Sep 1 10:04 AM

The 7 things you should know about Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay

Tonight, Sunday, at 7 and 10p ET, our new Fault Lines "Life After Guantanamo" airs on Al Jazeera America. 
We will be livetweeting this episode Sunday night from our @ajfaultlines Twitter account.  



"Guantanamo Bay: Why are so many inmates from Yemen?", Jasmine Coleman, BBC News, May 24, 2013

[O]f the 86 men in Guantanamo who have been cleared for transfer or release, 56 are Yemeni. They are no longer considered enemy combatants or a threat to US security.

Many of other nationalities - including Europeans, Saudi Arabians and Afghans - have been moved on due to agreements with their home countries. But the Yemenis have been going nowhere.


"The Yemenis had the misfortune of coming from a country that had had a dictator for many years - Ali Abdullah Saleh - and that didn't do enough to advocate for its nationals.

"So the Yemenis languished, even though many were approved for release by the Bush administration."

In January 2009, President Obama ordered the closure of Guantanamo within a year.

But on Christmas Day of that year, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab - a Nigerian trained in Yemen - attempted to set off a bomb hidden in his underwear on a Detroit-bound jet.

And the following January, President Obama issued a moratorium against the release of any Yemeni detainees. Combined with restrictions imposed by Congress, it brought releases and transfers to a virtual halt.


"During that time, the view was that violent instability in Yemen made returning detainees too risky," he said.

"There was little confidence that the Yemeni government would be able to mitigate any continuing threat that the returned Guantanamo detainees would pose."

 "Gitmo Is Killing Me", Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel (Yemeni detainee), The New York Times, April 14, 2013

Last month, on March 15, I was sick in the prison hospital and refused to be fed. A team from the E.R.F. (Extreme Reaction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in. They tied my hands and feet to the bed. They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand. I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed. During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet. They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading and unnecessary. I was not even permitted to pray

I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.

"Yemen A Major Part Of Any Effort To Close Guantanamo" Greg McNeal,, May 22, 2013

Despite reports indicating some progress toward resolving the challenges associated with the Yemeni detainees, there are signs that significant obstacles lay ahead for the Obama administration.  A McClatchy report noted that Yemen’s human rights minister Hooria Mashour came to the U.S. this week expecting to lobby U.S. officials for the release of Yemeni detainees, yet she said “Unfortunately, I ended up with nothing.”  Mashhour had planned a 10-day visit, but she left after just three days with no official meetings and no updates on plans for the roughly 90 Yemenis among the 166 detainees at Guantánamo. 

"Obama Lifts Moratorium on Transfer of Detainees", Charlie Savage, The New York Times, May 23, 2013

 President Obama on Thursday lifted a moratorium on repatriating low-level inmates from the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to Yemen and, in a surprise move, announced the creation of a new Pentagon position to spearhead the transfer of detainees. [...]

Two officials familiar with detainee policy matters cautioned that it would take some time for any inmates to be returned to Yemen, however, because a detention, rehabilitation and monitoring program there first needed to be established.

Still, the Yemen Embassy said in a statement that it was ready “to take all necessary steps to ensure the safe return of its detainees and will continue working towards their gradual rehabilitation and integration back into society.”

"House votes to block Guantánamo detainee transfers to Yemen", Jeremy Herb , The Hill, June 14, 2013

In a new move to stifle President Obama’s efforts to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, the House voted Friday to restrict the transfer of detainees to Yemen.

The House voted 236-188 to pass a defense authorization bill amendment from Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) that prohibits using funds to transfer detainees to Yemen. [...]

Walorski said that the U.S. should not send potential detainees to Yemen, because Yemen has been a hotbed for terrorist activity as the home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

“It makes no sense to send terrorists to a country that has an active terrorist network,” Walorski said.

"Yemen Says Obama Must Back Up Guantanamo Promise With Action", Reuters, on Huffington Post, June 2, 2013

Yemen gave a qualified welcome on Sunday to U.S. President Barack Obama's promise to lift a ban on repatriating Yemeni prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, saying he now had to back up his words with actions.

Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi said his government was building a "rehabilitation centre" to house Yemenis who have been detained at the U.S. camp in Cuba for more than a decade. [...]

"Obama now has to really put his words into actions," he told reporters in the Saudi city of Jeddah. "We will take (up) with the authorities in Washington how we can start the process based, of course, on the conditions that may be set by the Americans."

"Guantanamo detainee died from drug overdose, report finds", Peter Finn and and Julie Tate, The Washington Post, June 28, 2013

A Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo Bay ... Adnan Latif, who had been held at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba for 10 years, was found unresponsive in his cell on Sept. 8 after swallowing two dozen capsules of Invega. [...]

A military report on the facts and circumstances surrounding Latif’s death found that both the guard force at Guantanamo and medical personnel at the military detention center failed to follow procedure in handing out pills and ensuring that detainees consumed them when administered.Guards at the facility also didn’t check on Latif in his cell through two shift changes, a violation of procedure.

The Guantanamo Docket, The New York Times, a collection of documents and research related to the 779 people who have been sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison since 2002.

The Guantanamo Papers, "NPR News Investigations examines a massive trove of secret documents, which provide assessments of the 779 Guantanamo Bay detainees. The reports were leaked last year to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and made available to The New York Times by another source on condition of anonymity and then shared with NPR."


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