December 7, 2013

Two Guantanamo Bay detainees were repatriated to Algeria on Thursday, a sign of the Obama administration’s intensifying efforts to close the controversial detention center. The two detainees strongly protested the move, fearing they would be persecuted on their return; their lawyers and human rights groups also attacked it, saying the men could have been released in Montreal or Luxembourg, where they used to live. On Wednesday, another detainee was repatriated to Saudi Arabia, reducing the count to 162. “President Obama remains deeply determined to close the detention facility at Guantánamo,” said national security adviser Susan Rice. “We expect to announce more transfers in the near future.”


"Mr. Ameziane was arrested in Pakistan in late 2001, and the other Algerian, Belkacem Bensayah, was arrested in Bosnia in 2001. Both were taken to Guantánamo in early 2002. The two men were approved for transfer, if security conditions could be met, by a 2009 Obama administration task force.

“Mr. Bensayah was adamant that he would rather stay at Guantánamo than return to Algeria,” said Mark Fleming, a lawyer for Mr. Bensayah, “not only because he wanted to be reunited with his family in Bosnia after 12 years apart, which now seems increasingly difficult — if not impossible — but he also feared he would be a target for actual extremists in Algeria.”

Mr. Fleming said Mr. Bensayah’s legal team had unsuccessfully sought to persuade Bosnia, which had revoked his citizenship, to take in his client because his wife and daughters live there. He said the United States should have tried harder to get another European country to take him.

In a news release, the Center for Constitutional Rights called Mr. Ameziane’s involuntary transfer “as unnecessary as it is bitterly cruel,” and said he should have been sent instead to Canada — he once lived in Montreal — or to Luxembourg, which the center contended offered in 2010 to take him in."

Two other detainees were voluntarily repatriated to Algeria in August, and one to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday this week -- moves that have reduced Guantánamo’s inmate population to 162.

Jason Leopold reports that officials at Guantanamo Bay have introduced "revised protocols" for hunger strikes and force-feeding, according to a Justice Department letter obtained by Al Jazeera.

Officials at the base also disclosed this week that they will no longer release new figures to journalists on a hunger strike that is currently underway. On Monday, the last day Guantanamo officials released fresh numbers, 15 prisoners were protesting, up by two from the previous week. All are reportedly being force-fed.

The revised protocols for dealing with the hunger strike and force-feeding methods are said to “better focus on the adverse health effects of clinically significant weight loss on each individual detainee.”

Exactly what those changes are remains unclear.

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