It Can Happen HerePosted: January 9, 2012 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, court rulings, George W. Bush, Gitmo, Human Rights, legislation, torture | Tags: Barack Obama, Defense Authorizattion Act, due process, Gitmo, Guantanamo, Habeas Corpus, indefinite detention, Lakhdar Boumediene, Military Commissions Act (MCA), terrorism, Torture | 20 Comments
Now that President Obama has signed the 2012 Defense Authorization Act, what happened to Lakhdar Boumediene could happen to any of us.
In a horrifying op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times Boumediene described how he was arrested in Bosnia in 2002 and held in Guantanamo for seven years without due process. At the time of his arrest Boumediene was working as a humanitarian aid worker focusing on helping children. During his imprisonment, he was never allowed to see his wife or his children, and received only a few of the many letters they sent him. The ones he did receive were cruelly censored.
I left Algeria in 1990 to work abroad. In 1997 my family and I moved to Bosnia and Herzegovina at the request of my employer, the Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates. I served in the Sarajevo office as director of humanitarian aid for children who had lost relatives to violence during the Balkan conflicts. In 1998, I became a Bosnian citizen. We had a good life, but all of that changed after 9/11.
When I arrived at work on the morning of Oct. 19, 2001, an intelligence officer was waiting for me. He asked me to accompany him to answer questions. I did so, voluntarily — but afterward I was told that I could not go home. The United States had demanded that local authorities arrest me and five other men. News reports at the time said the United States believed that I was plotting to blow up its embassy in Sarajevo. I had never — for a second — considered this.
The fact that the United States had made a mistake was clear from the beginning. Bosnia’s highest court investigated the American claim, found that there was no evidence against me and ordered my release. But instead, the moment I was released American agents seized me and the five others. We were tied up like animals and flown to Guantánamo, the American naval base in Cuba. I arrived on Jan. 20, 2002.
I still had faith in American justice. I believed my captors would quickly realize their mistake and let me go. But when I would not give the interrogators the answers they wanted — how could I, when I had done nothing wrong? — they became more and more brutal. I was kept awake for many days straight. I was forced to remain in painful positions for hours at a time. These are things I do not want to write about; I want only to forget.
Eventually he went on a hunger strike that lasted two years and was brutally force fed twice a day. Finally, in 2008, his case reached the Supreme Court.
In a decision that bears my name, the Supreme Court declared that “the laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.” It ruled that prisoners like me, no matter how serious the accusations, have a right to a day in court. The Supreme Court recognized a basic truth: the government makes mistakes. And the court said that because “the consequence of error may be detention of persons for the duration of hostilities that may last a generation or more, this is a risk too significant to ignore.”
When he was finally freed, France took him in, and he was reunited with his family. Boumediene writes that there are 90 prisoners at Guantanamo who have also been cleared to leave the facility, but they are being held because they are from countries where they would be tortured or killed if they returned.
So there they sit, not guilty of any crime but held in indefinite detention. Just as you or I could be held if this president or the next one decides we somehow helped or supported terrorism.