The United States transferred six detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to Uruguay over the weekend, the Defense Department announced. This was the largest single group of inmates to leave the prison in Cuba since 2009. These will be the first detainees to be transferred to South America.
The release of the detainees is part of an effort by President Barack Obama to accelerate transfers out of Guantanamo. The facility once held hundreds of suspected al Qaeda members. Obama has promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay since before he took office, according to Bloomberg.
Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, a former urban guerrila fighter, agreed in spring to resettle the detainees.
[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Jose Mujica” author_title=”Uruguayan President”]
We have offered our hospitality for human beings who suffered an atrocious kidnapping in Guantanamo.
Mujica has called the Guantanamo Bay prison a disgrace. He told the Washington Post that his government would consider the prisoners refugees and they would not be monitored.
The transfer included Jihad Diyab, a 43-year-old Syrian man who has been on a hunger strike protesting his indefinite detention with no trial, and who filed a lawsuit challenging the military’s policy to force-feed him. Most of the case will now be moot, except a dispute over whether videotapes of the force-feeding procedure should be disclosed to the American public, the New York Times reported.
Other detainees released included Ahmed Adnan Ahjam, Ali Hussain Shaabaan and Omar Mamoud Faraj of Syria; Abdul Bin Mohammed Abis Ourgy of Tunisia; and Palestinian Mohammed Tahanmatan.
Obama’s attempts to close the prison have been resisted by many members of Congress, who oppose prosecuting alleged terrorists in the United States and have said that released detainees return to attacking Americans.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was at first reluctant to approve the transfer, but notified Congress in June that resettlement would occur in no less than 30 days. The administration is required to give Congress a 30-day notification of its intent to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo Bay.
The United States government conducted an interagency review to determine if the detainees met standards for release, which includes determining if they pose a security threat. The detention center still holds 136 prisoners suspected of having ties to terrorists organizations such as al Qaeda.