In the six months following the opening of the Bush administration’s cruel and lawless “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on January 11, 2002, twelve Kuwaitis joined the hundreds of other “detainees” deprived of their rights as “enemy combatants.” In Guantánamo, these men were subjected to torture and abuse that was supposedly designed to produce “actionable intelligence,” but that, in reality, was a house of cards constructed of false statements made under duress — not only in Guantanamo, but also in other “war on terror” prisons, including those where “high-value detainees” were held and tortured — or made by those who, having had enough of the abuse, volunteered false statements in exchange for better living conditions. (For more, see “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” my ongoing analysis of the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011).
Of the twelve Kuwaitis, ten were eventually released, between 2005 and 2009, but two remain — Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah. Both men are victims of the false statements that plague the government’s supposed evidence, as I have repeatedly reported (see here, here and here, for example), but they are also victims of the legal fallout of the “war on terror”; namely, the limited opportunities for a review of their cases, through their habeas corpus petitions, which they and the other prisoners struggled to secure for many years.
Although the Guantánamo prisoners secured major victories in the Supreme Court in 2004 and 2008, when they were granted habeas corpus rights, the impact of those rulings has suffered from imprecise terms of reference, from an all-out assault by right-wing judges in the court of appeals in Washington D.C., who have conspired to gut habeas corpus of all meaning for the Guantánamo prisoners, and, most recently, through the complete indifference of the Supreme Court, which has refused to wrest control from the Circuit Court judges. Despite the absence of evidence against them, both Fayiz and Fawzi had their habeas petitions turned down (see here and here).
In February, as part of the ongoing campaign to secure the release of Fayiz and Fawzi, I traveled to Kuwait to take part in events designed to raise awareness of their plight (see the TV program here, for example, which I took part in with the attorney Tom Wilner, my colleague in the “Close Guantánamo” campaign), and also to meet with lawyers, with former prisoners, with the journalist Jenifer Fenton, and with members of the remaining prisoners’ families.
The photo set above, posted as part of my recently established Flickr account, shows some of these events, as well as capturing my impressions of Kuwait, in my first-ever visit not only to Kuwait, but to any of the Gulf countries. Further information can be found in the articles I wrote at the time, In Kuwait, Looking for American Justice — and Showing “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” on Alrai TV and After a Wonderful Visit to Kuwait, New Plans to Close Guantánamo and to Free the Last Two Kuwaiti Prisoners.
In the days to come, I will be posting more photos, including some which will be part of an article on the rehabilitation center constructed for the former Guantánamo prisoners, which I visited during my trip in February. For now, however, I am glad to have the opportunity to shine a brief light back on the cases of Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah, because, as was reported last week, the long-standing military charges against Fayiz — who, ludicrously, was put forward for a trial by Military Commission under President Bush, in 2008, despite there being no evidence against him — were dropped by the Retired Admiral Bruce MacDonald, the Convening Authority for the Military Commissions, last week.
This caused a flutter of interest in the mainstream media, and is noteworthy because it probably signifies that the Pentagon has concluded that there is no case against al-Kandari that it can reasonably pursue, but it does not mean, as some sources appeared to suggest, that preparations are underway for his release. If anything, it does the opposite, consigning him to indefinite detention without any opportunity to even argue his case, which is why publicizing his story — and that of Fawzi al-Odah — remains of fundamental importance.
The day before the charges against Fayiz al-Kandari were dropped, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the US, Sheikh Salem Abdullah al-Jaber al-Sabah said that a Kuwaiti delegation had “held official talks with US officials where they discussed the release of the two Kuwaiti detainees,” as KUNA, the Kuwait News Agency, explained. He added that “the meeting was part of a series of other meetings that were held, and will be hold in the upcoming weeks with the Americans,” and that the talks “follow the directives of His Highness the Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah to find a quick solution to bring back the detainees to their homeland as soon as possible.” The Ambassador also asserted that “the file of the Kuwaiti detainees in Guantánamo Bay prison has been a top priority for both the Kuwaiti and US governments.”
The extent of the problems still facing campaigners was, however, clear from the words of a US official who spoke to Reuters anonymously. He “confirmed that a Kuwaiti team had recently visited Washington to discuss the matter but suggested the talks would be long and challenging,” as Reuters put it. In his own words, he said, “There are a great number of obstacles and this will be a lengthy and difficult process. We are aware that they want them back. Because of legal restrictions and our own view of these people, this will be a protracted and difficult process.”
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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Jennah Solace wrote:
One word came to mind — opulent! Wow. Love the photos
Thanks, Jennah. That’s very good to hear.
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