Guantanamo Bay prisoners who have been cleared for release but are still being held have had their names released by the Justice Department, overturning a 2009 decision to keep their identities secret as their transfers were negotiated.
The names of 55 prisoners who are awaiting transfers to other countries were made public Friday, after human rights organizations lobbied for the information.
Though men listed have been cleared for release, some as early as 2009, they remain at Guantanamo because of difficulties in finding them a willing host country or concerns about their return to their homelands, Agence France Presse reported.
“We did not expect this,” Omar Farah, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, told the Associated Press. “This is an important development.”
“These men have now spent three years in prison since our military and intelligence agencies all agreed they should be released,” ACLU senior staff attorney Zachary Katznelson said in a statement, Agence France Presse reported. “It is well past time to release and resettle these unfairly imprisoned men.”
The Justice Department said it agreed to release the names of the prisoners in question because “there is no longer a need to withhold from the public the status of detainees that have been approved for transfer,” the Kuwait News Agency reported.
There are currently 167 men imprisoned at the Cuba penitentiary, many of them believed to be Yemeni, according to Politico.
In January 2010, Obama suspended further transfers from Guantanamo to Yemen, citing the country’s conditions as “too unstable” to “ensure that detainees wouldn’t return to or embark on terrorist activities,” Politico reported.