United States: Yemenis cleared for release held in Guantanamo for years

“In all of the mainstream media analysis of WikiLeaks' recent release of Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs) from Guantanamo, relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners who have been held at the prison over the last nine years and four months,” Andy Worthington wrote in a may 11 TruthOut.org article, “one group of prisoners has so far been overlooked: the Yemenis.”

Worthington said the 89 Yemenis held in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay made up more than half the 172 prisoners. He said: “Just 23 Yemenis have been released from Guantanamo throughout its history and those who remain have found themselves used as political pawns.”

A US government-instigated Guantanamo Review Task Force in 2009 recommended that 36 Yemeni prisoners should be released immediately. It also found a further 30 should be held in “conditional detention” — remaining in jail until the security situation in Yemen improved.

Worthington said the task force recommended five others be tried and 26 other Yemeni prisoners continue to be held indefinitely without charge. Altogether, the task force listed 48 prisoners in Guantanamo it felt should be held indefinitely with no charge.

The US government has argued these prisoners are too dangerous to release, even though there is not enough evidence to bring them to trial.

Worthington said DABs released by WikiLeaks “demonstrated that much of the government's supposed evidence — against prisoners who, presumably, include some of these 48 men — was either extracted from 'high-value detainees' ... tortured in secret CIA prisons, or from informants within Guantanamo, who were bribed or coerced to tell lies about their fellow prisoners”.

Seven Yemeni prisoners were released in 2009. However, since January 2010, the Obama administration has placed a ban on releasing Yemeni prisoners in the aftermath of the capture of an alleged would-be plane bomber by the US on Christmas Day in 2009.

The man arrested was Nigerian, but allegedly was trained in Yemen.

Since the ban, only one of the Yemeni prisoners cleared for release has been freed — after the prisoner won a habeas corpus petition in a US court.

Of the remained 28 cleared Yemenis still held, documents released by WikiLeaks identified 19 of them.

Worthington said: “What is deeply shocking, in reviewing their cases, is the realization that six of them were cleared for release in 2004, three were cleared for release in 2006 and the remaining ten were cleared for release in 2007.”

He said their case showed that “the continued detention of any of these men undermines any claims that the arbitrary detention that typified the Bush years has come to an end”.

“When judges order the release of prisoners, based on a detailed analysis of their habeas corpus petitions and are ignored, and when decisions taken by the Task Force are discarded because of political convenience, it is clear that the Yemenis are still held as much 'outside the law' as they were under George W. Bush.”