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Report: Inside or Out, Gitmo Detainees Face Hardship, Detention

by NewStandard Staff

Feb. 8, 2006 – 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.

According to Amnesty, six of the nine are ethnic Uighurs, a minority group in China. As previously reported by The NewStandard, all risk further rights violations if returned to their home countries.

Detainees still considered "enemy combatants" as well as those whose status has yet to be decided through Guantánamo’s military tribunal system, are held under tight security, which often blocks visits and investigations by lawyers and international observers, according to Amnesty and other human rights groups.

In a first-hand account of military commission proceedings at the prison published last month, Katherine Newell Bierman, an attorney with the international advocacy group Human Rights Watch, described a "Kafkaesque" prison system operating largely outside of public or government oversight: "I am as cut off from the men imprisoned here as if I were still in Washington, DC. The Pentagon has allowed Human Rights Watch to observe military commission proceedings, but we can’t talk to any detainees – nor can the media, or anyone else who might report publicly what they say."

According to a study released yesterday by the Seton Hall University Law School, more than half of the Guantánamo detainees have not been accused of seeking to commit violent acts against the United States. Still, releasing detainees has proven tricky for the Pentagon. In statements to various media outlets last year, military officials said as many as 100 or more released "enemy combatants" turned up again on the battlefield, a claim impossible to verify with available information.

Last January, the Washington Post reported that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said US and allied forces have killed or re-captured released detainees in several instances. A Newsweek article four months later cited unnamed administration sources expanding on Rumsfeld's claims, describing several "'revolving door' cases of Gitmo detainees."

Human rights organizations have raised doubts over the veracity of such claims, as The NewStandard reported last year.

The Pentagon has not released an official count of such instances.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

This News Report originally appeared in the February 8, 2006 edition of The NewStandard.
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