U.S. Transfers Guantanamo Bay Detainee Majid Khan to Belize

February 2, 2023
A photo of a jail fence

The Department of Defense announced today the transfer of Majid Khan from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to Belize.

The United States Defense Department announced on Thursday, marking the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be resettled by the Biden administration.

Important To Note: Every administration from that of George W. Bush to Barack Obama to Donald J. Trump have repatriated or resettled Guantanamo detainees. The Biden administration has repatriated other Guantanamo detainees – meaning they were sent back to their home country, without a trial or plea, for these countries to then handle. This is the first time the Biden administration has released a prisoner who has served his sentence, now being released. Foreign Minister of Belize Eamon Courtenay explained, "Mr. Khan is not coming to Belize as a detainee. He has served his sentence and is a free man," while also noting that Khan will not be able to travel abroad for a time and has agreed that his activities will be monitored.

Why This Matters:

  • On Khan's resettlement, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols said in a statement, "The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to responsibly closing Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility," reflecting the administrations intentions to eventually close the military prison in Cuba which they have said publicly.
  • Five men who are still being held at Guantanamo, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are facing charges before a United States military tribunal. They are accused of aiding the 19 men who hijacked multiple planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and a field in Pennsylvania. The charges include conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war and terrorism – and carry the death penalty. Their trial has been delayed numerous times and does not currently have a start date.

Background: This is the first time a "high-value" former CIA prisoner has been released from Guantánamo Bay prison (also called "Gitmo"). After discussions with about a dozen countries, Belize was chosen by the U.S. as the location to resettle Khan. He reportedly arrived in the Central American country on Thursday.

  • Who is Majid Khan? Khan, 42, is a Pakistani citizen. He lived in the U.S. for a time, though returned to Pakistan in 2002 and joined the terrorist group al Qaeda, according to the U.S. government. He is believed to have been a subordinate of current Gitmo detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Khan was arrested in 2003, and in 2012, pled guilty to "conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder in violation of the law of war, providing material to support terrorism, and spying" (Defense Dept). As part of his plea agreement, he agreed to work with the U.S. government and later received a 10-year sentence which has concluded.
  • Gitmo opened in 2002, and has been used to by the U.S. government to imprison several suspected terrorists. Nearly 800 men have been held at Guantanamo since it opened.
  • The Defense Dept. reports that as of February 2, 2023, "34 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay: 20 are eligible for transfer; 3 are eligible for a Periodic Review Board; 9 are involved in the military commissions process; and 2 remaining detainees have been convicted in military commissions."

Guantanamo Bay Detainee Transfer Announced (U.S. Department of Defense)

Biden admin transfers a Guantanamo detainee to Belize (NBC News)

US transfers Guantanamo Bay detainee to Belize (CNN)

9/11 trial delayed again as Biden administration pushes for plea deal with terrorists (Washington Examiner)

Trial Guide: The Sept. 11 Case at Guantánamo Bay (New York Times)

by Jenna Lee,