On Monday, the Pentagon announced that 15 Guantanamo Bay detainees have been transferred to the United Arab Emirates, bringing the total number of prisoners at the facility to 61. According to CNN, the State Department says this is the largest single transfer of Guantanamo detainees under President Obama.
While Obama’s plan for shuttering the facility calls for bringing the several dozen remaining prisoners to maximum-security prisons in the United States, U.S. law bars such transfers to the mainland. Obama, though, has not ruled out doing so by executive action.
“I think we are at an extremely dangerous point where there is a significant possibility this is going to remain open as a permanent offshore prison to hold people, practically until they die,” said Naureen Shah, Amnesty International’s U.S. director for security and human rights.
Shah said keeping Guantanamo open gave cover to foreign governments to ignore human rights.
“It weakens the U.S. government’s hand in arguing against torture and indefinite detention,” she said.
According to the Pentagon, interagency review boards approved all 15 detainees for transfer either unanimously or by consensus. In a statement, Republican Congressman Ed Royce, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, slammed Monday’s announcement, citing security concerns.
“In its race to close Gitmo, the Obama administration is doubling down on policies that put American lives at risk,” said Royce. “Once again, hardened terrorists are being released to foreign countries where they will be a threat.”