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giovedì 09 febbraio 2006

Il rapporto di Amnesty International su Guantanamo (in inglese)

Il rapporto di Amnesty
International su Guantanamo (in inglese)

Amnesty International USA – Guantánamo: Lives torn apart –
The impact of indefinite detention on detainees and their families – 8.2.2006

As the unlawful detentions of ‘enemy
combatants’ at the US detention centre at the Guantánamo Bay naval base, Cuba,
enter their fifth year, Amnesty International is renewing its call for the
detention centre to be closed and for all those held to be released or given
fair trial according to international law and without recourse to the death
penalty on the US mainland. Four years since the first transfers to Guantánamo,
approximately 500 men(1) of around 35 nationalities
remain held at the detention facility unlawfully. Reports from the detainees
and their lawyers suggest that many have been subjected to torture or other forms
of ill-treatment in Guantánamo or in other US detention centres. Some have
embarked on a prolonged hunger strike, among them those who have requested not
to be force-fed in order that they may be allowed to die. There have been
numerous suicide attempts and fears for the physical and psychological welfare
of the detainees increase as each day of indefinite detention passes.

In this document, Amnesty International relates
the continuing plight of the detainees, and summarizes developments related to
the ongoing hunger strike and further suicide attempts. The organization also
assesses the situation of nine men who remain detained despite no longer being
considered ‘enemy combatants’ by US authorities.

Amnesty International also examines the impact
on some of the family members of the detainees, many of whom have suffered
immeasurably as a result of the detentions. Finally, Amnesty International
describes the consequences for some detainees who were released from Guantánamo
yet continue to suffer the direct results of their experiences in US detention in Guantánamo and
elsewhere.

Whilst the immediate concern is for the
situation of those detainees who remain in Guantánamo, this document also
points to the responsibility of the US authorities for the suffering of
thousands of family members around the world whose lives have been irrevocably
damaged by US policies at the base. Amnesty
International believes that the US administration cannot simply ignore the
consequences of its actions on those detainees who have been returned home only
to face more abuse, illegal detention and the stigma of having been labelled an
"enemy combatant", and denounced in such terms as "the worst of
the worst" by US government officials.

1 – The continuing hunger strike

"I am dying here every day, mentally and
physically. This is happening to all of us", Guantánamo detainee Shaker
Aamer

On 1 December 2005 the US Department of Defense
(DoD) estimated the number of long term participants in the ongoing hunger
strike at Guantánamo – described among the guards as ‘voluntary fasting’ – to
be between thirty to thirty-three(2). Of those, twenty-two were said to be
receiving liquid nutrition through a nasal tube. The DoD also stated that the
intravenous and nasogastric feeding methods being used are humane and within
common standards of medical care and that only in rare cases were the tubes
inserted against the detainees’ will, "Some, because of their character
and temperament, they would be less than cooperative and would need to be restrained".
(3)

Some of the detainees’ lawyers have given much
higher numbers of those participating in the hunger strike. The mixed reports
may relate to the US authorities’ definition of what constitutes a hunger
strike. In Guantánamo detainees are considered to be officially on hunger
strike only when they have missed nine consecutive meals. Lawyers representing
detainees in Guantánamo have told Amnesty International that some are accepting
one of these nine meals in order not to be force-fed or given medical
treatment.

According to the US official figures the numbers
participating in the hunger strike peaked at 131 around the fourth anniversary
of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA.

Statements made by Guantánamo officials at the
time the figures were released demonstrate the continued stigmatization of the
men, and assumptions that all those detained are linked to those attacks. "One
has to really kind of scratch their head and ask why would
they pick the anniversary on 9/11 (to protest their detention)."
said Guantánamo Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. John Gong, his question apparently
answered by Army Lt. Col. John Lonergan whose unit provides security at
Guantánamo, "It’s their little contribution to the cause."(4)

US officials have also stated that the number
of those participating in the hunger strike fluctuates and announced that
towards the end of 2005 another 46 men began refusing their food.(5) Lieutenant Colonel Jeremy Martin, a Guantánamo
spokesperson, has dismissed the protest, "This is consistent with al-Qaeda
training and reflects detainee attempts to elicit media attention and bring
pressure on the United States government."(6)

Such attitudes call into doubt the veracity of
official claims to be prioritizing the physical welfare of the detainees. Certainly
the US administration’s account of the current hunger
strike differs from that of some of the participating detainees who have been
able to relay their version of events through their lawyers.

Amnesty International neither opposes nor recommends
forcible feeding of prisoners on hunger strike. However, if forcible feeding is
done in such a way as deliberately to cause suffering, Amnesty International
considers that this may constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Fawzi al-Odah is one of those who have been
participating in the hunger strike since 8 August 2005. He has been force-fed but despite
this, his weight dropped dramatically to the point at which in November 2005,
independent doctors who had seen his medical records advised his lawyers that
he was in imminent danger of death or at least permanent organ damage. He has
described the method by which he was force-fed: "The nurse shoved a tube
up my nose so quickly that I began choking, bleeding from the nose and spitting
blood. They used no anaesthetic". He went on to describe the subsequent
treatment,

"Frequent loud noises are made during the
night time while I am trying to sleep and harsh physical handling by guards and
nurses. I am told all of these things are being done because I am on the hunger
strike."(7)

As far as Amnesty International is aware, Fawzi
al-Odah was still participating in the hunger strike as of 23
January 2006.
His lawyers have said that, at the time of their last visit in December 2005,
he was extremely thin but stable. He has told them that he plans to continue
his hunger strike until he is returned to Kuwait.

Saudi Arabian national Yousuf al-Shehri has
also described the situation for the hunger strikers. He said that, after
approximately seven days without food, he and four other prisoners were taken
to the camp hospital where they were verbally insulted and placed in shackles
or other restraints on their arms, legs, waist, chest, knees and head. After
this he said they were given intravenous medicine and described how, if they
moved, they were hit in the chest area. His lawyers have described how Yousef
al-Shehri, who is believed to have been a juvenile when first detained, was
forcefully administered the nasal tube for feeding, reportedly with no
anaesthetic gel or sedative.

Two or three days later, as he was being given
liquid supplement through the tube, he said that he and other prisoners were,

"vomiting up
substantial amounts of blood. When they vomited up blood, the soldiers mocked
and cursed them, and taunted them with statements like ‘look what your religion
has brought you.’"(8)

After two weeks of force-feeding, the detainees
said that they were transferred from the hospital and placed in solitary cells.
After five days they described being transferred to a different area with foam
walls, and a hole in the floor for a toilet. Here they allege that the guards
began inserting larger, thicker tubes into their noses again reportedly with no
anaesthetic gel or sedative. According to Yousef al-Shehri, when the tube was
removed, blood came gushing out of him and the detainees were reportedly told
by the guards that these techniques were being used on purpose to make them
stop the hunger strike. As of 23 January 2006, Yousef al-Shehri was still
participating in the hunger strike.

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak, referring
to reports about the force-feeding, declared that if the allegations are true
it would amount to cruel treatment.(9) If the above allegations from the
Guantánamo hunger strikers are true, Amnesty International would consider their
treatment to constitute torture or other ill-treatment.

The demands of the Guantánamo hunger strikers
are not controversial, they are asking for their rights under international law
to be respected, they are asking to be released if they are not to be charged
with internationally recognized offences and they are asking that organizations
such as Amnesty International be granted access to them. After four years
without these rights, they know that the US administration is not likely to
cede to their demands, which may be why some of the Guantánamo hunger strikers
have expressed their resolve to continue their strike until the bitter end. UK resident Benyam Muhammad
al-Habashi, for instance, told his lawyer of his own determination when he
resumed his hunger strike in August 2005, "I do not plan to stop until I
either die or we are respected…People will definitely die."(10)

In a written statement to his lawyer, Saudi
Arabian national Shaker Aamer, who had been resident in the UK from 1996 until
his detention in Afghanistan in January 2002, explained his reasons for
participating in the hunger strike,

"I am dying here every day, mentally and
physically. This is happening to all of us. We have been ignored
, locked up in the middle of the ocean for four years. Rather than
humiliate myself…I would rather hurry up a process that is going to happen
anyway…I would just like to die quietly by myself…I want to make it easy on
everyone. I want no feeding, no forced tubes, no ‘help’, no ‘intensive assisted
feeding’. This is my legal right."(11)

2 – Suicide attempts – the cases of Jumah
al-Dossari and Muhammad Saad Iqbal al-Madni

Jumah al-Dossari was seized in Pakistan in late 2001 and held for several
weeks by the Pakistani authorities. He was then taken in an airplane by US
agents to Kandahar airbase in Afghanistan. Throughout his detention in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Guantánamo, he claims to have
been subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including beatings, rape and death
threats, prolonged isolation, exposure to extreme cold, sexual assaults and
having his body smeared with menstrual blood during the course of an
interrogation.(12) He is believed to have attempted
suicide at least nine times. On 15 October 2005, he attempted to hang himself after
going into the toilet during an interview with his lawyer. In declassified
notes from a meeting with the lawyer in November, Jumah al-Dossari talked about
this suicide attempt, explaining that he had wanted to kill himself so that he
could send a message to the world that the conditions at Guantánamo are
intolerable. He added that he tried to do it in a public way so that the
military could not cover it up and his death would not be anonymous. This
suicide attempt left him with a broken vertebra and fourteen stitches in his
right arm.

Shortly after this suicide attempt, medical
experts warned that if Jumah al-Dossari’s conditions of confinement remained as
they were, his mental state would "likely continue to deteriorate and
there will remain a great likelihood that he will again attempt to harm himself
physically."(13) On 14 November, just two days after his lawyers met with
him and described his condition as "very frail, most likely as a result of
his multiple suicide attempts and the fact that he is currently participating
in the hunger strike" Jumah al-Dossari attempted to commit suicide again
by attempting to re-open a wound from a previous attempt to take his own life. Authorities
at Guantánamo have confirmed in a letter to his lawyer that Jumah al-Dossari
attempted to hurt himself again on 12 December when he "again attempted to
open the existing wound on his right arm and lacerated his right
bicep."(14)

Jumah al-Dossari had been held in solitary
confinement in Camp V, the worst of the current facilities at Guantánamo which
is based on the harsh ‘supermaximum’ style facilities on the US mainland.(15) On 15 December 2005, just one day before a US District
Court in Washington was scheduled to hear a case challenging his conditions of
detention, he was moved out of isolation in Camp V and transferred to Camp 1
where he is now believed to be able to interact with other detainees.

Muhammad Saad Iqbal al-Madni is also reported
to have attempted suicide on at least one occasion during his detention at
Guantánamo. Amnesty International has serious concerns for his physical and
psychological welfare.

Muhammad Saad al-Madni was arrested in Indonesia on 12 January
2002 and
subsequently transferred to detention in Egypt where he "disappeared"
and was thought to have died until he resurfaced in Guantánamo in 2004. Former
Australian Guantánamo detainee Mamdouh Habib who was held with Muhammad Saad
al-Madni in Egypt has recalled how he had pleaded for
human interaction whilst at Guantánamo. Mamdouh Habib was held in a nearby cell
and recalls overhearing him saying, ’Talk to me, please talk to me…I feel
depressed…I want to talk to somebody…Nobody trusts me." Mamdouh Habib has
described Muhammad Saad al-Madni as having gone ‘fully crazy…he doesn’t know
where he is anymore."(16)

Muhammad Saad al-Madni does not have a lawyer
representing him, and there is little information available regarding his current
situation. However Amnesty International has spoken to one former Guantánamo
detainee, Russian national Rustam Akhmiarov, who was held in a cell next to a
man whom he named as ‘Saad’ who had been arrested in Indonesia and was detained with Mamdouh Habib
in Egypt. Because of the similar case information, Amnesty International
believes this man may be Muhammad Saad al-Madni who remains held in Guantánamo.

According to Rustam Akhmiarov, ‘Saad’ was in a
particularly bad mental and physical situation at Guantánamo and at the time of
Rustam Akhmiarov’s release in March 2004, was passing blood in his faeces. Rustam
Akhmiarov also told Amnesty International that ‘Saad’ had spoken of his time in
an underground cell in Egypt, where he never saw the sun and
where he was tortured until he confessed to working with Osama bin Laden. ‘Saad’
had also reportedly recalled how he was interrogated by both Egyptian and US
agents in Egypt and that he was blindfolded, tortured with electric shocks,
beaten and hung from the ceiling. Rustam Akhmiarov also recalls hearing US
officials tell ‘Saad’, during his Guantánamo detention that ‘we will let you go
if you tell the world everything was fine here."

3 -‘No longer enemy combatants’ still detained

There are believed to be nine men now
determined no longer to be ‘enemy combatants’(17) who remain detained in
Guantánamo despite a decision by US authorities at Guantánamo that they should
be released and despite a District Court ruling in two of the cases that their
continued detention at Guantánamo is unlawful. They are held in Camp Iguana, the facility at Guantánamo once
used to hold juvenile detainees.(18)

Among the men are five ethnic Uighurs from China and another ethnic Uighur from Saudi Arabia. All six are believed to be at high
risk of further human rights violations, including torture and possible
execution, if returned to China. The other three men are believed
to be from Uzbekistan or Russia, Algeria and Egypt. It is unclear whether the US authorities have also determined
that these three men cannot be returned to their home countries because they
risk further human rights violations. What is clear,
however, is that they remain locked up in Guantánamo’s Camp Iguana despite no longer being considered
‘enemy combatants’.

On 12 August 2004, the then US Secretary of
State Colin Powell said that none of the ethnic Uighurs held in US military
custody in Guantánamo Bay, would be returned to China, stating that "the
Uighurs are a difficult problem and we are trying to resolve all issues with
respect to all detainees at Guantánamo. The Uighurs are
not going back to China, but finding places for them is not
a simple matter, but we are trying to find places for them…and, of course, all
candidate countries are being looked at."(19)

Amnesty International welcomes such a declaration, which it interprets to include
not only protection from forcible return to China, but also from relocation or
resettlement to a third country from where they might face the risk of forcible
return to China. However, the organization continues to maintain that there is
no basis for their continued detention in Guantánamo and that they should be
immediately released

Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdul Hakim are
Uighurs, natives of China’s north-western Xinjiang Uighur
Autonomous Region. They were captured by Pakistani security forces in late 2001
or early 2002 and handed over to US custody in Afghanistan where they were held
for approximately six months before being flown to Guantánamo as ‘enemy
combatants’. In March 2005 a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT)(20) determined that they should no longer be classified as
‘enemy combatants’. The three other ethnic Uighurs from China who are no longer
considered to be ‘enemy combatants’ are Ayob Haji Mamet, Ahmed Doe and Aktar
Doe.

The US authorities have long been trying
to find a solution whereby a third country would accept to resettle the
Uighurs, to date without success. For the men who have been cleared by the CSRT
process, the reason for their continued detention is now given as "the
Executive’s necessary power to wind up wartime detentions in an orderly
fashion."(21) At a hearing on 12 December 2005 in the US District Court for the
District if Columbia, the US authorities asserted that progress
is being made on the cases but declined to elaborate except in camera.

On 22 December 2005 a federal judge ruled that the
continued indefinite imprisonment of Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdul Hakim at
Guantánamo was unlawful. However, the court was not in position to order their
release on parole until the government could arrange for their transfer to
another country. The ruling held that their release onto the US mainland would have national
security and diplomatic implications beyond the competence or authority of the
court. The judge noted that,

"Ordinarily, a district judge reviewing a
habeas petition does not need to proceed very far beyond determining that the
detention is unlawful before ordering a petitioner’s release…The question in
this case is whether the law gives me the power to do what I believe justice
requires. The answer, I believe, is no." (22)

Saddiq Ahmed Turkistani also remains held at
Guantánamo even though he is no longer considered to be an ‘enemy combatant’. Saddiq
Turkistani is an ethnic Uighur who was born in Saudi Arabia – his family are thought to have
fled to Saudi Arabia to escape the violent repression of
the Uighurs by Chinese authorities. He says that he was exiled and stripped of
his Saudi Arabian citizenship in 1997 after being arrested on drug possession
allegations.

According to him Saudi Arabian authorities then
sent him to Afghanistan where he and a friend were accused
of attempting to kill Osama bin Laden and held by the Taliban for four years
before being released by invading US forces. After meeting with United Nations
officials and participating in a press conference he was, however, then taken
to the US military base in Kandahar and later transported to Guantánamo
where he was held in solitary confinement for one and a half years. He has also
reportedly described being repeatedly abused by guards, and subjected to
psychological abuse by medical staff.

In January 2005 Saddiq Ahmed Turkistani was
told by US officials that he was ‘no longer an "enemy combatant"’. However,
having lost his Saudi Arabian citizenship he is unable to return to the country
of his birth and it is believed that no other country has agreed to accept his
resettlement.

The nine men in Camp Iguana remain in limbo. Little or no
progress appears to have been made on resettlement to another country or
release onto the US mainland. Amnesty International
considers that the primary responsibility for finding a durable solution to the
plight of the nine men in Camp Iguana rests with the US authorities. As a state party to
the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, the US government needs to ensure that it
accords full respect to the institution of asylum. The organisation urges the US authorities to provide persons
determined no longer to be "enemy combatants" with prompt and
unhindered access to independent legal advice to establish whether they wish to
claim asylum in the United States. They should grant any person
wishing to submit an application for asylum with full access to fair and
effective procedures that are in compliance with refugee law principles and
standards including the opportunity to contact UNHCR. The US government should further
facilitate the exercise of UNHCR’s duty of supervising the application of the
provisions of the 1967 Protocol in the case of persons seeking asylum currently
held in Guantánamo Bay.

Amnesty International urges the US authorities to intensify their
efforts to find a timely durable solution for those held in Guantánamo who make
an informed decision not to seek asylum in
the US. Such a solution should effectively address
their protection needs and take into account their specific situation on a
case-by-case basis. It also recommends that UNHCR cooperates with the US authorities in their search for a
durable solution for Guantánamo detainees, including but not limited to Chinese
nationals.

4- The continued plight of former Guantánamo
detainees

"He returned from Guantánamo with his
health absolutely ruined…he left his health in Cuba…he was given the stigma of being an
international terrorist…he is still being watched…it happens to all of
them." Fatima Tekaeva, mother of former Guantánamo detainee Rasul Kudayev

Even for some of those former Guantánamo
detainees who have been released or transferred to their home countries the
consequences of their experiences in US detention in Guantánamo and
elsewhere will always remain. For some, transfer from Guantánamo has meant
nothing more than a move from one place of indefinite, unlawful detention to
another. For others it has meant continual harassment, arbitrary arrest and
ill-treatment. Even for those who have been returned to their home country to
be reunited with their families and friends, the physical and psychological
reminders of their time in Guantánamo will remain, and the stigma of having
been labelled an ‘enemy combatant’, ‘the worst of the worst’ will stay with
them for the rest of their lives.

Jordanian national Wisam ‘Abd al-Rahman Ahmed
was returned to Jordan from Guantánamo in April 2004. According
to the US Department of Defense, the decision to transfer or release him was,
"based on many factors, including whether the detainee is of further
intelligence value to the United States and whether he is believed to pose a
threat to the United States"(23). Following his release he described to
the media how he had been arrested in Iran on 1 March 2002, handed over to the Afghani
authorities and held in an underground prison for 14 months. Before being sent
to Guantánamo he was transferred to Bagram where he says,

"At Bagram, we arrived – with our heads
covered in plastic bags, legs shackled and hands cuffed – to a flood of
insults, swear words, kicks and sexual abuse…The US jailers used to let loose
their dogs to intimidate and provoke us, taking delight in seeing us gripped
with fear. They also forced us to take off our clothes and stand in a way I’m
ashamed to describe. We regularly underwent anus checks, which was the most
humiliating."(24)

Amnesty International has not had the
opportunity to interview Wisam ‘Abd al-Rahman Ahmed. Following a brief spell of
liberty, he was rearrested in Jordan on unknown charges. He is currently
held in an unknown location where, Amnesty International fears, he may be at
risk of torture or ill-treatment.

Yemeni national Karama Khamis Khamisan was
returned to Yemen from Guantánamo on 22
August 2005.
In an interview with Amnesty International just a few weeks after his transfer
he described how he had travelled to Afghanistan as part of a drug smuggling
ring where he was held by drugs barons as a human guarantor until completion of
the deal. When US forces invaded Afghanistan he described how, fearing discovery,
his captors fled leaving he and the other guarantors stranded near the
Afghanistan-Pakistan border. It was here that he says he was seized by
Pakistani nationals, who sold him on to US forces who held him first in Bagram,
then Kandahar and later transferred him to Guantánamo.

During his detention by US forces in Afghanistan, Karama Khamisan said that he was
kicked and beaten while hooded, stripped naked and beaten with batons. He told
Amnesty International that in Kandahar he and a group of other detainees
were stripped and piled on top of each other naked, whilst the US officials, in full military uniform
laughed at them and took photographs of the pile of naked bodies. He also said
that he was threatened with electric shocks and later, on the flight from Afghanistan to Guantánamo handcuffed so tightly
that, when the handcuffs were removed, some of his flesh was also torn off.

In Guantánamo, Karama Khamisan described how,
on one occasion, he was taken to the shower room where guards attempted to
sexually abuse him. As he pushed them away, ten guards entered the room and
beat him before transferring him to a solitary cell where he was held for 25
days, naked. He said that he was only taken to use the toilet and shower once
in this entire period and that he ate no solid food in order to avoid having to
defecate in his cell.

He said that he was also threatened with
transfer to Egypt or Jordan where he was told he would be
tortured, he was also subjected to verbal threats and told "we have other
means and methods we can use if you don’t talk."

Karama Khamisan was eventually determined not
to be an ‘enemy combatant’ by US authorities and returned to Yemen. When Amnesty International met him
in September 2005 he was held in the Investigating Criminal Unit, Drugs
Department in Sana’a. Yemeni officials told Amnesty International that their
investigations were completed and that he was due to be tried on drugs related
charges ‘soon’. However, in December 2005 he was transferred to the Political
Security prison in Sana’a where he was held virtually incommunicado. His
lawyer’s requests to visit him and to be present during any court proceedings
against him have been denied.

On their return to Russia from Guantánamo on 1
March 2004,
seven Russian nationals were re-arrested and held for four-and-a-half months in
detention before being released and all charges dropped. Since then, they and
their families have been subjected to constant harassment and surveillance, and
some of the detainees have been re-arrested and allegedly tortured by Russian
law enforcement officials. Airat Vakhitov told Amnesty International how, in
his opinion, the Russian security services now felt they had the ‘moral right’
to arrest him and the other returned Guantánamo detainees at random.

Nina Odizheva, the mother of former Russian
Guantánamo detainee Ruslan Odizhev has described how the time spent in US detention had irrevocably changed
her son,

"It changed him…he is completely ill…he
lives on pills for all his major organs…he tries not to show it or tell me
details so I don’t get upset…he has no appetite…he is a different person
now…"

Fatimat Tekaeva, the mother of former detainee
Rasul Kudaev, has also described how he "returned from Guantánamo with his
health absolutely ruined…he left his health in Cuba". She says that because of his
detention in Guantánamo, her son has now been given the ‘stigma of an
international terrorist’.

Rasul Kudaev was most recently detained by law
enforcement officials in Russia on 23 October
2005,
allegedly on suspicion of participation in an armed raid. He was reportedly
beaten in front of his family members and then tortured while in detention
including by being repeatedly kicked in the head.(25)
He remains in detention and there are serious concerns for his health, due to
the injuries he has sustained, and the reported denial of adequate medical
treatment for his existing serious health problems. His state-appointed lawyer
was removed from his case after she filed an official complaint that he had
been tortured.

5 – Impact on families

Four years after the first transfers to Guantánamo, US authorities have failed to provide
a full list of names and nationalities of those detained there. Even the
numbers of those who remain detained are given only as an approximation by the
US Department of Defense. Incomplete lists have been compiled by media, lawyers
and NGOs, but still, to date, there is no official list of all those detained. Some
families who have received no direct communication from the camp, and are aware
that their relatives are, or have been detained by the US, remain in a state of uncertainty
as to the fate of their relatives.

In early 2002, Yemeni authorities published a
list of Yemeni nationals reportedly held in Guantánamo. Amongst those listed
were Ismail Ali Ahmed al-Rimi, but his family have never received confirmation
that he is actually present in Guantánamo nor have they received any
communication from him. For families like these, speculation that their
relatives may be in Guantánamo is just one lead in the search for their
relatives, but without formal notification from either the US or Yemeni authorities the pain of
not knowing continues

Ismail al-Rimi’s family told Amnesty
International that he was approximately 30 years old when he
"disappeared" shortly after 11 September 2001. He is married with two children,
Muhammad (6) and Abdullah (10) and had been working in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) since November 1999. His
family had spoken to him on the telephone just before 11
September 2001 and they had discussed his plans to return to Yemen. They have not heard from him
since.

Six months after that telephone call his
brother saw his name published in the Yemeni media in a list of Guantánamo
detainees. However, they told Amnesty International that when they contacted
the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at the time, they were told
he was not in Guantánamo, nor have they received any responses to their letters
to Guantánamo.

In order that the family of Ismail al-Rimi –
and others like them – can begin to establish his fate and whereabouts, Amnesty
International is again calling on the US authorities to publish a full list of
all those they are holding as part of the ‘war on terror’ at Guantánamo and
elsewhere. They should also provide all detainees with adequate means of
communication with their family members who should, in turn, be entitled to
full information as to their relatives’
health and well-being.

The UN Human Rights Committee has held that the
suffering of family members of "disappeared" persons resulting from
the authorities’ denial of their right to know what has happened to their
relatives could amount to torture or ill-treatment.(26)
Similarly, the European Court of Human Rights affirmed that the silence of the
authorities in the face of the anguish and distress experienced by family
members of a "disappeared" person could amount to inhuman or
degrading treatment.(27)

For some family members of the Guantánamo
detainees, their suffering has been compounded by false hopes because of
erroneous media reports or misunderstandings. Particularly for those who have
been unable to rely on their own governments – let alone the US authorities – to provide them with
detailed, up-to-date information on the situation of the detainees, the media has often been the
only source of information from the moment they began their search for their relatives.

Their stories highlight the failure of the US administration to keep other
governments fully informed of the legal status and well being of their citizens. Officials of
other governments have sometimes also failed to ensure that family members of
the Guantánamo detainees are kept accurately informed of developments.

Anyone who is arrested, detained or imprisoned
has the right to inform, or have the authorities notify, their family or friends.(28) The
right of detainees to notify relatives of their detention is complemented by
the right of people outside to obtain information about the detainees.(29) Contact with
the outside world should be allowed at regular intervals during detention.(30)
This is essential not only as a safeguard against torture and ill-treatment,
but in order to respect the detainees’ right to family and private life
(International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 17). In
particular, families should be informed of the death, serious illness, serious
injury or transfer of their relatives, and detainees should be informed at once of the death or serious
illness of any member of their family.(31)

Foreign nationals are also to be given all
reasonable facilities to communicate with and receive visits from
representatives of their government.(32)

When Rabiye Kurnaz heard media rumours that her
son Murat Kurnaz, German resident and Turkish national, had been released from
Guantánamo and sent to Turkey, she and her other children packed
their bags and, along with their lawyer, travelled to Turkey in the hopes of being reunited with
her son. However, her hopes were dashed when the rumours of his release proved
to be unfounded.

In fact Murat Kurnaz, who has lived his whole
life in Germany, has not left the confines of the
detention centre at Guantánamo for four years. Assistance from the German
authorities towards the family’s struggle for support and information has, to date, not been
forthcoming at all. It is only after years of campaigning by his lawyers,
family members and Amnesty International that the German authorities have
finally accepted that, if Murat Kurnaz is released from Guantánamo, he will be
allowed to return to Germany.

On 18 December 2005, Germany’s Interior Minister Wolfgang
Schaeuble added his support to those who have called for the detention centre
at Guantánamo Bay to be closed. In an interview with
the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine, he stated that he had, "…told
my U.S. partners time and again: What hurts the
reputation of the United States most is that they detain terrorism
suspects in camps outside the U.S. judicial system."(33)

In January 2006, just a few days before a visit
to the USA for talks with President Bush, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel added
that "An institution like Guantánamo can and should not exist in the
longer term…Different ways and means must be found for dealing with these
prisoners."(34) Amnesty International continues to urge the German
authorities, to do all within their power to secure justice for Murat Kurnaz
and to keep his mother and other family members fully informed of developments and outcomes of
any discussions with US authorities.

In September 2005, Amnesty International met
with the family of Yemeni national Muhammad al-Assadi who is currently detained
in Guantánamo. Despite the similarity of names, he is not the same man as
Muhammad al-Assad who has featured in a previous Amnesty International report.(35)

At the time of the meeting, recent media
reports in Yemen had named five men who were said to have been returned from
Guantánamo Bay. In fact, only two of those five men mentioned had been returned
from Guantánamo, the other three men named had been returned from a US secret
detention site – possibly one of those rumoured to have been based in Europe. With
the media and Yemeni officials erroneously reporting the facts, the family of
Muhammed al-Assadi strongly believed that he was back in Yemen and were
hopefully awaiting good news from the Yemeni authorities.

Several news reports in Yemen had listed the
returned Guantánamo detainees as Walid al-Qadassi, Karama Khamisan, Muhammad
al-Assad, Salah Nasser Salim Ali and Muhammad Bashmilah. The last three men
named had, in fact, never been held in Guantánamo, but with the similarity of
names, Muhammad al-Assadi’s family were convinced he was back in his home
country and that they would be reunited with him soon.

Unfortunately they were wrong. Muhammad
al-Assadi remains held in Guantánamo and very little information is available as to his
current situation. Despite their requests for information, Yemeni officials had failed
to inform Muhammad al-Assadi’s family that
their son was not one of those who had been released.

For others, notably those in Kuwait, Bahrain
and Saudi Arabia, the past few years have been fraught with false promises and
shattered expectations regarding the return of their relatives. In the past
four years there have been several government or media announcements that at
least some of the detainees in those countries would be returned imminently. When
three of the six Bahraini detainees were finally returned in November 2005, the
families did not know, until the very last minute, which of the men were returning, leaving all in a state of uncertainty culminating
in joy for some, despair for others. It is not clear whether this points to a
failure of communication on the part of the US authorities. What is clear,
however, is that as the government responsible for the unlawful detention of
all the Guantánamo detainees, the USA must take ultimate responsibility for the
suffering caused, not only to the detainees themselves, but to the thousands of
family members also affected.

Some of the Guantánamo detainees have children
who they have never met. Some detainees do not know that their mother or father
has died since they were detained and others will know only that their
prolonged absence has caused their dependents financial hardship and severe
psychological distress. Amnesty International has received reports of family
members who have been hospitalized for problems which they believe are directly
related to the Guantánamo detentions.

"Dear Mr Tony Blair,

Firstly, how are you? I sent a letter two years
ago, why didn’t you reply?!? I was waiting for a long time but you did not
reply. Please can you give me an answer to my question? Why is my dad in
prison? Why is he far away in that Guantánamo Bay?! I miss my dad so much. I
have not seen my dad for three years. I know my dad has not done anything,
because he is a good man. I hear everybody speak about my dad in a nice way. Your
children spend Christmas with you, but me and my brothers, and sisters have
spent Eid alone without our dad for 3 years. What do you think about that?

I hope you will answer me this time. Thank you,
From: Anas Jamil al-Banna, 9 years old"

Anas al-Banna, the son of Jamil al-Banna,
resident of the United Kingdom (UK), detained in Guantánamo, was six years old
when he first wrote to Tony Blair asking about his father. He never received a
response and recently sent the above follow-up letter.

UK nationals who have been released from
Guantánamo told Amnesty International that Jamil al-Banna had been told two
years ago that he would be going home ‘soon’. According to them, most of his
time in detention he has been worrying about his family. According to those
released, it was a particularly difficult time for him when he learnt that he
was not to be among those from the UK to be released. His eldest son Muhammad
wrote a message to his father in November 2005,

"My dear dad…you are the light in the
darkness…my love for you is growing…when I pray, I pray for you with all my
heart…your son has grown up and he knows everything that has happened…God
willing you will come back and bring back our smiles."

For the family of Jamil al-Banna, as for many
of the Guantánamo families, the media and information from returned detainees have
been the main source of information regarding his current situation and
state of health. According to Jamil al-Banna’s wife, one day Muhammad came home
from school feeling particularly sad and angry and asked her "Is it true
that my dad is being tortured and they are doing bad things to him?" When
asked where he had heard this, he told his mother that a boy at school had
heard radio reports about torture and beatings at Guantánamo.

For the family of Jamil al-Banna, the past
three years have been marked by uncertainty and the pain of not knowing when
they will be reunited. Their suffering demonstrates the wider reach of the
devastation caused by the US ‘war on terror’ policies in Guantánamo and beyond.
In a statement delivered to an Amnesty International/Reprieve conference in
November 2005,(36) his wife described her family’s
anguish,

"My pen cannot express the pain and
sadness I feel in my heart for what my family has been going through…My pen
doesn’t know where to start with the tragedy that I’ve been living through with
my five children, without a family or a husband. For three years, my children
and I have been suffering this injustice. They have not only treated my husband
unjustly…but they have treated my children and me even more unfairly. I cannot
tell you just how exhausting and worrying the past three years have been for me… The only thing I can think about is my
children and my husband. I do not even think of myself, it’s the last thing on
my mind"

As with the al-Banna family, for many families
the detention of their sons, brothers and husbands marked the beginning not
only of years of pain, uncertainty and hardship but also the beginning of years
of campaigning on behalf of their relatives.

Rabiye Kurnaz has, for instance worked with
lawyers, media and human rights organizations in her campaign for justice, yet
still she feels that she is not doing enough for her family. She has described
to Amnesty International her physical and emotional exhaustion and her feelings
of guilt that "as a mother I cannot help my children… they ask ‘when is
our brother coming back mamma?’"

Nadja Dizdarevic, wife of Bosnian Guantánamo
detainee Boudella al-Hajj (originally of Algerian origin but now a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina) has also described how she has
dedicated her life to the campaign for the release of all the Bosnian
detainees, but feels that, as a consequence, she has neglected her children. Nadja
Dizdarevic has organized numerous demonstrations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and has been a leading and
outspoken activist on her husband and others’ behalf.

Many of the other family members in Bosnia and Herzegovina are reluctant to speak out, for
fear of reprisals. Nadja Dizdarevic herself has received several threatening
telephone calls, which in January 2003, she had reportedly been able to trace
to a Ministry of Interior police headquarters in Sarajevo. On 25 May 2004 she was attacked in her own home by
unidentified assailants.

On 5 December 2005, in protest at her husband’s
treatment and at the failure of the Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities to take
concrete steps towards securing the men’s release from Guantánamo, Nadja
Dizdarevic began her own hunger strike, saying that she would begin eating
again only after receiving written promises from the Bosnian authorities that
they would raise the issue with the US administration. On 9
December 2005,
after fainting in front of the parliament building in Sarejevo, she was transferred
to hospital. She has now been released from hospital and has suspended her
hunger strike on the advice of doctors.

"We shouldn’t abandon this room, we should
keep it warm until he comes back," Mother of Guantánamo detainee Fawzi
al-Odah

After nearly four years’ of detention at
Guantánamo, Fawzi al-Odah reached a point at which he felt he no longer wished
to go on living. After he joined the hunger strike on 8
August 2005,
Fawzi al-Odah formally requested his lawyer to file papers in US courts to seek
removal of his feeding tube in order that he may be allowed to die. His family
have refused to give consent for the tube to be removed, stating that "we
utterly refuse…Fawzi would not have taken such a decision unless he has lost
all hope and some of his ability to reason."(37)

Fawzi al-Odah’s father is the head of the
Kuwaiti Family Committee and spokesperson for the families of the Kuwaiti
detainees held in Guantánamo. The Kuwait Family Committee was founded in
January 2002, and together the families have organized a website dedicated to
the cause of the detainees, organized demonstrations in Kuwait and London, and been at the forefront of media
work aimed at securing the release or fair trial of their relatives.

In January 2005, Khalid al-Odah spoke of the
effect of his son’s detention on the family and explained the ways in which
they have been able to cope with his prolonged absence. He told Amnesty
International that,

"…when I come home from work, my wife is
weeping in a corner. I don’t know what to do. I try to comfort her, but I awake
sometimes at night and find her in Fawzi’s bedroom. "We shouldn’t abandon
this room, we should keep it warm until he comes back," she
says."(38)

6 – Conclusion

Many of the Guantánamo detainees have been held
in unlawful detention now for four years with little or no contact with the
outside world. Some have had no contact with their families whatsoever, whilst
others rely only on the occasional, often heavily censored, letters.

As demonstrated by former Guantánamo detainees
who spoke at the Amnesty International/Reprieve conference in November 2005,
despite their experiences many detainees have sought strength from each other,
from their faith and from the hope that they would, one day, see their friends
and families again. Despite the continued difficulties they have faced since
their return, some of those who have been released have expressed their
determination to continue campaigning on behalf of those who remain in
detention.

After four years, the US administration must start
listening. Guantánamo is not only just a legal black hole, it is a moral
disgrace and for those affected, it is an emotional abyss. The Guantánamo
detentions must not be allowed to continue for a fifth year – the hundreds of
men held and thousands of their family members affected around the world must
finally be afforded the justice to which they are entitled.

7 – Recommendations

US authorities should:

- Release all the Guantánamo detainees unless
they are to be given fair trials in US courts in accordance with international
law and without recourse to the death penalty;

- Close the Guantánamo detention facility and
open up all US ‘war on terror’ detention
facilities to external independent scrutiny;

- Officially and publicly condemn torture and
other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and order that these practices
cease, making clear that they are prohibited absolutely and will not be
tolerated;

- Promptly, impartially and effectively
investigate all allegations of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment of detainees in Guantánamo and in US custody elsewhere;

- Ensure that anyone responsible for having
committed, ordered or authorized torture or other ill-treatment be brought to
justice in a fair trial according to international law;

- Ensure that all the Guantánamo detainees are
afforded appropriate medical care

- Ensure that all the Guantánamo detainees are
allowed adequate contact with their families;

- Ensure that families of the detainees are
kept fully informed of their legal status, health and well-being;

- Set up an independent commission of inquiry
into all aspects of the USA’s "war on terror"
detention policies and practices;

- Provide UNHCR with prompt and unhindered
access to the nine men currently held in Camp Iguana and cooperate with the
agency to finding a durable solution to the plight of these individuals that
addresses their protection needs and takes into account their specific
situation on a case-by-case basis;

- Provide a full list of all those detained by
the US as part of the ‘war on terror’ in Guantánamo
and elsewhere.

********

(1) US Department of Defense news release,
"Detainee transfer announced", 5 November 2005.

(2) American forces information service, news articles,
"Guantánamo Tube Feedings Humane, Within Medical Care Standards", 1
December 2005

(3) As above

(4) As above

(5) Joint Task Force Guantánamo, press release,
"JTF Guantánamo updates voluntary fast numbers", 29
December 2005,

(6) ‘Camp X-Ray hunger strikers dismissed as
publicity stunt’ Times Online, 30
December 2005

(7) Declaration of Fawzi al-Odah to his lawyer, 10
October 2005

(8) Majid Abdulla al-Joudi et al.,Petitioners/Plaintiffs v. George W. Bush et al.,
Respondents/Defendants. Civil Action No. 05-0301 (GK)

(9) BBC News, "UN concern at Guantanamo feeding", 30
December 2005,

(10) ‘Hunger strikers pledge to die in
Guantánamo’ ‘The Guardian’ 9 September 2005

(11) Statement of Shaker Aamer to his lawyer, 7
November 2005

(12) Jumah al-Dossari’s own full account of his
experiences at Guantánamo and elsewhere are available in USA: Days of adverse hardship in US detention camps – Testimony of
Guantánamo detainee Jumah al-Dossari (AI Index: AMR 51/107/2005) published by
Amnesty International, December 2005.

(13) Declaration of Stuart Grassian, M.D. in Isa
Ali Abdulla alMurbati et al v. George Walker Bush et al., Civil Action No.
04-1277 (RBW)

(14) US Department of Justice, vie email to
Jumah al-Dossari’s lawyer, 15 December 2005

(15) In Camp V detainees are held in solitary
confinement in concrete cells, often for up to 24 hours a day

(16) ‘Terror suspect’s ordeal in US custody’ New York Times, 18
December 2005

(17) The US government continues to maintain
that it is entitled to hold people as "enemy combatants" in
connection with the war in Afghanistan and the continuing threat to US national
security posed by al Qa’ida -. The designation of such status has been used to
justify detention without little or no access to the courts, on the decision of
the executive, for an apparently indefinite period. International law does not
permit people to be detained at the unfettered discretion of the executive,
even in time of war or national emergency.

(18)

(19) US Department of State, Roundtable
with Japanese journalists, 12 August 2004,

(20) The "Combatant Status Review
Tribunals" (CSRT) which determine the status of Guantánamo detainees rely
on flawed process, including the admissibility of evidence extracted under
torture or other ill-treatment in making its determinations. The detainee has
no access to secret evidence used against him in this process or to legal
counsel to assist him. For further information see ‘USA – Guantánamo and beyond’ pps 54-64,
AI Index AMR 51/063/2005, May 2005

(21) Resp’t Supplemental Mem. At 12, quoted in
United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Abu Bakker Qassim, et al. v.
George W. Bush et al., Civil Action No. 05-0497 (JR), Memorandum of 22
December 2005

(22) United States District Court for the
District of Columbia, Abu Bakker Qassim, et al v. George W. Bush et al., Civil
Action No. 05-0497 (JR), Memorandum of 22 December 2005

(23) ‘Detainee transfer completed’ DoD news,

(24) ‘Jordanian describes hell at US prisons’,
Islamonline.net, 5 July 2004

(25) See AI Urgent Action EUR 46/041/2005, 27
October 2005 and update EUR 46/061/2005 , 8 December
2005

(26) Human Rights Committee, Communication No.
107/1981 (Elena Quinteros Almeda and Maria del Carmen Almeida de Quinteros v.
Uruguay), Views of the Human Rights Committee under article 5, paragraph 4 of
the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, UN Doc. CCPR/C/19/D/107/1981, 21 July 1983, par. 14

(27) European Court of Human Rights, Kurt v.
Turkey (application no. 24276/94), Judgment of 25 May 1998, Reports of
Judgments and Decisions, 1998-III, par. 134. Cyprus v. Turkey
(application no. 25781/94), Judgment of 10 May 2001, Reports of Judgments and
Decisions, 2001-IV, par. 157.

(28) Body of Principles for the Protection of
All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, Principle 16(1). Standard
Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, Rule 92.

(29) Declaration on the Protection of All
Persons from Enforced Disappearances, Article 10(2).

(30) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of
Prisoners, Rule 37. Body of Principles for the Protection of
All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, Principle 19.

(31) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment
of Prisoners, Rule 44.

(32) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment
of Prisoners, Rule 38. Body of Principles for the Protection
of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, Principle 16(2).

(33) United Press International, "German
Interior Minister: Close Guantanamo", 19 December 2005.

(34) ‘Merkel criticises Guantánamo Bay’ BBC
News, 7 January 2006

(35) Amnesty International, USA/Yemen: Secret
detention in CIA ‘Black Sites’, AMR 51/177/2005, 8 November 2005.

(36) Amnesty International/Reprieve – The
Global Struggle against Torture: Guantánamo Bay, Bagram and Beyond. 19-21
November 2005

(37) ‘Parents of Cuba Kuwaiti Inmate Reject
Son’s Bid to Pull ‘Lifeline’’ Associated Press, 27 October 2005

(38) Amnesty International – USA, Guantánamo:
The struggle for our children…Reports of chronic abuse bring more anguish – but
new reason to hope as well, AMR 51/001/2005, 6 January 2005