This systemic abuse of individuals human rights continues year after year, she said. We must be clear about this: The United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold. When other countries breach these standards, the United States quite rightly strongly criticizes them for it.'
Anger has been growing in Yemen over the continued detention without trial of Yemenis at Guantánamo since the September suicide of Yemeni detainee Adnan Latif, who once had won a court ruling from a U.S. District Court judge ordering his release but whose victory was overturned by an appeals court.
Roughly 90 Yemeni citizens are still being held at the Guantánamo detention camp. The Yemenis currently form the largest group of detainees at the prison.
The fate of the Yemeni prisoners is complicated by the Obama administrations decision in 2009 to halt repatriation of detainees to Yemen in the wake of the Christmas Day attempt to bomb an aircraft as it was landing in Chicago after a flight from Amsterdam. The would-be bomber, Umar Abdul Mutallab, who had hidden plastic explosives in his underwear, told U.S. investigators that he had been recruited for the mission in Yemen by U.S.-born al Qaida operative Anwar al Awlaki. Awlaki was subsequently killed by a U.S. drone strike.
The moratorium on sending Yemenis home is especially striking in a case such as Shabatis, one of the at least 23 Yemeni detainees that the Obama administration has said should be transferred out of Guantánamo.
According to U.S. government records made public by WikiLeaks, U.S. intelligence analysts recommended as far back as January 2007, if not earlier, that Shabati was eligible for return to his native Yemen. The Obama administration then conducted its own reviews, and notified the courts in September 2012 that he was among 56 Guantánamo captives approved for release, if Congress lifts restrictions and international political conditions make transfer possible.
Such a transfer, however, might not mean release. In their 2008 assessment of Shabati, U.S. intelligence officials said they believed he had been a member of al Qaida and remained a moderate threat to the United States. They believe he was recruited in Yemen to fight in Afghanistan with al Qaida and was not there as a student, and that he fought against U.S.-allied forces at Tora Bora, the mountainous Afghan region from which al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is believed to have escaped.
Mashhour said her government is aware that the repatriation of detainees would ultimately prove a massive undertaking, requiring a large-scale rehabilitation program, aimed at reintegrating the returnees into Yemeni society. She said such a program also would have to reckon with any psychological effects of a decade-long imprisonment.
Of course we will need money, we will need logistical support; of course we are committed to doing whats necessary, she said. But also, the American government has a duty to support us.
Shabatis family says after 11 years, they just want to see him back in Yemen.
No one can understand the suffering weve felt, Shabatis mother said. We know well be pained by the wounds from this injustice for the rest of our lives.
Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald contributed to this report.