Guantánamo Habeas Week: Exposing Torture, Misconceptions and Government Incompetence


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In an attempt to raise awareness of the importance of the rulings being made in US courts on the habeas corpus petitions of the prisoners held at Guantánamo (as authorized by a significant Supreme Court ruling in June 2008), I’m devoting most of my work this week to articles covering the 47 cases decided to date (34 of which have been won by the prisoners), as a series entitled, “Guantánamo Habeas Week.” Note (April 23): Given the scope of this project, I’ve now expanded it to “Guantánamo Habeas Fortnight.”

Although I have covered the 47 cases in detail over the last 19 months, I had not, until now, followed the example of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Washington Independent and the Miami Herald, who have all produced “Habeas Corpus Scorecards.” As a result, this series kicks off with my own list, providing links to my analyses of the rulings, to the judges’ own unclassified opinions, and, where relevant, to my articles covering the prisoners’ release from Guantánamo, and progress reports on a handful of appeals.

Throughout the week, following an article examining the case of Yasin Ismail, a Yemeni who recently lost his habeas petition (whose publication slightly preempted the start of this series), I’ll be publishing two articles analyzing the unclassified opinions in the cases of Mohamedou Ould Salahi (aka Slahi), a Mauritanian who recently won his habeas petition despite being considered one of the most significant prisoners in Guantánamo, and Mukhtar al-Warafi, a Yemeni who lost his habeas petition (I wrote about the initial rulings here). I will also analyze the judge’s opinions in the cases of four more Yemenis: Saeed Hatim, who won his habeas petition in December last year, Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman, who won his habeas petition in February, and Suleiman al-Nahdi and Fahmi al-Assani, who lost their habeas petitions in February (the Hatim ruling was initially discussed here, and the other three were discussed here). If time allows, I will also examine a few other opinions that were not available when I wrote articles based on the judges’ verdicts. Note (May 4): See here for an article analyzing the unclassified opinion in the case of Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed (which includes a lengthy analysis of the torture of Binyam Mohamed).

I remain impressed that the judges involved have ruled in the prisoners’ favor in 34 of the 47 cases (that’s 72 percent of the total), especially as they have exposed, in the most objective manner available, the lack of oversight in the Justice Department (first under Bush and now under Obama) regarding pursuing cases that should have been dropped, as well as persistent obstruction by the Justice Department when it comes to providing material necessary for the prisoners’ defense.

Moreover, the judges’ rulings have also revealed the alarming flimsiness of most of the material presented by the government as evidence. Primarily, the judges have exposed that the government has been relying, to an extraordinary extent, on confessions extracted through the torture or coercion of the prisoners themselves, or through the torture, coercion or bribery of other prisoners, either in Guantánamo, the CIA’s secret prisons, or proxy prisons run on behalf of the CIA in other countries.

Sadly, these rulings have not, for the most part, been covered by the mainstream media with anything like the dedication that they deserve. This is distressing, because the rulings are, to be frank, the single most important collection of documents analyzing the failures of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” detention policies — and Obama’s refusal, or inability to thoroughly repudiate them.

As part of the judges’ revelations that the majority of the supposed evidence is actually based on the torture, coercive interrogations or voluntary “confessions” of the prisoners (in exchange for better conditions of confinement), what has also emerged, to reinforce research undertaken by myself and by staff and students at the Seton Hall Law School, is that the majority of the prisoners were not, for the most part, seized by US forces “on the battlefield,” as senior Bush administration officials claimed, but were, instead, mainly rounded up by the US military’s allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, at a time when bounty payments were widespread, and were never adequately screened at the time of capture to determine whether or not they had ever been engaged in any kind of combat.

Just as troubling, however, are the justifications for continuing to hold the majority of the prisoners who lost their habeas petitions, as they reveal that the basis for doing so — the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and maintained as a justification by President Obama — was, and is a deeply flawed document, which fails to distinguish between a small group of genuine terrorists (al-Qaeda) and a considerably larger group of men (and boys) associated with the Taliban. The result is that men continue to be consigned to indefinite detention, on an apparently sound legal basis, even though they were only peripherally involved with the military conflict in Afghanistan to secure the fall of the Taliban, and should, all along, have been held (if at all) as prisoners of war, and protected by the Geneva Conventions.

And in the meantime, of course, the real terror suspects — 35 of those held, according to the Obama administration’s interagency Task Force, which reviewed their cases last year — await either civilian court trials (Eric Holder’s preference) or trials by Military Commission (following one of Obama’s weakest concessions to Congressional cooperation), and 47 others, judged by the Task Force as prisoners who should continue to be held indefinitely, because of fundamental weaknesses in the supposed evidence against them, must wait and see if the courts agree with the government’s assessment when their own habeas petitions are examined by District Court judges.

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, updated in January 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

The introduction to “Guantánamo Habeas Week” was discussed in detail by Jeff Kaye on Firedoglake and Invictus, by Kelly Vlahos at, which also posted a link on its front page, and by Jeff Farias, and was cross-posted on The Public Record, Eurasia Review, The World Can’t Wait, War Criminals Watch, Campaign for Liberty, Global Research, The Lift: Legal Issues in the Fight against Terrorism, Uruknet, Cageprisoners, New Left Project, Political Theatrics, Countercurrents, Zinmag Chronicle and The Ruthless Truth. It was also mentioned in a round-up of news on Foreign Policy‘s website, by Reprieve, and on Democratic Underground. In addition, the full list was cross-posted on The Public Record, The World Can’t Wait, New Left Project and War Criminals Watch, and was linked to in a banner headline on Cageprisoners’ front page.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the Guantánamo habeas cases, see: Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: the most important habeas corpus case in modern history and Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: What Happened? (both December 2007), The Supreme Court’s Guantánamo ruling: what does it mean? (June 2008), Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland (Uighurs’ first court victory, June 2008), What’s Happening with the Guantánamo cases? (July 2008), Government Says Six Years Is Not Long Enough To Prepare Evidence (September 2008), From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs (October 2008), Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies (October 2008), Guilt By Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), After 7 Years, Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo Kidnap Victims (November 2008), Is Robert Gates Guilty of Perjury in Guantánamo Torture Case? (December 2008), A New Year Message to Barack Obama: Free the Guantánamo Uighurs (January 2009), The Top Ten Judges of 2008 (January 2009), No End in Sight for the “Enemy Combatants” of Guantánamo (January 2009), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (January 2009), How Cooking For The Taliban Gets You Life In Guantánamo (January 2009), Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics (February 2009), Bad News And Good News For The Guantánamo Uighurs (February 2009), The Nobodies Formerly Known As Enemy Combatants (March 2009), Farce at Guantánamo, as cleared prisoner’s habeas petition is denied (April 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Judge Condemns “Mosaic” Of Guantánamo Intelligence, And Unreliable Witnesses (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Prison Built On Lies (May 2009), Free The Guantánamo Uighurs! (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies (July 2009), Obama’s Failure To Deliver Justice To The Last Tajik In Guantánamo (July 2009), Obama And The Deadline For Closing Guantánamo: It’s Worse Than You Think (July 2009), How Judge Huvelle Humiliated The Government In Guantánamo Case (Mohamed Jawad, July 2009), As Judge Orders Release Of Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner, Government Refuses To Concede Defeat (Mohamed Jawad, July 2009), Guantánamo As Hotel California: You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Leave (August 2009), Judge Orders Release From Guantánamo Of Kuwaiti Charity Worker (August 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part Two): Obama’s Shame (August 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part Three): Obama’s Continuing Shame (August 2009), No Escape From Guantánamo: The Latest Habeas Rulings (September 2009), First Guantánamo Prisoner To Lose Habeas Hearing Appeals Ruling (September 2009), A Truly Shocking Guantánamo Story: Judge Confirms That An Innocent Man Was Tortured To Make False Confessions (September 2009), 75 Guantánamo Prisoners Cleared For Release; 31 Could Leave Today (September 2009), Resisting Injustice In Guantánamo: The Story Of Fayiz Al-Kandari (October 2009), Justice Department Pointlessly Gags Guantánamo Lawyer (November 2009), Judge Orders Release Of Algerian From Guantánamo (But He’s Not Going Anywhere) (November 2009), Innocent Guantánamo Torture Victim Fouad al-Rabiah Is Released In Kuwait (December 2009), What Does It Take To Get Out Of Obama’s Guantánamo? (December 2009), “Model Prisoner” at Guantánamo, Tortured in the “Dark Prison,” Loses Habeas Corpus Petition (December 2009), Judge Orders Release From Guantánamo Of Unwilling Yemeni Recruit (December 2009), Serious Problems With Obama’s Plan To Move Guantánamo To Illinois (December 2009), Appeals Court Extends President’s Wartime Powers, Limits Guantánamo Prisoners’ Rights (January 2010), Fear and Paranoia as Guantánamo Marks its Eighth Anniversary (January 2010), Rubbing Salt in Guantánamo’s Wounds: Task Force Announces Indefinite Detention (January 2010), The Black Hole of Guantánamo (March 2010), Guantánamo Uighurs Back in Legal Limbo (March 2010).

Also see: Justice extends to Bagram, Guantánamo’s Dark Mirror (April 2009), Judge Rules That Afghan “Rendered” To Bagram In 2002 Has No Rights (July 2009), Bagram Isn’t The New Guantánamo, It’s The Old Guantánamo (August 2009), Obama Brings Guantánamo And Rendition To Bagram (And Not The Geneva Conventions) and Is Bagram Obama’s New Secret Prison? (both September 2009), Dark Revelations in the Bagram Prisoner List (January 2010), Bagram: Graveyard of the Geneva Conventions (February 2010).

10 Responses

  1. Cosmic Surfer says...

    Keep the light shining brightly on the dark recesses of the Guantanamo/Bagram/Black Site war crime and torture machinery. We must hold those who are guilty of these heinous crimes against humanity, these crimes against the law, these crimes against all life, accountable for their behavior.
    Unless we do, no one else will….
    Thanks, Andy, You are doing a fine job of holding that flashlight..let me know if you need more batteries

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    I think words like yours are the batteries! After all, this long odyssey of mine in pursuit of truth and justice is a sustained demonstration of the fact that, in the end, I believe that the pen must be mightier than the sword (or, perhaps, that the blog is more powerful than the bomb!)

  3. Andy Worthington’s “Guantanamo Habeas Week” « The Jeff Farias Show says...

    […] Throughout this week, I’m running a “Guantanamo Habeas Week” on my site (with cross-posts on other sites), in an attempt to raise awareness of the important rulings being made in the District Courts, where the results are currently as follows: 34 victories for the prisoners, 13 for the government. An intro is here: […]

  4. Andy Worthington: “Guantánamo Habeas Week” « The Lift – Legal Issues in the Fight against Terrorism says...

    […] 20 April, 2010 by Valentina Spiga Andy Worthington published on his website a series entitled “Guantánamo Habeas Week”, which collects his articles on the 47 habeas corpus rulings made to […]

  5. Gavel Grab » Tuesday Media Summary says...

    […] Andy Worthington: Guantánamo Habeas Week: Exposing Torture, Misconceptions and Government Incompete… […]

  6. Judge allows indefinite detention at Guantanamo of a medic « The Lift – Legal Issues in the Fight against Terrorism says...

    […] a medic Posted on 21 April, 2010 by Valentina Spiga This article is published as part of “Guantánamo Habeas Week” by Andy […]

  7. Thursday, April 22, 2010 « The Jeff Farias Show says...

    […] An intro is here: And this is my first interactive list of all the rulings to date, with links to all my articles on the rulings, the judges’ unclassified opinions, and more: Help Spread the Word! Share and Enjoy: […]

  8. Andy Worthington « Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton and Charles Goyette says...

    […] Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files, discusses his website’s Guantanamo Habeas Week event that seeks to draw attention to government torture and lawlessness, the […]

  9. Antiwar Radio: Andy Worthington | ScottHortonShow says...

    […] Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files, discusses his website’s Guantanamo Habeas Week event that seeks to draw attention to government torture and lawlessness, the […]

  10. The American Conservative » Post-bin Laden, Keep It Real on Torture says...

    […] us to believe without any evidence at all. Of the cases that had been reviewed up to that point, 72% were ordered released due to insufficient evidence of any guilt of any crime. This is unlikely to be the full story, […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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