The first detainee out of the group of 17 detainees in Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba will be released next week, a senior US official said on Monday.
A review board is planning to evaluate the transfer of another three in January, in order to decide whether they could be considered eligible, the official who spoke on condition of anonymity added.
All 17 detainees are scheduled to be released in 2016, as a part of US President Barack Obama’s effort to close the controversial detention centre before leaving his presidential office.
The Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp was initiated to be used as a military prison in 2002, with former US President George W. Bush’s order, following the 9/11 attacks, with the aim of detaining prisoners from around the globe who were accused of engaging in terrorism or militant activity.
Since the prison began operating, 780 detainees have been incarcerated. Nine of the detainees died in custody, while only nine have been convicted of any crime. The release of 17 detainees would reduce the number of held in Gitmo to 90, with 31 still eligible for transfer.
Recently, Obama said in a news conference that the US was systematically reducing the number of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, which human rights advocates frequently complain about the violations of the rights of the detainees.
Obama pledged to close Guantanamo Bay during his election campaign in 2008 and signed an executive order regarding the issue within the same year.
In his latest speech he reiterated his own words from 2008 saying that it makes no sense to spend millions of dollars to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use as a recruitment tool.
However, his campaign pledge has been objected by many and has been stalled as opposition in Congress did not agree to back the plans of transferring detainees to a US-based prison site.
In November, Congress passed a $607 billion defense policy that bans any movement to the United States. Obama signed the defense policy despite his opposing stand.
Defense Minister Ashton Carter who transferred 10 detainees after he came to office and former Defense Minister Chuck Hagel was also strongly criticised for acting slowly in transferring the detainees.
They said on the other hand, that finding host countries for detainees planned to be transferred was not easy.
The White House is seeking a way to find a US-based detention centre for a number of detainees which are too dangerous to be released.