Yemeni Guantanamo detainees to be put under ‘observation’ in UAE

The “lower-level” Yemeni prisoners, who had been held for almost 14 years without charge in the US, are expected to be placed under security observation, which would require them to regularly check in with police.

ABU DHABI // Five prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay to the UAE will not be placed under 24-hour supervision but will have to report regularly to police.

The five Yemenis arrived from Cuba on Sunday after being held without charge for almost 14 years in the US detention centre.

They are Ali Al Razihi, Khalid Al Qadasi, Adil Al Busays, Sulayman Al Nahdi and Fahmi Al Asani.

See their profiles here: The 5 Guantanamo detainees transferred to the UAE

“They will live under semi self-confinement detention,” said Dr Mustafa Alani, director of national security and terrorism at the Gulf Research Centre.

“They will have to report to the police on a regular basis to prove they’re still in the country. Their movements will be limited and they cannot mix with anyone.”

The US opened Guantanamo to hold terror suspects following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Inmates were called “enemy combatants” and denied standard US legal rights, meaning many were held for years without charge or trial.

Barack Obama promised to close the camp when he was elected in 2008, but has been thwarted by legal and political obstacles, and difficulties in finding countries that will accept released prisoners.

The Pentagon said the US was “grateful to the UAE for its willingness to support continuing US efforts” to close Guantanamo.

“The US coordinated with the UAE to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures,” the Pentagon said, and the five men had been cleared for transfer after security reviews.

Georgia, Slovakia, Oman, Kazakhstan and countries in Latin America have previously taken Yemeni prisoners from Guantanamo, who remain a particular problem for the United States, Dr Alani said.

“Due to the situation in Yemen, the US decided not to rehabilitate them in their own country, while others like Moroccans, Algerians, Kuwaitis and Saudis were able to go back.”

The result is that there are more Yemenis in Guantanamo than any other nationality – 64 of the 107 remaining prisoners.

“Forty of them have been approved for release, but the problem is where they go,” Dr Alani said.

“The US doesn’t want them to go in bulk to one country because they will get active again and they can be a threat so they are scattered geographically.”

Dr Albadr Al Shateri, senior adviser and researcher for the Armed Forces, said the UAE was fulfilling its international obligation to play a role in combating terrorism.

“I believe there will be a rehabilitation centre to reintegrate them in mainstream society,” he said.

“The UAE took the lead in founding centres of tolerance and civilisational understanding.”

Others said the transfer of prisoners was a matter of trust. “The UAE probably wants to be recognised as a place that can be accommodating and trusted with such matters,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, political science professor at UAE University.

“There are conditions and requirements and the UAE has given enough guarantees to make sure they are treated well and they are kept safe.”

Yemen has close links with Al Qaeda, but Taufiq Rahim, a political analyst in Dubai, said such links should not be used to condemn Yemenis in Guantanamo.

“It does not mean they are necessarily members or were affiliated with terrorism as they were held without trial and have not been convicted of any crimes.”

He pointed out that Yemenis in Guantanamo were captured before the formation of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is now active in Yemen.

“A large share of remaining prisoners in Guantanamo are Yemeni due to the continuing conflict there and the lack of effective government institutions to facilitate their return,” he said.

The five Yemenis are not the first Guantanamo prisoners to be released to the UAE. Abdulah Alhamiri, an Emirati who had supported the Taliban, was transferred in 2008.

Published: November 16, 2015 04:00 AM


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