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April 04, 2016

Two Guantanamo Detainees Transferred to Senegal

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today praised the transfer of two Guantanamo Bay detainees to Senegal, but notes that the pace of the transfers must increase if the facility is to close by the end of President Obama’s term in office. The organization also praised Senegal for the humanitarian gesture in accepting the detainees. 

“President Obama has outlined a concrete plan for closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay—but the most important thing for his administration to do right now is increase the pace of transfers,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “While these transfers represent progress in whittling down the detainee population, President Obama must make closing Guantanamo a priority, otherwise it will be left for the next president.”

The two detainees transferred today are Libyans Salem Abdu Salam Gherebi and Omar Khalif Mohammed Abu Baker Mahjour Umar. Salam Gherebi arrived at Guantanamo on May 5, 2002 and was cleared for transfer in 2010. Omar Khalif arrived at Guantanamo on August 5, 2002 and was cleared for transfer in August of 2015. 

Today’s transfers come weeks after the Pentagon released a plan to Congress detailing how the administration intends to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

The administration’s plan includes the accelerated transfer of detainees at Guantanamo who have been cleared for transfer by defense, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies. It also mandates expedited review, pursuant to administrative Period Review Board (PRB) hearings, of those remaining detainees who are not facing trial to determine if they can be cleared for transfer. The remaining detainees who will not be transferred in the near term—a number not to exceed 60—will be relocated to one of thirteen stateside detention facilities, pending Congressional approval. This will result in annual operating savings of up to $85 million per year compared to the cost of detention operations at Guantanamo. There are currently 89 detainees held at Guantanamo, which costs approximately $445 million per year to operate, about $5 million per detainee. The administration’s plan is in line with recommendations made in Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo.”

Last month 36 retired generals and admirals of the U.S. Armed Forces sent a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, urging them to carefully consider the Obama Administration’s plan to close Guantanamo, and to work with the president to shutter the detention facility. “Closing Guantanamo will not be easy, but it is the right thing to do, and we call on you to work together to accomplish it. We take heart that our nation has elected people who will exercise their conscientious judgment, but who will not allow politics to obscure courage,” wrote the generals and admirals.

For more information or to speak with Wala contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at margolisme@humanrightsfirst.org.