Five more #Guantánamo detainees transfered to #Kazakhstan - #US: image via Sputnik @Sputnikint, 30 December 2014
Mohamedou Ould Slahi describes the flight to Guantánamo: image via the Guardian, 16 January 2015
In November 2001, Mohamedou Ould Slahi was arrested in Mauritania and taken to Amman by Jordanian armed forces. He was interrogated and held in solitary confinement for seven and a half months. Then a CIA rendition team took Slahi to Bagram air base in Afghanistan. From there, two weeks later, he was flown to Guantánamo Bay.
Around 4pm, the transport to the airport started. By then, I was a “living dead”. My legs weren’t able to carry me any more; for the time to come, the guards had to drag me all the way from Bagram to GTMO ...
The arrival at the airport was obvious because of the whining of the engines, which easily went through the earplugs. The truck backed up until it touched the plane. The guards started to shout loudly in a language I could not differentiate. I started to hear human bodies hitting the floor. Two guards grabbed a detainee and threw him toward two other guards on the plane, shouting “Code”; the receiving guards shouted back confirming receipt of the package. When my turn came, two guards grabbed me by the hands and feet and threw me toward the reception team. I don’t remember whether I hit the floor or was caught by the other guards. I had started to lose feeling and it would have made no difference anyway.
Another team inside the plane dragged me and fastened me on a small and straight seat. The belt was so tight I could not breathe. The air conditioning hit me, and one of the MPs was shouting, “Do not move, Do not talk,” while locking my feet to the floor. I didn’t know how to say “tight” in English. I was calling, “MP, MP, belt ...” Nobody came to help me. I almost got smothered. I had a mask over my mouth and my nose, plus the bag covering my head and my face, not to mention the tight belt around my stomach: breathing was impossible. I kept saying, “MP, Sir, I cannot breathe! ... MP, SIR, please.” But it seemed like my pleas for help got lost in a vast desert.
After a couple minutes, ____________ was dropped beside me on my right. I wasn’t sure it was him, but he told me later he felt my presence beside him. Every once in a while, if one of the guards adjusted my goggles, I saw a little. I saw the cockpit, which was in front of me. I saw the green camo-uniforms of the escorting guards. I saw the ghosts of my fellow detainees on my left and my right. “Mister, please, my belt …hurt …” I called. When the shoutings of the guards faded away, I knew that the detainees were all on board. “Mister, please … belt …” A guard responded, but he not only didn’t help me, he tightened the belt even more around my abdomen.
Now I couldn’t endure the pain; I felt I was going to die. I couldn’t help asking for help louder. “Mister, I cannot breathe …” One of the soldiers came and untightened the belt, not very comfortably but better than nothing.
“It’s still tight …” I had learned the word when he asked me, “Is it tight?”
“That’s all you get.” I gave up asking for relief from the belt.
“I cannot breathe!” I said, gesturing to my nose. A guard appeared and took the mask off my nose. I took a deep breath and felt really relieved. But to my dismay, the guard put the mask back on my nose and my mouth. “Sir, I cannot breathe … MP … MP.” The same guy showed up once more, but instead of taking the mask off my nose, he took the plug out of my ear and said, “Forget about it!” and immediately put the ear plug back. It was harsh, but it was the only way not to smother. I was panicking, I had just enough air, but the only way to survive was to convince the brain to be satisfied with the tiny bit of air it got.
The plane was in the air. A guard shouted in my ear, “Ima gonna give you some medication, you get sick.” He made me take a bunch of tablets and gave me an apple and a peanut butter sandwich, our only meal since the transfer procedure began. I’ve hated peanut butter since then. I had no appetite for anything, but I pretended I was eating the sandwich so the guards don’t hurt me. I always tried to avoid contact with those violent guards unless it was extremely necessary. I took a bite off the sandwich and kept the rest in my hand till the guards collected the trash. As to the apple, the eating was tricky, since my hands were tied to my waist and I wore mittens. I squeezed the apple between my hands and bent my head to my waist like an acrobat to bite at it. One slip and the apple is gone. I tried to sleep, but as tired as I was, every attempt to take a nap ended in failure.
The seat was as straight as an arrow, and as hard as a stone.
#EEUU envía a cinco prisioneros de #Guantánamo a Kazajistán para reubicación: image via Reuters Latam @ReutrsLatam, 31 December 2014
After five hours, the prisoners are transferred on to another flight for the final leg of their journey.
The plane seemed to be heading to the kingdom of far, far away. Feeling lessened with every minute going by; my body numbed. I remember asking for the bathroom once. The guards dragged me to the place, pushed inside a small room, and pulled down my pants. I couldn’t take care of my business because of the presence of others. But I think I managed with a lot of effort to squeeze some water. I just wanted to arrive, no matter where. Any place would be better than this plane.
After I don’t know how many hours, the plane landed in Cuba. The guards started to pull us out of the plane. “Walk! ... Stop!” I couldn’t walk, for my feet were unable to carry me. And now I noticed that at some point I had lost one of my shoes. After a thorough search outside the plane, the guards shouted, “Walk! Do not talk! Head down! Step!” I only understood “Do not talk,” but the guards were dragging me anyway. Inside the truck, the guards shouted, “Sit down!” Cross your legs!” I didn’t understand the last part but they crossed my legs anyway. “Head down!” one shouted, pushing my head against the rear end of another detainee like a chicken. A female voice was shouting all the way to the camp, “No Talking,” and a male voice, “Do not talk,” and an Arabic translator, _________________________ _____ ______________________________
____________, “Keep your head down.” I was
completely annoyed by the American way of talking; I stayed that way
for a long time, until I got cured by meeting other good Americans. At
the same time, I was thinking about how they gave the same order two
different ways: “Do not talk” and “No talking.” That was interesting.
By now the chains on my ankles were cutting off the blood to my feet. My feet became numb. I heard only the moaning and crying of other detainees. Beating was the order of the trip. I was not spared: the guard kept hitting me on my head and squeezing my neck against the rear end of the other detainee. But I don’t blame him as much as I do that poor and painful detainee, who was crying and kept moving, and so kept raising my head. Other detainees told me that we took a ferry ride during the trip, but I didn’t notice.
After about an hour we were finally at the promised land. As much pain as I suffered, I was very happy to have the trip behind me. A prophet’s saying states: “Travel is a piece of torture.” This trip was certainly a piece of torture. Now I was only worried about how I was going to stand up if they asked me to. I was just paralysed. Two guards grabbed me and shouted “Stan’ up.” I tried to jump but nothing happened; instead they dragged me and threw me outside the truck.
The warm Cuban sun hit me gracefully. It was such a good feeling.
EEUU envía a cinco prisioneros de AJEnglish: Five more #Guantánamo detainees freed : Al Jazeera English ... #SriLanka: image via News @BreaknNews, 31 December 2014
The False Rendition
In August 2003, the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, authorised a plan to subject Slahi to “special interrogation”, whereby he would be subjected to a fake rendition process and led to believe he had been delivered to another country where he would be subjected to more brutal treatment. On 24 August, an interrogation team burst into his isolation cell.
“Blindfold the motherfucker if he tries to look …” One of them hit me hard across the face, and quickly put the goggles on my eyes, ear muffs on my ears, and a small bag over my head. I couldn’t tell who did what. They tightened the chains around my ankles and my wrists; afterwards, I started to bleed. All I could hear was _____ cursing, “F-this and F-that!” I didn’t say a word, I was overwhelmingly surprised, I thought they were going to execute me.
Thanks to the beating I wasn’t able to stand, so _____ and the other guard dragged me out with my toes tracing the way and threw me in a truck, which immediately took off. The beating party would go on for the next three or four hours before they turned me over to another team that was going to use different torture techniques.
Slahi’s manuscript, in which he describes being tortured on the boat: image via the Guardian, 16 January 2015
“Stop praying, motherfucker, you’re killing people,” _____ said, and punched me hard on my mouth. My mouth and nose started to bleed, and my lips grew so big that I technically could not speak anymore. The colleague of _____ turned out to be one of my guards, ______________________________
. _____ and __________ each took a side
and started to punch me and smash me against the metal of the truck. One
of the guys hit me so hard that my breath stopped and I was choking; I
felt like I was breathing through my ribs. I almost suffocated without
their knowledge ...
After 10 to 15 minutes, the truck stopped at the beach, and my escorting team dragged me out of the truck and put me in a high-speed boat ... Inside the boat, _____ made me drink salt water, I believe it was directly from the ocean. It was so nasty I threw up. They would put any object in my mouth and shout, “Swallow, motherfucker!”, but I decided inside not to swallow the organ-damaging salt water, which choked me when they kept pouring it in my mouth. “Swallow, you idiot!” I contemplated quickly, and decided for the nasty, damaging water rather than death.
_____ and ____________ escorted me for about three hours in the high-speed boat. The goal of such a trip was, first, to torture the detainee and claim that “the detainee hurt himself during transport,” and second, to make the detainee believe he was being transferred to some far, faraway secret prison. We detainees knew all of that; we had detainees reporting they had been flown around for four hours and found themselves in the same jail where they started. I knew from the beginning that I was going to be transferred to __________________, about a five-minute ride. __________________ had a very bad reputation: just hearing the name gave me nausea. I knew the whole long trip I was going to take was meant to terrorise me. But what difference does it make? I cared less about the place, and more about the people who were detaining me...
When the boat reached the coast, _____ and his colleague dragged me out and made me sit, crossing my legs. I was moaning from the unbearable pain.
“Uh … Uh … ALLAH … ALLAH … I told you not to fuck with us, didn’t I?” said Mr X, mimicking me. I hoped I could stop moaning, because the gentleman kept mimicking me and blaspheming the Lord. However, the moaning was necessary so I could breathe. My feet were numb, for the chains stopped the blood circulation to my hands and my feet; I was happy for every kick I got so I could alter my position. “Do not move motherfucker!” said _____, but sometimes I couldn’t help changing position; it was worth the kick.
“We appreciate everybody who works with us, thanks gentlemen,” said _________________. I recognised his voice; although he was addressing his Arab guests, the message was addressed to me more than anybody. It was nighttime. My blindfold didn’t keep me from feeling the bright lighting from some kind of high-watt projectors...
After about 40 minutes, I couldn’t really tell, ______________ instructed the Arabic team to take over. The two guys grabbed me roughly, and since I couldn’t walk on my own, they dragged me on the tips of my toes to the boat. I must have been very near the water, because the trip to the boat was short. I don’t know. They either they put me in another boat or in a different seat. This seat was both hard and straight.
“I can’t move!”
“Move, fucker!” They gave this order knowing that I was too hurt to be able to move. After all I was bleeding from my mouth, my ankles, my wrists, and maybe my nose, I couldn’t tell for sure. But the team wanted to keep the factor of fear and terror maintained.
“Sit!” said the Egyptian guy, who did most of the talking while both were pulling me down until I hit the metal. The Egyptian sat on my right side, and the Jordanian on my left.
“What’s your fucking name?” asked the Egyptian.
” I answered. Technically I couldn’t
speak because of the swollen lips and hurting mouth. You could tell I
was completely scared. Usually I wouldn’t talk if somebody starts to
hurt me. In Jordan, when the interrogator smashed me in the face, I
refused to talk, ignoring all his threats. This was a milestone in my
interrogation history. You can tell I was hurt like never before; it
wasn’t me anymore, and I would never be the same as before. A thick line
was drawn between my past and my future with the first hit _____
delivered to me.
“He is like a kid!” said the Egyptian accurately, addressing his Jordanian colleague. I felt warm between them both, though not for long. With the co-operation of the Americans, a long torture trip was being prepared.
I couldn’t sit straight in the chair. They put me in a kind of thick jacket which fastened me to the seat. It was good feeling. However, there was a destroying drawback to it: my chest was so tightened that I couldn’t breathe properly. Plus, the air circulation was worse than the first trip. I didn’t know why, exactly, but something was definitely going wrong.
“I c … a … c … n’t br … e … a … the!”
“Suck the air!” said the Egyptian wryly. I was literally suffocating inside the bag around my head. All my pleas and my begging for some free air ended in a cul-de-sac.
I heard indistinct conversations in English, I think it was _____ and his colleague, and probably _________________. Whoever it was, they were supplying the Arab team with torture materials during the three- or four-hour trip. The order went as follows: They stuffed the air between my clothes and me with ice cubes from my neck to my ankles, and whenever the ice melted, they put in new, hard ice cubes. Moreover, every once in a while, one of the guards smashed me, most of the time in the face. The ice served both for the pain and for wiping out the bruises I had from that afternoon. Everything seemed to be perfectly prepared. People from cold regions might not understand the extent of the pain when ice cubes get stuck on your body. Historically, kings during medieval and pre-medieval times used this method to let the victim slowly die. The other method, of hitting the victim while blindfolded in inconsistent intervals, was used by the Nazis during the second world war. There is nothing more terrorising than making somebody expect a smash every single heartbeat.
We live in the void of metamorphoses... But… Are we near to our conscience, or far from it? #CIATorture #HumanRights: image via James Luchte, 25 December 2014
The False Confession
US redacts Mohamedou Ould Slahi's '#Guantanamo Diary' #WikiLeaks: image via hazelpress @hazelpress, 16 January 2015
In autumn 2003, soon after his false rendition, Slahi was moved to a blacked-out isolation cell built specifically for his interrogation. A delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross that visited in September was not allowed to meet with him. Eventually, his interrogators presented him with a proposition.
“_________________ wants to see you in a couple of days,” _________ said. I was so terrified; at this point I was just fine without his visit.
“He is welcome,” I said. I started to go to the toilet relentlessly. My blood pressure went crazily high. I was wondering what the visit would be like. But thank God the visit was much easier than what I thought. _____________ came, escorted by _________. He was, as always, practical and brief.
“I am very happy with your cooperation. Remember when I told you that I preferred civilised conversations? I think you have provided 85% of what you know, but I am sure you’re gonna provide the rest,” he said, opening an ice bag with some juice.
“Oh, yeah, I’m also happy!” I said, forcing myself to drink the juice just to act as if I were normal. But I wasn’t: I was like, 85% is a big step coming out of his mouth. _____________ advised me to keep cooperating.
“I brought you this present,” he said, handing me a pillow. Yes, a pillow. I received the present with a fake overwhelming happiness, and not because I was dying to get a pillow. No, I took the pillow as a sign of the end of the physical torture.
We have a joke back home about a man who stood bare naked on the street. When someone asked him, “How can I help you?” He replied, “Give me shoes.” And that was exactly what happened to me. All I needed was a pillow! But it was something: alone in my cell, I kept reading the tag over and over.
“Remember when _____________ told you about the 15% you’re holding back,” said _________ a couple of days after _______________ visit. “I believe that your story about Canada doesn’t make sense. You know what we have against you, and you know what the FBI has against you,” he continued.
“So what would make sense?” I asked.
“You know exactly what makes sense,” he said sardonically.
“You’re right, I was wrong about Canada. What I did exactly was …”
“I want you to write down what you’ve just said. It made perfect sense and I understood, but I want it on paper.”
“My pleasure, Sir!” I said.
I came to Canada with a plan to blow up the CN Tower in Toronto. My accomplices were ______________________________
__________________________ and ___________. ___________ went to Russia to get us the supply of explosives. _____________ wrote an explosives simulation software that I picked up, tested myself, and handed in a data medium to ______________. The latter was supposed to send it with the whole plan to _____________ in London so we could get the final fatwa from the Sheikh. _________ was supposed to buy a lot of sugar to mix with the explosives in order to increase the damage. ______________ provided the financing. Thanks to Canadian intel, the plan was discovered and sentenced to failure. I admit that I am as guilty as any other participants and am so sorry and ashamed for what I have done. Signed, M.O. Slahi
When I handed the paper to __________________, he read it happily.
“This statement makes perfect sense.”
“If you’re ready to buy, I am selling,” I said. ______________ could hardly hold himself on the chair; he wanted to leave immediately. I guess the prey was big, and _____________ was overwhelmed because he reached a breakthrough where no other interrogators had, in spite of almost four years of uninterrupted interrogation from all kinds of agencies from more than six countries. What a success! ______________ almost had a heart attack from happiness.
“I’ll go see him!”
I think the only unhappy person in the team was _______, because ____ doubted the truthfulness of the story.
"It is in your self-interest to find a way to be very tender", Jenny Holzer, 1983-85: image via Ian Alan Paul @IanAlanPaul, 22 December 2014
Indeed the next day _________________ came to see me, escorted as always by his ______________. “Remember when I told about the 15% you were holding back?”
“Yes, I do.”
“I think this confession covered that 15%!” I was like, Hell, yes!
“I am happy that it did,” I said.
“Who provided the money?”
“And you, too?” _____________ asked.
“No, I took care of the electrical part.” I don’t really know why I denied the financial part. Did it really make a difference? Maybe I just wanted to maintain the consistency.
“What if we tell you that we found your signature on a fake credit card?” said ______________. I knew he was bullshitting me because I knew I never dealt with such dubious things. But I was not going to argue with him.
“Just tell me the right answer. Is it good to say yes or to say no?” I asked. At that point I hoped I was involved in something so I could admit to it and relieve myself of writing about every practicing Muslim I ever met, and every Islamic organisation I ever heard of. It would have been much easier to admit to a true crime and say that’s that.
“This confession is consistent with the intels we and other agencies possess,” _____________ said.
“I am happy.”
“Is the story true?” asked __________.
“Look, these people I was involved with are bad people anyway, and should be put under lock and key. And as to myself, I don’t care as long as you are pleased. So if you want to buy, I am selling.”
“But we have to check with the other agencies, and if the story is incorrect, they’re gonna find out,” _______________
“If you want the truth, this story didn’t happen,” I said sadly. __________ had brought some drinks and candies that I forced myself to swallow. They tasted like dirt because I was so nervous. __________ took his ______ outside and pitted him on me. ____________ came back harassing me and threatening me with all kinds of suffering and agony. __________________ ______________________________
______________________________ ______________________________ _____________
“You know how it feels when you experience our wrath,” ____________ said. I was like, what the heck does this asshole want from me? If he wants a confession, I already provided one. Does he want me to resurrect the dead? Does he want me to heal his blindness? I am not a prophet, nor does he believe in them. “The Bible is just the history of the Jewish people, nothing more,” he used to say. If he wants the truth, I told him I have done nothing! I couldn’t see a way out. “Yes … Yes! … Yes!” After ____________ made me sweat to the last drop in my body, _________________ called him and gave him advice about the next tactics. ___________ left and _____________ continued.
“_________________ has overall control. If he is happy everybody is. And if he isn’t, nobody is.” ______________ started to ask me other questions about other things, and I used every opportunity to make myself look as bad as I could. “I’m going to leave you alone with papers and pen, and I want you to write everything you remember about your plan in Canada!”
Two days later, they were back at my door.
Redactions marked in the text were made by the US government when Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s diary was cleared for public release
Mohamedou Ould Slahi: excerpts from Guantánamo Diary, 2015, via The Guardian, 16 January 2015
Five more #Guantánamo detainees freed: Al Jazeera English #SriLanka: image via News @BreaknNews, 31 December 2014
11 reasons this January 11th must be #Guantánamo’s last anniversary: image via AmnestyInterntional @amnesty, 11 January 2015
Former #Guantánamo Guard: CIA killed prisoners & made it look like suicide: image via AnonyOps @AnonyOpsAerial, 16 January 2015
A man who is no more a terrorist than Forrest Gump was
Where is justice for the men still abandoned in Guántanamo Bay? A man who is no more a terrorist than Forrest Gump was remains incarcerated four years after he was cleared for release: Morris Davis, The Guardian, 16 January 2015
“I will be back soon,” I said, as we stood up and shook hands. Then I turned and walked a few steps to the gate, and waited for the guard to unlock it so I could leave. Those were the last words I said to Mohamedou Ould Slahi after I met him in the tiny compound he shared with Tariq al-Sawah in the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay. That was seven and a half years ago. I have never been inside the camp again. Slahi has never been out.
I didn’t know, that afternoon in the summer of 2007, that in a few weeks I would send an email to the US deputy secretary of defence, Gordon England, saying I could no longer in good conscience serve as chief prosecutor for the Guantánamo military commissions. I reached that decision after receiving a written order placing Brigadier-General Tom Hartmann over me and the Pentagon general counsel, Jim Haynes, over Hartmann.
Hartmann had chastised me for refusing to use evidence obtained by “enhanced” interrogation techniques, saying: “President Bush said we don’t torture, so who are you to say we do?” Haynes authored the “torture memo” that the secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, signed in April 2003 approving interrogation techniques that were not authorised by military regulations –- the memo where Rumsfeld scribbled in the margin: “I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing [for detainees during interrogations] limited to 4 hours?” Rather than face a Hobson’s choice when they directed me to go into court with torture-derived evidence, I chose to quit before they had the chance.
Slahi and al-Sawah had been recommended to me as potential cooperating witnesses. Before I met them, I asked one of my prosecutors to review their files and check with other agencies to be sure nothing had been overlooked. We attended a meeting where those who had spent years investigating Slahi briefed their findings. The end result was a consensus that, like Forrest Gump, Slahi popped up around significant events by coincidence, not design.
I love this movie #ForrestGump: image via Anthony @Tshavez, 11 January 2015
I thought Slahi would be transferred out when President Obama took office. It seemed likely in 2010 when US district court judge James Robertson ordered him released after finding that incriminating statements he made were obtained by coercion, and that other evidence only proved there was smoke but no fire.
But instead of transferring Slahi, the Obama administration appealed and the US court of appeals proved to be an impenetrable barrier, just as it has in every case where a detainee won a habeas challenge at the district court level.
It has been four and a half years since Slahi’s release was ordered and he is still within sight of where he and I shook hands for the last time in 2007.
We were told that all the men at Guantánamo were the “worst of the worst”. In my job as chief prosecutor, where my focus was on reviewing cases for potential criminal prosecution, it was obvious the label was mostly hype. While the label fits a few -– like Jhald Sheikh Mohammed –- fewer than 4% of the 779 men ever sent there have or will face charges.
Six military commissions have been completed since they were first authorised by George Bush in November 2001. Five of the six men convicted and sentenced as war criminals –- Hicks, Hamdan, Khadr, al-Qosi and Noor Uthman Mohammed -– are now back in their home countries. (Hamdan and Mohammed have since been cleared.) What does it say about American justice when a person fares better being a convicted war criminal than someone we could not even charge?
Men were sent to Guantánamo because some in the Bush administration thought it was outside the reach of the law and we could exploit people there with impunity. Time proved them wrong. We have spent more than $5bn on detention operations at Guantánamo since it opened 13 years ago. There are 122 men there now at a cost of about $3m a year each. Almost half are approved for transfer, a status in which many have languished for years as the US tries to beg and bribe other countries to take them. And now some members of Congress want to make it more difficult for Obama to close it before he leaves office in January 2017.
I hope many will read Slahi’s book, and come to appreciate that Guantánamo is not just an abstract concept. It is a real place where real people have spent years wondering if anyone will ever come back for them.
America has paid a heavy price for a bad decision made 13 years ago, but it pales in comparison to the toll on those who remain trapped in the black hole of Guantánamo.
Scannal ó SAM "@RTUKnews: Investigation launched into #CIAtorture report’s censored content": image via Cabrini de Barra #Cabrinid, 9 January 2015 Waterford, Ireland
Current work on display @ the #Guantanamo Museum: "Arrows to Mecca" by C. McManus & J. Susman: image via Ian Alan Paul @IanAlanPaul, 26 December 2014