11 February 2006

Former Gitmo detainees face continued problems after release

You're in the wrong place at the wrong time. You're scooped up in the U.S. military's indiscriminate net in the "war on terror". You're innocent. But you end up at Guantanamo Bay, held for years without charge, and with no legal recourse. You're tortured.

If you're lucky, you might eventually get released if the government realizes that you're not a terrorist. Big if.

And, if you are lucky enough to be released, your problems aren't over.

A recent report by Amnesty International outlines the issues facing former detainees after their release.

From The NewStandard via Currents of Awareness:
A leading international human rights organization has issued a report on the fate of people who have been detained at the United States military camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. According to the report, released yesterday by Amnesty International, those discharged from the prison are facing an increasingly difficult time assimilating back into society.

Many of those returned to their home countries from US detention are subject to harassment from authorities, and others are stigmatized as suspected terrorists.

The report details the cases of five men formerly interred at Guantánamo, one of whose whereabouts is still unknown. All the men reported being followed by law enforcement agents after returning to their home countries, and several were subsequently arrested on dubious criminal charges, according to accounts compiled by Amnesty.

For instance, according to Amnesty, Wisam 'Abd Al-Rahman Ahmed, a Jordanian national returned to his home country in 2004 after the US released him, is currently being held incommunicado at an unknown location. He claimed to have been first apprehended in Iran in March 2002.

In statements to the media shortly after his release from the US-run prison camp, Al-Rahman Ahmed said he had been mentally, physically and sexually abused by US authorities at the military base in Bagram, Afghanistan for over fourteen months prior to being transferred to Guantánamo Bay.

Yemeni citizen Karama Khamis Khamisan told Amnesty of being stripped naked, beaten and otherwise physically abused while held at Bagram. Khamisan also told the human rights group that he was threatened with transfer to Egypt or Jordan and recounted being piled naked with other detainees and photographed.

After finding that he did not fit the "enemy combatant" category, US authorities transferred Khamisan to his home country in the summer of 2005. He met with Amnesty while in Yemeni custody a month later and is now being held under tighter guard, without access to the courts and kept from communicating with his lawyer, Amnesty said.

Families of both the released prisoners and current detainees have repeatedly been stonewalled by officials when trying to discover the fate of their loved ones, Amnesty reported. Several told the human rights organization that their governments will not confirm or deny reports of loved ones' release from Guantánamo or transfers back home.

Officials in their home countries have been unable or unwilling to provide accurate information on released men, and the US has generally provided little detail related to releases of detainees. United States officials have also refused to release the names of the roughly 500 prisoners currently held at Guantánamo.

In addition to taking the first broad look at post-detention life, the eleven-page report said that nine detainees continue to be held even though they are no longer designated as "enemy combatants" -- a category of prisoner developed by the Bush administration in its counter-terrorism efforts.

The detainees' continued imprisonment, the organization argued, runs counter to rules established by military authorities running the facility, which technically allows for their release if the military tribunal system clears them. Moreover, a US federal district court has ruled that the continued detention under such circumstances is unlawful.
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