Biden Should Appoint Envoy for Closing Guantanamo, Ex-Muslim Chaplain at Gitmo Says

© AP Photo / Alex BrandonIn this photo reviewed by U.S. military officials, the sun sets behind the closed Camp X-Ray detention facility, Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.
In this photo reviewed by U.S. military officials, the sun sets behind the closed Camp X-Ray detention facility, Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.09.2021
WASHINGTON (Sputnik), Ekaterina Chukaeva - US President Joe Biden should appoint a special envoy who would facilitate the release of Guantanamo prisoners and negotiate their repatriation with other countries, James Yee, a former US Army Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo Bay, told Sputnik.
In June, the US Department of State said that the Administration is "actively looking" into recreating the position of a department envoy for the closure of the Guantanamo prison. During the Obama Administration, this title was held by Lee Wolosky, who completed the transfer of 75 detainees during his 18-months tenure. After Donald Trump came to power, the position was suspended.

"It is also my hope that President Biden appoint a Guantanamo special envoy, as did President Obama, to oversee, coordinate and facilitate the repatriation of prisoners. A Guantanamo special envoy is quite necessary since other nations must be involved to accept prisoners that are being released and would certainly help speed up the process," Yee, who was one of the first Muslim imams in the US military, said.

Yee said that he hopes that Biden can close Guantanamo and noted that the US leader has quickly shown he has a very different policy approach to handling the prison's closure than did his predecessor, Donald Trump.

"Just over a month after taking office, President Biden launched a formal review of the prison at Guantanamo with the aim at closing it. Since taking office, the Biden Administration has already repatriated one Guantanamo prisoner and cleared five more for release," he said.

Yee arrived in Guantanamo in 2002 to perform the Muslim prayer service at the prison. He was later arrested on suspicion of aiding the enemy and espionage: he spent over 70 days in solitary confinement in a US military prison in Charleston, South Carolina. All  charges against Yee were dropped in 2004 and he left the US military with an honorable discharge in January 2005. Now he is a vibrant supporter of the closure of the notorious prison and a motivational speaker.
Established by the Bush Administration in 2002, the facility has long been criticized for mistreatment and abuses of prisoners, with human rights activists and international organizations calling for its closure. Former US President Barack Obama vowed to close the camp but faced strong pushback from Congress. His successor, Donald Trump, signed an order to keep the detention camp open indefinitely, while incumbent President Joe Biden has promised to close the facility.
A detainee from Afghanistan is led by military police with his hands chained at Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in this Feb. 2, 2002, file photo - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.09.2021
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The US authorities have since shut down secretive Camp Seven, where the highly classified prisoners were kept, and transferred the detainees to other accommodation blocks. Yet, no announcements on the full closure of the camp, which once kept over 700 people — mostly without charges — followed. In July, the White House announced that the Biden Administration is aiming to close down the detention facility for good and that it works to transfer its remaining detainees out, but it has set no deadline to effectuate its closure.
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