After First Ever Guantánamo Visit, UN Rapporteur Finds Dehumanized, Traumatized Men Subjected to Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment That May Rise to the Level of Torture

Campaigners for the closure of Guantánamo outside a US government building in Washington, D.C. on January 11, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

On Monday June 26, 7,837 days since the prison at Guantánamo Bay opened, and on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council (“independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective”) issued a devastatingly critical report about systemic, historic and ongoing human rights abuses at the prison, based on the first ever visit by a Special Rapporteur — Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, who visited the prison in February.

At the time of her visit, just 34 men were held at the prison (a number now reduced to 30), out of the 779 men and boys who have been held by the US military throughout the prison’s long history, and, as the Special Rapporteur admitted, she agreed with every “detainee or former detainee,” who, “[i]n every meeting she held” with them, told her, “with great regret,” that she had arrived “too late.”

However, it is crucial to understand that the lateness of the visit was not through a lack of effort on the part of the UN; rather, it was a result of a persistent lack of cooperation by the US authorities — part of a pattern of obstruction, secrecy and surveillance that prevented any UN visit because the authorities failed to comply with the Terms of Reference for Country Visits by Special Procedure Mandate Holders, which require “[c]onfidential and unsupervised contact with witnesses and other private persons, including persons deprived of their liberty.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Broken Old Men of Guantánamo

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, the most physically disabled of Guantánamo’s 30 remaining prisoners, whose inadequate medical treatment at the prison was recently condemned in a scathing UN report.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

In recent months, an often-submerged story at Guantánamo — of aging torture victims with increasingly complex medical requirements, trapped in a broken justice system, and of the US government’s inability to care for them adequately — has surfaced though a number of reports that are finally shining a light on the darkest aspects of a malignant 21-year experiment that, throughout this whole time, has regularly trawled the darkest recesses of American depravity.

Over the years, those of us who have devoted our energies to getting the prison at Guantánamo Bay closed have tended to focus on getting prisoners never charged with a crime released, because, since the Bush years, when, largely without meeting much resistance, George W. Bush released two-thirds of the 779 men and boys rounded up so haphazardly in the years following the 9/11 attacks and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, getting prisoners out of Guantánamo has increasingly resembled getting blood out of a stone.

Apart from a brief period from 2008 to 2010, when the law finally reached Guantánamo through habeas corpus (before cynical appeals court judges took it away again), getting out of Guantánamo has involved overcoming government inertia (for several years under Obama) or open hostility (under Trump), repeated administrative review processes characterized by extreme caution regarding prisoners never charged with a crime, and against whom the supposed evidence is, to say the least, flimsy (which led to over 60 men being accurately described by the media as “forever prisoners”), and many dozens of cases in which, when finally approved for release because of this fundamental lack of evidence, the men in question have had to wait (often for years) for new homes to be found for them in third countries.

Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo and the U.S. Courts: When Is A War Not Over? Apparently, When It’s the “War on Terror”

Guantánamo prisoner Khalid Qassim, and Senior Judge Thomas Hogan, of the District Court in Washington, D.C., who is responsible for delivering a ruling in a case brought by Qassim, whose lawyers are seeking to have Judge Hogan order his release, on the basis that he was nothing more than a foot soldier in Afghanistan at the time of his capture over 21 years ago, and that, as such, the U.S. government can no longer claim any right to hold him, after the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August 2021.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

It’s a sign of the fundamental lawlessness of Guantánamo that, 19 months since the United States decisively brought to an end its nearly 20-year military presence in Afghanistan by withdrawing all its troops, a Guantánamo prisoner — who is not alleged to have been anything more than a foot soldier for the Taliban at the time of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan — is fighting in a U.S. court to try to get a judge to recognize that, given the definitive end to the U.S.’s involvement in hostilities in Afghanistan, he must be freed.

The prisoner in question is Khalid Qassim (aka Qasim), a Yemeni who has been held for nearly 21 years without charge or trial at Guantánamo, and is still held, even though, last July, a Periodic Review Board (a parole-type review process introduced by President Obama) approved him for release, recognizing his “low level of training and lack of a leadership role in al Qaida or the Taliban.”

This was an important decision, which finally brought to an end the U.S. government’s insistence that it could continue to hold him not because of anything he was alleged to have done prior to his capture, but because of concerns regarding his lack of compliance during his imprisonment at Guantánamo.

Read the rest of this entry »

Shocking Statistics From Guantánamo: How Long Prisoners Approved for Release Have Been Waiting to Be Freed

An infographic created by Andy Worthington showing how long men at Guantánamo approved for release by administrative review processes have been waiting to be freed (as of February 10, 2023), compared to the 337 days that Majid Khan had to wait to be freed after the end of his sentence last year.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

Last week, when Majid Khan was freed from Guantánamo, it had taken 337 days for the US government to secure his release after his terrorism-related military commission sentence ended, on March 1, 2022.

The US government worked hard to secure Majid Khan’s resettlement in Belize because it was legally required to do so, and also because officials in various branches of the government wanted to ensure the continuing viability of plea deals for Guantánamo prisoners accused of acts of terrorism.

In contrast, however, as the infographic above shows, 20 other men approved for release through high-level government review processes have, for the most part, been waiting far longer than the 337 days that Majid Khan had to wait for his freedom.

Read the rest of this entry »

Video: On Al Jazeera, I Discuss Majid Khan’s Release from Guantánamo, and the Urgent Need for 20 Other Men Approved for Release to Be Freed

Andy Worthington discussing the release from Guantánamo of Majid Khan — and the urgent need for 20 other men approved for release also to be freed — on Al Jazeera News on February 2, 2023.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

Last week, I was delighted to be invited to discuss Guantánamo on Al Jazeera News, in response to the release, in Belize, of Majid Khan, whose sentence for terrorism-related activities came to an end nearly a year ago. A Pakistani national, Khan is the first “high-value detainee” to be freed from Guantánamo, and the first of the six prisoners freed by President Biden to be resettled in a third country.

It was my first visit to Al Jazeera’s London studios for many years — since before they moved to The Shard, in fact — and it was a real pleasure to be interviewed in person, rather than by Zoom, as so many interviews are these days. Being live on air in a studio has much more of a buzz, and a sense of urgency about it than a Zoom call, and I was initially quite shocked to be told how rare studio interviews are these days, since the Covid lockdowns, until I recalled quite how many interviews I’ve seen, across so many news channels, of people in their spare rooms or located in front of strategically arranged bookcases.

My interview — with Lauren Taylor — is posted below, on my YouTube channel, and I hope that you have time to watch it (it’s just three and a half minutes), and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

Read the rest of this entry »

Majid Khan Released From Guantánamo to New Life in Belize; 20 Others Approved for Release But Still Held Must Now Be Prioritized by Biden

Majid Khan, photographed at Guantánamo in 2022.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

Congratulations to Majid Khan, the former Guantánamo prisoner who is beginning a new life in the central American coastal country of Belize, formerly known as British Honduras when, for over a century, it was under British rule.

Now 42 years old, Khan spent almost half his life in US custody, and was, for most of that time, one of the most profoundly isolated prisoners in the whole of the “war on terror.” He is the first of 16 “high-value detainees” held at Guantánamo to be released, the sixth prisoner released under President Biden, and the first of these six to be resettled in a third country.

Seized in Karachi in March 2003, Majid Khan disappeared into the CIA’s global network of “black sites” for three and a half years — when his family had no idea of his whereabouts — until President Bush announced in September 2006 that he was one of 14 ”high-value detainees” transferred from the CIA’s secret torture prisons to Guantánamo.

Read the rest of this entry »

As Saifullah Paracha, Guantánamo’s Oldest Prisoner, Is Finally Freed, Here’s the Full Story of His Shameful 19-Year Imprisonment

Saifullah Paracha, photographed after his release from Guantánamo, having a cup of tea in a branch of McDonald’s in Karachi.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

It took 19 years and three months, but finally Saifullah Paracha, 75, Guantánamo’s oldest prisoner, has been freed from the prison and repatriated to Pakistan, where he has been reunited with his family. The photo at the top of this article was taken as he celebrated his freedom in Karachi, with a cup of tea in a branch of McDonald’s. It was posted on Twitter on October 29 by one of his lawyers, Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, who called it a “belatedly happy day,” noting that “he should never have been kidnapped & locked up 18 [actually 19] yrs ago.”

In a follow-up tweet on October 30, Stafford Smith added that he had “just had the nicest morning chat” with Saifullah, also explaining that, until the very end, the hysterical over-reaction that has typified the US’s treatment of the 779 men it largely rounded up indiscriminately, sent to Guantánamo, and then fabricated reasons for holding them indefinitely without charge or trial, was still in place. “It took 40 US personnel to take one 75 yo home from Guantánamo Bay”, Stafford Smith wrote.

The over-reaction was grotesque on two fronts: firstly, because Saifullah was regarded as a model prisoner at Guantánamo, who, as the US authorities explained in 2016, “has been very compliant with the detention staff and espouses moderate views and acceptance of Western norms,” and “has focused on improving cell block conditions and helping some detainees improve their English-language and business skills”; and, secondly, because a robust government review process — the Periodic Review Boards, involving “one senior official from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State; the Joint Staff, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence” — had unanimously concluded, in May 2021, that “continued law of war detention [was] no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The US Government’s Entirely Predictable Problems with Resettling Guantánamo Prisoner Majid Khan

Majid Khan over the years: as a student in 1999, prior to his capture; shortly after his arrival at Guantánamo, after three and a half years of forture in CIA “black sites”; during the negotiations regarding his plea deal; and in recent years.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

It’s difficult enough to get out of Guantánamo at the best of times, and considerably more difficult when the US authorities have to find a third country prepared to take in former prisoners, generally because it is unsafe for them to be returned to the countries of their birth.

In dozens of resettlement cases over the years, the US government has made resettlement additionally difficult by refusing to concede that the men in question might have been fundamentally insignificant by sharing assessment files from Guantánamo with the governments of these countries (fundamentally, the files released by WikiLeaks in 2011), which, more often than not, are full of lies about the prisoners, extracted from their fellow prisoners under duress, or through the promise of favorable treatment, to justify their lawless imprisonment (without any adequate screening at the time of capture) in the first place.

Last week, a new twist on these difficulties came to light in the District Court in Washington, D.C., as Justice Department lawyers sought to prevent a judge from addressing a habeas corpus petition submitted by the Pakistani national Majid Khan, who has been imprisoned at Guantánamo since September 2006, and who previously spent three and a half years in CIA “black sites,” where he was subjected to torture.

Read the rest of this entry »

As Majid Khan Asks a Court to Order His Release from Guantánamo, 100 Days Since Completing His Sentence, 20 Other Prisoners, Never Charged or Tried, Also Await Their Freedom

Guantánamo prisoner Majid Khan, photographed as a student in 1999, and in recent years at Guantánamo.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

On paper, the prospects for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay are better now than they have been at any other time in its unforgivably long and bleak 20-year history.

Just 37 men are still held (less than five percent of the total number of prisoners held by the US military since the prison opened on January 11, 2002), and 21 of these men have been approved for release.

The problem, however, is that there is absolutely no sense of urgency within the Biden administration when it comes to freeing them.

20 of these men have been approved for release by high-level government review processes, and I’ll be discussing them in the second part of this article, but the most newsworthy aspect of this story right now concerns Majid Khan, the other man approved for release.

Read the rest of this entry »

Majid Khan’s Sentence Ends, But, Disgracefully, He’s Still Trapped at Guantánamo, Along with 19 Other Men Approved for Release

Majid Khan, photographed as a student in 1999, and in recent years at Guantánamo.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

Over ten years ago, on February 29, 2012, Majid Khan, a Pakistani national held at Guantánamo since September 2006, and previously held and tortured in CIA “black sites” for three and a half years, agreed to a plea deal in his military commission trial at Guantánamo, admitting that, as an Al-Qaeda recruit, he had taken $50,000 from Pakistan to Thailand as funding for the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, whose attack on a hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia in August 2003 killed 12 people.

Khan, who had already been in a CIA “black site” for five months when the attack happened, was thoroughly remorseful about his actions, and agreed to cooperate with the US authorities, providing information that would help in the prosecution of others involved in terrorism, both at Guantánamo and elsewhere. In exchange, it was promised that his sentence would be capped at 19 years from the time of his capture; in other words, that it would be served by March 5, 2022.

At the time, his sentencing was due to take place in four years’ time — in 2016 — but delays in the broken military commission system, which I wrote about here and here, meant that he was not finally sentenced until October last year, when he was finally allowed to describe, in harrowing detail (as I posted here and here), his horrendous treatment at the hands of the CIA, and the authorities in Guantánamo, and also to explain at length how, as a young man distraught at the death of his mother, he was preyed on by Al-Qaeda members, taking advantage of his vulnerability. He also, as has been apparent throughout his imprisonment, once more apologized profusely for his crimes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Back to home page

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).
Email Andy Worthington

CD: Love and War

The Four Fathers on Bandcamp

The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

RSS

Posts & Comments

World Wide Web Consortium

XHTML & CSS

WordPress

Powered by WordPress

Designed by Josh King-Farlow

Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist:

Archives

In Touch

Follow me on Facebook

Become a fan on Facebook

Subscribe to me on YouTubeSubscribe to me on YouTube

The State of London

The State of London. 16 photos of London

Andy's Flickr photos

Campaigns

Categories

Tag Cloud

Abu Zubaydah Al-Qaeda Andy Worthington British prisoners Center for Constitutional Rights CIA torture prisons Close Guantanamo Donald Trump Four Fathers Guantanamo Housing crisis Hunger strikes London Military Commission NHS NHS privatisation Periodic Review Boards Photos President Obama Reprieve Shaker Aamer The Four Fathers Torture UK austerity UK protest US courts Video We Stand With Shaker WikiLeaks Yemenis in Guantanamo