New report details shattered lives of released Guantanamo detainees
| 12 November 2008
Press conference video from C-SPAN
"The nightmare of Guantanamo did not end with the detainees' release. Men never convicted of crimes or given the opportunity to clear their names are suffering from a lasting 'Guantanamo stigma,' and are unable to find work,'" said Laurel Fletcher, Director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law and co-author of the report.
Researchers conducted interviews with released detainees in nine countries. The comprehensive study also includes in-depth interviews with key government officials, military experts, former guards, interrogators and other camp personnel.
"Guantanamo, like Abu Ghraib, has become a stain on the reputation of the United States," said Eric Stover, director of the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center and co-author of "Guantanamo and Its Aftermath."
The authors call for an independent, nonpartisan commission to lift the shroud of secrecy from Guantanamo and other detention sites. They further argue that the commission should have subpoena power and, if applicable, recommend further investigations of those allegedly responsible for any crimes committed at all levels of the civilian and military chain of command.
The authors warn that such a commission should not be undercut by the issuance of pardons, amnesties, or other measures that would protect those culpable from accountability. President-Elect Barack Obama has called for the closure of Guantanamo. The UC Berkeley report asks for even broader remedies.
"We cannot sweep this dark chapter in our nation's history under the rug by simply closing the Guantanamo prison camp," Stover said."The new administration must investigate what went wrong and who should be held accountable."
Released in partnership with the nonprofit Center for Constitutional Rights, Guantanamo and Its Aftermath (PDF) opens a window onto the plight of detainees, from arrest and imprisonment to the return home.
"There is no doubt that these men and their families have suffered the gravest consequences of the Bush Administration's so-called war on terror," said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren. "Overturning the legal atrocities at Guantanamo and the countless warrantless infringements of basic rights of detainees is only one step in undoing the damage done to these men and their families."
Over half of the study respondents who discussed their interrogation sessions at Guantanamo (31 of 55) characterized them as "abusive." Detainees reported being subjected to short shackling, stress positions, prolonged solitary confinement, and exposure to extreme temperatures, loud music, and strobe lights for extended periods-often simultaneously. The authors conclude that the cumulative impact of these methods, especially over time, constitutes cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment and, in some cases, rises to the level of torture.
"Carefully researched and devoid of rhetoric, the UC Berkeley report adds a new chapter to America's dismal descent into the netherworld of prisoner abuse since the tragic events of 9/11," said the Honorable Patricia Wald, who served on the U.S. Court of Appeals and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. "It provides new insights into the lingering consequences of unjust detention," Wald added.
Most detainees interviewed for the study were not vengeful toward America, but simply expressed a desire for justice and an opportunity to clear their names.
Of the more than 770 detainees who have endured Guantanamo since it opened in 2002, more than 500 have been released without formal criminal charges or trial. So far, of the 250 or more who remain in detention, only 23 have been charged with a crime. Two have been convicted and one has pled guilty.
The Human Rights Center investigates war crimes and other serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. HRC's empirical studies recommend specific policy measures to hold perpetrators accountable, protect vulnerable populations, and help rebuild war-torn societies.
The International Human Rights Law Clinic designs and implements innovative human rights projects to advance the struggle for justice on behalf of individuals and marginalized communities through advocacy, research, and policy development.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.