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Former Cook Cleared for Transfer After 12 Years at Guantánamo

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CCR Calls on Administration to Transfer Client Ghaleb Al-Bihani Without Delay

press@ccrjustice.org

May 28, 2014, Washington, D.C. – Today, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Senior Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei released the statement below in response to the news that the Obama administration’s Periodic Review Board had approved her client Ghaleb Al-Bihani for transfer from Guantanamo. Mr. Al-Bihani, a Yemeni, has been detained without charge for more than 12 years.

The Periodic Review Board’s decision approving Mr. Al-Bihani for transfer from Guantanamo is encouraging. The security and other agencies on the board rightly determined that his continued detention of more than 12 years is unnecessary. Indeed, Mr. Al-Bihani was an assistant cook 12 years ago for a Taliban-affiliated group that no longer exists, and he is now seriously ill.
 
The Obama administration must now give effect to the board’s decision and release Mr. Al-Bihani. Simply adding him to the group of dozens of men cleared to leave Guantanamo, but still indefinitely detained, does nothing to end his wrongful detention or close the prison. As Mr. Al-Bihani stated at his hearing, his hope is for resettlement in a third country, where he may begin a new life. He would also accept repatriation to Yemen.
 
Since President Obama lifted his self-imposed moratorium on transfers to Yemen a year ago and promised a “case-by-case” review of individual men, not one Yemeni has been released. In fact, no Yemeni has left Guantanamo alive in nearly four years, despite the fact that one-third of the remaining men at Guantanamo are Yemenis approved for transfer. The administration’s stated commitment to close Guantanamo will continue to ring hollow until it starts treating detained men from Yemen as individuals and stops seeing them solely through the prism of their national origin and country conditions. It can start with the release of a sick former cook.
 
Mr. Al-Bihani filed a habeas case in 2005 challenging the legality of his detention, which Judge Richard Leon of the D.C. district court later denied on the basis that Mr. Al-Bihani had admitted to being an assistant cook in 2001 for a now-disbanded Taliban-affiliated group fighting the Northern Alliance before 9/11.
 
 

The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for more than 12 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country, ensuring that nearly all the men detained at Guantánamo have had the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.