Sábado, 23 de marzo, 2024

By Elizabeth Haight  

The Guantanamo Bay detention center has been open for 22 years as of 11 January 2024. First opened in 2002, Guantanamo continues to uphold a legacy of torture, indefinite detention, Islamophobia, and injustice. Detainees in Guantanamo are held without charges or fair trials, violating the US Constitution and depriving them of their basic human rights. These detainees were subjected to torture or other ill-treatment and have been detained, in some cases, for over 20 years. A recent visit to the facility by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism confirmed that Guantanamo Bay’s legacy of torture and degradation is ongoing, even if the “enhanced interrogation” torture methods technically ended years ago. 

Former US President Barack Obama issued an executive order to close the facility in 2009, and there is global consensus from the international community that the facility continuously violates human rights law. Despite this, 30 men remain detained at Guantanamo today. Most of these men were never charged with a crime, and many of them were tortured. Over half of them were cleared for release or transfer years ago and are still awaiting next steps – which never seem to come. 

Some of the detainees who have been transferred out of the facility have suffered further injustices through the ‘resettlement’ process. In this complex system of deals between the US and foreign governments, many of the men have been transferred to unfamiliar countries where they have been discriminated against and denied citizenship and basic human rights such as the ability to drive, travel, visit loved ones, or obtain a local identification. After being subjected to numerous abuses inside Guantanamo’s prison, and finally promised a fresh start, these men are sometimes left stateless post-release and are given no help with rehabilitation or reintegration into their new communities, including for some of the medical care they require to heal from the torture they endured.  

Mansoor Adayfi is one of the men who survived Guantanamo. Mansoor is a Yemeni national who was released from the detention facility in 2016 after spending over 14 years detained without charge. Mansoor was still a teenager when he was kidnapped and taken to Guantanamo Bay, and he has detailed in his recently published memoir Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantanamo how he was physically and psychologically tortured while detained. Post-release, Mansoor was ‘resettled’ in Serbia, where he recounts how he was followed and tracked by police, denied a local identification, and restricted to the city of Belgrade- unable to travel.  

Despite his past, Mansoor has remained determined for a better life and was finally able to obtain a passport last January. He continues to fight for those still detained and has dedicated his life to closing the prison at Guantanamo. Amnesty International sat down with Mansoor to ask him some questions about his experience. 

Amnesty International: How old were you when you were taken to the prison at Guantanamo Bay? 

Mansoor: I was 18 years old. I was doing research for an institute when I was kidnapped by Afghan warlords and sold to the CIA and taken to Guantanamo. 

Can you give us a general overview of your time in Guantanamo? 

I am still there 22 years later. I lost everything there. Guantanamo is a facility created for torture, abuse, and targeting of Muslims. It’s a crime against humanity. People died there. People were tortured. People were paralyzed. All kinds of torture, abuse, physical, mental, psychological. There were beatings. There are people that leave Guantanamo in wheelchairs, and people who left Guantanamo in a coffin or a body bag. You are totally forgotten. Totally disconnected from the world. You start to lose your sense of who you are, your identity. 

Guantanamo is happening outside of the legal system, outside of the justice system. The UN Special Rapporteur’s report is the most important recent piece that we have on Guantanamo, and she (Fionnuala Ní Aoláin) said that the torture and mistreatment that has been happening, the abuse, is still there. Guantanamo is said to be changing, but it is still going on. Journalists have stopped reporting on the torture and inhumane treatment of people that are still there without trials, without charge, even though they have been approved for release. The reporting is now only focused on giving legitimacy to the broken military commission, making the system seem legal, but Guantanamo is happening outside of the legal system, outside of the justice system.  

There are still 30 men in Guantanamo, do you have a specific message for them that we could share with the international community?  

These 30 men are a message to humanity.  For us, closing Guantanamo is about releasing the prisoners that are approved for transfer or release and getting people fair trials, to give everyone justice. We’re trying to keep the Guantanamo cases in the media to bring awareness and pressure the US government to close the prison and release the men. We’re trying to appeal to humanity. 

Do you think the resettlement process of the US making deals with other countries and organizing to have the prisoners released to countries they are unfamiliar with helps to get these men back into society in a rehabilitative way?  

No. No. Absolutely not. It’s a classified agreement between the United States and the hosting countries and some men are ending up re-imprisoned or tortured. Some are dying because these host countries refuse to provide them with health care. Some of the men were deported after the last administration change in the U.S. and [after deportation] were tortured really badly. Some of them have died in the last few years from torture that occurred after being released from Guantanamo. We need political involvement and actual rehabilitation and reintegration.  The [ex-] detainees live under stigmas, and they are targeted and surveilled. This is why life after Guantanamo is a whole other story, I did my thesis on this. 

Do you have anything that you’re doing personally that you’re looking forward to in the next few years?  

Yeah! I have a few projects. I’m trying to finish my master’s degree in project management. I’m working on a new book on life after Guantanamo. I started, along with some lawyers, a program trying to raise money and help ex-prisoners with education and healthcare. We had one case where someone was released after 21-22 years, and he had nothing. Everyone that he had known had died, he had no home, he was on the street. So, we did what we could, and what we could do is send him some money for help, for medicine, clothing, and food. The cases would break your heart, we’re trying to do our best. It’s not easy.  

Do you have anything else that you would like to share? 

You know, the most important thing is for us to ensure that Guantanamo won’t be happening again. The answer is simple. It’s accountability. Without that there is no guarantee that Guantanamo won’t be happening again. At the same time, I’d like to ask people to join us and the prisoners of Guantanamo to keep the pressure on the United States. We have the power, we have the will. We know how important it is, and we will keep pushing. So, guys, keep pushing, keep fighting! But what does closing Guantanamo really mean? For us all, closing the facility means that the United State must acknowledge it’s wrongdoing, apologies to the victims, survivors, and humanity, and compensate the survivors and the victims’ families, and there must be accountability.

After 22 years, the ongoing operations at Guantanamo Bay persist.  After all these years, the Biden administration must expedite the release of those men who have been cleared for transfer and prioritize efforts to close the facility once and for all. 22 years of torture and degradation have irreparably harmed the lives of too many men. The victims and survivors of Guantanamo Bay deserve a life of freedom, dignity, and upheld human rights outside of the facility, and the US government is solely responsible for that restitution, which is long past due. 

Amnesty International calls on the international community to assist with the resettlement of Guantanamo Bay detainees by providing safe locations for them to live with adequate healthcare, social support and reintegration facilities. It is imperative that their safety is assured, and that no further detainees are resettled in countries where their safety is at risk, so they can continue their lives with the same rights that all people deserve. 

Elizabeth Haight, the interviewer and author of this article, is a volunteer with Amnesty International’s team for North America. She is a University of Georgia graduate pursuing law school and a career in international law. 

Amnesty International thanks Mansoor Adayfi for participating in this interview.