Guantánamo Diary: Random American Justice


Anne Richardson on Mohamedou Ould Slahi's Guantánamo Diary, in The LA Review of Books:

MOHAMEDOU OULD SLAHI’S Guantánamo Diary is a page-turner. Unlike the Senate’s 500-page Senate Select Intelligence Committee Study, also known as the “torture report,” this one will keep you up at night. And it has something for everyone. For opponents of the use of the harsh interrogation practices that were approved after 9/11, it provides insight into why those techniques lead only to false confessions. For human rights advocates, it provides a dramatic firsthand account of the myriad reasons why civilized nations banned torture as set forth in the Convention Against Torture, adopted by the UN in 1984 and ratified by the United States in 1994. For prosecutors, it provides a nagging reminder that, when you torture, you lose not only your moral high ground but also your ability to prosecute, because you can’t prove whether the “confessions” are true. And for diplomats and politicians, it demonstrates just how much standing the United States has lost in the international community and how long it will take to rebuild our reputation as a leader of democratic ideals. We gave away much, in these dark holes of rendered suspects. Was it worth it?

Mohamedou Ould Slahi was a 30-year-old Mauritanian when Mauritanian authorities called him in, at the behest of the US government, in November 2001. He had fought with al-Qaeda in 1991 and again in 1992 against the communist-led government in Afghanistan, a cause supported by the West and the United States in particular. He eventually returned home to Mauritania and later spent time in Germany and Canada. He maintains that after 1992 he had no more commitment to al-Qaeda, although he remained in contact with some of his companions from Afghanistan. So it was that he was linked to known al-Qaeda fighters and leaders.

At times he was accused of masterminding the so-called Millennium Plot to blow up the Los Angeles airport. The Senegalese, Mauritanian, and American authorities questioned him in 2000 in connection with the Millennium Plot, but concluded there was no basis to believe he was involved. After September 11, 2001, FBI agents again detained and questioned him about the Millennium Plot. Once again, he was released.

But in November 2001, Mauritanian police came to his door and asked him to accompany them for further questioning. Thus launched Slahi’s 13-year continuing odyssey, from Mauritania to an interrogation chamber in Jordan, on to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and finally to Guantánamo Bay, where he remains to this day. He has no charges pending against him. The District Court judge who heard his petition for habeas corpus ordered him to be released in 2010, but the Court of Appeals sent the case back for rehearing, and it is still pending.

More here.