Torture and rendition: Guantánamo case profiles

Abu Zubaydah, Stateless PalestinianSubjected to enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, and now in indefinite military custody without charge or criminal trial

Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, more commonly known as Abu Zubaydah, was arrested in March 2002 in Pakistan. He was handed over to the USA and held in secret detention at various undisclosed locations by the CIA until 4 September 2006 when he was transferred to Guantánamo Bay. He was subjected to waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002.  He was also allegedly subjected to years of solitary confinement and incommunicado detention, stress positions, beatings, forced prolonged nudity, sleep deprivation, use of loud music, exposure to cold, prolonged use of shackles, threats, forced shaving, cruel conditions of transfer, and deprivation or restriction of food.  Today, Abu Zubaydah would appear to be one of the 48 Guantánamo detainees whom the Obama administration said in 2010 it intends to hold indefinitely without criminal trial, although it has not confirmed this. In the unlikely case that his habeas corpus legal challenge were to be successful, it is not clear where would he go, as he is a stateless Palestinian. The Obama administration has shown itself willing to continue indefinitely holding at people at Guantánamo whose detention has been ruled unlawful, but for whom no “diplomatic” arrangement for their release has been found. Over the years Abu Zubaydah has been accused by the USA of among other things being a leading member of al-Qa’ida. For the purposes of habeas corpus proceedings, however, the USA has not said that Abu Zubaydah was an actual member of al-Qa’ida or had any direct role in or advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks.

No one has been brought to justice for the human rights violations, including crimes under international law, committed against Abu Zubaydah.

Binyam Mohamed: Ethiopian with British residencyReleased from US custody, still seeking redress for human rights violations

Born in Ethiopia, Binyam Mohamed came to Britain in 1994 seeking political asylum. He lived in the UK for seven years and was given leave to remain while his asylum claim was investigated.Binyam Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002. Over two years later, on 19 September 2004, he was taken to Guantánamo. In between, he was allegedly subjected to rendition to Morocco where he was held for 18 months, then transferred to the CIA-run “Dark Prison” in Kabul in Afghanistan, before being held in Bagram air base.In late 2009, a US District Court judge outlined the evidence of human rights violations committed against Binyam Mohamed, who in February of that year had been released from Guantánamo to the United Kingdom: “Binyam Mohamed’s lengthy and brutal experience in detention weighs heavily with the Court… Binyam Mohamed’s trauma lasted for two long years. During that time, he was physically and psychologically tortured. His genitals were mutilated. He was deprived of sleep and food. He was summarily transported from one foreign prison to another. Captors held him in stress positions for days at a time. He was forced to listen to piercingly loud music and the screams of other prisoners while locked in a pitch-black cell. All the while, he was forced to inculpate himself and others in various plots to imperil Americans. The Government does not dispute this evidence”The US authorities have failed in their obligation to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for these violations.  On 16 May 2011 the US Supreme Court refused to hear the Mohamed v. Jeppesen rendition case. In November 2011, the men took their case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Their case is pending.

Musa’ab Omar Al Madhwani: YemeniNo accountability despite judicial finding of abuse; held without charge or trial; unsuccessful habeas corpus petition. Seeking Supreme Court review

Musa’ab Omar Al Madhwani was 22 years old when he was arrested in Karachi on 11 September 2002 by Pakistani authorities.  Al Madhwani has stated that he was tied up, blindfolded, beaten with a rifle and threatened with death. He was held in Pakistani custody for approximately five days before being handed over to US forces and flown to Afghanistan. He says he was taken to the “Dark Prison”, a secret US-operated facility in or near Kabul, held for about 30 to 40 days during which he suffered a litany of abuses. He has alleged that he was beaten and kicked, kept in total darkness, deprived of food and sleep, subjected to extreme cold. He also states that he was partially suspended by his left hand he whole time he was in prison, so that he could never sit and all his weight was forced on to one foot, causing permanent nerve damage. He was then transferred to the US air base at Bagram where he was held for another five days and suffered further abuse. He was finally moved to Guantánamo, where he remains, on 28 October 2002. In a habeas corpus hearing in US District Court on 14 December 2009 – more than seven years after Al Madhwani was taken to Guantánamo – the judge noted that the allegations were corroborated by “uncontested government medical records”. Musa’ab al Madhwani’s  habeas corpus petition was denied by the District Court in January 2010, although the judge said that he was “not convinced” that the detainee was a threat to US national security, given the absence of evidence that he had either “fired a weapon in battle” or “planned, participated in, or knew of any terrorist plots”. Today, Musa’ab al Madhwani remains in Guantánamo under the US government’s assertion of detention powers under its global “war” framework.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi: MauritanianSubjected to torture or other ill-treatment in Guantánamo, indefinite detention without charge or trial, won habeas ruling, reversed on appeal

According to the US District Court, Mohamedou Ould Slahi was first arrested on suspicion that he had been involved in the failed “millennium plot” to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport. He was arrested in Mauritania in November 2001, then subjected to rendition to Jordan, where he was held for eight months.  He was then transferred to Bagram in Afghanistan in July 2002, then to Guantánamo on 4 August 2002. In Guantánamo during 2003, he was allegedly deprived of sleep for some 70 days straight, subjected to strobe lighting and continuous loud heavy metal music, threats against him and his family, intimidation by dog, cold temperatures, dousing with cold water, physical assaults, and food deprivation. He was also allegedly subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in Jordan, Bagram, and during his transfers.In April 2010, a federal judge noted that there is “ample evidence” that Mohamedou Slahi was subjected to “extensive and severe mistreatment at Guantánamo from mid-June 2003 to September 2003”. This was the period that this detainee had been labelled by his US military captors as having “Special Projects Status” and subjected to a 90-day “special interrogation plan” approved by various officials including the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.In April 2010, a US federal judge ordered the release of Mohamedou Ould Slahi. The detention was unlawful, the judge concluded, adding that “a habeas court may not permit a man to be held indefinitely upon suspicion, or because of the government’s prediction that he may do unlawful acts in the future…” The Obama administration disagreed, appealed and won. Under the USA’s global war framework, the Obama administration argued that there was no requirement that Slahi had to have “personally engaged in combat”.  A new habeas corpus hearing may be held in District Court sometime in 2012. By then Mohamedou Slahi will have been in custody without charge or trial for over a decade.

‘Abd Al Rahim Hussayn Muhammed Al Nashiri: Saudi ArabianSubjected to torture and enforced disappearance, now facing unfair trial by military commission, and possible execution

‘Abd al Rahim Hussayn Muhammed al Nashiri has been in US custody for over nine years, over five of them in Guantánamo. He has been charged for trial by military commission and is facing a possible death sentence.Arrested in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, by local security forces in October 2002, he was handed over to US agents and held in secret custody at undisclosed locations by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for almost four years. During his time in CIA custody, he was subjected to enforced disappearance, “water-boarding”, shackling, hooding and nudity, and being threatened with a handgun and an electric power drill. On 4 September 2006, he was transferred to US military custody at Guantánamo, where he remains. He is accused of having had a leading role in the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen on 12 October 2000 in which 17 US sailors were killed and 40 others wounded, and in the attack on the French oil tanker MV Limburg in the Gulf of Aden on 6 October 2002, in which a crew member was killed. The prosecution’s recommendation that the death penalty be an option at the trial was approved on 28 September 2011 by the “convening authority” of the military commissions.No one has been brought to justice for the human rights violations, including the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance, committed against ‘Abd al-Nashiri.