There are 155 prisoners left at Guantanamo Bay after the U.S. released three prisoners earlier this week. The individuals, ethnic Muslim Uighurs from western China, were 3 of 22 ethnic Muslim minority who had been detained in Afghanistan on suspicion of collaboration with the Taliban. After almost 10 years in captivity, the three men will be released from Guantanamo Bay and resettled in Slovakia.
The Uighur community of western China in the region of Xianjiang have battled what analysts call a “low-intensity” insurgency against the Chinese government for years. The decision to detain these individuals follow a decision by U.S. counterterrorism operations to interrogate those involved in the insurgency.
There was little to no evidence to support that the Uighur community had received support from the Taliban or were allied with the organization.
The resettlement of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners comes after Congress halted a U.S. judge’s order to resettle the individuals inside the United States back in 2008. The order was denied and the group of men had remained in legal limbo for almost five years. A ban exists for any prisoners in Guantanamo Bay seeking relocation in the United States upon release.
China had requested for the individudals to be sent back home only to have that request denied by U.S. officials, who feared that the men would face torture and persecution from the Chinese government. Instead, Slovakia, a country that has previously accepted other Guantanamo Bay prisoners, was the final destination for the resettlement of these individuals.
Back in 2009 Slovakia took in three Guantanamo Bay prisoners from Azerbaijan, Tunisia, and Egypt. In a televised statement, Slovakia’s Interior Ministry asserted that the arrival of three more men from Guantanamo is a continuation of the previous agreement. Slovakian officials went on to say that much like the first three arrivals, these men were found to be innocent of partaking in terrorist activities, and deserve a place to call home after being wrongfully accused for so many years.
Slovakia went on to say that the men were “never suspected” or accused of terrorism, something which observers say defies the logic of why the men were detained in the first place.
The U.S. government had received some slack for the wrongful imprisonment of some 20 odd Uighurs as far back as 2009 when Staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights Emi Maclean called the imprisonment a “grand mistake”.
The island nation of Palau in 2009 offered to take in 17 of the Uighur captives. Six eventually accepted the deal, but a number of others refused. Four others were resettled in Bermuda.
The release of the prisoners follows eight other prisoner relocations, including two Algerians and two Saudis who were resettled in their home countries in early December.
President Obama’s campaign promise of closing down Guantanamo Bay remains up in the air, with authorities and officials giving no exact details of how or when to close down the controversial facility. Analysts say that the release of these individuals to their respective home countries and other foreign lands marks the beginning of the end for the infamous prison site.
President Obama and Congress agreed on a deal to relax restrictions on the release of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, but still no word on when the facility will see its last prisoner released.