As part of my ongoing project to record the stories of all the prisoners held at Guantánamo, I’ve just posted the tenth of 12 additional online chapters supplementing my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, and available from Amazon here and here). This additional chapter complements Chapter 13 of The Guantánamo Files, looking at the stories of 12 prisoners not mentioned in the book, either because their stories were not available at the time of writing, or to keep the book at a manageable length.
With just two more online chapters to complete (hopefully in the coming week), the mission I set myself three years ago — to record the stories of all the prisoners in Guantánamo — is now within reach, and will be followed by the first definitive prisoner list, identifying not only those who are still held, and those who have been released (and the dates they were released), but also those who have been cleared for release, whose plight is one of the major stumbling blocks to Barack Obama’s promise to close Guantánamo within a year, as the majority of these prisoners cannot be repatriated because of fears that they will be tortured in their home countries.
This tenth chapter encapsulates many of the ongoing problems at Guantánamo in its eighth year of existence. Although three of the 12 prisoners discussed have been released, one returned to Tunisia to face ill-treatment and a jail sentence following a corrupt show trial. In addition, three other prisoners are amongst those who have been cleared but cannot be repatriated, and the other six demonstrate some of the fundamental problems with the government’s evidence that have plagued many other prisoners, as claims of their involvement with terrorism rub up against other exculpatory material, with no clear indication as to which sources are the most trustworthy.
However, based on a close examination of the government’s allegations over the last three years, my conclusion, as I explain in the introduction to this online chapter, is that the majority of the supposed evidence consists primarily of dubious allegations made by other prisoners, which, as Judge Richard Leon recently demonstrated in two sets of habeas corpus cases, does not stand up to any kind of independent scrutiny. Rather than indicating terrorist involvement, as intended, these allegations tend, instead, to demonstrate “how the Bush administration tried to build cases against prisoners based not on evidence that led to their capture but on interrogations — often in deeply unpleasant circumstances — that were designed to justify rounding them up in the first place.”
Note: See the column on the left for the first nine online chapters, and the last two.
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Great. First we put our captives in a pressure cooker and then punish them when they succumb to the laws of physics. Disgusting methods. It’s so desperately wrong to have treated men like this, men that have never harmed us, who may have even admired the United States and aspired to be part of what is best about us.
Whatever we can do to restore the luster to their eyes, to make erect their posture, to help them regain and even surpass their own visions of themselves as men in a world that doesn’t hate and scorn them, we must immediately do. Every single day that goes by in which we abandon them to their reduced spiritual circumstances contributes to the further erosion of any sense of confidence and possibility about how to go on enduring their lives in prison. And worse, it confounds their ability to envision themselves as free, upright, and desired members of any human society.
The government of the United States must declare its intention to the men in a direct and completely unambiguous way. So that these men, beloved members of our human community, can begin to dream new dreams, dreams of wholeness and even heroism.
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Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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