningless if President Obama does not actually begin repatriating detainees to Yemen without further delay. Indications that Yemen may establish a rehabilitation center for repatriated men in the future should not be an excuse for further delaying transfers of Yemeni men now. There are cleared Yemenis who can be returned immediately and seamlessly with the ready support of their families.
We urge President Hadi to insist that President Obama use his authority under the National Defense Authorization Act to process Yemeni prisoners – his own people – for immediate release. President Obama can begin with men like Fahd Ghazy, Tariq Ba Odah, and Sabry Mohammed, whom the administration has already approved for transfer, and Ghaleb Al-Bihani, who is acutely ill. These men have been unjustly detained at Guantánamo without charge for more than 11 years – roughly one-third of their lives. If President Obama is to retain any moral authority, he should reunite these men with their families so they can begin rebuilding their lives in dignity.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.