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( Str: dp. 7,930; 1. 362'; b. 46'6"; dr. 20'7" s. 11 k.;
cpl. 68; a. 1 5", 1 6-par. )
Guantanamo was built as Registan in 1910 by W. Gray & Co. of West Hartlepool, England; turned over to the Navy 25 February 1918 for use as a cargo transport; and commissioned 21 May 1918.
Gunpowder was Guantanamo's main cargo as she plied from New York to St. Nazaire, gunpowder to support the Allied war effort about to reach its climax in Europe; she made three such trips in convoy between commissioning 3 and 11 December 1918 when she returned to New York to prepare for demobilization. Decommissioned at New York 25 January 1919, Guantanamo was returned to her owners, New York & Cuba Mail Steam Ship Co. 4 February 1919.
Overview of the euro short-term rate (€STR)
The euro short-term rate (€STR) reflects the wholesale euro unsecured overnight borrowing costs of banks located in the euro area. The €STR is published on each TARGET2 business day based on transactions conducted and settled on the previous TARGET2 business day (the reporting date “T”) with a maturity date of T+1 which are deemed to have been executed at arm’s length and thus reflect market rates in an unbiased way.
The €STR control framework – where relevant and appropriate – implements the international best practices set out in the Principles for Financial Benchmarks of the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO). The €STR statement of compliance provides an overview of how the ECB administers the €STR and a self-assessment of how the governance, quality and accountability processes that have been put in place for the €STR comply with each IOSCO principle. The statement has been confirmed by an external audit company in an independent assurance report.
The International Securities Identification Number (ISIN) assigned to the €STR is EU000A2X2A25. The Financial Instrument Short Name (FISN) is ECB/EUR EURO SHORT-TERM RATE IR.
Why Guantánamo should be returned to Cuba
One of the many challenges facing President Joe Biden is what to do with regard to Guantánamo. Together with former President Barak Obama, President Biden did much to restore normal relations with Cuba, a course of action that was altered by Donald Trump’s decision to harden the U.S. Government posture with Havana.
In an April16, 2021, letter to the White House, 24 U.S. senators wrote that the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo “has damaged America’s reputation, fueled anti-Muslim bigotry, and weakened the U.S.’ ability to counter-terrorism and fight for human rights and the rule of law around the world.” Closing Guantánamo should be followed by returning it to Cuba. This would not only be the right measure, but it would also improve the U.S.’ battered image in the continent.
Guantánamo has a complex history. Beginning in 1903, the U.S. government obtained a 99-year lease on the 45 square mile area under the Cuban-American Treaty. The treaty established, among other things, that for the purposes of operating naval and coaling stations in Guantánamo, the U.S. had “complete jurisdiction and control” of the area. However, it was also recognized that the Republic of Cuba retained ultimate sovereignty.
In 1934, a new treaty reaffirmed most of the lease conditions, increased the lease payment to the equivalent of $3,085 in U.S. dollars per year, and made the lease permanent unless both governments agreed to end it or the U.S. decided to abandon the area.
In the confusion of the early days of the Cuban revolution, Castro’s government cashed the first check but left the remaining checks un-cashed. The U.S. has maintained that the cashing of the first check indicates acceptance of the lease conditions. However, since these checks were made out to the ‘Treasurer General of the Republic’, a position that ceased to exist after the revolution, they are considered technically invalid.
Also, at the time of the new treaty, the U.S. sent a fleet of warships to Cuba to strengthen its position. Thus, an additional argument is that the lease conditions were imposed on Cuba under duress, and are therefore void under modern international law.
The U.S. has used the argument of Cuban sovereignty over Guantánamo when denying basic guarantees of the U.S. Constitution to the detainees at that facility by indicating that U.S. federal jurisdiction doesn’t apply to them. Since the Cuban government has historical sovereignty over Guantánamo, then its claims over the area are legally binding and the U.S. is obligated to return Guantánamo to Cuba.
Since 1959, the Cuban government has informed the U.S. government that it wants to terminate the lease on Guantánamo. However, the U.S. has consistently refused this request on the grounds that it requires agreement by both parties.
Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, an American lawyer and professor of international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations, has noted that article 52 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties states, “A treaty is void if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.”
He also believes that the conditions under which the treaty was imposed on the Cuban National Assembly, particularly as a pre-condition to limited Cuban independence, left Cuba no other choice than to yield to pressure.
A treaty can also be void by virtue of material breach of its provisions, as indicated in article 60 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. According to the original terms of the lease agreement, the Guantánamo Bay territory could only be used for coaling and naval purposes.
The 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo (Part 1)
ISN – Status – Name – Nationality – References
Captured in Afghanistan (Nov-Dec 2001)
002 RELEASED MAY 2007, ACCEPTED MILITARY COMMISSION PLEA DEAL (Mar 2007) Hicks, David (Australia) Chapters 9, 15, 18, 19, 20, also see MILITARY COMMISSION, The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials, 20 Reasons To Shut Down The Guantánamo Trials, Former Guantánamo Prisoner David Hicks Describes His First Two Weeks at Camp X-Ray, Obama’s Collapse: The Return of the Military Commissions, Guantánamo and the Military Commissions: Revolution Interview with Andy Worthington, Empathy and Self-Reflection: An Extraordinary Article by Jason Leopold About His Friendship with Former Guantánamo Prisoner David Hicks, Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner David Hicks Gives His First Interview — To Jason Leopold of Truthout, The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2007 (Part One of Ten), US Military Admits Only 2.5 Percent of All Prisoners Ever Held at Guantánamo Will Be Tried, Former Guantánamo Prisoner David Hicks Appeals His 2007 Conviction for Non-Existent War Crime, Ali Hamza Al-Bahlul, David Hicks and the Legal Collapse of the Military Commissions at Guantánamo, The collapse of Guantánamo’s military commissions (for Al-Jazeera) Radio: Andy Worthington Speaks to Michael Slate and Scott Horton About Guantánamo, David Hicks and Shaker Aamer, An Interview With David Hicks Following the Dismissal of His Guantánamo Conviction
004 RELEASED MAY 2014 (in Qatar) Wasiq, Abdul-Haq (Afghanistan) Chapter 10, discussed in The Stories of the Afghans Just Released from Guantánamo: Intelligence Failures, Battlefield Myths and Unaccountable Prisons in Afghanistan (Part One), also see Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part Two: Captured in Afghanistan (2001), The “Taliban Five” and the Forgotten Afghan Prisoners in Guantánamo, US in Talks to Return the 17 Afghan Prisoners in Guantánamo, Close Guantánamo, Free the Afghans, Don’t Forget the Hunger Strike at Guantánamo, On Democracy Now! Andy Worthington Discusses the Cynical Hysteria About the Guantánamo Prisoners Released in Exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, Radio: Andy Worthington Talks to Scott Horton and Peter B. Collins About the Latest Manufactured Guantánamo Scandal, Is Bowe Bergdahl Worth Five Taliban Prisoners? (for Al-Jazeera), Please Read Tom Wilner’s Op-Ed About the Bowe Bergdahl/Taliban Prisoner Swap, Pentagon Defends Bowe Bergdahl/Guantánamo Prisoner Swap as Government Accountability Office Delivers Critical Opinion
005 RELEASED DEC 2007 Al Matrafi, Abdul Aziz (Abdallah al-Matrafi) (Saudi Arabia) Chapter 16, also see The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2007 (Part One of Ten)
006 RELEASED MAY 2014 (in Qatar) Noori, Mullah Norullah (Noorullah Noori) (Afghanistan) Chapter 10, also see Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part Two: Captured in Afghanistan (2001), The “Taliban Five” and the Forgotten Afghan Prisoners in Guantánamo, US in Talks to Return the 17 Afghan Prisoners in Guantánamo, Close Guantánamo, Free the Afghans, On Democracy Now! Andy Worthington Discusses the Cynical Hysteria About the Guantánamo Prisoners Released in Exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, Radio: Andy Worthington Talks to Scott Horton and Peter B. Collins About the Latest Manufactured Guantánamo Scandal, Is Bowe Bergdahl Worth Five Taliban Prisoners? (for Al-Jazeera), Please Read Tom Wilner’s Op-Ed About the Bowe Bergdahl/Taliban Prisoner Swap, Pentagon Defends Bowe Bergdahl/Guantánamo Prisoner Swap as Government Accountability Office Delivers Critical Opinion
009 TRANSFERRED TO CUSTODY ON US MAINLAND APR 2002 Hamdi, Yaser (Yasser Hamdi) (USA-Saudi Arabia) Chapters 2, 18, transferred to US, held as an enemy combatant until Oct 2004, when he renounced US citizenship in exchange for being released in Saudi Arabia also see Court Confirms President’s Dictatorial Powers in Case of US “Enemy Combatant” Ali al-Marri, The Last US Enemy Combatant: The Shocking Story of Ali al-Marri, WikiLeaks and the 14 Missing Guantánamo Files, WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (Part One of Ten), US Judge Rules Against Military Detention of US Terror Suspects – But What About the Foreigners in Guantánamo?, What Should Trump Do With the US Citizen Seized in Syria and Held in Iraq as an “Enemy Combatant”?
010 RELEASED SEP 2004 Sattar, Abdul (Pakistan) Chapter 9, also see WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released After the Tribunals, 2004 to 2005 (Part One of Five)
013 RELEASED JUL 2007 Al Qahtani, Fahed Mohamed (Saudi Arabia) Chapter 2 (footnote), also see The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2007 (Part One of Ten)
014 RELEASED SEP 2004 Iqbal, Zafar (Pakistan) WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)
015 RELEASED OCT 2006 Ul Shah, Zia (Pakistan) Chapter 9, also see The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006 (Part One of Ten)
016 RELEASED JUL 2003 Al Deen, Jamal Muhammad (Pakistan) WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)
017 RELEASED SEP 2004 Khan, Muhammed Ijaz (Pakistan) Chapter 9, also see WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released After the Tribunals, 2004 to 2005 (Part One of Five)
018 RELEASED SEP 2004 Sayed, Mohammed (Pakistan) WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)
019 RELEASED MAY 2003 Alikhel, Shah Mohammed (Pakistan) Chapters 9, 19, also see Website Extras 7, WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (Part One of Ten)
020 RELEASED NOV 2003 Ishaq, Mohammed (Pakistan) WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)
021 RELEASED JUL 2003 Hudin, Salah (Pakistan) WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)
022 RELEASED SEP 2009 (in Ireland) Hamiduva, Shakhrukh (Uzbekistan) Chapter 10, mentioned in Guantánamo’s refugees, also see WikiLeaks and the 22 Children of Guantánamo
023 RELEASED SEP 2004 Khan, Isa (Pakistan) Chapter 9, also see WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (Part One of Ten)
025 RELEASED FEB 2007 Al Joudi, Majid (Saudi Arabia) Chapter 19, also see Website Extras 8, The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2007 (Part One of Ten)
Mostly captured crossing from Afghanistan into Pakistan (Dec 2001)
026 RELEASED JAN 2016 (in Oman), CLEARED (under Bush) Ghazi, Fahed (Fahd Ghazy) (Yemen) Chapter 5, also see Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”, Abandoned in Guantánamo: WikiLeaks Reveals the Yemenis Cleared for Release for Up to Seven Years, Close Guantánamo: Photos of Protestors outside the Supreme Court on the 11th Anniversary of the Opening of the Prison, As Three Yemenis Are Freed from Guantánamo, Video Highlights Plight of 52 Others, Long Cleared for Release, Video: Andy Worthington Speaks About Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker in New York, Plus Lawyers Ramzi Kassem and Omar Farah
027 NOT CLEARED BY PRB (May 2016), NOT CLEARED BY PRB (Jan 2017), NOT CLEARED BY PRB (May 2018), WON HABEAS PETITION (Feb 2010), LOST ON APPEAL (Mar 2011) Uthman, Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed (Yemen) Chapter 5, also see The Black Hole of Guantánamo, Judge Rules Yemeni’s Detention at Guantánamo Based Solely on Torture, Does Obama Really Know or Care About Who Is at Guantánamo?, Calling for US Accountability on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”, Mocking the Law, Judges Rule that Evidence Is Not Necessary to Hold Insignificant Guantánamo Prisoners for the Rest of Their Lives, The Supreme Court Abandons the Guantánamo Prisoners, Meet the Seven Guantánamo Prisoners Whose Appeals Were Turned Down by the Supreme Court, Guantánamo Stories: 19 of the 43 Men Being Force-Fed in the Prison-Wide Hunger Strike, Two More Yemeni “Forever Prisoners” Seek Release from Guantánamo Via Periodic Review Boards
028 NOT CLEARED BY PRB (Oct 2015), NOT CLEARED BY PRB (Dec 2016), LOST HABEAS PETITION (Jan 2009), LOST APPEAL (Jul 2011) Al Alawi, Muaz (Moath Al Alwi) (Yemen) Website Extras 3, No End in Sight for the “Enemy Combatants” of Guantánamo, Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”, Guantánamo and the Death of Habeas Corpus, The Supreme Court Abandons the Guantánamo Prisoners, Meet the Seven Guantánamo Prisoners Whose Appeals Were Turned Down by the Supreme Court, The Prisoners Speak: Reports from the Hunger Strike in Guantánamo, Guantánamo Stories: 19 of the 43 Men Being Force-Fed in the Prison-Wide Hunger Strike, Although Two Men Weigh 75 Pounds or Less, Guantánamo Prisoner Moath Al-Alwi Says, “We Will Remain on Hunger Strike”, mentioned in Long-Term Guantánamo Hunger Striker Emad Hassan Describes the Torture of Force-Feeding, “It Is All Theater, It Is All A Game,” Yemeni “Forever Prisoner” Says from Guantánamo, Guantánamo “An Endless Horror Movie”: Hunger Striker Appeals for Help to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, War Is Over, Set Us Free, Say Guantánamo Prisoners Judge Says No, 97-Pound Yemeni Hunger Striker Appears Before Periodic Review Board As Saudi is Approved for Release from Guantánamo, mentioned in US Military Lawyer Submits Petition to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Behalf of Mohammad Rahim, CIA Torture Victim Held at Guantánamo, mentioned in At Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Former Guantánamo Prisoner Djamel Ameziane Asks US to Apologize, and Calls for Prison’s Closure, Persistent Dehumanization at Guantánamo: US Claims It Owns Prisoners’ Art, Just As It Claims to Own Their Memories of Torture, Curator of Guantánamo Art Show Responds to Authorities’ Threats to Burn Prisoners’ Work: “Art Censorship and Destruction Are Tactics of Terrorist Regimes, Not US Military”, Reviewing the Guantánamo Art Show in New York That Dared to Show Prisoners As Human Beings, and Led to a Pentagon Clampdown, No Escape from Guantánamo: An Update on the Periodic Review Boards
029 RELEASED JAN 2017 (in Oman), NOT CLEARED BY PRB (Mar 2016), CLEARED BY PRB (Dec 2016) Al Ansi, Mohammed (Yemen) Website Extras 3, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”, More Evidence of the Use of Water Torture at Guantánamo and in Afghanistan and Iraq, Afghan Approved for Release from Guantánamo, as Lawyer Presents Persuasive Case for Release of Yemeni Who Has Become A Prolific Artist , Persistent Dehumanization at Guantánamo: US Claims It Owns Prisoners’ Art, Just As It Claims to Own Their Memories of Torture, Curator of Guantánamo Art Show Responds to Authorities’ Threats to Burn Prisoners’ Work: “Art Censorship and Destruction Are Tactics of Terrorist Regimes, Not US Military”, Reviewing the Guantánamo Art Show in New York That Dared to Show Prisoners As Human Beings, and Led to a Pentagon Clampdown
030 RELEASED APR 2016 (in Saudi Arabia) Al Hikimi, Ahmed (Nadir Omar Abdullah Bin Sa’adoun Alsa’ary) (Yemen) Website Extras 3, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”, mentioned in “It’s Going to End in Men Dying”: Carlos Warner, Guantánamo Attorney, Discusses the Hunger Strike
032 RELEASED DEC 09 Ahmed, Faruq Ali (Farouq Ali Ahmed, Farouq Saif) (Yemen) Chapter 5, also see Guantánamo Whistleblowers: Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham is not the first insider to condemn the kangaroo courts, Video: Al-Jazeera’s Powerful and Important Documentary, “Life After Guantánamo”
035 RELEASED JUN 2015 (in Oman), CLEARED (under Obama) Qader Idris, Idris (Yemen) Website Extras 3, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”, mentioned in “It’s Going to End in Men Dying”: Carlos Warner, Guantánamo Attorney, Discusses the Hunger Strike
037 RELEASED JUN 2016 (in Montenegro), CLEARED BY PRB (Dec 2014) NOT CLEARED BY PRB (Mar 2014) Al Rahabi, Abdul Malik (Yemen) Chapters 5, 8, also see Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”, Guantánamo: Where Being Cleared for Release Means Nothing, Indefinitely Detained Guantánamo Prisoner Asks Review Board to Recommend His Release, Guantánamo Forever (for Al-Jazeera), The American Lawyer’s Six Guantánamo Bar Profiles: Thomas Wilner, David Remes, Jennifer Cowan, Wells Dixon, David Nevin and Lee Wolosky, Persistent Dehumanization at Guantánamo: US Claims It Owns Prisoners’ Art, Just As It Claims to Own Their Memories of Torture
039 CONVICTED IN TRIAL BY MILITARY COMMISSION (life sentence, Nov 2008), CONVICTION OVERTURNED JAN 2013 – and also in 2014 and 2015 (but conspiracy conviction upheld in October 2016) Al Bahlul, Ali Hamza (Yemen) Chapters 5, 18, also see MILITARY COMMISSION, Doing the Right Thing, Betrayals, backsliding and boycotts: the continuing collapse of Guantánamo’s Military Commissions, Controversy still plagues Guantánamo’s Military Commissions, An Empty Trial at Guantánamo, Life sentence for al-Qaeda propagandist fails to justify Guantánamo trials, David Frakt: Military Commissions “A Catastrophic Failure”, Lawyers Appeal Guantánamo Trial Convictions, Omar Khadr Accepts US Military Lawyer for Forthcoming Trial by Military Commission, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”, Obama’s Collapse: The Return of the Military Commissions, Guantánamo and the Military Commissions: Revolution Interview with Andy Worthington, After Recent Ruling in the Case of Bin Laden’s Cook, Guantánamo Should Close by July 2012, Carol Rosenberg on the “Prison within a Prison” at Guantánamo for Four Convicted “War Criminals”, US Military Admits Only 2.5 Percent of All Prisoners Ever Held at Guantánamo Will Be Tried, Video: Andy Worthington, Todd Pierce and Steven Reisner Discuss Guantánamo and Torture in New York, January 9, 2014, Video: Todd Pierce Discusses the Lawlessness of Guantánamo’s Military Commissions on “London Real”, Ali Hamza Al-Bahlul, David Hicks and the Legal Collapse of the Military Commissions at Guantánamo, mentioned in Life Sentence for Sulaiman Abu Ghaith Discredits Guantánamo’s Military Commissions, Former Guantánamo Military Defense Attorney Todd Pierce Interviewed by the Talking Dog, The collapse of Guantánamo’s military commissions (for Al-Jazeera), Despite His Conviction Being Quashed Three Times, Guantánamo Prisoner Ali Hamza Al-Bahlul Remains in Solitary Confinement, In Contentious Split Decision, Appeals Court Upholds Guantánamo Prisoner Ali Hamza Al-Bahlul’s Conspiracy Conviction, mentioned in Guantánamo Lawyer Michel Paradis: Military Commissions are Based on Legal Apartheid, Two Guantánamo Cases Make It to the Supreme Court Experts Urge Justices to Pay Attention, Abandoning Guantánamo: The Supreme Court’s Shame as a Military Commission Appeal Is Turned Down, Radio: On the Scott Horton Show, Andy Worthington Discusses Trump Letting Guantánamo Hunger Strikers Die, the Failures of the Supreme Court and More
040 RELEASED AUG 2016 (in UAE) Al Mudafari, Abdel Nadir (al-Mudhaffari) (Yemen) Website Extras 3, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”
043 RELEASED JAN 2016 (in Oman) Moqbel, Samir (Yemen) Chapter 5, also see Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”, A Voice from Guantánamo: Samir Moqbel, a Hunger Striker Brutally Force-Fed Every Day, As Guantánamo Prisoners Send Pleas to President Obama, Media Reports Plans To Free 86 Men Long Cleared for Release, Don’t Forget the Hunger Strike at Guantánamo, Guantánamo Stories: 19 of the 43 Men Being Force-Fed in the Prison-Wide Hunger Strike, Watch the Shocking New Animated Film About the Guantánamo Hunger Strike
044 RELEASED JAN 2017 (in Saudi Arabia), CLEARED BY PRB (Jul 2016) Ghanim, Mohammed (Yemen) Chapters 5, 15, 19, also see Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”, Don’t Forget the Hunger Strike at Guantánamo, Guantánamo Stories: 19 of the 43 Men Being Force-Fed in the Prison-Wide Hunger Strike, Periodic Review Board at Guantánamo for Yemeni Subjected to Long-Term Sleep Deprivation in Prison’s Early Years
046 RELEASED FEB 2010 (in Albania), CLEARED (under Bush) Abdallah, Sayf Bin (Saleh Sassi) (Tunisia) Website Extras 3, Italy’s Forgotten Residents in Guantánamo, What Does Tunisia’s Revolution Mean for Political Prisoners, Including Guantánamo Detainees?, A Dream of Freedom Soured: Former Guantánamo Prisoners in Tunisia Face Ongoing Persecution
048 RELEASED JUL 2008 Alhamiri, Abdullah (UAE) Website Extras 3
054 RELEASED JULY 2012, ACCEPTED MILITARY COMMISSION PLEA DEAL (2-year sentence, Jul 2010) Al Qosi, Ibrahim (Sudan) Chapters 5, 18, MILITARY COMMISSION, also see The US military’s shameless propaganda over Guantánamo’s 9/11 trials, Torture, Preventive Detention and the Terror Trials At Guantánamo, Predictable Chaos As Guantánamo Trials Resume, MILITARY COMMISSION (under Obama), Chaos and Confusion: The Return of the Military Commissions, Bin Laden Cook Accepts Plea Deal at Guantánamo Trial, Bin Laden Cook Expected to Serve Two More Years at Guantánamo – And Some Thoughts on the Remaining Sudanese Prisoners, On the 9th Anniversary of 9/11, A Call to Close Guantánamo and to Hold Accountable Those Who Authorized Torture, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”, Obama’s Collapse: The Return of the Military Commissions, Guantánamo and the Military Commissions: Revolution Interview with Andy Worthington, After Recent Ruling in the Case of Bin Laden’s Cook, Guantánamo Should Close by July 2012, Carol Rosenberg on the “Prison within a Prison” at Guantánamo for Four Convicted “War Criminals”, Will Guantánamo Ever Be Closed?, US Military Admits Only 2.5 Percent of All Prisoners Ever Held at Guantánamo Will Be Tried, Video: Andy Worthington, Todd Pierce and Steven Reisner Discuss Guantánamo and Torture in New York, January 9, 2014, Video: Todd Pierce Discusses the Lawlessness of Guantánamo’s Military Commissions on “London Real”, Former Guantánamo Military Defense Attorney Todd Pierce Interviewed by the Talking Dog, “Petty and Nasty”: Guantánamo Commander Bans Lawyers From Bringing Food to Share with Prisoners
055 RELEASED DEC 2006 Al Zayla, Mohammed (Saudi Arabia) Chapter 5, also see The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006 (Part One of Ten)
056 RELEASED AUG 2003 Tabarak, Abdullah (Morocco) Chapter 5, mentioned in Bush Era Ends with Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession, also see WikiLeaks and the 14 Missing Guantánamo Files, WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (Part One of Ten)
060 RELEASED NOV 2005 Haji, Adel Kamel (Bahrain) Chapters 5, 7, 8, also see WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released After the Tribunals, 2004 to 2005 (Part One of Five)
061 RELEASED AUG 2006 Kurnaz, Murat (Germany-Turkey) Chapter 12, also see Five Years in Guantánamo, Former Guantánamo detainees speak, Waterboarding: two questions for Michael Hayden about three “high-value” detainees now in Guantánamo, Guantánamo Suicide Report: Truth or Travesty?, UN Secret Detention Report (Part Two): CIA Prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq, UN Secret Detention Report (Part Three): Proxy Detention, Other Countries’ Complicity, and Obama’s Record, Video: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Murat Kurnaz Tells His Story on Russia Today, New Revelations About The Use of Water Torture at Guantánamo, The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006 (Part One of Ten), Rights Groups Call for the Arrest of George W. Bush for Torture as He Arrives in Canada, The Long Pursuit of Accountability for the Bush Administration’s Torture Program, Former Guantánamo Prisoner Younous Chekkouri Illegally Imprisoned in Morocco As Murat Kurnaz Calls for His Release, Please Ask John Kerry to Act
063 NOT CLEARED BY PRB (July 2016) Al Qahtani, Mohammed (Saudi Arabia) Chapters 5, 15, MILITARY COMMISSION (charges dropped), also see Guantánamo Transcripts: Ghost Prisoners Speak After Five And A Half Years, and “9/11 hijacker” Recants His Tortured Confession, Bush Era Ends with Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession, What Torture Is, and Why It’s Illegal and Not “Poor Judgment”, Does Obama Really Know or Care About Who Is at Guantánamo?, Calling for US Accountability on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”, WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Guantánamo Files, Exposes Detention Policy as a Construct of Lies, The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson Captures the Despair in WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files, Col. Morris Davis Discusses Guantánamo, Torture and Intelligence in the Wake of the Latest WikiLeaks Revelations, New Revelations About The Use of Water Torture at Guantánamo, George W. Bush’s Torture Program Began Ten Years Ago, Torture Began at Guantánamo with Bush’s Presidential Memo 12 Years Ago, A Few Surprises in the New Guantánamo Prisoner List, mentioned in Andy Worthington’s Interview about Guantánamo and Torture for Columbia University’s Rule of Law Oral History Project, Why Guantánamo Mustn’t Be Forgotten in the Fallout from the CIA Torture Report, Guantánamo Lawyers Complain About Slow Progress of Periodic Review Boards, Fugitive From Justice: A Timeline of the Crimes Committed by Guantánamo’s Torture Chief, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, As He Fails to Show Up at a French Court, For Review Board, Revelations That Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner Mohammed Al-Qahtani Was Profoundly Mentally Ill Before Capture, How Guantánamo’s Periodic Review Boards Exposed Woefully Distorted Intelligence Assessments, Great New York Times Exposé of How Torture, Abuse and Command Indifference Compromised Psychiatric Care at Guantánamo, Why Camp X-Ray at Guantánamo Mustn’t Be Destroyed, Lawyers for Guantánamo Torture Victim Mohammed Al-Qahtani Urge Court to Enable Mental Health Assessment and Possible Repatriation to Saudi Arabia
064 RELEASED MAY 2006 Sebaii, Abdel Hadi (Saudi Arabia) Chapter 5, also see The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006 (Part One of Ten)
065 RELEASED SEP 2006 Amin, Omar Rajab (Kuwait) Chapter 5, also see The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006 (Part One of Ten)
Captured in Afghanistan and held in Qala-i-Janghi/Sheberghan (Nov 2001)
070 RELEASED JUL 2008 Houari, Abdul Raham (Algeria) Website Extras 8
072 RELEASED JUL 2005 Ikassrien, Lahcen (Spain) Website Extras 1, Spanish Court Gives Go-Ahead for Guantánamo Torture Investigation to Continue, The Case of Lahcen Ikassrien: Torture in Kandahar and Guantánamo, WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released After the Tribunals, 2004 to 2005 (Part One of Five)
078 DIED IN GUANTANAMO JUN 2009 Al Hanashi, Mohammad (Muhammad Salih) (Yemen) Chapter 20, also see Website Extras 1, As a sixth “high-value detainee” is charged at Guantánamo, disturbing evidence surfaces, Out Of Guantánamo: African Embassy Bombing Suspect To Be Tried In US Court, Death At Guantánamo Hovers Over Obama’s Middle East Visit, Binyam Mohamed: Was Muhammad Salih’s Death In Guantánamo Suicide?, Murders at Guantánamo: Scott Horton of Harper’s Exposes the Truth about the 2006 “Suicides”, Suicide or Murder at Guantánamo?, Were Two Prisoners Killed at Guantánamo in 2007 and 2009?, The Season of Death at Guantánamo, Remembering the Season of Death at Guantánamo, Remembering Guantánamo’s Dead, Death at Guantánamo: Psychologist and Author Jeffrey Kaye Speaks to the Talking Dog, Another Sad, Forgotten Anniversary for Guantánamo’s Dead, Guantánamo Suicides “Unlikely,” Says Investigator Jeffrey Kaye in New Edition of His Book, “Cover-up at Guantánamo”, Remembering Guantánamo’s Dead, 12 Years After the Three Notorious Alleged Suicides of June 2006
081 RELEASED MAY 2008 Ali, Walid Mohammed (Sudan) Chapter 2
083 RELEASED JUL 2004 Nabied, Yusef (Tajikistan) WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)
086 RELEASED MAR 2004 Rasul, Shafiq (UK) Chapters 3, 8, 11, 15, 19, mentioned in The Convoy of Death: Will Obama Investigate The Afghan Massacre Of November 2001?, also see On YouTube: Guantánamo Guard and Ex-Prisoners Meet (via the BBC), White House Repeats Pentagon Lies About Guantánamo “Recidivists”, Video: Shafiq Rasul and Ruhal Ahmed Discuss US Detention at Kandahar, Bagram and Guantánamo with Andy Worthington at “Eid Without Aafia Siddiqui” Event, All Guantánamo Prisoners Were Subjected to “Pharmacological Waterboarding”, WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (Part Two of Ten), mentioned in On Guantánamo’s 10th Anniversary, British Ex-Prisoners Talk About Their Lives, and Call for the Release of Shaker Aamer, Seven Ex-Guantánamo Prisoners Unite in London to Call for Prison’s Closure on Jan. 11 Shaker Aamer Photographed With Inflatable Figure of Himself Outside US Embassy, UK Torture: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner’s Memories Provide A Reminder That We Need Accountability
089 RELEASED JAN 2010 (in Slovakia), CLEARED (under Obama) Tsiradzho, Poolad (Azerbaijan) Website Extras 1, Finding New Homes For 44 Cleared Guantánamo Prisoners, Three Neglected Ex-Guantánamo Prisoners in Slovakia Embark on a Hunger Strike, “It was better in Guantánamo,” Complains Egyptian Held in Slovak Detention Center, Who Are the Three Ex-Guantánamo Prisoners on Hunger Strike in Slovakia?, Former Guantánamo Prisoners in Slovakia Finally Receive Residence Permits
091 RELEASED AUG 2016 (in UAE) Al Saleh, Abdul (Mohsen Aboassy) (Yemen) Website Extras 1, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part Two: Captured in Afghanistan (2001)
/>093 DIED IN GUANTANAMO JUN 2006 Al Zahrani, Yasser Talal (Saudi Arabia) Chapters 2, 18, 19, also see Second Anniversary of Triple Suicide at Guantánamo, Guantánamo Suicide Report: Truth or Travesty?, The Pentagon Can’t Count: 22 Juveniles Held at Guantánamo, Murders at Guantánamo: Scott Horton of Harper’s Exposes the Truth about the 2006 “Suicides”, Omar Deghayes and Terry Holdbrooks Discuss Guantánamo (Part Three): Deaths at the Prison, Murders at Guantánamo: The Cover-Up Continues, UN Secret Detention Report (Part One): The CIA’s “High-Value Detainee” Program and Secret Prisons, US Court Denies Justice to Dead Men at Guantánamo, On the 5th Anniversary of the Disputed Guantánamo “Suicides,” Jeff Kaye Defends Scott Horton, WikiLeaks and the 22 Children of Guantánamo, Teleconference: Five Years After Disputed “Suicides” at Guantánamo, Father of Dead Man Appeals Court’s Refusal to Consider His Case, Relatives of Disputed Guantánamo Suicides Speak Out As Families Appeal in US Court, The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006 (Part One of Ten), Video: Andy Worthington Discusses the Documentary “Death in Camp Delta,” Examining the Alleged Suicides in Guantánamo in June 2006, The Season of Death at Guantánamo, New Evidence Casts Doubt on US Claims that Three Guantánamo Deaths in 2006 Were Suicides, Remembering the Season of Death at Guantánamo, Video: RT America’s One-Hour Special on Guantánamo Featuring Andy Worthington, Joe Hickman, Nancy Hollander and Tom Wilner, Remembering Guantánamo’s Dead, Another Sad, Forgotten Anniversary for Guantánamo’s Dead, Remembering Guantánamo’s Dead, 12 Years After the Three Notorious Alleged Suicides of June 2006
094 RELEASED MAY 2006 Al Sehli, Ibrahim (Saudi Arabia) Chapter 2, also see The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006 (Part Two of Ten)
098 RELEASED SEP 2004 Saeed, Hafiz Ehsan (Pakistan) Chapter 9, also see WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (Part Two of Ten)
099 RELEASED JUL 2003 Razaq, Abdul (Pakistan) Chapter 8, also see WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (Part Two of Ten)
100 RELEASED SEP 2004 Ashraf, Mohammed (Pakistan) WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)
101 RELEASED SEP 2004 Irfan, Mohammed (Pakistan) WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)
103 RELEASED MAR 2010 (in Switzerland), WON HABEAS PETITION (Oct 08) Mahmud, Arkin (China) Website Extras 1, From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs, Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies, A New Year Message to Barack Obama: Free the Guantánamo Uighurs, Guantánamo’s refugees, Bad News And Good News For The Guantánamo Uighurs, Guantánamo: A Real Uyghur Slams Newt Gingrich’s Racist Stupidity, Free The Guantánamo Uighurs!, From Guantánamo To The South Pacific: Is This A Joke?, Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies, Chair Of The American Conservative Union Supports The Guantánamo Uighurs, House Threatens Obama Over Chinese Interrogation Of Uighurs In Guantánamo, A Profile of Rushan Abbas, The Guantánamo Uighurs’ Interpreter, A Plea To Barack Obama From The Guantánamo Uighurs, Guantánamo And The Courts (Part Two): Obama’s Shame, Court Allows Return Of Guantánamo Prisoners To Torture, Justice At Last? Guantánamo Uighurs Ask Supreme Court For Release Into US, Senate Finally Allows Guantánamo Trials In US, But Not Homes For Innocent Men, Guantánamo: Idealists Leave Obama’s Sinking Ship, Swiss Take Two Guantánamo Uighurs, Save Obama from Having to Do the Right Thing, Guantánamo Uighurs Back in Legal Limbo, Guantánamo Uighur Brothers “Happy” in Switzerland, But Struggling to Adapt to New Life
104 RELEASED MAR 2004 Achezkai, Mohammed Khan (Afghanistan) Chapter 15, also see WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (Part Two of Ten)
106 RELEASED JUL 2003 Raz, Mohammed (Afghanistan) WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)
107 RELEASED OCT 2002 Barakzai, Jan Mohammed (Afghanistan) Chapter 9, mentioned in The Stories of the Afghans Just Released from Guantánamo: Intelligence Failures, Battlefield Myths and Unaccountable Prisons in Afghanistan (Part One), also see WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (Part Two of Ten)
109 RELEASED DEC 2006 Al Rabiesh, Yusef (Saudi Arabia) Chapters 2, 8, also see The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006 (Part Two of Ten)
111 RELEASED JAN 2009 Al Tayeea, Ali (Iraq) Chapter 2, also see A Voice from Iraq: Former Guantánamo Prisoner Speaks
113 RELEASED SEP 2004 Ahmed, Sarfaraz (Pakistan) WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)
/>115 RELEASED APR 2016 (in Saudi Arabia), CLEARED (under Bush) Naser, Abdul Rahman (Yemen) Website Extras 1, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part Two: Captured in Afghanistan (2001), Abandoned in Guantánamo: WikiLeaks Reveals the Yemenis Cleared for Release for Up to Seven Years
116 RELEASED MAR 2004 Abulwance, Yamatolah (Afghanistan) WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)
117 RELEASED JAN 2016 (in Oman), LOST HABEAS PETITION (Mar 2010) Al Warafi, Mukhtar (Yemen) Chapter 2, Guantánamo and Habeas Corpus: The Torture Victim and the Taliban Recruit, With Regrets, Judge Allows Indefinite Detention at Guantánamo of a Medic, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part Two: Captured in Afghanistan (2001), Prisoners in Guantánamo Ask to be Freed Because of the End of the War in Afghanistan, War Is Over, Set Us Free, Say Guantánamo Prisoners Judge Says No
118 RELEASED DEC 2006 Kahm, Abdul Rahman Juma (Afghanistan) Chapter 9, also see The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006 (Part Two of Ten)
119 RELEASED MAR 2003 Shah, Suleiman (Afghanistan) Chapter 3, also see WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (Part Two of Ten)
120 RELEASED JUL 2005 Khan, Rabel (Habib Rasool) (Afghanistan) Chapter 9, also see WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released After the Tribunals, 2004 to 2005 (Part One of Five)
124 RELEASED NOV 2003 Khan, Janan Taus (Afghanistan) WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)
126 RELEASED SEP 2007 Al Shihri, Salim (Salam Abdullah Said) (Saudi Arabia) Website Extras 1, The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2007 (Part Three of Ten)
128 RELEASED JAN 2017 (in Oman), CLEARED BY PRB (May 2014), LOST HABEAS PETITION (Jan 2009), LOST APPEAL (Jan 2010) Al Bihani, Ghaleb (Yemen) Website Extras 1, How Cooking For The Taliban Gets You Life In Guantánamo, Guantánamo And The Courts (Part Two): Obama’s Shame, Appeals Court Extends President’s Wartime Powers, Limits Guantánamo Prisoners’ Rights, The Black Hole of Guantánamo, Guantánamo and Habeas Corpus: 2 Years, 50 Cases, 36 Victories for the Prisoners, Guantánamo and Habeas Corpus: Prisoners Win 3 out of 4 Cases, But Lose 5 out of 6 in Court of Appeals (Part One), Nine Years After 9/11, US Court Concedes that International Laws of War Restrict President’s Wartime Powers, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part Two: Captured in Afghanistan (2001), Habeas Hell: How the Great Writ Was Gutted at Guantánamo, Guantánamo Review Boards (2/3): Ghaleb Al-Bihani, a Cook, Asks to Be Sent Home to Yemen or to Another Country, Waiting for progress on Guantánamo (for Al-Jazeera), Persistent Dehumanization at Guantánamo: US Claims It Owns Prisoners’ Art, Just As It Claims to Own Their Memories of Torture, Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court Nomination, Has a Dangerous Track Record of Defending Guantánamo and Unfettered Executive Power
131 RELEASED JAN 2017 (in Saudi Arabia), NOT CLEARED BY PRB (May 2014), CLEARED BY PRB (Apr 2016) Ben Kend, Salem (bin Kanad) (Yemen) Website Extras 1, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part Two: Captured in Afghanistan (2001), Guantánamo Review Boards (3/3): Salem Bin Kanad, from Riyadh, Refuses to Take Part in a System That Appears Increasingly Flawed
133 RELEASED JUL 2004 Ouzar, Mohammed (Morocco) WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.
In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.
Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.
Collateral damage: the impact of Guantanamo on a family
Ahmed Rabbani has been held without trial at Guantanamo for 18 years. He describes the impact on his children.
Ahmed Rabbani is Pakistani Rohingya and is currently being held in Guantanamo Bay. Following his divorce in 2002, he had just remarried and – unknown to him at the time – his wife was pregnant when he was captured in Karachi on September 10, 2002. His youngest son was born some months later. They have never met.
He was picked up by the Pakistani authorities and handed over to the US, then taken to the Dark Prison in Kabul where he says he was tortured for 540 days. It is believed he had been falsely identified as Hassan Ghul, a Pakistani member of al-Qaeda.
Later, it was reported (in the US Senate Report on CIA Interrogation, 2014) that the US had captured Ghul and even held him briefly in the Dark Prison – but then let him go back to Pakistan. He was killed in a drone strike in 2012. Ahmed, meanwhile, was rendered to Guantanamo Bay.
Since 2013, Ahmed has been on a hunger strike in peaceful protest against his detention. He is force-fed every day. He has an older son and daughter from an earlier marriage who are now in their early 20s. This is his description of the impact of his detention without trial on his children (whose names have been omitted for the sake of privacy). It was dictated to his human rights lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith:
I spoke to my youngest son on a Skype call arranged by the Red Cross and I asked him, “You are living an isolated life, and you are not having a normal time for a 17-year-old. You are depressed and your mindset is muddled and introverted. Why do you do this to yourself and what can I do to help you out of it?”
He told me, crying as he spoke, “Dad, as I have grown up, I have been scared and afraid. When I was young, my mother and my grandmother would not let me out of the house at all unless it was to walk to school. They were so afraid of losing me as they lost you: that someone would come along, grab me, and give me to the Americans. They were also afraid that the local officials would turn on us for money.
“They did not even let me go to the shops across the street, as they thought I might talk innocently to the people there and bring more trouble on us, so it was safer to keep me locked in the house, like a prison.
“My mother does not want me to ask for anything from anyone, even from my uncle or aunts – her sisters. We are so poor, we never see fish and chicken, except in the market. I know you have been on hunger strike for eight years now, and you cook for others but cannot eat – it is like that, I suppose, to live across from a market and never be able to taste the good things they sell there. I do sneak out from time to time, as the shop owners throw things away that are spoiled, and I creep around when they have gone to pick them up.
“Now, I am almost 18 years old yet I still cannot go out freely, and all because of what happened to you.” He wept as he said it, and I weep every time I think of it.
I spoke to my older son, too. “You do karate and other martial arts. Why are you so scared of life? Why don’t you live freely?”
He answered, “Dad, when I was very young – around seven years old – my mother, grandmother and grandfather lied to me and told me that you were working in Saudi Arabia. They used the same lie with my sister. We used always to tell our friends that our father was working in Saudi, and so we were taught to deceive, too. When we found out that you were in prison rather than working in Saudi, we were still quite young and it made us resent you and our grandparents because our lives had been a lie for so many years.
“Still, I find I lie to others. I know you have been tortured and treated terribly. But I have been too embarrassed to tell my friends about you. I am not able to prove you are innocent if anyone challenges me, though I believe it in my soul. This makes me doubly guilty, as I now worry that I am committing a crime against you.
“When I understood what happened on 9/11, and its aftermath, I began to understand the fear that gripped everyone. I also understood the oppression and injustice that was exacted on Muslims, some prompted by the torture you went through. Also, I understand the horror of your long imprisonment.
“But now there seems to be another lie. You keep telling us that you will be released, and it never happens. This means I continue to grow up fearing that a terrible injustice could happen to me, too, at any time. It has had a profound impact on my faith. I had memorised the whole Holy Quran. Then, I found it hard to be religious when such injustice was visited on you. I began to forget even what I had memorised. I think I did this because, I think psychologically, I did not want to suffer the way you have suffered for your religious beliefs.”
My daughter had memorised 15 parts of the Quran, but then stopped. I asked her, “Why did you stop? You got so far, why not memorise the rest?”
She replied, “If someone joked or made fun of me that my father was in prison, I would be struck silent, so I could not even speak. Once in a phone call with you, my aunt was with me, and she joked, ‘Your father is in prison and it seems he will never be released.’
“I was so stunned by that simple statement that I was just unable to talk for the call, not even to say hello to you. This is what happens to me whenever someone jokes or makes a small comment to me – I am stunned, struck dumb and unable to speak a word.
“So my aunt asked you, my father, ‘If you give permission we will withdraw her from school as she is unable to talk to people, sitting in the corner totally quiet.’ As my father, you gave permission for this in the end, as there was no point putting me through the torture of school.”
I asked my daughter recently if she had any plans to get married. She said, “Who will agree to marry me when he finds out that my father is imprisoned in Guantanamo? Who would mar his reputation and character that way? Whoever marries me, one day he will use your situation in Guantanamo against me. My silence and my anger are still there. I am afraid this will taint anyone who would marry me. I worry that he would divorce me, and that would pitch me into a situation that is even worse. So, I will get married only when you are released.”
She said that clearly and frankly to me. It struck me in the heart.
This is the situation for my children. I weep to think of the terror that fills them because of where I am. Every time I say I will be released, now that more than 18 years have gone by, they think it is false. They say: “This is what you believe, but the American authorities will never release you.” They say that they will only meet their father in a coffin. It will be covered in flowers, but my body will have rotted by the time it travels halfway around the world to Karachi. They describe how even the flowers on the coffin would have been picked in 2002, when I was taken, and they, too, are dead now.
Who will take care of the psychological pain that my children are going through? Who will agree to marry them? Which commercial company will agree to employ my children when they finish their studies? I am forgotten here, and my future is entirely lost. Yet far more important to me is the future of my children, which has been stolen by this awful prison.
Trapped by Circumstance: ‘Guantánamo Kid: The True Story of Mohammed El-Gharani’
Jérôme Tubiana and Alexandre France have created a powerful work in Guantánamo Kid that brings attention to the humanity of people who are accused as terrorists.
Imagine a 14-year-old boy—maybe your own son, maybe a neighbor kid. Now imagine that this child is arrested while attending religious services, interrogated and tortured, and eventually sold to a foreign power who imprisons him (with further interrogation, torture, and abuse) for more than seven years, all without any real effort to get to the bottom of who he is and whether there is any truth to the charges against him. How well do you think he would fare under such treatment? My guess is, not very well at all. And how would you feel about a child being treated in this way? My guess is that you’d be seriously angry about it.
Well, that’s pretty much what happened to Mohammed El-Gharani, the subject of Guantánamo Kid: The True Story of Mohammed El-Gharani, a graphic novel written by Jérôme Tubiana and illustrated by Alexandre France. This work offers a fine example of the power that a single story has to reach people who may be only vaguely aware of an important geopolitical situation such as this. It’s one thing to hear about prisoners being held at the Guantánamo Bay Prison Camp in Cuba (according to The Intercept, 40 prisoners were still being held there as of March 2019), and another to learn the story of just one of those prisoners. It can be easy to dismiss the prisoners as “terrorists”, but it’s impossible to dismiss the story of Mohammed El-Gharani.
El-Gharani’s family emigrated from Chad to Saudi Arabia, where the family faced discrimination in employment and education as a result, El-Gharani began working as a street peddler at a young age. He was offered the chance to study in Pakistan, which he managed with the help of a fake passport (since he didn’t have his family’s permission to leave the country and was too young to travel alone), a fact that would later be held against him by American authorities.
For a time, everything went as expected: El-Gharani lived with the uncle of a friend, studied English and computer science, and intended to return to his family in Saudi Arabia after six months. Then came the fateful Friday when was arrested at a mosque due, he thinks, to his Saudi accent. He was tortured by the Pakistani police, interrogated, then tortured some more. When word came that he and his fellow prisoners would be sold to the Americans, he thought things were looking up—based on popular movies, he thought Americans were good people who believed in justice and that his innocence would quickly be established. He expected to be released while there and maybe he would even have the chance to study in America. The reality would prove quite different.
El-Gharani and a number of other prisoners were transferred to American custody, then moved first to an American base in Kandahar (Afghanistan), then to Guantánamo. Interrogation and torture were part of the prisoners’ daily existence, as well as more ordinary abuse like bad food, blacked-out windows, and deprivation of clothing and bedding (in the face of deliberately excessive air conditioning). They were trapped in a process in which no one was concerned with the truth and the only purpose of interrogations was to force confessions. For example, El-Gharani’s birth certificate, which would have demonstrated that he was a juvenile, was readily available yet never requested by the Americans.
Given such a no-win situation, it was not surprising that some of the prisoners found ways to get back at the guards—spitting and throwing feces at them being two of the more popular methods. El-Gharani became a leader among the prisoners, finding one way after another to resist (one of the most important—to always appear happy, even after an interrogation, to let the guards know that they can’t win). He also came to realize the truth of the expression “People are like the fingers of a hand. They’re not all the same” and to recognize that while some guards enjoyed being brutal, they weren’t all equally bad.
He formed a particular bond with an African America guard who shared with him his experiences living as a black person in the United States, while El-Gharani told him about Islam, in return. In a move that could have gotten the guard fired, he brought snacks to El-Gharani in his cell he also brought him a copy of the S.O.P. (the manual of Standard Operating Procedures), so that El-Gharani could know exactly when the military was violating its own rules for example, cooperative prisoners were not supposed to be teargassed, but regularly were.
Since we’re hearing his story, you’ve probably guessed that El-Gharani was released—in fact, the judge presiding over his trial noted that not only was the government’s case implausible (how could a child from an extremely poor Saudi family have been part of a London cell?), it was based entirely on the testimony of two other prisoners at Guantánamo, with zero corroborating evidence offered in support. Eventually, he was released to Chad, a completely unfamiliar country, because Saudi Arabia did not consider him a citizen. More hardships followed, mixed with freedoms, but El-Gharani remained remarkably resilient and positive through it all, dwelling not on the many injustices already suffered, but looking to the future and how he could “make my life better where I am. It is what it is.”
Tubiana tells El-Gharani’s story simply and eloquently, based on a number of sources (listed at the back of the book), while an appendix continues El-Gharani’s story to the present. Franc’s clean illustrations, in pure black and white, are realistic enough that the reader can differentiate among characters and situations and to gain a clearer idea of the conditions El-Gharani faced, yet not so detailed as to be distracting. Together, Tubiana and Franc have created a powerful book that brings attention to the humanity of people who are accused as terrorists and relays the importance of what happens to such people in these times.
The Mauritanian review – fence-sitting Guantánamo drama provides few answers
A ny movie that reminds us of the ongoing civil rights scandal at the US’s extrajudicial detention camp at Guantánamo Bay should be a good thing: it’s still open for business right now, with 40 prisoners inside. The same goes for any reminder of the 9/11 terrorist outrage and the backlash of furious revenge it was designed to provoke, implanting a virus of rage and fear that threatens to live on in the American bloodstream like malaria.
But I was disappointed by this well-meaning movie, based on the true story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi from Mauritania in north-west Africa. A former muhajideen anti-communist fighter in Afghanistan in the 1990s, he was picked up and handed over to the US authorities after 9/11 (with the Mauritanian government’s permission) and kept at Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial for a staggering 14 years, from 2002 to 2016 he was released when the state finally accepted his confessions were valueless, having been obtained through torture.
The film is adapted by screenwriters MB Traven, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani from Slahi’s book, Guantánamo Diary, published in 2015 while he was still inside: the scribbled pages regularly handed to his lawyer Nancy Hollander. Franco-Algerian star Tahar Rahim plays Slahi Jodie Foster plays Hollander and Shailene Woodley is her associate, Teri Duncan. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the crewcut military prosecutor Lt Col Stuart Couch, who was pretty gung-ho about getting the death penalty for his man until he realised that it meant relying on torture and disregarding the constitution and the rule of law.
So far, so admirable. But with this movie, we are plunged right back into the exasperating 9/11 fence-sitting handwringer genre that was fashionable in the 00s: conscience-stricken films that invited us to sympathise with their liberal agony, such as Robert Redford’s Lions for Lambs (2007), Gavin Hood’s Rendition (2007) and Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana (2005).
The Mauritanian is a movie that appears to be comprised entirely of good guys: Slahi himself is a good guy, of course, and so naturally are Hollander and Duncan, doggedly ploughing through the boxes of legal documents that the authorities allow them to see, and persistently asking for more. But the chief prosecutor Couch is a good guy as well, troubled with his finally overwhelming qualms of conscience as a true patriot. (Hollander and Couch are shown having a reasonably cordial beer together at the Guantánamo visitors’ cafe.) Finally, Slahi gets his day in court in which, with stirring music on the soundtrack, he praises American TV shows such as Ally McBeal and American justice itself.
So with all these potent good guys effectively rooting for the prisoner, why did he stay banged up for so long? There are no major players on the bad guy team here: authoritarian meanies are permitted on screen on condition that they are dramatically dominated by a liberal convert: Cumberbatch. There is nothing and no one in this film with the dramatic status of, say, Jack Nicholson’s ferociously unrepentant Colonel Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men, scripted by Aaron Sorkin, and there is no “you can’t handle the truth” moment. There is just official silence from the authorities and the drama itself a sombre announcement flashes up on screen that Slahi stayed in Guantánamo for six years after the prosecution collapsed in 2010 – by order of the Obama government. As for Slahi himself, he doesn’t seem bitter about the US nor Mauritanian authorities by the end of the picture he doesn’t wish to take action against them, yet neither does he explicitly forgive them.
It’s opaque and frustrating. Rahim gives a perfectly decent performance and everyone else does an honest job. Slahi himself is throroughly entitled to his own happy ending, cheerfully listening to Bob Dylan over the closing credits. But this movie is content with congratulating itself for being on the right side of history, with little attention paid to questions unanswered and history unresolved.
The Mauritanian is released on 19 February in the US, and in the UK on 2 April on digital platforms.
How Did Guantanamo Become a Prison?
Ms. Franklin is a historian and the author of Cuba and the United States: A Chronological History and a co-author of Vietnam and America. She is a frequent commentator about Cuba on radio and television. Her homepage is http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/jbfranklins and her email address is [email protected] She wrote this piece for Historians Against the War.
In August 2004, a special panel set up by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to investigate American abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq reported that"Interrogation techniques intended only for Guantánamo came to be used in Afghanistan and Iraq." (1) By this time, the revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib had helped to force the first U.S. concession of any rights at all for the hundreds of"unlawful combatants" confined in zoo-like cages at the U.S. naval base on Cuba's strategic Guantánamo Bay. The profound historical connections between Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib are filled with revealing ironies.
Ever since New Year's Day of 1959 when the Cuban Revolution took power, Washington has promoted"freedom and democracy" for Cuba. Yet, in the one section of Cuba occupied by U.S. military forces, Washington has instead created a prison that has become notorious around the world.
In 1902, when Cuba was still under military occupation by U.S. troops who had invaded ostensibly to bring freedom, the nation was forced to incorporate Washington's Platt Amendment into its constitution. The Platt Amendment gave the United States the right to lease a 45-square-mile area at Guantánamo Bay. The lease specifies that the area is"for use as coaling or naval stations only, and for no other purpose." (2)
Use of the base as a prison began in November 1991. After the first overthrow of the elected government of President Jean Bertrand Aristide, this time under the first Bush Administration, Washington announced it would build a"tent shelter" at Guantánamo for thousands of Haitians fleeing the military dictatorship. (3) The"shelter" was surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by U.S. troops.
When forced repatriation began in February 1992, the argument used by the George H. W. Bush administration presaged the 2004 argument before the Supreme Court by the George W. Bush administration: the detainees were not entitled to any U.S. rights because they were being held on territory under the sovereignty of Cuba. (4)
In June 1993, when only HIV refugees along with their relatives remained, a federal judge ordered the camp closed, calling it"nothing more than an HIV prison camp," where,"surrounded by razor barbed wire" and"subjected to pre-dawn military sweeps," people lived under continual threat of abuse by"400 soldiers in full riot gear." (5) However, thousands of Haitians were again detained at Guantánamo in 1994, leading to uprisings. (6)
At the same time, Washington built a huge tent city surrounded by barbed wire to detain Cubans who were attempting to reach the United States. Miserable conditions led some Cuban detainees to attempt suicide. Their numerous uprisings were met by U.S. troops in riot gear with fixed bayonets. Some Cubans managed to escape back to unoccupied Cuba by scaling the barbed wire, climbing down a 40-foot cliff and swimming about a mile to Cuban territory. Children suffered from bronchial viruses, pneumonia, diarrhea, and fear. (7) On January 18, 1995, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that detainees at Guantánamo could be forcibly repatriated because constitutional rights"bind the government only when the refugees are at or within the borders of the United States." (8)
The way was paved for creation of Camp X-Ray, a prison for captives in President George W. Bush's"War on Terror." The first captives arrived from Kandahar, 8,000 miles away, on January 11, 2002, to be incarcerated in wire cages. The Defense Department labeled them"unlawful combatants," not"prisoners of war," in order to disregard rights guaranteed to POWs by the Geneva Conventions. On January 16, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson stated that the captives are prisoners of war entitled to rights protected by the Geneva Conventions. (9)
On January 20, 2002, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw asked Washington to explain the photograph that went around the world showing captives kneeling on the ground in leg shackles and handcuffs with eyes, ears, and mouths covered and wearing mittens in the tropical heat. The Mail captioned one photo"Tortured." (10) Among more than 600 prisoners from 43 countries, 27 tried to kill themselves by June 2003. (11) The International Committee of the Red Cross and other organizations argued for POW status. (12)
More than two years later, when the Defense Department delivered five British citizens from Guantánamo to British custody, British prosecutors released all of them without charges the following day. (13) The men described being repeatedly beaten and subjected to solitary confinement in the sensory deprivation isolation wing. Guards staged races of detainees in short leg shackles, violently punishing them if they fell. Under pressure one of the three confessed to being the man in a videotape with Osama Bin Laden, but British intelligence later proved he was in England at the time. A Swede released in July 2004 said,"They put me in the interrogation room and used it as a refrigerator" where he sat in chains for 12 to 14 hours, partially losing the feeling in one foot. Deprived of sleep, he was assailed with flashes of light in a dark room, loud music and noise. (14)
The CIA's"Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual--1983" justifies" coercive techniques" when subjects resist noncoercive techniques. It points out that pain inflicted"from outside himself" may be less effective than"pain which he feels he is inflicting upon himself." If"required to maintain rigid positions" for a long period, the source of pain becomes not the interrogator but the prisoner himself."After a period of time the subject is likely to exhaust his internal motivational strength." (15)
In December 2002 Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, overseer of captives at Guantánamo, requested that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approve a number of"nondoctrinal" interrogation tactics, some of which he had already used on"unlawful combatants" at Guantánamo. These included hooding, physical contact like poking or grabbing, and 20-hour interrogations. Rumsfeld approved a list of 17, withdrew the list in January and approved a revised list of 24 in April 2003 for use only at Guantánamo. (16) Then, in August 2003, Gen. Miller led"intelligence specialists" to Iraq where some officers who met with him believe tortures at Abu Ghraib were"partly rooted" in Miller's"determination to apply his Guantánamo experience in Iraq." (17) In October, at the urging of Gen. Miller, the Defense Department sent intelligence teams from Guantánamo to train teams at Abu Ghraib for 90 days, the period when the worst prison abuses occurred. (18)
More than two years after Washington established Guantánamo as a site where the United States could hold prisoners of the"War on Terror" indefinitely without allowing them any rights, the public was shocked to discover what such captivity could mean. On April 28, 2004, CBS television aired the first of those graphic photographs of U.S. guards torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. This set off a string of further exposures, including CIA secret detentions at prisons known and unknown around the globe. Which in turn led to that August 2004 report to Rumsfeld by his own committee that"Interrogation techniques intended only for Guantánamo came to be used in Afghanistan and Iraq."
What does the future hold for Cuban land occupied by Washington? One official speculated that a new prison being built at Guantánamo could hold the CIA's secret detainees, the disappeared, indefinitely.(19)
1. Carlotta Gall and David Rohde,"Afghan Abuse Charges Raise New Questions on Authority," New York Times, September 17, 2004. Appointed by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the panel was headed by former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger.
2. "Agreement Between the United States and Cuba for the Lease of Lands for Coaling and Naval Stations February 23, 1903," Washington, U.S. Govt. Printing Office. The U.S. Treasury Department sends a check each year for $4,085 for"leasing" the land, but Cuba, which continues to demand that Washington cease its occupation of Cuban territory, has not cashed a check since 1958.
3. "Pentagon to build refugee camp at Cuba base," AP, November 25, 1991.
4. Barbara Crossette,"U.S. Starts Return of Haiti Refugees After Justices Act," New York Times, February 2, 1992 Barbara Crossette,"Lawyers Say U.S. Has Lost Haitian Refugee Files," New York Times, April 8, 1992. See"In the Supreme Court of the United States," Shafiq Rasul, et al., Petitioners, v. George W. Bush, President of the United States, et al., No. 03-334, April 20, 2004. On June 28, 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that the captives are imprisoned in territory over which the United States does exercise exclusive jurisdiction and control and they have the right to be heard before a judge or other neutral decision-maker. At the base, beginning on August 24, 2004, the Defense Department held its first military tribunal hearing since the end of World War II the procedure ended with four human-rights monitors asking that the Bush administration"scrap the whole experiment" ( Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2004).
5. "HIV-infected Haitians Gain Release as Judge Lashes at Administrations," [Newark NJ] Star- Ledger, June 9, 1993.
6. Eric Schmitt,"Haiti Refugees and U.S. Force Clash in Cuba," New York Times, August 15, 1994.
7. J. Scott Orr,"Boiling Point: Guantánamo Seethes with Tension," Star-Ledger, September 3, 1994"Cubans Protest at Guantánamo," AP, September 10, 1994"Cuban Killed in Accident During Protest," New York Times, September 13, 1994 Jim Loney,"`Let the Children Go,' Cuban Refugees Say," Reuters, November 7, 1994"Cubans Attempt Escape from Refugee Camp," Reuters, November 8, 1994"39 Cuban Refugees Flee Guantánamo," AP, November 8, 1994.
8. "Court Backs Refugees' Return," AP, January 18, 1995. Haitians were forcibly repatriated. The detention of Cubans was resolved through negotiations between Washington and Havana in May 1995. For more on these negotiations, see Franklin, Cuba and the United States: A Chronological History (New York and Melbourne: Ocean Press, 1997). Some Cubans continue to be sent to Guantánamo and detained until their requests for asylum are decided.
9. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,"Statement of High Commissioner for Human Rights on Detention of Taliban and Al Qaida Prisoners at US Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba," January 16, 2002.
10. CNN.com report, January 21, 2002, posted 5:18 am EST.
11. Carol Rosenberg,"Guantánamo Prisoner's Attempt to Kill Himself Most Serious Yet," Miami Herald, February 2, 2003 Manuel Roig-Franzia,"Guantánamo Was Prepared for Suicide Attempts," Washington Post, March 2, 2003"United States: Suicide Attempts," Reuters report in New York Times, May 29, 2003.
12. John Hassell,"U.S. Takes Heat on Guantánamo," Star- Ledger, October 20, 2002.
13. "Britain Frees 5 Citizens Sent Home from U.S. Jail," Reuters report in New York Times, March 11, 2004.
14. See"How We Survived Jail Hell," Interview by David Rose, The Observer, March 14, 2004 Jan Strupczewski,"Freed Swede Says He was Tortured in Guantánamo," Reuters, July 14, 2004 Desmond Butler,"Three Britons Allege Abuses at Guantánamo," AP, August 4, 2004.
15. "Torture Was Taught by CIA," Baltimore Sun, January 27, 1997. This report was released January 24, 1997, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Baltimore Sun on May 26, 1994.
16. John Hendren,"Rumsfeld Okayed Harsher Methods of Interrogation," Los Angeles Times, reprinted in Star- Ledger, May 21, 2004 Amanda Ripley,"Redefining Torture," Time, June 21, 2004 Carlotta Gall and David Rohde,"Afghan Abuse Charges Raise New Questions on Authority," New York Times, September 17, 2004.
17. "General Took Guantanamo Rules to Iraq for Handling of Prisoners," New York Times, May 13, 2004.
Life Inside Guantánamo: An Oral History
“Guantánamo saved my life,” Uighur Adil Hakimjan said to us when he sat down in Stockholm for an interview in 2014. We had never heard those words from anyone before, nor had I expected to ever hear them.
When Hakimjan was captured in Pakistan after 9/11, he feared that the authorities would deport him back to China. Since the mid-20th century—when the Chinese assumed control of the former Uighur homeland of East Turkistan—China has oppressed the Sunni Muslim Uighurs and has designated the Uighurs as terrorists. Hakimjan believed that if he were returned to China, he would be judged a terrorist, and then tortured and killed.
Pakistan and China had close diplomatic ties, and China wanted him back. However, the US had offered bounties for alleged terrorists after the attacks on 9/11. The Pakistani officials apparently decided money spoke louder than diplomacy. They sold Hakimjan, along with other men allegedly aligned with al Qaeda or the Taliban, to the Americans. Hakimjan was transferred to Guantánamo, along with the 21 other Uighurs.
In 2006, Hakimjan was one of the first five Uighur Guantánamo detainees released from Guantánamo and sent to Albania. A year later, he received an invitation to a human rights conference in Stockholm, where his sister Kauvser Hakimjan lived. She and her family had fled China for Pakistan after the Chinese government demanded that she abort her pregnancy when she was expecting her fourth child. The UN and the Red Crescent assisted her family in gaining asylum in Sweden. When he arrived in Stockholm, Adil Hakimjan applied for asylum, specifying that he had family in the country.
At first, the Swedish government refused to grant him asylum. The government reasoned that he was not oppressed in Albania and could safely return. He and his lawyers appealed. Six months later, the government reversed its decision, acknowledging that Hakimjan had suffered great hardship as a Guantánamo detainee.
His first wife and child were still in China when he settled in Sweden. The Chinese authorities would not permit them to leave the country and reunite with him. In adjusting to his new life in his adopted country, Hakimjan found a new wife and rebuilt his life. He now has a growing family. He works at two jobs, one as a delivery person for a postal company and the other as a taxi driver. Adil Hakimjan is moving into the middle class and on the path to Swedish citizenship.
Alfred (Pete) Souza was never the same after his six-month tour as a hospital corpsman in Guantánamo. Souza observed a young detainee in his early twenties in a wheelchair with his head slumped on his chest. The clinic personnel called him “Timmy,” the name of the disabled character in the animated show South Park.
The staff told Souza that Timmy had tried to commit suicide by hanging himself in his cell. Although prison guards were required to walk by the cells every five to ten minutes, by the time the guards found him and cut him down, Timmy had significant brain damage due to lack of oxygen. Timmy was carried to the detention clinic and shackled with handcuffs. He was fed through tubes that were pushed up through his nostrils and down into his stomach. Ensure and similar nutritional liquids were poured into the tubes at feeding times. Timmy had been in the clinic for more than a year when Souza arrived in July 2004.
Souza explained that he could understand why Timmy had tried to commit suicide. “If you thought that you would never go home and that this was going to be the rest of your life, why wouldn’t you kill yourself?”
Souza felt honored to serve in the military and had previously enjoyed his work. But seeing Timmy was not what he had expected when he signed up to work at the base.
Nor was the sight of Timmy the only disturbing experience Souza had. Working at the Guantánamo clinic was a far cry from working at a humane medical facility, he explained to us. He described the mental health unit in the clinic as something that looked like a milking barn, with beds for mentally unstable detainees on either side of a walkway. It was also not what he had expected.
“It was like you have the central passage and then you got the cells on each side and each one is open—the crosshatch paneling, metal paneling. Very little room to move. And I just saw patient after patient just sitting huddled like this [leans forward], just staring off into space. I was like, ‘Oh, dear, what the hell is going on here?’”
During the six months that he worked at the clinic, Souza never spoke with other corpsmen and prison guards about his discomfort and distress. When we asked him why he did not share his feelings with others on the base, he replied that the culture did not encourage such talk and that the men he knew did not communicate such things. What he understood was that military personnel went out each night and drank. Souza had quit drinking while in Guantánamo. At no time did he find someone at the base in whom he could confide his worries and his doubts about the mission.
On the day he was to leave Guantánamo for home, one of the newly arrived medical personnel asked his group whether they had any advice for the new arrivals. A female nurse spoke up: “Be true to yourself and don’t let this place warp you.”
Souza was surprised to hear these words from someone he knew. He wished he had voiced similar words. But he did not reach out to the nurse, who appeared to him to have an understanding and sensitivity similar to his. Even at the end of his tour, he could not bring himself to express to others how much pain he was feeling.
When he returned home, his parents took him out to dinner. They asked him about his mission and work in Guantánamo. Overcome with emotion, he replied, “It’s bad, really not a good place.” That was all he could say.
After he left the military, Pete Souza and his wife moved to a new city. He works in a hospital group.
Former prison guard Chris Arendt also mentioned Timmy in his interview with Witness to Guantánamo. Arendt confirmed that Timmy was hooked up to life support. But Arendt had a different version of the story.
Arendt had heard that Timmy was beaten so severely in one of the camps that he was rendered physically and mentally disabled. Arendt did not know personally whether the beating actually happened and, if so, when it happened. Arendt only knew that if it had happened, it was before he arrived at Guantánamo. Arendt considered it a “total rumor” and said there was no way to check on the story.
Arendt added that Timmy “was like a camp legend. He was just some detainee that was totally broken and we were just keeping him alive.”
No one we interviewed told us anything else about Timmy—where he is or whether he is alive today. However, there was a Saudi detainee, Mishal Awad Sayaf Alhabiri, who attempted suicide by hanging in January 2003. He was cut down before he died, but suffered significant brain injury due to lack of oxygen. He was hospitalized for more than two years. Along with physical therapy, he was provided medications to control seizures and manage brain function. Designated as low risk due to his medical condition, he was transferred back to Saudi Arabia in July 2005. Perhaps he was Timmy.
In interviewing detainees, we met someone who described a very different and mostly unknown form of isolation in the prison. The man suffered linguistic isolation. He asked us to not reveal his name. He feared that if his community knew that he had been in Guantánamo, they would ask him to leave his mosque. He also feared that he would lose his job and no longer be able to support his family if his employer learned that he had been a prisoner in Guantánamo. We will call this man Sunnat.
The linguistic isolation Sunnat suffered is not a well-known punishment technique, and little has been written in the social science and law literature on the experiences and effects of linguistic isolation. But this form of isolation can be as tormenting and destructive as physical and environmental isolation.
Sunnat was 16 years old when he was seized in Afghanistan following the attacks on September 11th, 2001. He had come to Afghanistan from Uzbekistan. Uzbeks speak a language very similar to that of the Uighurs. When we met Sunnat, Uighur translator Rushan Abbas translated for us.
Sunnat was purchased by the Americans and transported to the detention center in Guantánamo in 2002. After interrogating him over a period of several months, the military understood that he was not a threat, but the US could not release him safely back home to Uzbekistan. Like many nations, Uzbekistan did not want any involvement with its citizens who were former Guantánamo detainees. According to Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counterterrorism, “Uzbekistan is a place where torture is systematic, where people with a religious profile are routinely targeted.” Sunnat waited eight years before the US found a safe country that would accept him.
While he waited to be released, he was placed in a cell in the general prison population. He was surrounded by prisoners who spoke Arabic or English, the two most common languages spoken among the prison population.
Sunnat could reach out and communicate with the other prisoners through eye contact, hand signs, and facial expressions. Over the eight years, he learned minimal Arabic and English. He told us that one of his goals was to greet—to “say hi” to—the men in close proximity.
Something important was missing from Sunnat’s life in prison. All around him, the English- and Arabic-speaking prisoners conversed openly with each other and built a community. They learned about one another’s lives, families and homes. Sunnat could sense the warm, communal contacts among his neighbors. But he could not join and meaningfully communicate with them in prison life.
Many of the detainees were able to learn English and Arabic while in the prison. However, Sunnat did not seem to have the skill to learn more than a rudimentary level of either language. Nonverbal communication forms, such as hand signs and facial expressions, did not substitute for meaningful conversations.
There were only a half-dozen Uzbek detainees in the prison, and they were never housed near him. Nor were any of the 22 Uighur detainees, who spoke a similar language to his, placed in neighboring cells. Sunnat lived inside the prison, but outside the prison community. For his eight years in Guantánamo, he lived alone.
Sunnat was not physically separated from other prisoners. He was not held in solitary confinement. Rather, he was socially isolated. He was denied meaningful conversations with others—conversations that would have allowed him to express his humanity. Imagine a stroke victim who sees the community of conversations around him but cannot participate. For eight years, although surrounded by people, Sunnat lived on his own island.
Because the United States government concluded that he was not a threat, Sunnat was not able to meet with a government interrogator or interpreter. Having access to an interpreter would have provided him with something approaching a regular conversation. In a cruel irony, he suffered further punishment because he was never charged with a crime. It was only in his later years, when he was represented by an attorney who brought along an interpreter, that he met anyone who spoke his language. Unfortunately, the attorney visits were infrequent.
When we asked him how he coped with his powerful sense of loneliness during those years in Guantánamo, he replied in his quiet and shy manner: “I cried, and then I felt better.”
A prisoner who is linguistically isolated suffers beyond the absence of meaningful conversations and the feeling of always being alone. He can also suffer at the hands of the prison guards and officials because of his inability to speak and understand the prison language. As we would expect, guards sometimes become frustrated, angry, and even abusive with detainees who do not speak the language of the prison, and were thus unable to understand requests, inquiries, commands, and directions. This can be especially problematic in emergencies, such as hurricanes, fires, or earthquakes.
In addition, detainees who do not know the prison language might violate rules unknowingly, and consequently suffer further serious consequences, including beatings. If such prisoners are abused and beaten by guards, or even by other prisoners, they cannot verbally articulate in the prison language what happened. Nor can they describe any physical conditions resulting from the beatings and abuse, or any other medical issues.
Sunnat was finally released to Latvia in 2010. He spoke a broken Russian language, fortunately, and was able to meet people in his Russian Muslim community, find work, and begin building a family.
Sunnat was not the only detainee who was linguistically isolated. Two habeas attorneys described to us the linguistic isolation of several Pakistani detainees who spoke only Urdu. Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez and habeas attorney David Remes told us how their Urdu-speaking clients were isolated when the military placed them in cells near only Arabic speakers.
Gutierrez believed that the isolation of the Urdu prisoners was purposeful. They were deliberately housed among speakers of only English and Arabic. “Language is a way to isolate someone,” she explained. “They might as well be alone.” I asked her to reconfirm that she thought it was deliberate.
“Absolutely. It is artfully manipulating their environment to be unable to communicate,” she said.
Mohammed Jawad, a juvenile when he was captured in Afghanistan and transported to Guantánamo, was accused of throwing a grenade at an American military convoy in Afghanistan in December 2002. As mentioned previously, while in the detention center, Jawad had been subjected to the military’s frequent-flyer treatment, in which detainees were moved from cell to cell every two to three hours for several weeks.
During Jawad’s military commission hearing, David Frakt, his military defense counsel, asked witness Jason Orlich, an army major, about the sleep deprivation tactics used on Jawad. Among the questions Frakt asked was whether Jawad, who spoke Pashto, was also linguistically isolated.
Because it is a relatively new form of isolation, linguistic isolation warrants special attention and further study in the detention context.
Orlich admitted, “Linguistic segregation, yes—we divided the detainees up linguistically, which prevented them from communicating within the camp and organizing.”
When I asked Frakt to tell us more of this exchange at Jawad’s hearing, he said, “I saw several documents in discovery in the Jawad case that referred to linguistic isolation. . . . I saw some documents that referred to efforts to linguistically isolate people. . . . From what I learned, linguistic isolation was done to increase dependence on the interrogator as the only person the detainee could talk to, but also to limit communications in an effort to maintain good order and discipline in the camps.”
Frakt cited hunger strikes as a tactic the military wanted to prevent and said it would not want strike leaders to communicate with others who spoke the same language and thereby encourage them to join. Separating the leaders by language helped inhibit organizing among prisoners. To Frakt, linguistic isolation was a form of control as well as punishment.
When we met Sunnat, he did not seem to be a leader who could threaten the military’s control of the prison population. Nor did Sunnat seem to be someone who would join a hunger strike and protest conditions in the detention center. In fact, the US quickly determined that he was not a threat.
It is possible that the military placed Sunnat and other detainees in whatever cells were available at the time, with no thought of the consequences regarding language and communication issues with other prisoners. But given what Orlich said to Frakt, it is difficult to imagine that the military did not act deliberately or was not fully aware of the effects and consequences of how detainees were housed.
Ayub Mohammed, who was separated from his Uighur countrymen in the prison, told us another story of coping in linguistic isolation. He had been housed among neighbors who did not speak his language or know of his unique culture as a Muslim in a country that had been seized by the Chinese government.
In the hope of being moved to a different cell, closer to his countrymen, Ayub Mohammed said that he deliberately caused a problem in his cell knowing that he would be “ERFed.” ERFing, as described earlier, is a brutal cell-extraction procedure in which six guards storm a cell, mace the detainee, and severely beat him. Afterward the guards usually move the detainee to an isolation cell in another part of the camp. Mohammed hoped that when he was returned to the general prison population after isolation, officials might place him in a cell closer to other Uighurs. His plan worked.
Isolation by language differs with each individual. Someone who is able to learn languages with little effort will have an easier time in the prison. We interviewed a number of detainees who spoke no English when they arrived in Guantánamo but had the facility to learn English quickly. In those situations, perhaps only some months or a year passed before a prisoner was able to have meaningful contacts with other inmates. Nevertheless, that inmate would have suffered linguistic isolation for some period of time. Future researchers will need to determine whether the time frame for long-term effects of linguistic isolation mirrors the time frame for long-term effects of physical isolation.
Because it is a relatively new form of isolation, linguistic isolation warrants special attention and further study in the detention context. Linguistic isolation can be as pernicious as other types of isolation. Human rights experts have recognized physical isolation as torture or cruel treatment. Isolation by language should be similarly recognized.
Excerpted from A Place Outside the Law: Forgotten Voices from Guantánamo by Peter Jan Honigsberg. Copyright 2019. Excerpted with permission by Beacon Press.
Will Guantánamo Ever Be Shut Down?
Twelve years ago, I had other expectations. I envisioned a writing project that I had no doubt would be part of my future: an account of Guantánamo’s last 100 days. I expected to narrate in reverse, the episodes in a book I had just published, The Least Worst Place: Guantánamo’s First 100 Days, about — well, the title makes it all too obvious — the initial days at that grim offshore prison. They began on January 11, 2002, as the first hooded prisoners of the American war on terror were ushered off a plane at that American military base on the island of Cuba.
Needless to say, I never did write that book. Sadly enough, in the intervening years, there were few signs on the horizon of an imminent closing of that U.S. military prison. Weeks before my book was published in February 2009, President Barack Obama did, in fact, promise to close Guantánamo by the end of his first year in the White House. That hope began to unravel with remarkable speed. By the end of his presidency, his administration had, in fact, managed to release 197 of the prisoners held there without charges — many, including Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the subject of the film The Mauritanian, had also been tortured — but 41 remained, including the five men accused but not yet tried for plotting the 9/11 attacks. Forty remain there to this very day.
Nearly 20 years after it began, the war in Afghanistan that launched this country’s Global War on Terror and the indefinite detention of prisoners in that facility offshore of American justice is now actually slated to end. President Biden recently insistedthat it is indeed “time to end America’s longest war” and announced that all American troops would be withdrawn from that country by September 11th, the 20th anniversary of al-Qaeda’s attack on the United States.
It makes sense, of course, that the conclusion of those hostilities would indeed be tied to the closure of the now-notorious Guantánamo Bay detention facility. Unfortunately, for reasons that go back to the very origins of the war on terror, ending the Afghan part of this country’s “forever wars” may not presage the release of those “forever prisoners,” as New York Times reporter Carol Rosenberg so aptly labeled them years ago.
Biden and Guantánamo
Just as President Biden has a history, dating back to his years as Obama’s vice-president, of wanting to curtail the American presence in Afghanistan, so he called years ago for the closure of Guantánamo. As early as June 2005, then-Senator Biden expressed his desire to shut that facility, seeing it as a stain on this country’s reputation abroad.
At the time, he proposed that an independent commission take a look at Guantánamo Bay and make recommendations as to its future. “But,” he said then, “I think we should end up shutting it down, moving those prisoners. Those that we have reason to keep, keep. And those we don’t, let go.” Sixteen years later, he has indeed put in motion an interagency review to look into that detention facility’s closing. Hopefully, once he receives its report, his administration can indeed begin to shut the notorious island prison down. (And this time, it could even work.)
It’s true that, in 2021, the idea of shutting the gates on Guantánamo has garnered some unprecedented mainstream support. As part of his confirmation process, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, for instance, signaled his support for its closure. And Congress, long unwilling to lend a hand, has offered some support as well. On April 16th, 24 Democratic senators signed a letter to the president calling that facility a “symbol of lawlessness and human rights abuses” that “continues to harm U.S. national security” and demanding that it be shut.
“For nearly two decades, the offshore prison has damaged America’s reputation, fueled anti-Muslim bigotry, and weakened the United States’ ability to counter terrorism and fight for human rights and the rule of law around the world. In addition to the $540 million in wasted taxpayer dollars each year to maintain and operate the facility, the prison also comes at the price of justice for the victims of 9/11 and their families, who are still waiting for trials to begin.”
Admittedly, the number of signatories on that letter raises many questions, including why there aren’t more (and why there isn’t a single Republican among them). Is it just a matter of refusing to give up old habits or does it reflect a lack of desire to address an issue long out of the headlines? Where, for example, was Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s name, not to mention those other 25 missing Democratic senatorial signatures?
And there’s another disappointment lurking in its text. While those senators correctly demanded a reversal of the Trump administration’s “erroneous and troubling legal positions” regarding the application of international and domestic law to Guantánamo, they failed to expand upon the larger context of that forever nightmare of imprisonment, lawlessness, and cruelty that affected the war-on-terror prisoners at Guantánamo as well as at the CIA’s “black sites” around the world.
Still, that stance by those two-dozen senators is significant, since Congress has, in the past, taken such weak positions on closing the prison. As such, it provides some hope for the future.
For the rest of Congress and the rest of us, when thinking about finally putting Guantánamo in the history books, it’s important to remember just what a vast deviation it proved to be from the law, justice, and the norms of this society. It’s also worth thinking about the American “detainees” there in the context of what normally happens when wars end.
Prisoners of War
Defying custom and law, the American war in Afghanistan broke through norms like a battering ram through a gossamer wall. Guantánamo was created in just that context, a one-of-a-kind institution for this country. Now, so many years later, it’s poised to break through yet another norm.
Usually, at the end of hostilities, battlefield detainees are let go. As Geneva Convention III, the law governing the detention and treatment of prisoners of war, asserts: “Prisoners of war shall be released and repatriated without delay after the cessation of active hostilities.”
That custom of releasing prisoners has, in practice, pertained not only to those held on or near the battlefield but even to those detained far from the conflict. Before the Geneva Conventions were created, the custom of releasing such prisoners was already in place in the United States. Notably, during World War II, the U.S. held 425,000 mostly German prisoners in more than 500 camps in this country. When the war ended, however, they were released and the vast majority of them were returned to their home countries.
When it comes to the closure of Guantánamo, however, we can’t count on such an ending. Two war-on-terror realities stand in the way of linking the coming end of hostilities in Afghanistan to the shutting down of that prison. First, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Congress passed right after the 9/11 attacks was not geographically defined or limited to the war in Afghanistan. It focused on but was not confined to two groups, the Taliban and al-Qaeda, as well as anyone else who had contributed to the attacks of 9/11. As such, it was used as well to authorize military engagements — and the capture of prisoners — outside Afghanistan. Since 2001, in fact, it has been cited to authorize the use of force in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.Of the 780 prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay at one time or another, more than a third came from Afghanistan the remaining two-thirds were from 48 other countries.
A second potential loophole exists when it comes to the release of prisoners as that war ends. The administration of George W. Bush rejected the very notion that those held at Guantánamo were prisoners of war, no matter how or where they had been captured. As non-state actors, according to that administration, they were exempted from prisoner of war status, which is why they were deliberately labeled “detainees.”
Little wonder then that, despite Secretary of Defense Austin’s position on Guantánamo, as the New York Times recently reported, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby “argued that there was no direct link between its future and the coming end to what he called the ‘mission’ in Afghanistan.”
In fact, even if that congressional authorization for war and the opening of Guantánamo on which it was based never were solely linked to the conflict in Afghanistan, it’s time, almost two decades later, to put an end to that quagmire of a prison camp and the staggering exceptions that it’s woven into this country’s laws and norms since 2002.
A “Forever Prison”?
The closing of Guantánamo would finally signal an end to the otherwise endless proliferation of exceptions to the laws of war as well as to U.S. domestic and military legal codes. As early as June 2004, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor flagged the possibility that a system of indefinite detention at Guantánamo could create a permanent state of endless legal exceptionalism.
She wrote an opinion that month in a habeas corpus case for the release of a Guantánamo detainee, the dual U.S.-Saudi citizen Yaser Hamdi, warning that the prospect of turning that military prison into a never-ending exception to wartime detention and its laws posed dangers all its own. As she put it, “We understand Congress’ grant of authority for the use of ‘necessary and appropriate force’ to include the authority to detain for the duration of the relevant conflict, and our understanding is based on longstanding law-of-war principles.” She also acknowledged that, “If the practical circumstances of a given conflict are entirely unlike those of the conflicts that informed the development of the law of war, that [the] understanding [of release upon the end of hostilities] may unravel. But,” she concluded, “that is not the situation we face as of this date.”
Sadly enough, 17 years later, it turns out that the detention authority may be poised to outlive the use of force. Guantánamo has become an American institution at the cost of $13 million per prisoner annually. The system of offshore injustice has, by now, become part and parcel of the American system of justice — our very own “forever prison.”
The difficulty of closing Guantánamo has shown that once you move outside the laws and norms of this country in a significant way, the return to normalcy becomes ever more problematic — and the longer the exception, the harder such a restoration will be. Remember that, before his presidency was over, George W. Bush went on record acknowledging his preference for closing Guantánamo. Obama made it a goal of his presidency from the outset. Biden, with less fanfare and the lessons of their failures in mind, faces the challenge of finally closing America’s forever prison.
With all that in mind, let me offer you a positive twist on this seemingly never-ending situation. I won’t be surprised if, in fact, President Biden actually does manage to close Guantánamo. He may not do so as a result of the withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan, but because he seems to have a genuine urge to shut the books on the war on terror, or at least the chapter of it initiated on 9/11.
And if he were also to shut down that prison, in the spirit of that letter from the Democratic senators, it would be because of Guantánamo’s gross violations of American laws and norms. While the letter did not go so far as to name the larger war-on-terror sins of the past, it did at least draw attention directly to the wrongfulness of indefinite detention as a system created expressly to evade the law — and one that brought ill-repute to the United States globally.
That closure should certainly happen under President Biden. After all, any other course is not only legally unacceptable, but risks perpetuating the idea that this country continues to distrust the principles of law, human rights, and due process – indeed, the very fundamentals of a democratic system.