I hope you have time to read my latest article for Al-Jazeera, “Guantánamo Forever,” and to like, share and tweet it if you find it useful. It covers the Periodic Review Boards (PRBs) at Guantánamo, convened to assess whether 46 prisoners designated for indefinite detention without charge or trial by the inter-agency task force that President Obama established after taking office in 2009, or 25 others designated for prosecution by the task force, should continue to be held without charge or trial, or whether they should be recommended for release — even if, ironically, that only means that they get to join the list of 76 other cleared prisoners who are still held. The review boards began in November, and have, to date, reviewed just three of the 71 cases they were set up to review. The fourth, reviewing the case of Ghaleb al-Bihani, a Yemeni, takes place on April 8.
The number of prisoners cleared for release (76) includes the first prisoner to have his case reviewed by a Periodic Review Board, which recommended his release in January, although my Al-Jazeera article is my response to the most recent activity by the review boards — the decision taken on March 5 to continue holding, without charge or trial, a Yemeni prisoner, Abdel Malik al-Rahabi, who has been at Guantánamo for over 12 years, and the review of Ali Ahmad al-Razihi, the third prisoner to have his ongoing detention reviewed, which took place at the end of March.
In the article I explain that the decision to continue holding Abdel Malik al-Rahabi, taken by representatives of the Departments of State, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is a disgrace.
The most important reason why the decision is a disgrace is because the information analyzed by the board members is, as I explain in the article, profoundly unreliable, consisting primarily of statements made by prisoners who were subjected to torture in CIA “black sites” — or, in one notorious case, to a specifically tailored torture program in Guantánamo itself — and, in one other case, by a prisoner, now released, who, while regarded by some officials as an important informant, was better known as the most prolifically unreliable witness at Guantánamo, whose unreliability had been noted by other officials. These officials had warned against relying on any information he provided, and his unreliability had subsequently been cited by judges reviewing prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions.
Please read the article to find out more about these unreliable witnesses, as it is deeply troubling that the representatives of the US government departments who are reviewing the cases of these men show no sign of recognizing the profound unreliability of the supposed evidence — something that, for the most part, the mainstream media has also shown little interest in analyzing, even though the failure to do so helps to maintain the illusion that there is something resembling justice at Guantánamo, when there is not.
Note: Please also see my previous article for Al-Jazeera about the Periodic Review Boards, entitled, “Guantánamo’s secretive review boards,” and also see my other recent articles about the review boards, “Indefinitely Detained Guantánamo Prisoner Asks Review Board to Recommend His Release” and “Guantánamo, Where Unsubstantiated Suspicion of Terrorism Ensures Indefinite Detention, Even After 12 Years.”
POSTSCRIPT: On November 5, 2014, al-Rahabi had a second PRB, where the panel recommended his release. See the review page here.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and 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. 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).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
If I’ve seemed quiet the last week, my friends, it’s because I’m in Mexico for a family wedding – and staying on for a family holiday. I posted a few brief messages before I left last Sunday, but I realize that many of you may not have seen them. I’ll be posting another Guantanamo-related article soon, but obviously I’m not going to be online very much until I get back to the UK in two weeks.
On Facebook, Toia Tutta Jung wrote:
Enjoy your holiday, Andy, you can be sure that I´m reading your articles and following your posts – just not commenting that much lately.
Thanks, Toia. Great to hear from you. I’m in Cholula for the wedding, which is in a few hours’ time, after a few days in Mexico City. It’s very hot, and the altitude – we’re at 2000 meters – is unexpectedly difficult to cope with, which wasn’t something I’d considered in advance. I don’t feel like I’m thinking quite as clearly as usual!
Toia Tutta Jung wrote:
One more good reason to enjoy your holiday and forget about work. Take it easy, I´ve been in such state, I think caution would be the appropriate word here.
Yes, it’s impossible to do too much, Toia, so a certain amount of relaxation is inevitable!
Musa Adams wrote:
I think they are afraid these men will seek their revenge once they let them out, so this is why they are possibly going to try to keep them detained for the rest of their lives.. Allah knows best!
I mean, what would you want to do to a bunch of evil sods who kidnapped you, kept you detained in horrid conditions and then tortured you every day and all when you know you are innocent?
If they ever do release these men then it will probably be when they are all old and have no energy left..!
Thanks for your thoughts, Musa. The fear of what these men might do because of what the US has done to them is certainly what motivates some of those in the US with power and responsibility to keep holding them, even though that kind of attitude has no precedent. It doesn’t happen with PoWs, and it doesn’t happen with convicted criminals at the end of their sentences in the US prison system. Moreover, as Americans should realize, in the cases of the cleared prisoners, it’s more damaging for America’s reputation to keep holding prisoners a high-level task force said should no longer be held over four years ago than it is to release them. They are not, after all, people accused of major acts of terrorism; they are merely – at most – former Taliban foot soldiers.
In addition, the fear of recidivism angle is not the whole story. Many of the Republicans – and perhaps some of the Democrats – who have been working to keep Guantanamo open are also driven by their love of a facility where they can hold people without having to justify why they’re doing so. First they came for the Muslims …
Hope you’re having a great time in Mexico on your well-deserved break, Andy!
And yes, Martin Niemoller is pretty much always a perfect reference to all things GTMO and “war on terror.” It didn’t take long to see how little it would take before a complete Orwellian apparatus would emerge, with barely a peep. And of course, as long as the current “strongman” is an alleged “liberal Democrat,” good old “team player” “progressives” will nary say a word (though Heaven portend had George W. Bush, or John McCain, or Mitt Romney continued these very same policies.)
And yes– the motivation to keep it all open and ongoing– which is charmingly bipartisan at this point (assuming one incorrectly believes that the United States actually has two different political parties, as opposed to two slightly rhetorically different factions of the Green [as in money] Party)– is entirely political. It has many, many benefits to those in power: (1) as you note, GTMO is a most useful demonstration project for arbitrary, extra-legal detention, (2) it’s a sop to those who actually feel afraid of all things foreign in general (and Muslim men in particular, whether “innocent” or otherwise), (3) it’s an “in your face” to the post-World War II international legal framework (which “limited” American unilateral action, at least on paper), (4) it’s a sort of “victory party” for the war on terror– after all, we captured somebody, even if it wasn’t OBL (conveniently liquidated) or al-Zawahari that ended up there, and of course, (5) it’s a basis for “swift justice” that, at over a dozen years on, is neither swift nor justice for the alleged 9-11 masterminds. I assume there are other useful political benefits to keeping it open (especially in domestic terms) and very little political upside to closing it. And hence…
I do wonder how all this will play now that it seems we have always been at [Cold] war with [North] Eurasia [again], and the war against some terrorists (who the US of A appears to have outright employed in Libya and are at least helping out in Syria) has quietly shut down. I’m guessing that things will continue as they are, unless and until there is a great outcry to change it.
Thanks, TD. Great to hear from you. I am indeed having a wonderful time in Mexico, on what I am prepared to accept is a well-deserved break. Much to discuss when next we meet!
Thanks for your thoughts. I am glad you understand the dark absurdity of the review process for the “forever prisoners,” as the New York Times at least has the decency to allow them to be described. Sadly, far too many people are failing to notice that anything is happening – or not happening – at Guantanamo after 12 years and three months, and your checklist of reasons why the prison is still open is, unfortunately, all too accurate.
Thanks for your great Work, history will remember you… as couragous man…
Greetings from France…
One day we will win,
Thanks, Wisam, for the supportive words. Great to hear from you.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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