06 January 2010

CCR denounces decision to suspend transfer of Gitmo prisoners to Yemen

In the wake of the attempted airplane bombing on Christmas Day by a man who was allegedly trained by al-Qaeda in Yemen, the Obama administration has decided to suspend the previously arranged transfer of more than 80 Guantanamo prisoners to Yemen.

According to BBC News, "[o]fficials fear many could re-join militant groups if sent back to Yemen."

But, of course, al-Qaeda has cells all over the world. So is the U.S. going to keep everyone locked up -- even those who are determined to have no ties to terrorist groups -- just as a precautionary measure to prevent any revenge that a handful of them might be tempted to seek?

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has represented a number of Gitmo detainees, and yesterday they spoke out strongly against the administration's decision.

Here is the CCR's official statement on the subject:
Dozens of men from Yemen who have been cleared for release after extensive scrutiny by the government's Guantanamo Review Task Force are about to be left in limbo once more due to politics, not facts. Many are about to begin their ninth year in indefinite detention.

Halting the repatriation of Yemeni men cleared by the Task Force after months of careful review is unconscionable. It will also effectively prevent any meaningful progress towards closing Guantanamo, which President Obama has repeatedly argued will make our nation safer.

As we approach the eighth anniversary of Guantanamo and the president's failed deadline for its closure, it is important to remember that the vast majority of the men at Guantanamo should never have been detained in the first place, and that over 550 have been released and are peacefully rebuilding their lives. Most of the nearly 800 men who were brought to Guantanamo were not captured by the American military on any battlefield, but seized in broad sweeps during the chaos of the Afghan war or in other locations around the world and sold to the U.S. in exchange for substantial bounties. We know from the military's own records that most of the detainees at Guantanamo have no link to terrorism.

When he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama said, 'We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it's easy, but when it is hard.' What he said in December should be just as true a month later.

There is no excuse for continued preemptive detention of these individuals, who have been cleared for release, just because of what they might decide to do later. Or did the Obama administration suddenly become the Thought Police?!

Obama needs to recognize that the war on terrorism doesn't have to be a war on human rights.

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