Today the Justice Department announced the transfer of 12 Guantanamo Bay detainees: Four to Afghanistan, two to the Somaliland region, and six to Yemen. While the problems involved with transferring detainees back to Afghanistan have gotten some attention because of the U.S. military involvement there and the issues raised by Gen. Stanley McChrystal's strategic review, the situation in Yemen has gotten considerably less attention. The Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo have been seen as a particularly difficult obstacle for the administration's attempts to close the prison because of the ongoing instability and conflict there, as well as a substantial Al Qaeda presence.
Human Rights Watch has consistently warned that repatriated Yemenis often face involuntary detention or abuse upon their return, and receive little support from the Yemeni government in terms of job training, counseling, or medical care. In addition, prior Yemeni attempts to construct terrorist rehab programs haven't worked so well.
It's unclear under what conditions the six Yemeni detainees are being transferred. A spokesman for the Department of Justice said that the DoJ doesn't discuss the security measures other countries take in receiving transferred detainees.
Obviously the administration should be working hard to close Guantanamo. But the U.S. can't afford to simply wash its hands -- there's a substantial national security interest in making sure that former detainees are treated humanely and are effectively reintegrated into society wherever they end up.
-- A. Serwer