David Remes Responds on Forced Repatriations from Guantanamo

By Matthew Waxman
Monday, December 9, 2013, 3:05 PM

David Remes wrote in to rebut my recent post, which stated that some forced repatriations are a “virtually inevitable part of any plausible plan” toward closing Guantanamo.  I’ve pasted Remes’ entire note below.

Remes is correct in theory (and some would say as a matter of principle): there are other options, including outright release of many detainees. I chose my words carefully, though, because I was making a point about the very significant political, diplomatic, and security constraints facing the Obama administration (and any successor).  In the context of those realities, I think my assessment is correct.

Here is Remes’ counter-view:

I take issue with Matt Waxman's answer to critics of the forced repatriation of two Algerian Guantanamo detainees last week. He argues that forced repatriations are a "virtually inevitable part of any plausible plan to reduce significantly the Guantanamo population, let alone close the facility." I disagree. Resettlement is an alternative to forced repatriation; forced repatriation is merely an easy way out.

Yemenis comprise more than two-thirds of the 82 remaining detainees the President's Task Force cleared four years ago. Some might prefer not to return to Yemen, but I don't know of any who would prefer to stay at Guantanamo. I suspect that most of the 26 cleared non-Yemenis also don't object to repatriation. So it does seem "perverse," as the Times editorialized, to repatriate two detainees who do object.

The Algerians should at least have had a chance to challenge their transfers beforehand in court. Unfortunately, the D.C. Circuit eliminated that possibility in the 2009 case known as Kiyemba II. The en banc court and the Supreme Court turned away all of our efforts to overturn that decision, including our desperate efforts on behalf of two Algerians in 2010.

Six months ago, President Obama rededicated himself to closing Guantanamo. Envoys have been appointed and review boards activated. But the Administration has released only four detainees, and it had to force two of them to go home. The Administration must do better. The only way to significantly reduce the detainee population is to release significant numbers of detainees.