Yemeni Prisoners Still Major Obstacle to Closing Gitmo

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Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 4:55 pm

U.S. and Yemeni officials have reached an impasse in their attempts to negotiate the return of Yemeni prisoners currently held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, reports The New York Times.

“I don’t know that there’s a viable ‘Plan B,’” an anonymous U.S. official told The Times.

As I reported in March, the difficulty of returning the 97 Yemeni detainees — about a dozen of whom have been cleared for release for years — is posing a major problem for the Obama administration, which has committed to closing the prison camp by the end of the year.

Many of the Yemenis have been imprisoned without charge for more than eight years, largely because the United States does not trust the Yemeni government to supervise or rehabilitate them upon their return to ensure that they don’t join al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

Of about 550 prisoners released from Guantanamo by the Bush administration, only 14 were from Yemen.

Despite ongoing attempts at diplomacy by the Obama administration, The Times’ story suggests that situation hasn’t improved at all in recent months and is now at a standstill.

“If anything, the situation has gotten worse,” said David Remes, attorney for more than a dozen Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo, noting that the security situation in Yemen has continued to deteriorate.

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