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After Releasing One Prisoner, Biden Must Close Gitmo

"The administration has much to do to fulfill President Biden's mandate to close the prison and show greater respect for human rights." —Center for Constitutional Rights

While relieved over the transfer of one Guantánamo Bay prisoner on Monday, human rights advocates pressed the Biden administration to speed up the pace of its efforts to release or move all other remaining detainees and shutter the offshore facility once and for all. 

The White House announced that after 19 years in detention, 56-year-old Abdul Latif Nasser was repatriated to his home country of Morocco early Monday. Nasser has never been charged with a crime and was held as an indefinite detainee "in the armed conflict against Al Qaeda." He was cleared for release in 2016, but had remained at Guantánamo due to former President Donald Trump's halting of all transfers. 
 
Of the 39 people who remain in U.S. custody at Guantánamo Bay, 28 have never been charged with crimes over nearly two decades of imprisonment. Ten have been recommended for transfers like Nasser's, in which the Moroccan government is expected to monitor him, including five since President Joe Biden took office in January.

Daphne Eviatar, director of the Security With Human Rights program at Amnesty International, called Nasser's release a "welcome step" and urged the Biden administration to take further action to end the era of unlawful Guantánamo Bay imprisonments.

"Now we need to see the remaining ten detainees already cleared for release transferred quickly," said Eviatar in a statement. "And we need to see clear plans for shuttering this unlawful facility once and for all. The detention facility has been allowed to stay open for far too long, now holding 39 people for almost two decades, most without charge or trial."

Nasser's continued detention over the past five years since he was cleared for transfer compounded "years of injustice," said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU's National Security Project.

"Bringing an end to two decades of unjust and abusive military detention of Muslim men at Guantánamo is a human rights obligation and a national security necessity," said Shamsi.

Prisoners who remain at Guantánamo include Toffiq al-Bihani, who was tortured by the CIA after being sent to the prison in 2003 and has yet to be charged or put on trial. Al-Bihani was recommended for a transfer to Yemen or another country by U.S. authorities in January 2010. Amnesty International has been campaigning for his release.

The same interagency panel that recommended Nasser's transfer held a hearing on May 18 regarding the possible release of Mohammed al-Qatani, who was also tortured at the prison and has schizophrenia. Officials have not announced a decision in al-Qatani's case yet; a federal lawsuit is also pending over whether he should be repatriated to Saudi Arabia in order to receive adequate care for his condition. 
 
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) called for the release of its clients, Sufyian Barhoumi and Sharqawi al Hajj, "without further delay," calling Nasser's transfer "a step in the right direction."
"The administration has much to do to fulfill President Biden's mandate to close the prison and show greater respect for human rights," said the organization in a statement. "In addition to increasing the pace of transfers, the government must purge torture from all detainee-related proceedings, afford detainees due process rights, and, as the U.S. formally withdraws from Afghanistan, finally abandon the already tenuous legal justification for indefinite 'preventative' detentions that have been premised on preventing a return to an imagined battlefield."

"As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, it is long past time to close Guantánamo and reckon with 20 years of injustice and harm," said CCR.

Republished from Common Dreams (Julia Conley, Staff Writer) under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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