Cleared for Transfer, Still Detained
Toffiq al-Bihani is a 50-year-old Yemeni national who has been held at Guantánamo Bay since early 2003 without being charged with a crime. Although a citizen of Yemen, Toffiq al-Bihani was born in Saudi Arabia in 1972 and grew up there as one of twelve brothers and sisters.
He was captured outside of any active conflict zone in late 2001 or early 2002 and turned over to U.S. personnel in Afghanistan in March 2002. He was transferred to U.S. custody in a facility where he and other prisoners were hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) until a fellow prisoner made the ICRC aware of their presence. He was held there for 10 weeks before being moved to a second site where he was held in solitary confinement for five months. He was then transferred to CIA custody around October 2002. For several weeks, he was held at the CIA Detention Site COBALT, where, according to the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA torture program published in December 2014, he was subjected to torture, including in ways that were not authorized by CIA headquarters. He was then briefly held in U.S. military custody in Bagram before being transferred to Guantánamo in early 2003.
In 2010, a joint task force consisting of representatives of the Departments of Justice, Defense, State, and Homeland Security, as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Joint Chiefs of Staff determined that Toffiq did not pose a national security risk, and cleared him for “conditional detention,” which means that he could not be sent back to Yemen at that time because the security environment in Yemen made it unsafe to do so. However, he can be transferred to third countries in the meantime, or returned to Yemen in the future if the moratorium on transfers to Yemen were lifted and other security measures were put in place.
Despite the unfathomable circumstances he has faced over the past two decades, Toffiq’s attorneys say he remains good-humored and friendly. He has a colorful personality, likes to joke around, and is an avid fan of European soccer. While in detention at Guantánamo Bay, he has taken it upon himself to learn English and Spanish.
Amnesty International has launched a global campaign to encourage his transfer away from Guantanamo. Help take action at the links below.
For more ways to take action, please see the 2023 Action Circular on 21 years of Guantanamo Bay.