As US Releases More Prisoners From Guantanamo, Questions Languish Over Those Left Behind

The United States transferred five Yemeni prisoners out of the Guantánamo Bay military prison on Wednesday, releasing them to Estonia and Oman in the first detainee handover of the year.

Four of them—Al Khadr Abdallah Muhammad al-Yafi, Fadel Hussein Saleh Hentif, Abd al-Rahman Abdullah Au Shabati and Mohammed Ahmed Salam—were sent to Oman. The fifth, Akhmed Abdul Qadir, one of the youngest prisoners at Guantánamo, was sent to Estonia.

Each of them had been held at the prison for at least a dozen years and had been slated for release for almost five years, having been cleared by a task force that comprised intelligence and military officials.

The handover occurred just a day after a number of Republican legislators called for a moratorium on transfers. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), John McCain (Ariz.), Richard Burr (N.C.), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who sit on the Armed Services Committee, invoked the recent attacks on Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris to call for a “time-out” on the transfers, writing in a statement that the detainees pose a risk to American lives.

According to a study published Thursday by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, only 36 of the men who were named in the U.S. Senate’s damning CIA torture report last year were sent to Guantánamo after their “interrogations”—and of those 36, only 29 now remain in the prison. One has been recommended for transfer. The rest of those men were either released without charge, handed over to foreign governments, or locked in U.S. military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to TBIJ.

“Even after publication of the CIA Torture Report, we’re none the wiser about the fates of dozens of men the U.S. disappeared,” Reprieve strategic director Cori Crider said of the report. “Tracing them and their precise dates in custody does not just honor the dispersed and the dead, it is a crucial part of building a record that, one day hence, may be the cornerstone on which accountability is built.”