US transfers six prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Uruguay – ABC Online

Posted: Sunday, December 07, 2014


December 08, 2014 08:56:16

Six men held in Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade have been flown to Uruguay for resettlement.

US officials said the release of four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian represented the largest single group to leave the internationally condemned US detention camp since 2009.

The men were taken to a hospital for medical examinations after arriving in Uruguay’s capital Montevideo.

It was the latest step in a slow-moving push by president Barack Obama’s administration to close the facility.

Mr Obama promised to shut the prison when he took office nearly six years ago, citing the damage it inflicted on America’s image around the world, but he has been unable to do so, partly because of obstacles posed by the US Congress.

The transfer of prisoners to Uruguay had been delayed for months, apparently held up by the Defence Department.

Differences over the pace of such transfers added to friction between defence secretary Chuck Hagel and Mr Obama’s inner circle that culminated in Mr Hagel’s resignation last month.

The release of the six was put off again in August when Uruguay became concerned about political risks in the run-up to its October presidential election.

Some Republicans, including head of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers, are unhappy about the transfers and calling for a re-think.

“Some past released prisoners are now re-engaged in the terrorist fight,” he said.

“We knew that was going to happen”.

‘Refugees’ are free to leave, says Uruguay president

Uruguay’s outgoing president Jose Mujica, who has called Guantanamo a “disgrace,” reiterated that he had rejected a US proposal to ban the detainees from traveling for two years after their release from Guantanamo.

“They are coming as refugees and the first day that they want to leave, they can leave,” he said in an interview with state television that was posted on YouTube.

A US official said Uruguay agreed to “security arrangements” and that the six would be “free men.”

He declined to say whether they would be allowed to travel abroad.

Uruguay’s president-elect, the ruling party’s Tabare Vazquez, who assumes power on March 1, has said he also supports hosting the men as a humanitarian gesture.

Uruguay’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it would adhere to international rules on humanitarian protection.

Guantanamo was opened by Mr Obama’s predecessor George W Bush after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, to house terrorism suspects rounded up overseas.

Most of the detainees have been held for a decade or more without being charged or tried.

Seven other prisoners have been transferred from Guantanamo since early November, including three to Georgia, two to Slovakia, one to Saudi Arabia and one to Kuwait.

Among the 136 prisoners who remain at Guantanamo Bay, 67 are “cleared” for release.

But Mr Obama still faces major obstacles in trying to shut down the prison, among the biggest being the Yemeni detainees who make up more than half of the inmate population.

Most have been cleared for transfer but are unable to return home due to the chaotic security situation in Yemen.




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