U.S. transfers 15 inmates from Guantanamo Bay to United Arab Emirates

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Fifteen inmates from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay were transferred to the United Arab Emirates this week. It’s being hailed as the largest single transfer of Guantanamo detainees by the Obama administration. FSRN’s Jacob Resneck has more.

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U.S. officials confirmed late Monday that 12 Yemeni and 3 Afghan citizens were resettled to the United Arab Emirates. The move brings the total number of detainees down to 61 at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

That’s a stark contrast to the 779 detainees when Obama took office in 2009. The president campaigned on a pledge to close the controversial facility in his first term but ran up against political opposition from Republican and Democratic lawmakers who passed laws barring transfers to the U.S. mainland.

Most of the detainees have been held for more than a decade without charge or trial. The Pentagon’s reliance on questionable legal reasoning to deny the men due process has been criticized by rights groups around the globe.

“We’re thrilled with this news,” Elizabeth Beavers, a policy coordinator for security with human rights at Amnesty International in Washington, told FSRN. “We’re very happy to see 15 individuals leave Guantanamo and be transferred elsewhere. It’s a very strong step in the right direction and it’s a signal from the Obama administration that they’re willing to take the difficult political steps necessary to move forward on closing Guantanamo before the end of their administration.”

Republicans reacted to the news with dismay. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida called the transfer “reckless” and Presidential candidate Donald Trump told the Miami Herald last week that he’d be in favor of keeping the military detention center open indefinitely in order to try U.S. citizens accused of terrorism in military tribunals rather than criminal courts.

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