Halts of Yemen transfers likely to slow Guantanamo closure

WASHINGTON, Lucile Malandain- Two weeks before the date set for Guantanamo's closure, the notorious prison for "war on terror" detainees remains open, and a pause in returning inmates to Yemen will likely slow its closure further, analysts said.
US President Barack Obama, who last year set January 22, 2010, as the date to close the detention camp in southeast Cuba, declared on Tuesday he had suspended transfers of freed Guantanamo Bay inmates to Yemen following the botched Christmas Day airliner attack.

Halts of Yemen transfers likely to slow Guantanamo closure
Thirty Yemeni detainees the US government had deemed ready for release, some of whom are entering their ninth year there without charge, are now being told to wait even longer to return home.
Close to half of the 198 detainees left at Guantanamo Bay are from Yemen.
Seven Yemeni detainees have already been sent home by the Obama administration, including six in December. Several others were repatriated during George W. Bush's administration.
"The halt of efforts to repatriate Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo will slow the timing of Guantanamo's closure and may affect the way it is ultimately closed," Matthew Waxman, a former top Pentagon official and now expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, told AFP.
"The administration has been reluctant to move detainees into the United States for prolonged detention without trial, but for many Yemeni detainees it no longer has a viable alternative," he said.
The Obama administration is under intense pressure from domestic critics not to send more detainees back to Yemen, because of fears they will slip back into extremism in the Arab nation where Obama says the thwarted bombing was planned.
The clearance for release that the Yemenis received are "now meaningless," legal expert Dalhia Lithwick wrote in the online magazine Slate.
"Men poised to begin their ninth year of incarceration at the camp will remain there, not because anything they have done but in fear of whom they may meet on the streets back home," she said.
"The new twist, then, is that prisoners can now be held indefinitely not just because they once knew a terrorist but because they may meet one someday in the future."
Obama this week sent an immediate message to critics who oppose his decision to close Guantanamo and many people abroad who support it, saying he was determined to follow through on his promise.
"Make no mistake. We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda," he said.
"In fact, that was an explicit rationale for the formation of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," Obama said, naming the Yemen-based group that he has blamed for training and alleged bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
The American Civil Liberties Union said Obama's decision Tuesday was "unwise, unjust and... will prolong a shameful chapter in American history without making Americans any safer."
Human Rights Watch said that continuing to hold Yemenis without charge "only increases resentment against the United States and hands Al-Qaeda a recruiting tool."
The administration task force is working to determine the fate of the remaining prisoners at Guantanamo, including some of the most wanted terror suspects.
Some inmates will face trial before military or civilian courts and others will be detained indefinitely because they are considered too dangerous to release but cannot be tried because evidence against them is scant or tainted.
Obama has already acknowledged that some of the 198 detainees still held at Guantanamo would be detained indefinitely.

Sunday, January 10th 2010
Lucile Malandain

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