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To Close Guantanamo…Violette Daguerre


The United States has always been reluctant to ratify international conventions, such as, the Kyoto Protocol to protect the environment, or impeded the work of pressure groups opposing the arms trade, or exploited the International law for its own interests, or otherwise ignored it altogether. For those who are acquainted with the American decision-making rules and their relationship to the industrial and financial world, and who are aware of the extent of its hegemonyc ambitions, such policies would not come as a surprise. However, what is surprising is that, in 2005, the US became the country responsible for the most violations of human rights among the 35 countries which signed the Helsinki Agreement more than 30 years ago.

The American Administration is also responsible for secret prisons and to detentions unrestricted by limits on time, place or subject in order to impose its will by force. The US is the only country that runs security investigations across continents from the Jordanian desert, to resorts near Nairobi and Addis Ababa, to the Bagram base in Afghanistan, or to a Polish army base. The current US administration not only issued military laws and establish special courts but also persuaded 24 other countries (till now) to pass anti-terrorism laws thus making all the achievements of International human rights laws from 1948 to 2007 subject to debate again. Even the success of the NGO’s and the Committee on Human Rights in Geneva in August 2006 failed to change anything in the American policy. On the contrary, the US administration had totally rejected the Commission's condemnation of the Guantanamo detention center and the US President ignored the requests of the European Parliament and other important American personalities to close this shameful institution. 

Consequently, many American, European and Arab personalities formed a global network to defend the detainees of Guantanamo. The global coordination for Sami Al-Haj and other detainees in Guantanamo includes about 32 American, European and Arab organizations. More information can be found in the dedicated website, available in English, Arabic, French and Spanish: 

Many organizations and websites have been mobilized, we can mention the American Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve in London, Amnesty International, ACHR and the website  and other defiant organizations and sites. All operate with all available means to put an end to the Guantanamo model, which became more like an immoral cover to the conditions of prisons allover the world.

Guantanamo today symbolizes the most modern torture techniques that use sound, light, temperature and advanced technology together with the barbaric shackling of the prisoner during the entire period of his detention. It is not strange, then, to find in the official statistics 41 cases of attempted suicide, in addition to the corpses of four detainees who already died by committing suicide as announced by the prison administration who handed them over to the governments of Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, there are several cases of freed detainees who now live with psychological and/or physical disability.

The Sudanese Photographer, Sami Al-Haj, became a symbol of the victims of the barbaric violations of human rights in Guantanamo. For more than six months, he has been daily obliged to drink liquids via tubes entering his nose through to his stomach in order to force him to halt the hunger strike he started four months ago. During five years, Sami was subject to interrogations almost every ten days. Amnesty International reported that Sami was terrorized severely with different methods of torture including being terrified by police dogs upon his arrival in Guantanamo, subjected to racist abuse by color, granted less time outside his cell; chained and had pepper sprinkled on his body before being allowed to meet the Sudanese intelligence agents, who came to Guantanamo. The prison guards also smashed his ankle and beat him on the sole of his feet, along with the humiliating interrogations imposed upon him...

This is also the case of the Saudi citizen Abdullah Al-Matrifi who is still detained in Guantanamo while his partners from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were already released without any charges, trial or compensation. Al-Matrifi was in Afghanistan, where he established a charitable foundation, WAFA, providing essential and much needed services to the Afghani people. According to the World Health Organization, WAFA brought the Malaria vaccine from Europe and supported the Kabul hospital by supplying furniture, medicine, X-ray apparatus, equipment for surgery rooms and intensive care sections. WAFA also used to send a number of medical convoys to remote villages and deserted areas, for a week or ten days, to treat people onsite so that only serious cases are transferred to the Kabul hospital. Furthermore, WAFA was also behind the drilling of more than 120 wells equipped with pumps to draw water to the surface and was behind the purchase of agricultural equipment for farmers. In addition, this charity had also distributed school material for students in need.

Another example is a prisoner from Sudan called Adel Hassan Hamad, 49 years, who is married and has 4 children. Mr. Hamad was arrested from his house in Peshawar (a Pakistani city on the Afghan border) in 2002 just after his return from a vacation with his family in Sudan. Under armed threats and as a request from the American security authorities the Pakistani intelligence imprisoned him for 6 months and a half, where he suffered dreadful conditions and lost more than 30 kg of his weight. He was then moved to the American Bagram base in the Afghan territory for about two months before he was transferred to Guantanamo bay. His family did not know anything about him until he sent a message via the International Committee of the Red Cross informing them of his detention. He worked as an administrator in Paktia hospital in Afghanistan and the regional office of the Islamic Committee. After the American war on Afghanistan in 2001, Hamad supervised, from the International office of Peshawar, the relief effort for the Afghan refugees who fled the war. After five years of detention, the prison administration of Guantanamo finally issued the decision of his release. However, more than six months has already passed and Hamad is still detained till this moment in Guantanamo.  

Sami Al-Haj, Abdullah Al-Matrifi, Fawzi Audeh, Adel Hamad and many others shared the misfortune of being present in the wrong place at the wrong time as was imposed by the arbitrary logic of the war on terrorism. Their fate made them witness a black page in the history of mankind that enters its sixth year, in which thousands of people were detained, kidnapped and assassinated.

After the condemnation of the High Commission for Human Rights, the Council for Cooperation and Security in Europe, the European Parliament, the European Council and the organizations of human rights, it became possible to say that the claimants to close Guantanamo prison became a non negligible force even within the United States where critics of Bush's policies are frequently repressed under the pretext of fighting terrorism and maintaining security.

Those who demand the closure of the Guantanamo prison, however, face the dilemma of what the fate of its victims who were detained without any charge will be once they are released. Many of them were already wanted by the security authorities of their own countries, as is the case of detainees from Tunisia, Algeria, Syria, Libya and Egypt. If they are released and deported to their countries they might well be subjected yet again to torture, unjust trials and long imprisonment, as was the case in Tunisia with Abdallah Hajji and Lotfi Al-Agha (condemned for 3 and 7 years).

Therefore, we are today looking for countries that respect the right of political asylum and accept about 40 detainees, who had previously fled their own countries because of their affiliation to some currents of political Islam but have never committed any crime that violates the laws of the countries of residence.

Ironically, while the triplet Rumsfeld-Cheney-Bush continue to commit war crimes, crimes against humanity and to violate International Law without any accountability or punishment, the prisoners of Guantanamo continue to be detained without any guilt. Moreover, the US administration works hard to avoid compensating the victims despite not being convicted of any crime. All they could receive was that their prison guards say to them at the farewell: "We are sorry for what happened to you!"


Violette Daguerre

President of the Arab Commission for Human Rights


Intervention on Anti-imperialist International Conference at Calcutta 27 to 29 November 2007




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