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Mohamedou Slahi’s hellish nightmare in Guantanamo must end

3 min read

Lib Dem Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Tom Brake MP writes following his parliamentary event in support of Mohamedou Slahi, who has spent 12 years imprisoned in Guantanamo and faces a review board hearing shortly.

The orange suits of Guantanamo will be an enduring image in what one day will be a legacy of shame for America and all other Western nations complicit in the means to make this prison function. For over a decade, hundreds of men have been held in this island prison, facing daily inhumane conditions, alongside being subjected to torture, solitary confinement and beatings. The harsh treatment inflicted on these men would be decried if the scene was switched and Western men were held captive without trial in the Middle East.

Arguably, no prisoner has had as tough an ordeal as Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian held without charge in Guantanamo since 2002.

After being detained in Mauritania, sent to Jordan and then Afghanistan for questioning, Slahi found himself in Guantanamo. There he was designated as one of two so-called “Special Projects”, personally approved by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In his book Slahi recounts how the “additional interrogation techniques” which he was subjected to, translated to beatings, extreme isolation, sleep deprivation, sexual molestation, frigid rooms, shackling in stress positions, and death threats. This is a hell which shocks anyone who reads his account.

Most shocking of all, on one occasion Slahi reported being blindfolded, forced to drink salt water, and then taken out to sea on a high-speed boat where he was beaten for three hours while immersed in ice.

Incredibly Mohamedou recorded his experience which eventually formed the basis of his ‘Guantanamo Diary’, his incredible story of the brutal nightmare which was Mohamedou’s reality within Guantanamo. When reading his story you see many black lines, which form over 2,500 redactions made by the US Government. There is enough in his recount however to show the world an experience ‘beyond Orwell and beyond Kafka’ but not beyond fiction. It was incredibly moving to hear Toby Jones and Sanjeev Bhaskar recite Mohamedou’s work to an audience this week, yet Mohamedou Slahi was not there to hear his words as he still finds himself in Guantanamo, continuing to live the abhorrent life which he finds himself in.

Mohamedou is still not free, despite having done nothing wrong. However, we now have hope again for Mohamedou, and he has been granted a periodic review board (PRB) hearing on June 2, 2016. Mohamedou must be freed and that is why I organised the event I held this week in Parliament to raise awareness of his case and to launch a letter to the US Defense Secretary Ash Carter calling for the release of Mohamedou so that he may have a safe return to Mauritania. Mohamedou’s brother, lawyer, actors, activists and Parliamentarians spoke movingly about the injustice of Mohamedou’s case and why Guantanamo must be closed for good.

It was a fantastic event and shines light on the hope which so many have for Mohamedou, but this hope cannot be turned into happiness until Mohamedou Slahi is released.

Rt Hon Tom Brake is the Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson and Chief Whip in the House of Commons. He is the MP for Carshalton and Wallington

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