The US Department of Defense [official website] on Wednesday announced the transfer [press release] of Guantanamo [JURIST backgrounder] detainee Ahmed Belbacha to Algeria. Belbacha, a native Algerian who was detained in Pakistan in 2002, had been held at Guantanamo for 12 years without a trial or formal charges. Algeria tried Belbacha in absentia [JURIST report] in 2009, convicting him of belonging to an "overseas terrorist group" and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. Belbacha has resisted repatriation [JURIST report] until recently when he was cleared for transfer by the Guantanamo Review Task Force. After the transfer, 154 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.
The treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has raised human rights concerns internationally, and, in recent months, the US has grappled [JURIST op-ed] with the complexities of the laws of war and the due process rights of detainees. A detainee filed a federal lawsuit in March, challenging prison authorities force-feeding of prisoners to end hunger strikes, a practice to which Belbacha previously joined [JURIST reports] three other inmates in challenging in July 2013 as well. In February, a Guantanamo detainee filed suit [JURIST report] alleging that he should be freed when US forces withdraw from Afghanistan, citing international law calling for prisoners of war to be released once a conflict has ended. President Obama [official website] has called for [JURIST report] the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to be closed by the end of 2014.