Documento - USA: Who are the Guantánamo detainees? Case Sheet 2, 5 Bahraini detainees

Public - February 2004 AI Index:AMR 51/033/2004

USA: Who are the Guantánamo detainees?

Case Sheet 2

5 Bahraini detainees

Full Name: Salman Ibrahim Mohammed al-Khalifa

Nationality: Bahraini

Age: 25

Family status: Single, no children. Member of the Bahraini royal family

Occupation: Student at the University of Imam Ibn-Saud, Saudi Arabia

Information: In 2000, Salman al-Khalifa travelled to Pakistan and lost contact with his family. In October 2001, the family discovered through a friend that he had been arrested in Karachi and handed over to US authorities who took him to Kandahar. It was apparently only through a CNN news broadcast that his family learnt he had been transferred to Guantánamo Bay. His family have received a number of letters from him in one of which he requested some books. These books remain held at the Bahraini embassy in Washington neither sent to him, nor returned.

His mother is currently receiving treatment in a psychiatric hospital for problems said to have been brought on by his arrest.

"We want out brother released. If there is anything against him, let them give him a fair trial"

Full Name: Adel Kamel Abdulla Haji

Nationality: Bahraini

Age: Unknown

Family status: Married with an 11-year-old daughter

Occupation: Worked in Bahraini Ministry of Defence finance department for 15-20 years

Information: During the Afghanistan war Adel Haji travelled to Afghanistan. His family lost touch with him until they learnt of his arrest in Pakistan from a Bahraini daily newspaper. The next thing they knew about him was when they received his first letter from Guantánamo Bay in April or May 2002. They subsequently received around 10 letters from him but the last arrived 10 months ago. They have heard nothing since. Since his arrest, Adel’s two brothers have been interrogated by the Bahraini Ministry of Interior, but have not been detained.

The last letter his family sent to him contained a photograph of his young daughter. There was no reply - the family wonder if it was ever received.

Why don’t they have any rights? Even animals have better rights than them. They were put in cages as if they are animals...imagine, why this?"

Full Name: Salah Abdul-Rasool Ali al-Balooshi

Nationality: Bahraini

Age: 23

Family status: Single, no children

Occupation: Student at the University of Medina, Saudi Arabia

Information: Before the attacks in the US of 11 September 2001, Salah al-Balooshi travelled to Pakistan. His family received a phone call from him in Pakistan saying that he was planning to return to his studies. However after 11 September his family lost contact with him. It was only in January or February 2002 that they discovered, via the internet, that he had been detained in Pakistan. He was subsequently transferred to a prison in Afghanistan. After a Bahraini delegation visited Guantánamo Bay in May/June 2002, it was discovered that Saleh was one of the detainees. They have received around 13 letters from him.

Saleh’s family told Amnesty International that they follow the news (TV, newspapers, Internet, radio) up to 18 hours a day in the hope of gaining some news of him.

"Our whole family is suffering. Not knowing his fate is extremely worrying for us"

Full Name: Abdulla Majed Sayyah Hassan al-Noaini

Nationality: Bahraini

Age: 22

Family status: Single, no children

Occupation: Student

Information: Abdulla al-Noaini left Bahrain in September 2001. In December that year his family received a phone call from an acquaintance stating that he had been arrested in Pakistan and was being held in Kohat. His father tried to find out about his arrest but to no avail. In June 2002 they received a letter from him via the Red Cross. He was detained at Guantánamo Bay. They since received around 12 letters from him and were able to respond. The last letter was in July 2003. They have heard nothing since.

The family told Amnesty International that since July they have sent Abdulla four letters. All have been returned without explanation.

"Where is my Dad?"

Full Name: Isa Ali Abdulla Ali al-Merbati

Nationality: Bahraini

Age: 39

Family status: Married with five children (oldest 15, youngest five)

Occupation: Used to work as a soldier for the Bahraini Ministry of Defence, then became a grocer.

Information: Isa al-Merbati travelled to Pakistan in October 2001 and had no contact with his family after that. His wife learnt that he had been arrested through a friend. At the beginning of 2002, they received a letter from the Red Cross stating that he was detained in Afghanistan. He was subsequently transferred to Guantánamo Bay. His family have received around 10 letters from him - the last was five months ago. They have heard nothing since.

Isa’s five year old son asks after him all the time. He was only two years old when he last saw his father.


When Amnesty International delegates visited the family of Isa al-Merbati in January 2004, they were first greeted by his five-year-old son running to them from the front door asking "Where is my Dad?". It is not surprising that his son doesn’t understand where he is and why - he is, in fact, held thousands of miles away, at Guantánamo Bay, the US military base in Cuba where more than 650 people are being detained without charge, access to lawyers, relatives or the courts.

Isa is one of at least five Bahraini nationals being held as an ‘enemy combatant’ at the base. There is at least one other held who has joint Bahraini/Saudi Arabian nationality. In a recent visit to Bahrain, Amnesty International delegates met with family members of the five Bahraini nationals to learn more about their detention. The information and quotes above came directly from the families.

All five were arrested by Pakistani security forces around the end of 2001/beginning of 2002, and subsequently handed over to the US forces who transferred them to Guantánamo Bay. After months of worrying, receiving no news, the families only learnt of the arrests indirectly, through the media, intermediaries and even the internet.

All the families have received letters via the Red Cross or by normal mail and have been able to send responses. Worryingly for the families, letters from the detainees have stopped arriving in recent months without explanation. The letters which have arrived tend not to contain any detail about the conditions of detention or daily life at Guantánamo, athough some asked families to help, by contacting US and Bahraini authorities.

There have been at least two visits by Bahraini security delegations to Guantánamo Bay to meet the detainees and discuss their situation. Following these visits, the families were told that the men were in good health. The Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs told one of the families that the US government had suggested returning the men to Bahrain under condition they remained in detention. The Bahraini authorities have refused to accept this because the US authorities could not provide clarification of the charges to justify continued detention. The stalemate continues. Like Isa al-Merbati’s son, all the families want news of their relatives. Like Amnesty International, they want them to be accorded all their rights under international law, to be charged, given access to lawyers and granted fair trials. If not they should be released immediately.

Guantánamo Bay - A Human Rights Scandal

Hundreds of people of around 40 different nationalities remain held without charge or trial at the US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, without access to any court, legal counsel or family visits. Denied their rights under international law and held in conditions which may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, the detainees face severe psychological distress. There have been numerous suicide attempts.

Many of those held were captured during the international conflict in Afghanistan, from where transfers to the Naval Base began in January 2002 under harsh conditions of transportation. Others were arrested elsewhere and handed over to the US authorities. Sporadic transfers to, and releases from, the base continue, but the precise numbers, identities and nationalities of those held has never been made public.

None of the detainees have been granted prisoner of war status or brought before a "competent tribunal" to determine his status, as required by Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention. The US government refuses to clarify their legal status, despite calls from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to do so.

The majority are held in maximum security blocks in small cells, sometimes for up to 24 hours a day and with very little out-of-cell exercise time. They are also subjected to repeated interrogations sometimes for hours at a time and without the presence of a lawyer, raising fears that statements may be extracted under coercion. The ICRC is the only non-governmental organization allowed access to the detainees.

With no opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of their detention and the prospect of indefinite detention without trial in such conditions, the potential psychological impact upon those held is a major concern. The ICRC delegation has stated that it has observed a "worrying deterioration" in the mental health of a large number of the detainees, and that their psychological condition has become a "major problem".

In November 2001, President Bush signed a Military Order establishing trials by military commission which have the power to hand down death sentences and against whose decisions there will be no right of appeal to any court. In addition to the lack of right to appeal, the commissions will lack independence and will restrict the right of defendants to choose their own counsel and to an effective defence. The commissions will also accept a lower standard of evidence than in ordinary courts. This could include evidence extracted under torture or coercion.


  1. The US government end the legal limbo of all detainees

  2. All those held are charged and given fair trials or released

  3. They are granted full access to lawyers and families

  4. They are treated humanely and granted access to their rights

  5. Their families are kept informed of their legal status and well-being


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