Amidst speculation about whether the new US administration will move to fill up Guantanamo’s cells rather than close it down for good, the case of Ammar al Baluchi illustrates everything that is wrong with the ongoing detention and trial regime. Raashid Williams, Ammar Al-Baluchi’s defense counsel, was in Ottawa to discuss Al-Baluchi’s case and the human rights issues around Guantanamo Bay prison.
The talk taught us a lot about the kafkaesque universe of Guantanamo – it will blow you away!
The presentation was co-sponsored by the ICLMG, Octopus Books, and Amnesty International.
About Raashid Williams:
Maj. Raashid Williams is defense counsel for one of Guantánamo’s “high value” detainees Ammar Al-Baluchi.
About Ammar al Baluchi:
“The result of over classification is that my memories are classified, my thoughts are classified, my pain and suffering is classified, my post torture (post trauma) symptoms are classified.” Ammar al Baluchi, December 2015
Taken into custody in Pakistan in April 2003, Ammar al Baluchi was subjected to enforced disappearance in secret CIA custody until he was transferred to Guantánamo in early September 2006. He currently faces an unfair trial before the military commission for an alleged role in the 9/11 attacks. During his three and a half years in CIA custody he was held in a number of locations, the identity of which remain classified Top Secret. The countries in which “black sites” operated by the CIA were located during the time that Ammar al Baluchi was in CIA custody are believed to have included Afghanistan, Poland, Romania, Morocco, and Lithuania.
While the details about his treatment in CIA custody were withheld from Ammar’s legal team, they may have been shared by the CIA with the makers of the 2012 Hollywood film, Zero Dark Thirty. A draft CIA document released under Freedom of Information Act notes that the film “includes several interrogation scenes the first of which is an interrogation of a character who is modelled after Ammar al-Baluchi”. As an article in Time Magazine put it in 2013, “the first 25 or so minutes of the film are largely taken up with torture: Ammar is strung up, beaten, waterboarded and kept awake for 96 hours straight”. According to the scriptwriter’s initial email contact with the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs, “we intend to make accuracy and authenticity hallmarks of the production, for we believe that this is one of those rare instances where truth really is more interesting than fiction”. The matter is currently before US courts.
There are 41 detainees still in Guantánamo. Five are cleared for transfer to third countries while over 20 remain in the legal limbo of continued indefinite wartime detention.
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