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US: Ensure Yemenis Not Mistreated After Release

Release Orders Could Be Important Step Toward Closing Guantanamo


The Obama administration should ensure that two Yemenis ordered released from Guantanamo
by the US Justice Department and a federal court this week do not face
further illegal detention or other mistreatment, Human Rights Watch
said today.

Human Rights Watch said that releasing the two Yemenis from
Guantanamo would be an important step towards President Barack Obama's
goal of closing the prison.

"The two Yemeni men ordered released are entering their eighth year
without charge at Guantanamo," said Letta Tayler, terrorism and
counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of a new report
on Guantanamo's Yemeni detainees. "But the administration should ensure
that they are not simply moving the detainees from one arbitrary form
of detention to another."

On Monday, March 30, the US Justice Department announced it planned
to release Yemeni surgeon Aymen Saeed Batarfi. The following day, a US
federal judge ordered the release of Yasin Muhammed Basardh, another
Yemeni detainee, who has said he informed on other Guantanamo prisoners
for US authorities. The Obama administration has not disclosed where it
will send the two men.

The two detainees are among the estimated 100 Yemenis at Guantanamo,
nearly half the prison's current population. The Yemenis pose one of
the biggest obstacles to Obama's pledge to close Guantanamo by January
2010, as documented in the new Human Rights Watch report, "No Direction Home: Returns from Guantanamo to Yemen." The report warns of the need to release detainees swiftly but with a humane repatriation plan.

Basardh has repeatedly asked US officials not to return him to
Yemen, where he fears al Qaeda or others might kill him for testifying
against other prisoners. The US should take immediate steps to find a
third-party country to accept him, where he will not face the risk of
retaliation or other abuse.

The other detainee, Batarfi, has close ties to Saudi Arabia,
including a Saudi mother, and there are indications he may wish to
resettle there. Human Rights Watch urged US authorities not to make
Batarfi's release to Saudi Arabia contingent upon his undergoing
rehabilitation for an indefinite period in the Saudi's locked-door
religious reeducation program for former Guantanamo detainees. If that
is the plan, Batarfi should be given a fair opportunity to challenge
any requirement that he be detained or otherwise deprived of his
liberty as part of the program.

Human Rights Watch called on the US to fund a genuine rehabilitation
effort for these men that includes counseling, medical care, and job

"Unless authorities in the US or another country have a genuine
basis for prosecuting these men, they should be rehabilitated, not
jailed," said Tayler. "The best way to ensure released Guantanamo
detainees don't pose a threat is to help them reintegrate into society
and repair their lives."

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.