20 Jan 2015

Guantanamo lawyer: be careful after Paris attacks

The lawyer for a Guantanamo inmate says fear after the Paris attacks risks giving governments a licence to implement the sort of anti-terror legislation that saw her client wrongly detained.

The British people should fight harder for the release of the Chilcot report into the Iraq war to curb

Nancy Hollander’s client, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, has been held in Guantanamo Bay for 12 years without charge. His diary, published today, is the only account written by a detainee still held in the US military prison on Cuba.

In the book the 44-year-old documents how he was subjected to brutal treatment, including being kept in a “frozen room” for hours on end, forced into group sex with prison guards and repeatedly tortured.

‘Beyond Orwell and Kafka’

It has been described by the author John le Carre as a “vision of hell, beyond Orwell, beyond Kafka”.

Mr Slahi, who spent a year in Afghanistan fighting against the Soviet invasion but left a year later, has never been charged with any crime. Yet he remains in Guantanamo despite a US federal judge ordering his release four years ago.

“After Nuremberg, Justice Jackson said ‘We must never let this happen again’,” Ms Hollander told Channel 4 News. “Well, now we’re back again. Guantanamo has happened again. We can’t let that continue.

“If we learned anything from Paris, it is to be careful and treat everyone as an individual. Mohamedou was not treated as an individual. He’s an innocent man who was caught up [in events] – and we don’t ever want that to happen again.”

Mr Slahi’s legal team have spent more than five years battling to get a redacted version of his diary released. Ms Hollander told Channel 4 News that the redactions are indicative of a creeping culture of “censorship” and that had it not been for the release of the US Senate report detailing the use of CIA “enhanced interrogation techniques”, the book may never have seen the light of day.

‘British must advocate’

Asked about Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into the Iraq war, Ms Hollander said the “British people have to continue to advocate” for its publication.

The inquiry, which saw its last public hearing in February 2011, had thought to have been delayed due to a disagreement between Whitehall and the US State Department over declassifying confidential communications between George W Bush and Tony Blair in the build-up, during, and in the aftermath of the Iraq war. But the British government has since suggested those issues were now resolved.

Nonetheless it is unlikely to be published until after the election, marking more than 1,500 days after Sir John said publication would be “months away”.

“If you have a government that works in secret, you cannot have a free society,” Ms Hollander said. “So we have to continue to fight to get all these secrets out. We have to stop this censorship.”