Another round of Guantanamo detainees cleared for release remains held by the U.S., even after deals were made with host countries to take them. In the past, the problem has been a lack of countries willing to resettle the released prisoners. I discussed that difficulty in depth when the last of the mistakenly captured Uighur detainees were freed at the end of 2013.
The U.S. will only release detainees to nations that can provide a safe place for them to live, so they often can’t be repatriated to their home countries (e.g. China or Saudi Arabia) due to hostile governments who want to punish them separately from the U.S. treatment. They also can’t be resettled in the U.S. because there is too much political opposition, even when their lawyers vouch for them being perfectly safe.
But the difficulties are usually overcome when the U.S. signs a deal to resettle the detainees somewhere safe in exchange for various goodies and benefits granted to the host country. That’s no longer the case, according to the new revelations, which indicated that Uruguay had completed a deal with the United States earlier this year to take more of the released prisoners, and then we didn’t let them go after all.
The reason for the delay – now, at least – seems to be the backlash from the Obama’s Administration’s unscheduled deal trading five Taliban detainees, who were not cleared for release, to Qatar, for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. prisoner of war held by the Taliban. The action, which did not involve detainees deemed harmless, was taken without notifying Congress beforehand as expected.
This backlash has also complicated things further by the vengeful and shortsighted decision of House Republicans to insert a provision into a major military spending bill that would make everyone at Guantanamo Bay a permanent prisoner forever with no ability for the President to transfer any of them, anywhere, at any time. It remains to be seen if that provision will become law, although it seems unlikely. But it demonstrates an extreme misplacing of priorities to hold people indefinitely without charge, including those the government has decided should not have been detained to begin with.