WASHINGTON – The United States announced on Thursday the transfer of four inmates from a military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, marking the final prisoner transfers by the government Barack Obama, who will not be able to fulfill his promise of closing the facility after eight years in power.
Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook announced the transfer of Russian Ravil Mingazov, Afghan Haji Wali Mohamed and Yemeni Yasin Qasem Mohamed Ismail to the United Arab Emirates, and of Saudi Jabran al-Qahtani to Saudi Arabia, reducing the inmate population at Guantanamo to 41.
The four men were jailed in 2002 as suspected terrorists and their release was approved last year.
During Obama’s mandate, his administration transferred 198 inmates to third party countries, most of whom were released for not being a security threat and there being no substantial evidence against them.
The majority of the inmates had been held in this prison, built in 2002 by the then president George W. Bush, for more than a decade without any charges being made against them.
Of the 41 remaining Guantanamo detainees, five have been cleared for release through the conviction review processes by the Obama administration, but the releases were delayed because bureaucratic procedures.
Of the total remaining, 10 are awaiting trial in military court and 26 are considered too dangerous to be released.
Obama blamed Congress on Thursday for the failure to shut down Guantanamo jail, and again called on lawmakers to finalize its closure, with only 41 prisoners left of the 800 who were originally held there.
On Friday, Obama will end his eight years as president without having managed to close the jail at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which he had pledged to do upon taking office in 2009.
In a letter sent to Congress, Obama reminded legislators that he had tried to close Guantanamo, a “challenge” he had inherited, and that the jail has not kept the US safe, but has weakened American national security.
“There is no simply justification beyond politics for Congress’ insistence on keeping the facility open,” Obama said in the letter.
According to Obama, the existence of Guantanamo is “contrary” to US values.
“Once again, I encourage Congress to close the facility,” Obama said in his letter, recalling that his administration presented legislators with a “comprehensive plan” to close that prison “once and for all.”
Obama pledged to continue pushing through the transfers Guantanamo detainees to third party countries until his last day in the White House, as shown by the transfer of a total of 14 prisoners in the past three days.
President-elect Donald Trump has warned against further releases of Guantanamo detainees, who he believes to be “extremely dangerous,” and “should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.”