US sends two Libyans from Guantanamo Bay to Senegal

US announces transfer of two Libyan detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Senegal in effort to close maximum security detention camp

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A detainee paces around a cell block while being held in Joint Task Force Guantanamo's Camp VI at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba March 22, 2016.

The US Department of Defence announced on Monday that two Libyan detainees have been flown to Senegal for resettlement, the latest move by President Barack Obama to fulfil his pledge to shut down the Guantanamo military prison in Cuba.

The two men were the first of a group of about a dozen who will be transferred in ensuing weeks to at least two countries that have agreed to take them, according to a US official speaking on a condition of anonymity.

There are now 89 prisoners in Guantanamo after the latest departures from the base. Most have been held without charge or trial for more than a decade, drawing international condemnation.

Despite much opposition, President Obama presented US Congress with a plan in February to close the prison before he leaves office in January 2017.

In this photo taken Feb. 2, 2016, military guards at the Guantanamo Bay detention center exit an area known as Camp Delta. [AP]

"We are taking all possible steps to reduce the detainee population at Guantanamo and to close the detention facility in a responsible manner that protects our national security," US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement after the transfers to Senegal were completed.

The facility, opened by Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush, came to symbolize aggressive detention practices that opened the United States to accusations of torture.

Lengty struggle to shatter the prison

The Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp started to be used as a military prison in 2002 under the presidency of George W. Bush ensuing the attacks on the 9/11 aiming at detaining prisoners from around the globe accused of engaging in terrorism or militant activity.

Since the prison commenced operating 780 detainees have been incarcerated there in total. Nine of the detainees died in custody and only nine have been convicted of any crime.

Human rights advocates frequently complained about violations of the rights of the detainees who were hold in the prison.

The prisoners in the detention camp have faced harsh treatment under "enhanced interrogation" techniques.

A man dressed as a detainee holds a sign calling attention to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay during a demonstration outside the White House in Washington, Friday, March 11, 2016. [AP]

Although several officials argued these techniques were not illegal, it was later revealed in a Senate Intelligence Committee report that some of the practices used, such as waterboarding, could meet the definition of torture.

Some detainees who were cleared for release long ago have also been subjected to these techniques.

During his presidential campaign and throughout his term in office US President Barack Obama has vowed several times to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

The number of detainees was 242 in total when he took office in January 2009 following the presidency of George W. Bush.

Obama promised to shut down Guantanamo and signed an executive order regarding the issue shortly after taking office. He said it makes no sense to spend 3 million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use as a recruitment tool.

Marines at Camp X-Ray at the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba escort a newly arrived detainee into a processing tent after he is showered in this photo taken February 7, 2002. [Reuters Archive]

However, starting in 2009, the US Congress has been using its power over spending to block efforts to close Guantanamo.

Obama’s critics, mainly Republicans, argued the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to US soil or other countries carries the risk they may engage in further terrorist activity.

TRTWorld and agencies