GTMO Clock: 100 Days Since President Obama Promised to Resume Releasing Prisoners from Guantánamo, Just Two Men Freed

2.9.13

Getting men released from Guantánamo has become more difficult than getting blood out of a stone, even though over half of the 164 men still held were approved for release in January 2010 by President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force.

Please visit, like, share and tweet the GTMO Clock website, which I launched a month ago, and which shows that it is now 100 days since President Obama promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, in a major speech on national security issues on May 23, but, to date, just two men have been released.

President Obama only made his promise because he had been provoked into action by a barrage of domestic and international criticism, which was in turn prompted by the prisoners embarking on a prison-wide hunger strike in February, to raise awareness of their ongoing and unacceptable imprisonment without charge or trial.

The difficulty in releasing prisoners has arisen in part because of severe obstacles raised by Congress, and in part because of President Obama’s unwillingness to spend political capital overcoming these obstacles.

As a result, just five prisoners were released between October 2010 and July 2013 — three after having their habeas corpus petitions granted by the courts (before the court of appeals in Washington D.C. stepped in to prevent successful habeas petitions taking place), and two as a result of plea deals arranged as a result of being put forward for trials by military commission.

President Obama has now brought that disgraceful situation to an end, by releasing two cleared prisoners — Nabil Hadjarab, 34 and Mutia Sayyab, 37 (aka Motai Saib) — to Algeria. The transfers were publicly announced by the Pentagon last Thursday, and are the first fruits of the promise to resume releasing prisoners that President Obama made on May 23.

The president — and his new envoy on Guantanamo, Cliff Sloan — are to be commended for securing the release of these two men, but the sad and unacceptable truth is that 84 other cleared prisoners remain, and they too need to be released as soon as possible, either to their home countries, to third countries if it is unsafe for them to be repatriated, or to the US if no third countries can be found.

The president secured the release of Nabil Hadjarab and Mutia Sayyab by working with the Secretary of Defense to overcome the obstacles raised by Congress. This involved certifying to Congress that it is in America’s national interest not to continue holding men cleared for release over three and half years ago, and that the government has taken the necessary steps to ensure that these men will be unable to engage in terrorist activities against the US.

These are ludicrous hoops that the president and his administration must jump through because of Congress, and insulting and outrageous in their inference that any of the cleared prisoners intend harm to the US, but Congress has persistently refused to back down from its cynical and unprincipled position, and the certifications must be made again — and as swiftly as possible — in the cases of other men cleared for release. Further inertia, of the kind that President Obama evidently prefers, is simply unacceptable.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here – or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

15 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Waris Ali wrote:

    Welcome back andy! How was your break? Would recomend you ask people to use the now #TransferThe84 hashtag alongside the #GTMOClock one where possible.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Dessie Harris wrote:

    As Mr.Obama is busy making plans to go war and attack yet another muslim country I doubt that he would have time to release any more innocent prisoners from Guantanamo Bay!! Have to wait when he is due for re-election and then he might make more promises he will not keep. Andy many thanks for all your hard work on Guantanamo Bay !!!!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Waris Ali wrote:

    Also, please share this events page, it’s set up by Witness Against Torture
    Ask people to join. https://www.facebook.com/events/1409385822610547/?ref=22
    Read the description and get involved, whether you’re in the UK, USA or elsewhere. Livestreaming will be provided. Hashtag also provided closer to the time. For now use the two hashtags provided below if you wish, help get the message out there. #GTMO200 marked 200 days of the still, ongoing hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay. (There was a twitter event to mark this just over a week ago) Dozens are still participating and being force fed. With mainstream media focus shifting onto other issues over recent weeks, WE have to be the voice of the guantanamo prisoners and keep this in the public eye. 84 of the 164 prisoners who still remain are cleared for release, hence #TransferThe84 Tweet with these hashtags. Keep fighting the good fight and keep the pressure up through all the different ways and means available!!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    The break was wonderful, Waris. I didn’t go online for ten days, for the first time since May 2007! It was very useful, I think, to have time to think and reflect, and I hope it will open up some new avenues for me in the months to come. I’ll check out the hashtag you mentioned.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Dessie. Yes, the saber-rattling is all-consuming, isn’t it? I was enormously relieved to come back home from Sicily to the news that British MPs had refused to accept David Cameron’s call for war.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    I was pleased too to hear the British MPs had refused to accept David Cameron’s call for war, but events can change, I hope not!!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Digger Dive wrote:

    But “peacekeeping” and “humanitarian interevention” and “technical advisers” are still a tad dangerous.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I don’t trust MPs in general not to be warmongering imperialists, but today the Guardian reported that “Downing Street rules out new vote,” with the sub-heading, “David Cameron’s spokesman says government will respect last week’s vote as poll suggests 75% of public back MPs’ decision.” It’s a genuinely refreshing change from 2003, when MPs caved in to Blair, and British support helped to legitimize Bush’s illegal plans for Americans. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/02/syria-intervention-downing-street-vote

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Umm Ghazi wrote:

    Welcome back :-) your online presence was missed. Hope you and your family had a wonderful time insha Allah.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Umm Ghazi wrote:

    Clock shared on Guantanamo justice centre GJC

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy, thanks shared, Obama a multiple failure who makes frantic irrational gestures to be noticed.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Umm Ghazi and Willy, and everyone who’s been liking and sharing this. We’re nearly at 1000 likes for the GTMO Clock, which is good. I’m glad you missed me, Umm Ghazi, but the break was really important – not just for spending two uninterrupted weeks with my family, but also for unplugging and having time to think – and, especially, time to reflect and dream.
    And Willy, yes, Obama shows what a wretched job the President of the United States is when you don’t have convictions – or the courage to follow through on convictions. Like Labour here in the UK, enamored of the corporate world, these people support a right-wing view of the world, in which we the people are worthless and only enriching the rich matters, without even having the honesty of right-wingers.

  13. Ash says...

    Hi Andy,

    Are Nabil and Mutia likely to face problems in Algeria as ex-Gitmo detainees in the same way as Ahmed Belbacha?

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    We just reached 1000 likes. Thanks, everyone who got involved. Next target – 2000 likes!

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Ash,
    My understanding is that they won’t face the problems Ahmed Belbacha would, as there are no trumped-up charges against them, but I would expect that they’ll face the typical problems faced by previously returned prisoners – being charged at some point after their return, followed by trials that lead to the charges being dismissed. Plus, of course, they face the stigma of having been in Guantanamo, and no prospects of work. I hope that Reprieve will be able to keep campaigning to get Nabil to be allowed to move to France to live with his extended family.
    I wrote about them here (in an article that I’ll be cross-posting here this evening): http://www.closeguantanamo.org/Articles/100-Who-Are-the-Two-Guantanamo-Prisoners-Released-in-Algeria

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