Rand six months after taking office, US President Joe Biden’s government has for the first time transferred an inmate from the Guantánamo prison camp to his home country. Abdul Latif Nasir was brought to Morocco because he no longer posed a threat to the national security of the United States, the Department of Defense said on Monday. Morocco had given security guarantees and promised “humane treatment” for Nasir, it said. 39 prisoners remain in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Human rights activists welcomed Nasir’s release.
The camp was set up after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 under Republican President George W. Bush to detain suspected Islamist terrorists without trial. Bush’s successor, Democrat Barack Obama, wanted to close it, but failed because of resistance in the American Congress. The Republican Donald Trump, in turn, wanted to keep the camp open. Now Obama’s former Vice President, today’s President Biden, is trying again to close the camp. The US government is relying on a “considered and thorough process” to “responsibly reduce the number of prisoners,” said the State Department.
Nasir, who was transferred to Morocco, was directly affected by the political back-and-forth in the USA: a commission set up under Obama recommended his dismissal in 2016. However, the necessary steps could no longer be taken before the change of government – and Trump strictly rejected dismissals from the camp.
The Pentagon did not provide any information on whether Nasir would remain detained in Morocco or be released. The White House said that the authorities in Morocco were responsible for this. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs thanked Morocco for its willingness to accept Nasir and appealed to other countries to also accept their citizens who had fought for terrorist organizations abroad. The responsible public prosecutor in Rabat announced that an investigation would be opened against Nasir because of his alleged involvement “in terrorist acts”.
The American human rights organization ACLU welcomed the news of Nasir’s release and described his long imprisonment as a “farce”. The US must act “urgently” in similar cases of prisoners, said the ACLU chair for security, Hina Shamsi.
Ten more layoffs pushed
A senior representative of the White House said ten of the 39 remaining inmates in Guantánamo had already been recommended by the responsible commission for a transfer to their home countries. “The Biden government will use all diplomatic means necessary to facilitate the transfer of those detainees found to be qualified,” said the official. The commission will also examine the status of 17 other detainees. Ten inmates are being tried by a military tribunal, two have already been convicted.
The prison camp was set up by the US government after the September 11, 2001 attacks on a military base in eastern Cuba to detain suspected terrorists. It was part of the “war on terror” proclaimed by Bush. The first inmates were housed there in January 2002. According to human rights organizations, many inmates were tortured. A total of almost 800 prisoners were temporarily housed there.
For example, Mauritanian Mohamedou Ould Slahi was detained without charge for more than 14 years and was not released until 2016. In his book “Guantánamo Diary” he describes systematic abuse, from torture and sleep deprivation to sexual assault and threats against family members. Nasir was never charged in the United States either.