A Teenage Refugee Freed From Guantánamo And Released In Ireland

29.9.09

Composite image by ABC NewsOn Sunday, following the revelation of the identity of one of two Uzbeks released from Guantánamo to take up a new life in the Republic of Ireland, I published a letter from Guantánamo written by this man, Oybek Jabbarov, and also included a statement by his lawyer, Michael J. Mone Jr., to a Committee of the US House of Representatives, in which Mone explained that Jabbarov was a refugee, living in northern Afghanistan with his pregnant wife, infant son, elderly mother and other Uzbek refugees at the time of the US-led invasion in October 2001, and that he ended up in US hands “after he accepted a ride from a group of Northern Alliance soldiers he met at a roadside teahouse who said they would give him a ride to Mazar-e-Sharif. Unfortunately, instead of driving him to Mazar-e-Sharif, the soldiers took Oybek to Bagram Air Base where they handed him over to US forces, undoubtedly in exchange for a sizeable bounty.”

Yesterday, the Irish Times revealed the identity of the second man, and although I respect his desire for privacy, and the chance to begin rebuilding his life after his long ordeal, as much as I recognize Oybek Jabbarov’s right to the same courtesies, I believe that, as with his countryman, it is useful to point out what is known of his story, as it is yet another example of an innocent man losing nearly eight years of his life in a cruel and experimental prison designed to hold human beings without any rights whatsoever.

As I explained in my article on Oybek Jabbarov, men like these two Uzbeks, just two of the many hundreds of innocent men who have been held in Guantánamo over the last seven years and nine months, were “mostly seized by the Americans’ opportunistic allies at a time when bounty payments for ‘al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects’ were widespread, and were then presumed guilty without any screening process by an administration drunk on its own exercise of unfettered executive power.”

The story of Shakhrukh Hamiduva

Unlike Oybek Jabbarov, whose lawyer fought tenaciously to establish his client’s innocence, and actively courted the media, Shakhrukh Hamiduva, the other man freed in Ireland, did not register on the media’s radar during his detention, although I mentioned him in my book The Guantánamo Files. Nevertheless, his story — as accepted by a military review board that cleared him for release from Guantánamo in 2006 — bears striking similarities to that of his fellow countryman: a vulnerable refugee, preyed upon by unscrupulous Afghans following the US-led invasion, when substantial bounty payments were on offer for foreigners who could be presented to gullible US forces as “al-Qaeda or Taliban suspects.”

All that is known publicly of Shakhrukh Hamiduva is that he was born in Kokand, Uzbekistan in December 1983 (and that he was, therefore, probably under 18 years of age at the time of his capture), that he was one of the first prisoners to arrive at Guantánamo in January 2002, and that he gave the following account in December 2004 to his Combatant Status Review Tribunal (the one-sided military boards established to review — and largely endorse — the administration’s contention that everyone who had ended up in US custody was an “enemy combatant” who could be held without rights).

In his tribunal, Hamiduva explained that he left Uzbekistan because of religious persecution, and added that his father and five uncles had been jailed, and that another uncle had been killed. Nevertheless, he had to contend with a number of allegations whose provenance was not disclosed, but which were almost certainly produced as a result of the interrogations of other prisoners (or of Hamiduva himself), in circumstances that may well have involved coercion or bribery. One allegation was that he had spent a year and a half in a training camp run by the Islamic Movement of Tajikistan, but he explained that he had spent that time at a refugee camp, which contained around 300 refugees. He also denied an allegation that he “willingly became a soldier in the Mujahideen Army,” and that he traveled to Afghanistan to “participate in jihad against the Russians and the Northern Alliance.”

In a statement provided to his Personal Representative (a military officer assigned to the prisoners for the tribunals instead of a lawyer), he explained that he had initially wanted to go to Turkey, but that he couldn’t get a passport because he was too young, so he decided to work with the Tajik authorities at the refugee camp instead. This, he said, involved helping the refugees, and he added that the Tajik government then provided transportation to take him and other refugees to Afghanistan (actually deporting them, as they did with hundreds of Uzbek refugees in 1999, including Oybek Jabbarov and his family), where he helped some of them “to fix up things like cars or roofs” at a place in Kabul. He also explained that, after five or six months, he hooked up with an Afghan “mentor,” who owned a garage and taught him to drive, and added that, after working for him for a while, he bought a car and started to work as a taxi driver, which was his occupation when he was captured.

Speaking of his capture, he said that he went to the United Nations in Pakistan (as there was no office in Afghanistan) to get help in returning to Uzbekistan. “They promised me they would be able to help me and send me back to my homeland, but nothing would happen to me and that I would be protected,” he said. “He [a UN official, presumably] gave me a piece of paper. I guess it was some kind of travel document so I would be able to travel along with.”

He explained that, after this visit, he returned to Afghanistan in his car with five or six Afghans from Mazar-e-Sharif, and added that he didn’t want any money from them; he just wanted them to give him directions. However, in the mountains he was stopped by armed Afghans who let his passengers go, but who took his car and handed him over to “the American general” — probably General Rashid Dostum, the Afghan Uzbek warlord who was working with US forces — at Mazar-e-Sharif.

He also explained to the tribunal that he told the Americans his story, and added that they saw his travel document and promised him that they would help him get home, but, after keeping him imprisoned for a month “in some kind of house” with about 15 Pakistanis, they were all transferred to the US prison in Kandahar, and after about a month and a half he was sent to Guantánamo.

Speaking of the nearly three years he had spent in the prison by the time of his CSRT, he told his tribunal, “They said that they were through with me and promise[d] to send me back to my homeland, that’s why I’m confused. When they brought me here for interrogation, I didn’t want to talk a lot to them … They didn’t treat me well here, that is why I didn’t tell them anything.” He added, “I just want to let you know that they torture me a lot here at the camp. They would not let me sleep through the night; they were tak[ing] me to interrogations. I saw them beating other detainees, breaking their arms and legs.”

When the tribunal asked why he was wearing orange (which meant he was uncooperative, as, by 2004, white uniforms had been introduced for “cooperative” prisoners, and tan for those who were somewhere in between), he explained, “I know that there are four levels of discipline. Every time I try to go one level up, they will do something to keep you in the level. I know that there are a lot of detainees who don’t want to talk to the interrogators and no matter what you tell them they are not going to change your level or change your clothes for that matter. I know that a lot of people have been tortured here at the camp … When I don’t exercise I feel very weak, that [is] why I try to exercise inside my cell but MPs don’t like it. That is the only [way] I can keep myself healthy here is by doing some exercise because when you get sick you don’t get any appointments here so what should I do? Every prison detainee should be allowed to exercise; I don’t understand why they don’t allow us.”

As with the story of Oybek Jabbarov, this is a disturbing account on a number of levels. With such limited information available, I have no idea if Shakhrukh Hamiduva, like Jabbarov, was threatened by Uzbek intelligence agents who were allowed to visit Guantánamo (although it seems likely), but enough information is readily available to demonstrate, yet again, that the phrase “the worst of the worst,” as used by senior Bush administration officials to refer to the supposed terrorists in Guantánamo, is more accurately applied to the kind of mistakes made by the administration, which in its myopic arrogance, was more than happy to detain randomly seized foreigners in Afghanistan, and to deprive them of any rights, even if they were under 18 years old, and should, as juveniles, have been rehabilitated rather than being subjected to sleep deprivation, punished for trying to exercise in their cells, and forced to watch as other prisoners were beaten until they were hospitalized.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, and if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Cross-posted on Common Dreams and The Public Record.

See the following for articles about the 142 prisoners released from Guantánamo from June 2007 to January 2009, and the 14 prisoners released from February to August 2009, whose stories are covered in more detail than is available anywhere else –- either in print or on the Internet –- although many of them, of course, are also covered in The Guantánamo Files: June 2007 –- 2 Tunisians, 4 Yemenis (here, here and here); July 2007 –- 16 Saudis; August 2007 –- 1 Bahraini, 5 Afghans; September 2007 –- 16 Saudis; September 2007 –- 1 Mauritanian; September 2007 –- 1 Libyan, 1 Yemeni, 6 Afghans; November 2007 –- 3 Jordanians, 8 Afghans; November 2007 –- 14 Saudis; December 2007 –- 2 Sudanese; December 2007 –- 13 Afghans (here and here); December 2007 –- 3 British residents; December 2007 –- 10 Saudis; May 2008 –- 3 Sudanese, 1 Moroccan, 5 Afghans (here, here and here); July 2008 –- 2 Algerians; July 2008 –- 1 Qatari, 1 United Arab Emirati, 1 Afghan; August 2008 –- 2 Algerians; September 2008 –- 1 Pakistani, 2 Afghans (here and here); September 2008 –- 1 Sudanese, 1 Algerian; November 2008 –- 1 Kazakh, 1 Somali, 1 Tajik; November 2008 –- 2 Algerians; November 2008 –- 1 Yemeni (Salim Hamdan) repatriated to serve out the last month of his sentence; December 2008 –- 3 Bosnian Algerians; January 2009 –- 1 Afghan, 1 Algerian, 4 Iraqis; February 2009 — 1 British resident (Binyam Mohamed); May 2009 — 1 Bosnian Algerian (Lakhdar Boumediene); June 2009 — 1 Chadian (Mohammed El-Gharani), 4 Uighurs, 1 Iraqi, 3 Saudis (here and here), August 2009 — 1 Afghan (Mohamed Jawad), 2 Syrians to Portugal.

13 Responses

  1. Docmann says...

    All this is redolent of the activities of the Nazi Gestapo and the SS concentration camp staff. Immediately after WWII I was in a War Crimes Prosecution Team bringing those thugs to trial and execution. When are their successors in the C.I.A. and Guantanamo going to meet the same fate?

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    I don’t know, Docmann, although your experiences clearly provide the kind of historical perspective that is necessary to place this in context. Have you written anything about this?

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    After this article was published on The Public Record, artcticredriver wrote:

    I was hoping you would fill us in on these transfers Andy. Interestingly the NYTimes shows no record of his annual ARB hearings.

    Good luck to these two gentleman.

    I suspect that the generosity of Shakrukh’s mentor puzzled the American analysts. But there are Christians who are generous, and a minority of them are very generous, deciding to take years off to work on charitable projects, or make very generous donations to charities they like. It seems to me that just as some Christians feel a very serious obligation to be charitable, so do some Muslims.

    It is very unfortunate that there wasn’t any sanity checking of the allegations against the GWOT captives.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    And this was my reply:

    That’s very interesting, arcticredriver. I hadn’t checked, as I’d presumed that he’d been cleared for release after the first round of the annual Administrative Review Boards (ARBs ) that followed the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs), but I now recall that I didn’t know what had happened to him for some time, as he disappeared off the system after the CSRTs. It may mean — although I thought I’d checked all the records — that he was actually the last of the 58 prisoners cleared after the CSRTs (when they were known, at the very beginning, as NECs – not enemy combatants – until the administration realized that it suggested they were innocent and changed it to NLECs – no longer enemy combatants), but at the very least it means that he was cleared as long ago as 2005, and has been waiting for at least four and a half years to be released. What a disgrace!

  5. 75 Guantánamo Prisoners Cleared For Release; 31 Could Leave Today by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] was repatriated five months after a judge ordered his release, and two Uzbeks, Oybek Jabbarov and Shakhrukh Hamiduva, cleared by military review boards under the Bush administration, who were sent to Ireland), but [...]

  6. An Evening with Andy Worthington: “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo” « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] who are in a similar predicament, and that, although a few European countries have taken a handful of these men — and the administration has managed to dispose of ten of the remaining Uighurs in [...]

  7. Obama’s Failure To Close Guantánamo By January Deadline Is Disastrous by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] Uzbekistan — cannot be repatriated. European countries have so far accepted a handful of cleared prisoners, but a major stumbling block to the acceptance of others has been the Americans’ refusal to [...]

  8. Four Men Leave Guantánamo; Two Face Ill-Defined Trials In Italy by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] He added, however, that, in common with the other releases in Europe in recent months (in Portugal, Ireland and Belgium), the government had decided “not to disclose the identity of the former prisoner, [...]

  9. Four Men Leave Guantánamo; Two Face Ill-Defined Trials In Italy « freedetainees.org says...

    [...] He added, however, that, in common with the other releases in Europe in recent months (in Portugal, Ireland and Belgium), the government had decided “not to disclose the identity of the former prisoner, [...]

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    [...] the people of the United States accept that it is not enough for Belgium, Bermuda, France, Hungary, Ireland, Palau and Portugal to take the odd cleared prisoner as a favor to President Obama, and for the US [...]

  11. Who Is the Palestinian Released from Guantánamo in Spain? « freedetainees.org says...

    [...] was not unusual. Although the identities of two Algerians released in France last year, and two Uzbeks released in Ireland had been publicly revealed (as, by accident, had the identities of two Syrians [...]

  12. More Dark Truths From Guantanamo as Five Innocent Men Released « freedetainees.org says...

    [...] in a distinguished club that also includes Albania, Belgium, Bermuda, France and Hungary, Ireland, Palau, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain. These countries have all shown up the US and other European [...]

  13. WikiLeaks And The 22 Children Of Guantanamo says...

    [...] December 1983, probably seized in November 2001 (aged 17), released September 2009 in Ireland. He stated that he left Uzbekistan because of religious persecution, lived in a refugee camp in Tajikistan for [...]

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