Five more prisoners to be released from Guantanamo Bay

Eighteen detainees have been approved for release

A soldier closes a gate at the now-abandoned Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which was used as the first detention facility for Al Qaeda and Taliban militants captured after the September 11 attacks.

The US defence department has announced five more prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay military prison will be released.

Three of the five detainees are from Yemen, one is from Somalia and another is from Kenya.

They have spent a collective 85 years in the prison opened two decades ago for so-called “war on terror” detainees after the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda attack on the US.

Never charged, detainees now approved for release – decided after case reviews in November and December – total 18 of the 39 men still held in the facility at the US Naval Base in Cuba.

Those newly approved for release are Somali Guleed Hassan Ahmed, also called Guled Hassan Duran, Kenyan Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu and Omar Muhammad Ali Al Rammah, and Moath Hamza Al Alwi and Suhayl Al Sharabi of Yemen.

The Pentagon's Periodic Review Board found all did not present, or no longer presented, a threat to the US.

But like the others already approved, their releases could be delayed as Washington seeks arrangements with their own or other countries to accept them.

Currently the US will not repatriate Yemenis due to the civil war in the country, or Somalis, whose homeland is also mired by domestic conflict.

Calls to 'close ugly chapter'

The approvals indicated an accelerated effort by the Biden administration to resolve the situations of the 39 in Guantanamo, after his predecessor Donald Trump effectively froze action.

Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo prison, and brought calls from international human rights groups to shut it down, accusing the US of arbitrary detention of hundreds of people and the illegal torture of dozens.

On Monday a group of UN human rights experts called for Washington to “close this ugly chapter of unrelenting human rights violations”.

Writing on the Lawfare website, US Senator Dianne Feinstein said detainees facing trial, including September 11th mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, could be tried in US civilian courts rather than the secretive and troubled military commissions system.

There are now 39 prisoners left at Guantanamo Bay.  At its peak, in 2003, the detention center held nearly 680 prisoners. AP

“Now that the US's war in Afghanistan is over, it's time to shut the doors on Guantanamo once and for all,” Ms Feinstein said.

Of the 39 men still at Guantanamo, 10 are in the process of standing trial, mostly still in preliminary proceedings, two have pleaded guilty to terror-related charges and nine remain in limbo, neither charged nor yet granted release.

Some of the nine, Guantanamo defence attorneys say, have mental health problems that make it hard to present a case for release to the boards or arrange a future life in their home countries or elsewhere.

Khalid Ahmed Qasim, whose case was reviewed in December, was denied release even though the Pentagon authorities in charge of the reviews acknowledged he was not a significant person in Al Qaeda or the Taliban and did not pose a significant threat.

But they indicated he frequently would not comply with officials at the Guantanamo prison and lacked plans for his future, if he was released.

The board “encourages the detainee to immediately work towards showing improved compliance and better management of his emotions,” it said.

It asked his attorneys to produce a plan “regarding how his mental health conditions will be managed if he were to be transferred” out of Guantanamo.

Updated: January 13th 2022, 7:22 AM