Five former senior Taliban members that were held without charge at Guantanamo Bay detention facility have arrived in Qatar.
Mohammad Fazl, Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Abdul Haq Wasiq were released from the prison camp in Cuba and flown to Qatar, where they were reunited with Taliban officials. The Taliban and the U.S. government have been negotiating the release of the five men since 2012. In exchange for their freedom, the Taliban released Bowe Bergahl, a U.S. soldier whom they have held as a prisoner of war since 2009.
The released men were commanders and senior officials of the Taliban, prior to their capture. Fazl was the Taliban’s Deputy Defense Minister, Noori was the Taliban's governor of Balkh Province, Khairkhwa was the governor of Herat and Wasiq was the Deputy Minister of Intelligence. No charges were ever brought against them during the 12 years that they were held in Guantanamo Bay; they were innocent. There still remain over 100 men in Guantanamo Bay, who have been imprisoned without charge or trial, for more than a decade.
CAGE welcomes the release of the five men from Guantanamo Bay, and calls for this to initiate the release of more prisoners. CAGE continues to advocate dialogue and understanding based on justice and respect for the rights of victims and survivors of the War on Terror.
Head of AlJazeera Human Rights Department and former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, Sami el-Hajj spoke to CAGE on the day the prisoners were released: “I remember these men from my own time incarcerated in Guantanamo. I am glad that their ordeal is now coming to an end and they can return to their families after having spent more than a decade enduring torture and abuse, while not having been charged with any crimes."
El-Hajj continued: “There are still 149 men held at Guantanamo Bay. Shaker Aamer, the last remaining British resident and father of 3, is one of these 149 men. There are also 57 Yemeni men who have been cleared for release. These Yemeni men continue to be held at the prison camp purely due to their nationality, after Obama enforced a self-imposed ban on transfers to Yemen in 2010. Obama promised to lift this ban in May 2013, yet one year later, not a single Yemeni detainee has left Guantanamo Bay.”
Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, Ruhal Ahmed, one of the Britons held at Guantanamo Bay and then released without charge or apology, also spoke to CAGE saying: “If the US are able to release five leaders of a group they are currently facing at war in Afghanistan, questions have to be asked about why it is that Britain, its closest ally, cannot successfully negotiate the release of the last British resident in Guantanamo, Shaker Aamer.”
Ahmed continued: “There are over 100 prisoners who have been imprisoned for over a decade without charge, tortured and denied basic rights of due process. The U.S. should bring an end to this human rights abomination and release them immediately.”
Asim Qureshi, Research Director of CAGE, said: “The release of these prisoners shows that dialogue and understanding based on justice and respect for the rights of victims and survivors is the only solution to a War on Terror that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and decimated whole nations.”
Though the Qataris were thought to have helped broker the deal between the Americans and the Taliban, this exchange is a clear indication that the Americans are willing to talk to the Taliban, a group they often refer to as 'terrorists', and that successful outcomes are possible through such negotiations.
For more information on these men, read Andy Worthington's articles on The Taliban five and the forgotten Afghan prisoners in Guantanamo, Who are the remaining prisoners in Guantanamo Captured in Pakistan, Part 1 and Part 2.
Watch the interview from former Taliban ambassador who was detained in Guantanamo Bay for 6 years, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef and a former CIA officer, Robert Genier here.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)