Nearly a dozen detainees from the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are expected to be transferred in the coming weeks to at least two countries, Reuters learned from a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The transfer is part of President Barack Obama’s final push to shut down the detention center. U.S. military officials have kept the destination of the prisoners secret.
Reuters quotes the anonymous American official as saying that “the first of the transfers are expected in the next few days and the others will take place in coming weeks.”
Yemeni national Tariq Ba Odah is supposed to be among the detainees who are being liberated.
He “has been on a long-term hunger strike and has lost about half of his body weight,” notes Reuters.
Currently, there are 91 prisoners being held at the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo.
In early March, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) revealed that five percent of Guantánamo prisoners released since January 2009, when President Obama launched a multi-agency screening process soon after he was inaugurated for his first term, have returned to terrorist activities, and eight percent are suspected of it.
Under the previous president, 21 percent were reportedly confirmed to have engaged in terrorist activities, and 14 percent were suspected of it.
“He declined to provide the GOP-led House Foreign Affairs Committee with details,” reports AP. “He would not say whether the incidents occurred before or after President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.”
Nevertheless, the Obama administration last month presented Congress with a plan to close the prison, making good on his campaign promise to shut it down before he leaves office.
His plan faces opposition in Congress. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has repeatedly prevented the president from shutting down the prison. Legislation approved by members of both Republicans and Democrats and signed into law by President Obama prohibits the transfer of Guantánamo detainees to prisons on U.S. soil.
Reuters quoted the anonymous American official as saying that the Pentagon has notified Congress of its plan to free detainees from among 37 cleared to be transferred to their homelands or other nations.
“U.S. officials have said they expect to move out all members of that group by this summer,” reports Reuters.
President Obama’s proposal for closing the Guantánamo prison calls for bringing several dozen detainees to a maximum-security prison in the United States.
Although law prohibits such a move, the President has not ruled out doing so by executive order.
“I do not have a timeline on when particular detainees will be transferred from Guantánamo,” Commander Gary Ross, a Defense Department spokesman, reportedly said in a statement. “However, the administration is committed to reducing the detainee population and to closing the detention facility responsibly.”
“The Obama administration has ruled out sending Yemenis, who make up the bulk of the remaining prisoners, to their homeland because it is engulfed in civil war and has an active Al Qaeda branch,” Reuters points out.