What do you think about the torture report?
A follow-up on Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian whose story appeared here in Scribbler’s Playhouse. Dhiab filed suit against the US military, claiming that the methods used in Guantanamo for force-feedings were a form of torture. He was one of six detainees released to Uruguay earlier this month.
Dhiab, married and a father of four, was in Afghanistan at the start of the post-9/11 war. He moved his family — illegally — to Pakistan.
He was arrested in a night raid on his house by Pakistani police in 2002. His captors were probably paid a bounty to turn him over to the U.S. He was not charged with any crime. According to Dhiab, he sold honey, traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to avoid war, protect his family and for medical treatment.
US military court documents from 2008 (later published by the the New York Times) state that Dhiab, his wife and four children, received financial help from Al Qai’da. Some witnesses claimed he specialized in forgery. He’d been condemned to death in absentia by the Assad government. He might — or might not — have been part of a Sunni terrorist cell. Dhiab was deemed a threat by US military authorities, who recommended that he be detained indefinitely.
In 2009, that recommendation was reversed. He was cleared for release.
It was a struggle to find a country that would take him. Since he was condemned to death in Syria, he couldn’t return there.
The Uruguayan President, Jose Mujica, a former political prisoner himself, agreed to take six of the detainees who had been cleared, including Abu Wa’el Dhiab.
Jose Mujica, President of Uruguay. Known for his frugal habits, Mujica spent 13 years as a political prisoner, two of those years in solitary confinement. About the Guantanamo detainees, he said. “It’s a very traumatic situation, I can’t transmit how they must feel, some of us have lived through similar things.” Quote from The Guardian. Photo by Vince Alongi
Their release was delayed by US paperwork; and also to avoid it becoming an issue in Uruguayan elections. There are only about 300 Muslims in Uruguay and not everyone was comfortable offering sanctuary to the detainees.
Once the election was over, arrangements were made, and the transfer went smoothly.
Of the six released prisoners, Dhiab arrived in the worst shape. He’s 6’5″, 148 pounds, confined to a wheel chair. He will be hospitalized for awhile. One of his four children died during his incarceration. He is working to have the rest of his family join him.
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When they were released from Guantanamo, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, three other Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian, flew on a U.S. military jet in shackles, “ear protectors” and handcuffs.
When the detainees landed, the Uruguayans insisted that the shackles be removed and that they walk off the plane as free men. They were warmly greeted. They are being housed by the local union, and have been offered jobs.
One, Abedlhadi Omar Faraj, wrote a letter thanking the Uruguayans:
“Were it not for Uruguay, I would still be in the black hole in Cuba today. … It is difficult for me to express how grateful I am for the immense trust that you, the Uruguayan people, placed in me and the other prisoners when you opened the doors of your country to us.”
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On torture: we’ll never know if the US courts would have ruled that Dhiab’s treatment was a form of torture, but the recent congressional report on torture in other US prisons is pretty damning.
Scribbler sides with Ronald Reagan, who signed the Convention against Torture. That document declares that torture can be used under “no exceptional circumstances, whatsoever.”
Reagan’s aide and George W. Bush’s point man in Iraq Paul Bremer also said: “A major element of our strategy has been to delegitimize terrorists, to get society to see them for what they are – criminals – and to use democracy’s most potent tool, the rule of law, against them.”
John McCain might have put it best this month when he said torture “produces more misleading information than actionable intelligence” and that “we can and we will” win the war on terrorism without torture. … [T]his question isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves to the world.”
A holiday wish: that more leaders follow McCain’s lead and speak out against torture in any form, and that President Obama fulfills his promise to close Guantanamo.
What are your holiday wishes for the world?