Guantanamo Bay prisoner from Mauritania back home after 13 years

President Obama set out to try and close the controversial prison but has been hampered in his efforts

Emma Bracy
New York
Thursday 29 October 2015 15:58
Ahmed Abdel Aziz
Ahmed Abdel Aziz

A Mauritanian detainee has been released from the military detention camp Guantanamo Bay, the Pentagon said on Thursday. Ahmed Abdel Aziz, who had been detained for 13 years before being sent back to Mauritania, was the 14th prisoner released this year.

Originally detained as a suspected member of Al-Qaeda, 45-year- old Aziz had been recommended for transfer by the the Guantánamo Review Task Force in 2010.

According to Aziz’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, from the human rights group Reprieve, Thursday’s release was long overdue, and the US owes Aziz an apology. Aziz has a wife and daughter in Mauritania, and was never officially charged with a crime.

"While it's great that Ahmed is home with his family, it's 14 years late, and long after he was cleared," said Mr Smith.

“His release was only delayed because he, an innocent man, routinely protested his mistreatment.”

Aziz’s release came after a "comprehensive review of his case " and after Defence Secretary Ash Carter ensured it was in compliance with standards set by Congress, the Pentagon said in a statement.

Aziz’s release comes as part of President Barack Obama’s renewed efforts to close the camp for suspected militants, which were taken up again at the beginning of this year. Shutting down the infamous prison, which has long been scrutinised for human rights violations and breach of international law, was one of Mr Obama’s early campaign promises, but one that has proven difficult to keep.

The prison camp, located on the southeastern tip of Cuba, was established in early 2002 to imprison so-called "enemey combatants", captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan, and in many cases sold by middlemen. Former president George Bush’s passage of the Military Commissions Act in 2006 authorised the use of military tribunals in place of federal courts to try the detainees, and justified the use of interrogation techniques that many have denounced as torture.

According to Erika Guevara Rosas, Director of Amnesty International's Americas Programme: “Ordering the closure of Guantánamo within a year was among President Obama’s first official decisions after he came to office.”

Ms Rosas said that the unfulfilled promise has become a human rights failure that “threatens to haunt Obama’s legacy.”

For some, closing the infamous prison would be a monumental human rights victory.

The closing may finally be on its way. “The administration is in the final stages of drafting a plan to safely and responsibly close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and to present that plan to Congress,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in July.

There are currently 113 prisoners at Guantanamo. 53 have been cleared for release or transfer.

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