Guantanamo detainee family members tell Senate of ‘suffering’ and ‘anguish’
July 24, 2013
Today the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights – Chaired by Senator Dick Durbin – is holding a hearing on closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. This is the first hearing of its kind since 2009.
Relatives of seven Reprieve clients cleared for release – Younous Chekkouri, Ahmed Belbacha, Shaker Aamer, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, Nabil Hadjarab, Adel al Hakimi and Hisham Sliti – and former detainee Sami Al Hajj, have written letters to be submitted at the hearing.
- Younous Chekkouri’s German Uncle wrote: “I know this limbo is causing him a lot of pain, and I am suffering too because I know he has been very depressed lately. I worry about his health, and I spend sleepless nights thinking that he may do something to put an end to his anguish.”
- Cleared Tunisian Adel Al-Hakimi’s brother, Emad, wrote: “Adel has a daughter whom he has never met…the first time they ever spoke together was over an ICRC Skype call…after eleven years, how do you even begin to have a relationship with your child from Guantanamo?”
- The son of journalist Sami Al Hajj, who was released in 2008, wrote of growing up without his father: “It is not something I would wish on anyone, ever…I wanted to understand why he was there. There were never any real answers…”
- Ahmed Belbacha – an Algerian national who spent two years living in England and has been cleared for release – has an elder brother, Mohammed, who wrote: “my image of him is as an athletic youngster whose passion for soccer seemed a strange match with his love for math and serious study…His indefinite detention and deteriorating health put the family under a lot of stress.”
The Senate Hearing comes amid an escalating crisis at the prison for President Obama – who re-iterated his 2009 promise to close the prison in a major defence policy speech earlier this year. The military says that 46 detainees are being force fed out of 70 on hunger strike, though lawyers for the men estimate the figure to be higher.
Cori Crider, Strategic Director for the human rights charity Reprieve, said: “The words of these families speak powerfully of the damage to America’s reputation that Guantánamo still causes, to say nothing of the pain. They’re also a stark reminder that the government’s response to the current hunger strike won’t just determine President Obama’s legacy; it will shape America’s image in the Muslim world for years to come. It is time to send a cleared man home to his family, be it Shaker Aamer to Britain or Nabil Hadjarab to France. This will end the strike without strife, or further anguish to these families.”