Presenting the First Annotated List of the 64 Guantánamo Prisoners Eligible for Periodic Review Boards

2.12.15

Photos of some of the Guantanamo prisoners, made available when classified military files were released by WikiLeaks in 2011.I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Check out the list here.

On Monday, we published the first annotated list of the 64 Guantánamo prisoners eligible for Periodic Review Boards, which we hope will be useful to anyone who wants detailed information about who is still held at Guantánamo (also feel free to check out our full prisoner list here, listing all 107 men still held).

71 men were initially listed as eligible for Periodic Review Boards — 46 who were designated for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009 (which issued its final report in January 2010), and 25 others who were recommended for prosecution by the task force, until the basis for prosecuting them — generally, charges of providing material support for terrorism — were struck down by the appeals court in Washington D.C. in two particular rulings in October 2012 and January 2013.

Of the 71, five were freed, and two others were reabsorbed into the ailing military commission system, leaving 64 men eligible for PRBs. 20 have had reviews since the PRBs began two years ago, with 15 approved for release (of whom four have been freed) and two others awaiting decisions, but 44 others are still awaiting reviews, and at the current rate it will take over four years — until sometime in 2020 — until they are all completed.

This is unacceptable, as it is already six years since the majority of these men were told that their cases would be reviewed, and by the time the last reviews take place it will have been ten long years since the process began. This is wrong under any circumstances, but it is also alarming that the process is moving so slowly when 83% of those whose cases have been reviewed have ended up being recommended for release.

As well as containing links to articles I have written over the last two years about the reviews of the 20 men who have so far had their cases considered, the list also includes the names of the 44 others awaiting reviews, and, in some cases, links to articles providing information about their cases. 22 of these men were recommended for continued imprisonment by the task force, while 22 others were initially recommended for prosecution. Of the 20 men whose cases have so far been reviewed, all but one were initially in the former category.

This group — of which nine men, interestingly, were initially recommended for “possible transfer to imprisonment in the US” — are mostly Yemenis, but also include prisoners from five other countries, and several of them previously had their habeas corpus petitions turned down by US judges.

The latter group includes five of the 14 “high-value detainees” transferred to Guantánamo from CIA “black sites” in September 2006, including Abu Zubyadah, for whom the CIA’s torture program was developed, Hambali and Abu Faraj al-Libi, as well as other men held — and also tortured — in “black sites,” and two notorious torture victims from Guantánamo itself, Mohammed al-Qahtani, an alleged 20th hijacker for the 9/11 attacks, and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who, last week, asked a judge to order the government to speed up his review, something that the Justice Department lawyers showed no willingness to accept.

When I wrote about the PRBs last month, I quoted from an article Jenifer Fenton had written for Al-Jazeera, in which she spoke to Steve Vladeck, law professor and co-editor-in-chief of Just Security, who noted that, although the “most intractable ‘too dangerous to release’ category” is shrinking, it was “hard to predict what this ‘scorecard’ means for future hearings, because it could be that the relatively ‘easier’ prisoner cases might be resolved first.”

This may be partly true, but as Vladeck also explained, “At a minimum … it underscores the extent to which a growing number of detainees don’t meet the Obama Administration’s own standard for continuing military detention, even though they had previously been categorized as ‘too dangerous to release.'”

He also said the PRB process “raises the question of why eligible prisoners have had to wait so long to be provided a hearing,” as Fenton put it. “With every clearance,” Vladeck said, “the government’s foot-dragging looks more and more like it’s trying to forestall the inevitable, even if there are benign reasons for the delay.”

We agree, and we believe, moreover, that it is hugely important for President Obama to find a way to speed up the review process over the coming year, his last in office.

What you can do now

If you agree, please call the White House on 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 and ask President Obama to speed up the PRB process. You can also submit a comment online.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ is available for download or on CD via Bandcamp — also see here). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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 six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and 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, the full military commissions 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.

14 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted the PRB list to Facebook on Monday, I wrote:

    Here’s a new page that I’ve compiled for Close Guantanamo – of all the prisoners eligible for Periodic Review Boards. That’s 64 men in total. 19 have had reviews, 45 are still waiting. Of the 19, 15 have been recommended for release, but just four have been freed, and the reviews for the remaining 45 have barely begun, and, at this rate, will take until 2020 to complete – which is, of course, completely unacceptable. I hope you find this a useful project, and will share it if you do.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks to everyone liking and sharing my latest labour of love – the first annotated list of al the prisoners facing Periodic Review Boards at Guantanamo. The PRBs were initiated in 2013 to review the cases of all the prisoners not already approved for release or facing a trial. 71 prisoners were eligible for the PRBs, although five were freed without reviews and two others reabsorbed into the military commission trial system.
    So this list looks at the 64 remaining candidates for PRBs – the 19 already reviewed in the last two years, and the 45 others who are still waiting, many of whom will not receive reviews for many years unless a concerted effort is made to speed up the process, something I – and anyone else concerned with fairness and justice – has to regard as necessary.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Debi Cornwall wrote:

    Thanks for posting this. Your work is an invaluable resource and educational tool.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Debi, for the kind and supportive words. It’s very much appreciated.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Jenifer Fenton wrote:

    This is really great Andy – as always. You are the best!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Jenifer. That means a lot to me!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    Hats off to you Andy… No sooner has Shaker been returned to the UK and you were straight back on your horse and reminding us of more unfinished business. It’s getting harder and President Obama is running out of days to do what he made clear he wanted to do as his first Presidential decision… close the damn place down

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, David. Yes, all that work to get one man back to the UK, and still 107 others are held. It’s obviously going to be an uphill struggle, but I’ll be launching an invigorated campaign in a couple of weeks, and looking to get celebrity support in the US if I can. Any ideas welcome.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    GTMO remains a recruiting sergeant for infantile, jihadist suicide bombers, who lack the wherewithal to develop a more sophisticated and useful way to engage against the oppression and poverty of their communities. It also makes a mockery of claims to be governed by the rule of law

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, exactly, David!

  11. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks Andy, for this very valuable list.

    I am sure you saw the recent coverage of the release of the PRB documents for Mustafa al-Shamiri, which contain an acknowledgment that the main allegations justifying his detention were based on a misunderstanding of who he was. The analysts now acknowledge they were mistaken by his name being similar to those of genuine suspects.

    That is, of course, shocking.

    As I re-read, this morning, the first article about this surprising news, the reporter repeated one of the straws the analysts were clutching. The reporter repeated that “fragmentary reporting” tied al-Shamiri to volunteering to fight in the civil war in Bosnia.

    Sheesh! That old chestnut!

    Andy, I know you know this, but, may I repeat, for your readers, my interpretation of what this “fragmentary reporting” of activity in Bosnia really means?

    Multiple captives faced the allegation that their names were on a list of “Bosnian mujahideen”. The OARDEC summary of evidence memos didn’t explain what this meant. But the OARDEC transcripts did. Bosnia’s citizens were drawn from several different ethnic groups, with about thirty percent being muslims. Greece and the Balkans were ruled by Turkey, for hundreds of years. And some families in the region have remained muslim over the several generations since Turkey’s boundaries shrank.

    As the six republics that made up Yugoslavia fragmented there were several wars, particularly brutal wars. Foreign volunteers, some of who had been veterans of the war to oust Afghanistan’s Soviet occupiers traveled to Bosnia, to help the Bosnian muslims.

    After the war was over, and Bosnia became independent, as a thank you gesture Bosnia said it would waive the citizen application fee for anyone who had volunteered to fight for Bosnian independence.

    This is the meaning of the “list of Bosnian mujahideen”. It was the list of applicant for Bosnian citizens who had claimed to have their application fee waived, because they fought for Bosnian independence. US analysts seemed prepared to conflate this volunteering to defend muslims from attack with a willingness to launch a first strike attack with al Qaeda.

    Tariq al Sawah acknowledges he volunteered in Bosnia, in the early 1990s. But most of the other Guantanamo captives were mystified when their CSRTs asked them to explain why they were on this list. Most of them acknowledge applying for Bosnian citizenship. But they were lovers, not fighters. They said they traveled to Bosnia, and applied for citizenship, after the war was over. They were liberals, who wanted to live in looser, freer Europe.

    There was the one guy who knew why he was on the list. He had employed a “citizenship consultant” to help him navigate the complicated paperwork. He had paid this consultant a fee, and had provided him with the funds to pay the ordinary citizenship application fee. He was very angry to learn that instead of paying the citizenship application fee his consultant had taken advantage of his muslim name to forge a claim, in his name, that he had been one of those foreign volunteers. When the forged claim was taken at face value his consultant had pocketed the fee.

    The other guys who claimed they didn’t know how their names got on the list were very likely all telling the truth, and had been victims of corrupt citizenship consultants.

    The result of this fraud was that Bosnia’s list of foreign volunteers was enormous, when it should have been modest.

    I think American analysts should be deeply embarrassed that they didn’t figure this out for themselves. This is one of the ways the “one percent doctrine” has made the public less safe. American analysts, who saw the length of this list, saw Bosnia as one huge sleeper cell, when practically none of those guys were threats, when practically all of them were liberal muslims who could have seamlessly become good productive citizens in any western country.

    We know the Americans in Bosnia were in such a state of high alarm that they had the CIA kidnap the “Algerian Six” on just a few grains of the flimsiest circumstantial justifications — sure that someone was going to bomb their embassy.

    How much of the west’s counter-terrorism resources was squandered by giving credence to this notion Bosnia was full of dangerous militants?

    So, the “fragentary reporting” that al-Samiri fought in Bosnia? It almost certainly means he was another victim of a corrupt immigration consultant, who forged the claim he fought during the war of independence so he could pocket the application fee.

    May I conclude by noting that, if the USA hadn’t invented the shockingly broad definition of the “enemy combatant” and had instead complied with the Geneva Conventions, and treated all captives as if they were entitled to its protections, and the protections of POW status, it would only be military activities in the current war that would be relevant. Once a soldier has been discharged, and is no longer a fighter, the Geneva Conventions say they are not a combatant. Period. Military service in previous wars is not relevant.

    Andy, I got your email of a couple of weeks ago, and emailed you my work-around — which then promptly stopped working. It hasn’t worked since. I’ve done some google searches, and I haven’t seen any sign that anyone else is having any problem with that service. Did you get that reply? Did that work-around work for you?

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks to everyone liking and sharing this. I do think it’s an important project, and hopefully useful for the coming year, as President Obama tries to close Guantanamo. These men’s stories need looking at closely, as few of them should be regarded as being “too dangerous to release,” and it is disgraceful that they continue to be held year after year without having their cases reviewed.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver, for your very interesting analysis of the mentions of Bosnia in the Guantanamo documents that purport to represent evidence against the prisoners. It is something that should be more widely known.
    I found the “Heights, weights, and in-processing dates” documents via your method, and then searched for the originals, but only UC Davis’s copies turned up: http://humanrights.ucdavis.edu/reports/heights-weights-and-in-processing-dates
    I imagine I can find mirrored copies of other documents (and, of course, the CSRTs and ARBs are available via the New York Times’ Guantanamo Docket) by searching – which I haven’t done yet – but I would still like to know where the Pentagon has hidden everything.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    I found this page, which appears to contain CSRT and ARB documents, and much more: http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/Reading_Room/Detainee_Related/

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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