US, Yemen should allow “meaningful legal process” in Gitmo repatriation: HRW

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called March 29 for the US and Yemen to agree on a repatriation plan that provides “meaningful legal process” for the nearly 100 Yemeni detainees still at Guantánamo Bay. A new HRW report criticized any proposal involving indefinite suspension at a Yemeni facility and expressed fears of detainee mistreatment after repatriation.

The organization called for genuine rehabilitation efforts, questioning a Yemeni proposal in which detainees could be held for more than a year and face movement restrictions after release. The report called on Yemen to comply with the UN Convention Against Torture and commit to fair trials for any detainees who are charged. HRW’s fears of detainee mistreatment are based in part on its follow-up with the 14 Yemeni detainees who have already been repatriated. One said he was beaten by investigators during his two-year detention. The report asked the US to refrain from pressuring Yemen to hold detainees without charges and called for a truth commission to investigate alleged abuse of detainees. Any detainee who cannot return to Yemen due to a credible fear of persecution should be resettled in a safe third country, the report said.

In January, US President Barack Obama issued an executive order directing the closure of the Guántanamo Bay detention facility within one year. In July 2008, Yemeni officials met with a visiting US delegation to discuss the possible transfer of Yemeni detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, with the US voicing concerns that they would be freed upon their return. In October 2007, US officials criticized the Yemeni government over reports that it had released suspected USS Cole bomber Jamal al-Badawi after he turned himself in. In May 2007, a senior Yemeni official said the country had agreed to receive most Yemeni detainees being held at Guantanamo. In June 2006, Yemeni officials called for investigations into the Guantánamo suicides of three detainees, including one Yemeni national, saying that the deaths exemplified the “inhumane conditions of detainees” at the US military prison. (Jurist, March 29)

The US has also expressed concerns about ex-Guantánamo detainees rejoining the jihad in Yemen, and about Yemeni authorities releasing al-Qaeda suspects.

See our last post on the Guantánamo and the torture scandal.

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