One more step towards final closure? The United States has approved the release of five additional detainees from the Guantanamo military prison, where 39 prisoners are still held, suspected of being complicit in terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, according to official Pentagon documents consulted on Wednesday.

Never formally charged, Yemenis Mouaz Hamza al-Alaoui, Souheil al-Charabi and Omar al-Rammah, Somali Guled Hassan Duran and Kenyan Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu received their discharge vouchers at the end of 2021, according to new documents released this week. by the Guantanamo Review Board.

This body, which is made up of senior officials of the American administration, judged that they no longer represented a danger for the United States.

Conditional release

The green light for their release brings to 18 the number of detainees promised to be released if the United States finds them a base, which could delay their effective release, because Washington does not repatriate the ex-prisoners to Yemen, country in the grip of a violent civil war, nor to Somalia, another country in crisis.

Independent experts commissioned by the United Nations this week ordered the United States to close its military prison at Guantanamo, site of “incessant violations of human rights”.

The infamous detention center, opened just twenty years ago after the jihadist attacks of September 11 as part of the “war on terror”, has housed up to 780 detainees, initially locked in cages then the hastily erected prison cells on the US military base.

Thirty-nine prisoners at Guantanamo

Most have since been released, some after more than ten years of detention without charge. It still houses 39. Ten of them, including the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, known as “KSM”, are awaiting trial by a military commission. Two have been sentenced and nine others are still awaiting their release.

By declaring these five detainees released, the Biden administration is speeding up efforts to shut down Guantanamo, which had been frozen under Donald Trump.

In a column posted on the Lawfare website, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said those awaiting trial, including KSM, could be tried in U.S. civilian courts rather than the military commission, which has been accused of abuse , in particular by wiretapping exchanges between detainees and their lawyers. “Now that the war in Afghanistan is over, it is time to close Guantanamo once and for all,” she said.

Fragile mental health

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby assured Monday that the US administration remained “engaged in the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison”, located in a US military base on the island of Cuba.

According to their lawyers, some of the last nine potentially released detainees suffer from mental disorders, which complicates their eventual reintegration in their country of origin or elsewhere.

Yemeni Khalid Ahmed Qassim was thus denied his release voucher in December, although the review board acknowledged that he had never been a senior al-Qaeda or Taliban official.

According to documents released this week, the committee noted that he was not obeying the instructions of prison officials and that he had no life plans that would justify his release.

The commission “encourages the detainee to make efforts of obedience and to control his emotions more”, it is specified. She asks the Yemeni lawyers to present to her by May a work plan on “how his mental health will be managed if he is transferred” out of Guantanamo.

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