On 10th anniversary, Guantanamo Bay’s future is unclear

Just over a year ago, Saiid Farhi, an Algerian, was flown home from the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after a federal court ordered his release.

No one has left since.

The string of victories that Guantanamo detainees enjoyed in U.S. District Court has been reversed by the federal appeals court in Washington. The Obama administration has insisted that restrictions imposed by Congress are so onerous, it cannot repatriate or resettle the detainees it has cleared for transfer. And as the facility approaches its 10th anniversary on Wednesday, human rights groups have bemoaned its seeming permanency and the Obama administration’s failure to close it.

To mark the anniversary, Guantanamo detainees on Tuesday began three days of protests, according to an attorney for a handful of the men. Some refused to return to their cells for the four-hour nightly lockdown and slept in the recreation areas. Others said they would refuse food for the duration of the protest. A number of human rights groups, including Amnesty International, are also planning a demonstration outside the White House on Wednesday, followed by a march to the Supreme Court.

Of the 171 detainees remaining at Guantanamo, 59 have been cleared for transfer. The Obama administration has determined that an additional 30 Yemenis could be repatriated if conditions improve in their homeland. The remainder would be prosecuted or held indefinitely, the administration has said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that President Obama remains committed to closing the facility at Guantanamo.

Forensic Psychiatrist Reflects Canadian Omar Khadr and Islamic Fundamentalism in Guantanamo Bay

The National Post – February 19, 2011
This article reflects the opinion of Dr. Michael Welner, an expert forensic psychiatrist witness in numerous high profile civil and criminal proceedings in the United States. Here he reflects on the impact of prison relating to the fundamentalism of Omar Khadr:
Against the backdrop of these competing forces, the United States Department of Defense asked me as a veteran of highly sensitive forensic psychiatric assessments to appraise the risk of one such Guantanamo detainee, Omar Khadr. Mr. Khadr, by his own statements in 2002 and most recently in October 2010, admitted to throwing a grenade that killed Sfc. Christopher Speer as he inspected the scene of a recently completed battle. Khadr was 15 at the time that he killed Speer.
When I interviewed Khadr last June in my capacity as a forensic psychiatrist, he was an English-speaking, socially agile 23-year-old with the kind of easy smile that so similarly warms those who encounter the Dalai Lama and Bin Laden alike. Anticipating his eventual release, the military commission asked me to go beyond the natural tendency of advocates and adversaries to see what they want to see in Omar the man.
In American as well as Canadian facilities, tens of thousands of inmates are converting to Islam every year. Yielding to the notion that they are respecting religion, corrections officials have failed to make a committed effort to staff prisons with devout, forceful but peaceful-minded Muslim imams. As a result, the more charismatic, Machiavellian, and aggressive leaders within North American corrections facilities dominate and influence vulnerable and often alienated Muslim prisoners. These influences remain after prisoners are released and have been implicated in American terror attacks by American-born ex-cons.

Omar Khadr’s Emphasis on Fundamentalism Garners Popularity at Guantanamo

The National Post – October 27, 2010

In conversation with his interrogators, Omar Khadr comes off as smart, charming and co-operative. But he speaks of his crimes in Afghanistan in a “cold and callous” manner, and rejoices at having killed a U.S. soldier. Within the confines of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, where eight years of detention have only deepened his devotion to the radical brand of Islam espoused by al-Qaeda, he is seen as a well-respected leader, one who has risen to “rock-star” status. If released from custody into Canada, his country of birth and chosen destination, some had said he should be considered a “highly dangerous” offender who shows no signs of renouncing his radical beliefs and still poses a threat to society. This was the unsettling picture painted of Omar Khadr by witnesses called by the prosecution at sentencing hearings before the military war-crimes tribunal at Guantanamo Bay. Khadr’s defenders have described him as a victim indoctrinated into radical Islamic beliefs as a child and abused by his U.S. captors at Guantanamo Bay.
Under a deal with the Pentagon, Khadr this week pleaded guilty to all five war-crimes charges he faced, including murder and providing material support for terrorism.

Omar Khadr Trial Opens in Guantanamo Bay

The Globe and Mail – August 13, 2010
Omar Khadr was either an enthusiastic teen jihadist who happily planted explosive devices and comforted himself in times of loneliness with thoughts of killing U.S. soldiers. Or he was a frightened, cowed 15-year-old, dragged by a zealous father to Afghanistan against his will, caught up with a bad crowd, taken captive while gravely wounded and tortured into submission and confession by his captors.
The 23-year-old Canadian’s military jury was presented two contrasting portraits of the young man. Duelling sides of his Guantanamo Bay war-crimes trial sought to trump each other in painting what happened during a protracted 2002 Afghan firefight that left a U.S. army sergeant dead and the then-15-year-old severely wounded in U.S. custody. The opening salvos in what promises to be a long battle of competing narratives were cut short when Mr. Khadr’s military-appointed lawyer passed out during cross-examination, apparently from pain related to gallbladder surgery six weeks ago.

Two Uighur brothers in Guantanamo sent to Switzerland

After eight years of detention in Guantanamo Bay, Arkin Mahmud and Bahtiyar Mahnut were sent to Switzerland to resettle, the Justice Department announced. Switzerland decision to accommodate the brothers led the US Supreme Court to back from a case on Uighur detainees in Guantanamo. The case dealt with detainees to be released while they have nowhere else to go. Following Switzerland’s agreement, the Court dismissed the case at the request of the Administration.

Supreme Court to hear appeal of Chinese Muslims at Guantanamo

The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear the appeal of 13 Chinese Muslims at Guantanamo Bay naval base who are cleared for release yet are still being held.

The justices rejected the Obama administration’s plea that they stay out of the case. Since 2004, the court has issued decisions ensuring that judges play a strong role in protecting prisoner rights at the U.S.-run naval base in Cuba.

The Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority originally living in western China, had fled to Afghanistan. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, they were among hundreds of men transferred to U.S. forces and sent to Guantanamo.

They initially were held as “enemy combatants,” but that status was lifted. They would be free to return to China if they did not fear persecution there. This summer, ethnic rioting in Western China led to a crackdown on Uighurs.

A district court judge last year ordered the Uighurs brought to the U.S. and freed, but an appeals court reversed.

Administration lawyers argue in a brief that judges lack the power to order the release into the U.S. “outside of the framework of the immigration laws.” Lawyers for the Uighurs counter that judges may intervene when the government has “brought the prisoners to our threshold, imprisons them … without legal justification, and — as seven years have so poignantly proved — there is nowhere else to go.”

The case will test the strength of a 2008 Supreme Court decision giving Guantanamo detainees a constitutional right to challenge their imprisonment.

Obama has set to close Guantanamo by January 22 of next year. The administration has been working on developing resettlement options for the Uighurs but has had little success.

Canadian Government Refuses to Repatriate 17 Chinese Muslims from Guantanamo Bay

Canada has refused a request from the Obama administration to take 17 Chinese Muslims called Uighurs cleared for release from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay. A spokesperson for Prime Minister Harper says they have no connection to Canada and there are security concerns. Authorities claim that Uighurs detained at Guantanamo were fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Uighurs fear persecution if they are sent back to China. Their quest to settle in Canada is complicated by the case of Omar Khadr, a 22-year-old Canadian who has been detained in Guantanamo since 2002 on accusations of lobbing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier during a battle between al-Qaeda fighters and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Officials consider Islam-related rehabilitation for Canadian Omar Khadr following Guantanamo

With the Guantanamo Bay prison set to close within a year, little has been said in recent US/Canada meetings about the fate of Canadian child solider, Omar Khadr. This Globe and Mail article suggests that, assuming that he is returned to Canada, as opposed to incarceration in the United States, serious thought must be given to his rehabilitation and eventual reintegration into society.

One model is Saudi Arabia’s comprehensive counterterrorism program aimed at prevention, rehabilitation and post-release care. A central feature of the program is the recognition the state must also engage in a “war of ideas” to combat the ideological justifications of violence. The Saudi government asserts its interpretation of Islam in which loyalty and obedience to the state are paramount. The Saudi prison rehabilitation program includes art therapy and theological debates between scholars and prisoners.

The Case of Omar Khadr, Canadian Detainee in Guantanamo Bay, Explodes With Release of Tape

Lawyers representing the lone Canadian prisoner in Guantanamo Bay renewed their calls for his repatriation following the release of a videotape of his interrogation by Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) agents in 2003. The once-secret material was widely released Tuesday after a series of Canadian court orders. The tape depicts a then-16-year-old Khadr weeping and complaining of the medical treatment he received at the U.S. military prison in Cuba. Khadr was captured in 2002 by U.S. soldiers after an altercation in Afghanistan. He is accused of killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade and is scheduled to be tried before a military commission in October 2008. Khadr has spent nearly six years at Guantanamo Bay. His father was Ahmed Said Khadr, an Egyptian-Canadian al-Qaeda lieutenant who died in 2003. While Khadr has allegedly confessed to the crime, experts claims evidence collected under duress in Guantanamo or Afghanistan would be useless in Canadian court. Several lawmakers have called for the prosecution of Khadr, now 21, under Canadian law, which would be a challenging and unprecedented process.

Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo by Murat Kur

A Turkish citizen born and raised in Germany, Murat Kurnaz was only 19 when he was arrested without explanation in Pakistan in October 2001. Handed over to the US, he spent the next 1,600 days enduring the brutal life of a prisoner at Guantanamo with its various forms of torture, before being released without explanation or apology in August 2006. Here he describes the early days in his cage in Camp X-Ray, Guantanamo Bay