March 31, 2016 – The Pentagon has told Congress it intends to transfer about a dozen prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay to at least two countries, a US official has said.
The first transfer is expected to happen in the next few days and the other will take place in the coming weeks, according to the official, who declined to name the countries.
Among those transferred will be Tariq Ba Odah, a Yemeni man who has been on a long-term hunger strike and has lost around half his body weight.
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The development marks the latest move in President Barack Obama’s push to close the facility.
Some 91 prisoners are currently held in the prison at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – 37 are expected to be transferred by this summer.
The remainder face trial by military commission or have been classified as too dangerous to be released, but are not facing charges.
At its peak in 2003, Guantanamo held nearly 680 detainees.
Despite opposition in Congress from many Republicans and some of his fellow Democrats, the President is hoping to close the facility before he leaves office in January.
Mr Obama’s closure plan, which he presented to Congress last month, calls for up to $475m in construction costs for a facility in the US where several dozen of the remaining Guantanamo prisoners would be kept.
However, US laws bars such transfers to the mainland, and the administration has not ruled out doing so by use of executive action.
Officials have said the plan considers 13 different locations in the US, including seven existing prison facilities as well as six other locations on current military bases.
Speaking last month, the President said the center undermines US national security and is counterproductive in the fight against terrorism because it is used as propaganda to recruit terrorists.
The closure plan represents a last-ditch attempt from Mr Obama to honor his campaign vow to close the detention center.
A number of prisoners have already been transferred this year. Ten Yemeni men were sent to Oman in January, while others have been recently transferred to Ghana, Bosnia and Montenegro.
The prisoners at Guantanamo were rounded up overseas when the US became embroiled in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
The facility, which was opened by Mr Obama’s predecessor George W Bush, came to symbolize aggressive detention practices that opened the US to accusations of torture.