UK resident Binyam Mohamed was released from detention in Guantánamo Bay on Monday and allowed to return to the UK. His family and lawyers, together with human rights activists, including Amnesty International members, had campaigned extensively for his release.
Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian national, has alleged that he was tortured and ill-treated during a total of more than six years in detention. His health is reported to have deteriorated drastically during that time.
On Monday, Binyam Mohamed spoke, in a statement issued through his lawyers, of his gratitude to those who had worked for his release.
“I want to thank people around Britain who wrote to me in Guantánamo Bay to keep my spirits up, as well as to the members of the media who tried to make sure that the world knew what was going on,” he said.
“I know I would not be home in Britain today if it were not for everyone’s support. Indeed, I might not be alive at all.”
Binyam Mohamed was first arrested in Pakistan in April 2002. He was held for more than six years, at first in secret places of detention in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan and then – from September 2004 – in Guantánamo Bay. He was never put on trial.
He has made credible allegations that he was repeatedly tortured and ill-treated in the course of his detention. Credible information has recently emerged to indicate that the UK’s intelligence and security agencies may have been complicit in that torture and ill-treatment.
“Binyam Mohamed’s release will come as an enormous relief to his family and friends”, said Nicola Duckworth, director of the Europe and Central Asia programme at Amnesty International. “A number of deeply worrying questions about the way in which Binyam Mohamed was treated during his years of detention remain unanswered.”
Amnesty International believes that it is long past time for the facts of Binyam Mohamed’s case and others like it to be put in the public domain, and for those responsible for grave human rights violations to be brought to justice.
Both the UK and the US governments should establish without further delay independent investigations into the programme of rendition and secret detention.
In the case of the USA, Amnesty International has called for a full independent commission of inquiry to be set up into all aspects of the USA’s detention and interrogation practices in the “war on terror”.
In the UK’s case, the investigation should look into allegations of UK involvement in the programme, including allegations that the UK was complicit in the torture and ill-treatment of Binyam Mohamed.
Only full and independent investigations can get to the bottom of those questions.
In the statement he issued after his release, Binyam Mohamed urged for continued campaigning on behalf of those men still held at Guantánamo Bay.
“My own despair was greatest when I thought that everyone had abandoned me. I have a duty to make sure that nobody else is forgotten,” he said.
Amnesty International has called on the US government ensure the prompt release or fair trial of all those still held at Guantánamo Bay. It has also called on other countries, including European countries, to provide humanitarian protection to Guantánamo detainees who cannot be safely repatriated.
For more information on Binyam Mohamed’s case, see The case of Binyam Mohamed: ‘championing the rule of law’?, AI Index: EUR 45/001/2009.