The US has transferred two Pakistani brothers who were detained at Guantánamo to their native country. This brings the closure of the terrorist prison in Cuba one step closer: there are now 32 people detained, compared to 40 when Joe Biden became president.
Abdul and Mohammed Rabbani were arrested in 2002 by the Pakistani authorities in their hometown of Karachi, because they allegedly provided logistical support to the terrorist group al-Qaeda. They were never officially prosecuted, but because they were considered a danger to the US, they were detained in Guantánamo.
President Bush had designated that military base in Cuba after the 9/11 attacks to hold terrorist suspects from the fight against al-Qaeda indefinitely. Often there was not enough evidence to bring these individuals to justice, but the US government ruled that they were too dangerous to let loose.
Human rights violations
The prison became notorious because this form of detention allegedly violated the rights of the prisoners. In addition, the suspects were interrogated using methods that human rights experts regard as torture. The Rabbani brothers also say they were tortured by the CIA during interrogations.
It is not clear under what conditions the two may now return to their country. The Pentagon speaks in a press release of a transfer to Pakistan, but does not say, for example, whether the two will be detained or released there.
Difficult to place
The US has been trying to close the prison since the beginning of the Obama administration in 2009. We managed to reduce the number of prisoners from 600 in 2003, but the remaining group is difficult to place. Return to their own country is often ruled out, for fear that they will rejoin extremists, but other countries do not want to receive them either. Transfer to the US mainland is prohibited by law.
This month it appeared that Belize was prepared to take in a Guantánamo detainee after his prison sentence, but eighteen others who are in principle allowed to leave are still waiting for a new destination, mainly Yemenis. Trials are still pending against nine other prisoners.
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