Senator Dianne Feinstein has called on the Obama administration to "renew its efforts to transfer 86 detainees" who are still being held at Guantanamo Bay even though they have been cleared for release by a review board
The California Democratic Senator wrote a letter this week, to National Security Advisor Tom Donilon urging the Obama administration to "renew its efforts to transfer 86 detainees" who had been cleared to be moved by a review board some time ago. She made reference to the ongoing hunger strike that now is officially at 97 inmates. Feinstein reports on her website:“The fact that so many detainees have now been held at Guantanamo for over a decade and their belief that there is still no end in sight for them is a reason there is a growing problem of more and more detainees on a hunger strike. This week, monitors from the International Committee of the Red Cross who travelled to Guantanamo recently told my staff that the level of desperation among the detainees is ‘unprecedented’ in their view.
In her letter, Feinstein, who is chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also said:"I would like to ask that the Administration review the status of the 86 detainees who were cleared for transfer in the past and let me know if there are suitable places to continue to hold or resettle these detainees either in their home countries or third countries."
Fifty six of those cleared for transfer are from Yemen. However, there is a moratorium on transferring any detainees to Yemen after the attempted bombing on Xmas Day 2009 by a Nigerian who had ties to an Al Qaeda group(AQAP) in Yemen. Feinstein had previously supported the ban claiming that Yemen was "too unstable" to transfer detainees there. However, US supported president Hadi has now been in power for some time and has been a staunch ally of the US. He wants the cleared Yemenis to be sent back to Yemen. There have been a number of protests in Yemen demanding their return.
Finally Feinstein has reversed her stance. She said: "Although AQAP still has a strong presence in Yemen. I believe it would be prudent to re-visit the decision to halt transfers to Yemen and assess whether President [Abd Rabbuh Mansur] Hadi's government, with appropriate assistance, would be able to securely hold detainees in Sana'a." Of course there was never any evidence that the Yemenis involved had anything to do with Al Qaeda in the first place.
Human rights groups praised Feinstein's stance since she is the first member of Congress to clearly call for the transfer process to begin anew. Zeke Johnson of Amnesty International said:. "We are at a tipping point in terms of the health of these prisoners which cannot be ignored. President Obama must resolve the ongoing crisis at Guantanamo Bay and keep his promise to close the detention facility." Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the prison camps must be shuttered and that they are in a "clear breach of international law."
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