The Obama administration sent three ethnic Uighur Muslim captives from Guantánamo to Slovakia, the Defense Department said Tuesday, ending one of the saddest and longest-running chapters of unlawful detention at the U.S. prison camps in Cuba.
The Miami Herald reports that Yusef Abbas, 38, Hajiakbar Abdulghuper, 39, and Saidullah Khalik, 36, left the remote U.S. Navy base in a secret operation on Monday, according to U.S. government sources. They had spent about a dozen years in U.S. military custody.
Their transfer reduced the prison camp population to 155 captives, 11 fewer than when the year started. It was the government’s latest incremental step toward reaching President Barack Obama’s mandate to close the detention center.
At the Pentagon, Rear Adm. John Kirby, a spokesman, called the transfer and resettlement “a significant milestone in our effort to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.” He credited the work of Obama’s two special envoys for prison camps closure —Paul Lewis at the Defense Department and Clifford Sloan at the Department of State.
Obama last week signed legislation to fund the nation's defense that Human Rights First says eliminates what it called "onerous foreign transfer restrictions" for detainees who have been cleared for release,
The group called the transfer a step in the right direction.
“The transfer of 11 detainees in 2013 is a promising sign that the administration intends to make good on its promise to close the Guantanamo detention facility," said Dixon Osburn, adding that further reductions are likely to come in the form of the administration obtaining security assurances from host nations for detainees who have been cleared for transfer.