A list of the names of 55 detainees at the Guantanamo prison has been released by the US. The people on the list are cleared for release but continue to be held.
The announcement reverses a decision made in 2009 that kept the names of prisoners cleared for transfer to another country secret. The US government believed the release of the names would only create diplomatic problems as arrangements were made to move the men to "safe and responsible" locations.
On Friday, a spokesperson for the Justice Department further clarified the reasoning behind keeping the names secret.
"The United States originally sought protection of this information in order to maintain flexibility in its diplomatic engagements with foreign governments on potential detainee transfers, especially in cases of resettlement in third countries, rather than the detainees' respective countries of origin," the Justice Department representative said.
ACLU claims partial victory
In response to the release of the list of names, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which had filed a request to get the list released under the US Freedom of Information Act, issued a statement:
"Today's release is a partial victory for transparency, and it should also be a spur to action," the statement from ACLU senior staff attorney Zachary Katznelson said. "These men have now spent three years in prison since our military and intelligence agencies all agreed they should be released."
In its filing explaining the release, the US District Court in Washington, D.C., said "circumstances have changed" and decisions approving detainees for transfer "no longer warrant protection."
The ACLU pointed out that there were still prisoners who had been approved for release but did not make it on to the list, and called for the release of their names as well.
The court noted that "the efforts of the United States to resettle Guantanamo detainees have largely been successful," with 28 prisoners sent back to their home countries and another 40 transferred to other countries.
The Navy base prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is a notorious facility that has held detainees with suspected links to the 9/11 terror attacks or other terrorist organizations. Some detainees are being held indefinitely without charge. US President Barack Obama made a campaign promise to close Guantanamo if elected president, but has since backed down in the face of strong opposition from Congress.
mz/slk (AP, AFP)