President Joe Biden’s Defense Department on Monday announced the transfer of its first detainee from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — the opening step of what could be a complete shutdown of the controversial facility long pledged by Democratic administrations.
Abdul Latif Nasir will be repatriated to his native country of Morocco, according to the Pentagon, after a review board determined in 2016 that his detention at Guantanamo Bay “no longer remained necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat” to U.S. national security.
Although the board had recommended that Nasir “be authorized for repatriation” to Morocco a half-decade ago, “the steps necessary to effectuate the repatriation were unable to be completed prior to the end of the Obama administration,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“The United States commends the Kingdom of Morocco for its long-time partnership in securing both countries’ national security interests,” the Pentagon said. “The United States is also extremely grateful for the Kingdom’s willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility.”
Former President Donald Trump in 2018 ordered the Guantanamo Bay prison to remain open, directing detention operations to continue and permitting additional detainees to be sent to the prison “when lawful and necessary to protect” the country. His initiative repealed part of an executive order signed by former President Barack Obama in 2009 that called for the prison to cease operation.
In February, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated Biden’s support for shuttering the facility and said the administration had launched a “robust, inter-agency process” with the National Security Council that aimed for a full closure by the end of the president’s term in 2024.
Established by former President George W. Bush in 2002 in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Guantanamo detention camp has been frequently criticized for alleged human rights abuses, including extrajudicial detentions and inhumane treatment of prisoners. Today, the facility holds 39 detainees, according to the Pentagon.
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