The decision to send two Algerian detainees back to their homeland immediately sparked reactions from both supporters and critics of the detention center, where 86 of the detainees have been cleared for transfer. The last prisoner transferred from Guantánamo was Canadian Omar Khadr, who was sent home Sept. 29 to finish an eight-year sentence hed accepted as part of a plea bargain in a murder charge.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was concerned that the administration still had no plan for these hard-core terrorists if efforts to close Guantánamo are successful.
Sending them to countries where al-Qaida and its affiliates operate and continue to attack our interests is not a solution, he said in a statement.
But Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the Democrat who chairs the Intelligence Committee, hailed the transfer plan.
These two detainees were cleared for transfer years ago, she said. This is an important step toward closing the prison once and for all. At a cost of $454 million annually -- or $2.7 million per detainee it is in the national security interests of the United States to transfer these detainees to their home countries rather than keep them at our isolated military base in Cuba.
Officials declined to identify the two Algerians, say when they would be released or whether the Algerian government had agreed to specific conditions. Under U.S. law, Congress gets 30 days in advance of a transfer, and the White House said the Pentagon issued the notice Friday.
Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty Internationals Security and Human Rights program, said there still were concerns about the destinations of the detainees to be transferred.
The crucial questions are whether the detainees want to be transferred to Algeria and whether they will face human rights violations there, he said by email. Closing the detention facility must not mean transferring people to torture, indefinite detention or unfair trials.
Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald contributed to this report from Guantánamo.