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December 17, 2018

Alleged Bin Laden Bodyguard Boycotts Periodic Review Board Process

On Tuesday the Periodic Review Board held a review of Guantanamo detainee Sanad Ali Yislam Al Kazimi. Al Kazimi refused to participate, however, and a statement from his personal representative made clear that he has little faith in the process.

The Periodic Review Board is tasked with assessing whether al Kazimi can be released or transferred to a third country without posing a significant threat to the United States. He has been detained at Guantanamo without charge or trial for over 14 years. A 48-year-old Yemeni citizen, he’s accused by the government of both being a bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden and providing support to an alleged senior al Qaeda operator now detained at Guantanamo, Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri. The government also suspects Al Kazimi of being a financial coordinator for al Qaeda in Yemen.

It was clear from the start of the hearing that Al Kazimi would not attend, as the bleak image of his personal representative sitting alone at a table in Guantanamo was projected onto the screen before me at the Pentagon. After the government read aloud its brief profile of the detainee, the personal representative made a brief statement on behalf of Al Kazimi in which she said he wouldn’t participate because he feels he has “no chance under the current political climate.” The “review” was finished in all of 15 minutes.

This stands in stark contrast to Al Kazimi’s original appearance before the Periodic Review Board in May of 2016. At those proceedings, he was an engaged participant, paying close attention to the statements by the government and his representatives.

However, back then the PRBs provided a meaningful review process that could lead to an individual’s transfer out of Guantanamo. Currently, five detainees cleared for transfer to third countries remain at Guantanamo. The Trump administration has also shut down the offices that helped coordinate transfers, making that process even more difficult. None of the detainees reviewed by the PRBs under this administration have been cleared for transfer, and two detainees have been waiting for a decision for months. Under the Executive Order governing the Period Review Board process that was reinstated by President Trump, there are procedures in place for resolving any disagreements that should prevent such delays. Given the months-long delays, it is unclear whether those procedures have been followed.  

Unless the administration demonstrates that it is reviewing and transferring detainees in good faith and in compliance with the Executive Order, it should come as no surprise that detainees like  Al Kazimi are boycotting the proceedings.