Five Guantanamo Bay inmates who had been held without charge for almost 14 years have been transferred to the United Arab Emirates, the Defense Department announced Sunday, marking the first time that the Gulf nation has accepted Guantanamo inmates from other countries. The men, who had been designated as enemy combatants, were lower-level detainees who were captured after the battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan in 2001, the New York Times reports. Like dozens of other Gitmo inmates, the men are Yemeni nationals who were still in US custody because their homeland was considered too unstable to release them to, reports the AP.
There are now 107 detainees remaining at the facility, and sources tell the Times that up to 17 more transfers of lower-level detainees are in the works. The release of detainees has accelerated over the last few months as the Obama administration looks into ways of closing the facility permanently. "The administration is showing that if it wants to close Guantanamo, it can, and it can do it the right way by releasing people and stop holding them without charge," a Human Rights Watch spokeswoman tells the Washington Post. "I assume the message came down pretty clearly from the president to the secretary of defense that the time is now." (The Pentagon has been eyeing a facility in Colorado as a possible future home for Guantanamo inmates.)