Guantanamo files revealed by Wikileaks shed light on 780 people who passed through the facility in Cuba, of which only 220 have been assessed by Americans to be dangerous international terrorists.
Senior US commanders have concluded that in dozens of cases there was “no reason recorded for transfer.” The documents, which date from 2002 to 2008, also unveil shocking accounts of innocent people, including farmers, chefs and drivers who were sold to US forces.
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Their captors detained them because they believed they could yet give up useful information, or because they were simply unable to admit that they should have been released.
The establishment of Guantanamo Bay months after the 9/11, sparked a controversial debate around techniques used to obtain information from detainees, including water-boarding, stress positions and sleep deprivation.
The dossiers, prepared under the Bush administration, have remained silent about such tactics, according to the New York Times.
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But they do give an insight to other forms of torturous treatment received by many victims.
Jamal al-Harith was referred to Guantanamo because he had spent time in a Taliban prison in Afghanistan and there were concerns he knew about Taliban interrogation techniques.
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He had been detained near Kandahar by the Taliban who were suspicious he was a British spy and he was forced to share his cell with a horse. After 9/11 the Taliban fled, but he was advised by the Red Cross to stay until he, and other foreign prisoners, could be repatriated.
But he was detained by US forces, “beaten, stripped naked and interrogated.” He recalls over the years being “shackled in painful positions, subjected to extreme temperatures, deprived of sleep, not given adequate water and fed on food with date markings 10 or 13 years old.”
When he refused an injection, he was chained up and beaten, and he claims he was interrogated around 80 times both by American and English officials.
The file also states that in September 2002, Guantanamo’s commandant at the time, Michael Dunlavey, said he should be released “on the assessment that detainee was not affiliated with al-Qaida or a Taliban leader.” But almost a year later, he was still behind bars.
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And when Al-Harith was eventually released without charge, and he and two other men were sent back to the UK, a British official accompanying told them “Make sure you say that you were treated properly.”
He is just an example of several shocking cases including an 89-year-old Afghan villager suffering from dementia, who was sent to the camp for having “suspicious phone numbers.” A 14-year-old boy was taken for ”his possible knowledge of Taliban… local leaders”.
The Pentagon said in a statement that the decision to publish some of the material was “unfortunate” but also claimed that the assessments did not give an accurate picture.
According to the Obama administration, “Both administrations have made the protection of American citizens the top priority, and we are concerned that the disclosure of these documents could be damaging to those efforts.”
Obama promised to shut Guantanamo Bay by January 2010 but this remains to be seen.
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