US transfers 2 Guantanamo detainees to Balkan countries

US transfers 2 Guantanamo detainees to Balkan countries, while one prisoner who was approved for transfer refuses to leave controversial prison

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Protesters in orange jumpsuits from Amnesty International USA and other organisations rally outside the White House to demand the closure of the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, in Washington January 11, 2016

Updated Jan 23, 2016

US Department of Defence on Thursday announced the transfer of two Guantanamo Bay prison detainees to Balkan countries, while a third detainee, who was also cleared for release, refused to leave the prison. 

Tariq Mahmoud Ahmed Al Sawah, a dual citizen of Egypt and Bosnia and Herzegovina was sent to the latter, while a Yemeni, Abd al-Aziz Abduh Abdallah Ali Al-Suwaydi, was transferred to Montenegro, the Pentagon said.

On the other hand, a 35-year-old detainee from Yemen, Muhammad Bawazir, refused to board a plane saying that he does not have family in the unknown Balkan country which agreed to receive him.

"It's a country I'd go to in a heartbeat,” his lawyer, John Chandler said.

"I can't help you with the logic of his position. It's just a very emotional reaction from a man who has been locked up for 14 years."

Bawazir was captured in Afghanistan when he was 21 year old, and sent to the military prison in Cuba.

He had earlier gone on a hunger strike to protest his indefinite detention.

Latest detainee transfers bring the population of the controversial prison down to 91.

Bawazir’s decision to stay in the prison poses another obstacle for Obama in achieving his promise to close the prison before he leaves office.

Since 2009, US Congress has been using its power over spending to block efforts to close Guantanamo.

To fulfill his promise, Obama is planning to transfer as many inmates as possible until reaching an irreducible number.

Obama repeatedly advocated the idea that it doesn’t make sense for the US to spend hundreds of million of tax dollars to have an overseas secure setting for the detainees.

US president said he will first present a plan to Congress about how to close the prison, while holding back the option of using his executive powers.

Obama signed a defence policy bill in November 2015 with provisions that would make closing Guantanamo harder, as it prevents transferring detainees from the detention centre to the US for any purpose.

The provisions ban the use of funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the US for any purpose, such as detention in prisons in the US and trial in federal courts.

However, Obama suggested, the provisions of the approved bill could not be constitutional and not necessarily binding.

TRTWorld and agencies