Getting out of Guantánamo is such a feat these days (with just three men released in the last 18 months) that it is remarkable that Ibrahim al-Qosi, a Sudanese prisoner who agreed to a plea deal at his war crimes trial in Guantánamo in July 2010, guaranteeing that he would be freed after two years, has been repatriated as promised. 168 prisoners now remain in Guantánamo.
With a typical disregard for the principle that a prisoner — any prisoner — must be freed when their sentence comes to an end, the US has maintained, since the “war on terror” began nearly 11 years ago, that prisoners at Guantánamo can continue to be held after their sentence has come to an end, and be returned to the general population as “enemy combatants,” even though President Bush failed to do this when he had the opportunity — with Salim Hamdan, a driver for Osama bin Laden who was freed after serving a five-month sentence handed down after his military trial in 2008.
A source with knowledge of al-Qosi’s case, who does not wish to be identified, told me that the Obama administration was unwilling to detain al-Qosi after his sentence came to an end, and I believe that one of the reasons that the President negotiated a waiver to the provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act, allowing him to bypass restrictions on releasing prisoners that were imposed by Congress, was to prevent Republicans from trying to force him to continue holding al-Qosi. Read the rest of this entry »
When I began researching and writing about Guantánamo, nearly six years ago, one of the stories that seized my attention was that of Mohammed El-Gharani, a Chadian national, who had grown up with his parents in Saudi Arabia, and, after traveling to Pakistan to study, had been picked up in a random raid on a mosque in Karachi — many hundreds of miles from the battlefields of Afghanistan — when he was just 14 years of age. I included his story in my book, The Guantánamo Files, and also introduced him to readers in my April 2008 article, “Guantánamo’s forgotten child: the sad story of Mohammed El-Gharani.”
Mohammed was horribly abused in US custody, and was never held separately from the adult prisoners, even though that is a requirement of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which the US ratified a year after his capture. The Optional Protocol also requires its signatories to promote “the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict,” and not to punish them — but in fact just three of the 22 confirmed juvenile prisoners held at Guantánamo (those under 18 when their alleged crimes took place) were ever held separately from the rest of the prisoners, and treated humanely.
Mohammed’s fortunes only finally turned in January 2009, when Judge Richard Leon, an appointee of George W Bush in the District Court in Washington D.C., granted his habeas corpus petition and ordered his release, after finding that the government’s claims — primarily, that he had traveled to Afghanistan for jihad — were based on statements made by a mentally unstable prisoner who had provided demonstrably false information against numerous other prisoners, confirming what I and other researchers had discovered in the files made available to the public, and preempting what has been made even more obvious in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in April (on which I worked as a media partner). Mohammed had also been subjected to one of the most idiotic allegations of all, which Judge Leon also recognized as idiotic — namely, that, was a member of an al-Qaeda cell in London in 1998, when he was just 11 years old. As his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, explained in his book, The Eight O’Clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Seeking Justice In Guantánamo Bay, “he must have been beamed over to the al-Qaeda meetings by the Starship Enterprise, since he never left Saudi Arabia by conventional means.” Read the rest of this entry »
Every now and then, mainstream media magazines pick up on a story from Guantánamo and run with it, reaching a wide audience and providing detailed coverage of the Bush administration’s shameful prison, which Barack Obama has found himself unable to close, and which, for the 171 men still held, appears now to be a prison without end.
Guantánamo has become largely forgotten by those who should be alarmed at what its continued existence reveals about America’s humanity and sense of justice, but who, in all too many cases, are misled by their media and by the senior Bush administration officials who are still allowed to continue defending their dreadful policies and criminal activities in public, even though they should be held accountable for their part in implementing torture.
For Esquire this month, Tyler Cabot, an editor at the magazine, has profiled Noor Uthman Muhammed, otherwise known as Prisoner 707, a Sudanese prisoner who was subjected to a trial by Military Commission at Guantánamo in February this year, as I explained in my article, “Hiding Horrific Tales of Torture: Why The US Government Reached A Plea Deal with Guantánamo Prisoner Noor Uthman Muhammed.” The military jury in Muhammed’s case gave him a 14-year sentence, although he is only supposed to serve 34 months as the result of a plea deal, but such is the injustice at Guantánamo that it is by no means certain that he will actually be released. Read the rest of this entry »
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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