FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Clearing Out Guantánamo

by ANDY WORTHINGTON

As part of its alleged “desire not to hold detainees any longer than necessary,” the Pentagon announced on Tuesday that two Guantánamo prisoners had been transferred to Algeria. This follows the repatriation of two other Algerians — Mustafa Hamlili and Abdul Raham Houari — at the start of July, who were the first Algerians to be released from the prison in its six-and-a-half year history.

Cynics could argue, with some justification, that the releases were less to do with benevolence than with the fact that the US administration has finally decided to clear out as much of the dead wood at Guantánamo as possible, following the US Supreme Court’s momentous decision, in June, that the prisoners have constitutional habeas corpus rights; in other words, that they have the right to challenge the basis of their long detention without charge or trial before an impartial judge.

Like Hamlili and Houari before them, the two men just released — Mohammed al-Qadir and Abdulli Feghoul — had been cleared for release, following what the Pentagon refers to as “a comprehensive series of review processes,” since the first round of the annual Administrative Review Boards, held in 2005-06, on the basis that they no longer constituted a threat to the United States and its allies and/or no longer had ongoing intelligence value. These have become such commonplace expressions in connection with the Guantánamo prisoners that it’s easy to forget that holding prisoners for over six years without charge or trial and then releasing them because they are no longer regarded as a threat or as a source of intelligence to be exploited like lab animals is utterly illegal.

To use rather less euphemistic terminology, both al-Qadir and Feghoul were released because the administration was unable to build a case against them, and, as I indicated above, because the authorities are anxious to scale down the challenge to executive power that was manifested by the Supreme Court in June’s ruling in Boumediene v. Bush. As a result, however, they are also, to some extent, guinea pigs in a hazardous experiment.

Although neither man was realistically accused of being a member of al-Qaeda or the Taliban, or of raising arms against the United States, it’s probable that, as has happened with Hamlili and Houari, they will face charges of leaving the country without permission, traveling on false passports, and of being connected, in some nebulous manner, with terrorist organizations, which will either be dismissed or lead to jail sentences.

The method whereby the Algerian authorities reach their supposed judicial decisions is mysterious, to say the least, which is another of the reasons that it has taken so long for the Americans — and for their British allies, who have been similarly disposing of unwanted Algerian nationals from the UK — to bypass international treaties preventing the return of foreign nationals to countries where they face the risk of torture by negotiating vague “diplomatic assurances” with the countries in question that purport to guarantee that the returnees will be treated humanely. In the case of Tunisia, where two cleared prisoners were returned last year, this has been an unmitigated disaster, as both men were summarily imprisoned, subjected to show trials and sentenced to jail sentences of three and seven years, and a US District Judge, Gladys Kessler, promptly intervened to prevent the return of a third cleared Tunisian, ruling that he could not be returned to Tunisia because he could suffer “irreparable harm” that the US courts would be powerless to reverse.

With Algeria, the approach may, perhaps, be more appropriately compared to the tossing of a coin, or, as I put it when Hamlili and Houari were repatriated, to a kind of Russian Roulette, which, though marginally better, is hardly appropriate after all these men have been though. Their crimes, after all, amounted to little more than traveling to Afghanistan at the wrong time, and being seized and sold by Pakistani forces after fleeing the death and destruction wrought by the US-led invasion of October 2001.

As I explain in my book The Guantánamo Files, al-Qadir, who was 25 years old at the time of his capture, had lived in Germany for seven years, but had spent some of that time in prison. Released on bail in 2000, he made his way to London, where he spent ten months before traveling to Afghanistan in June 2001 “to immigrate, make money, and find a wife.” He denied an allegation, produced under unknown circumstances by an alleged but unidentified “al-Qaeda operative,” that he had trained at the Khaldan military training camp, and explained that he had been staying in a house in the city of Jalalabad, but that, when the Northern Alliance were advancing on the city, the owner asked him to leave, and he then made his way to Pakistan with other refugees, even though he was ill with malaria.

Abdulli Feghoul, who was 41 years old when he was seized, had also lived in Germany, and had traveled to Afghanistan in 2001. He too had been staying in Jalalabad, and ran up against a similarly unsubstantiated allegation that he had trained at the Durunta military training camp. In an attempt to clear his name, Feghoul attempted to call a Belgian witness of Turkish origin to vouch for him, but the prisoner refused, and was released soon after, as the governments of Europe scrambled to repatriate their citizens. In April 2007, Feghoul told his lawyers, “It seems that I am buried in my grave,” and in February 2008, Human Rights Watch reported (PDF) that he had not been allowed a single phone call home in his more than six years of detention. In addition, he explained that the Red Cross had finally “brought him photos of his family in early 2008, but that the prison guards searched his cell and took two of the photos away.”

After so long in this most hideous form of limbo — cleared for release but still held in isolated cells as though they had actually been convicted of heinous crimes — I can only hope that both men gain some sort of justice in Algeria, and that suitable homes can be found for the dozens of other cleared prisoners — over 65, according to the Pentagon — who are also desperate to be freed from Guantánamo, but who do not wish simply to exchange one form of arbitrary and unjust imprisonment for another.

ANDY WORTHINGTON is a British historian, and the author of ‘The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison’ (published by Pluto Press). Visit his website at: www.andyworthington.co.uk He can be reached at: andy@andyworthington.co.uk

 

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

ANDY WORTHINGTON is a British journalist, the author of ‘The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison’ (published by Pluto Press), and the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the new Guantánamo documentary, ‘Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.’ Visit his website at: www.andyworthington.co.uk He can be reached at: andy@andyworthington.co.uk        WORDS THAT STICK ?  

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 27, 2017
Darlene Dubuisson – Mark Schuller
“You Live Under Fear”: 50,000 Haitian People at Risk of Deportation
Karl Grossman
The Crash of Cassini and the Nuclearization of Space
Robert Hunziker
Venezuela Ablaze
John W. Whitehead
Trump’s America is a Constitution-Free Zone
Ron Jacobs
One Hundred Years That Shook the World
Judith Deutsch
Convenient Untruths About “Human Nature:” Can People Deal with Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons?
Don Fitz
Is Pope Francis the World’s Most Powerful Advocate for Climate Stability?
Thomas Mountain
Africa’s War Lord Queen: The Bloodstained Career of Liberia’s Eleanor Sirleaf Johnson
Binoy Kampmark
Short Choices: the French Presidential Elections
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Monetizing My Mouth
Michael Barker
Of Union Dreams and Nightmares: Cesar Chavez and Why Funding Matters
Elier Ramirez Cañedo
“Let Venezuela give me a way of serving her, she has in me a son.”
Paul Mobbs
Cellphones, WIFI and Cancer: Will Trump’s Budget Cuts Kill ‘Electrosmog’ Research?
Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee
The Closing of Rikers: a Survival Strategy of the Carceral State
April 26, 2017
Richard Moser
Empire Abroad, Empire At Home
Stan Cox
For Climate Justice, It’s the 33 Percent Who’ll Have to Pick Up the Tab
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Machine Called Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
The Dilemma for Intelligence Agencies
Christy Rodgers
Remaining Animal
Joseph Natoli
Facts, Opinions, Tweets, Words
Mel Gurtov
No Exit? The NY Times and North Korea
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Women on the Move: Can Three Women and a Truck Quell the Tide of Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse?
Michael J. Sainato
Trump’s Wikileaks Flip-Flop
Manuel E. Yepe
North Korea’s Antidote to the US
Kim C. Domenico
‘Courting Failure:’ the Key to Resistance is Ending Animacide
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Legacy of Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer
Andrew Stewart
The People vs. Bernie Sanders
Daniel Warner
“Vive La France, Vive La République” vs. “God Bless America”
April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail