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Report finds ‘gross errors’ on Afghan Gitmo detainees

Report finds ‘gross errors’ on Afghan Gitmo detainees

Nov 03, 2016 - 17:18

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): Eight Afghans have been imprisoned for years in the US-run prison at Guantanamo Bay on the basis of "vague accusations" rife with "gross errors of fact," a new report said on Thursday.

The report, titled Kafka In Cuba, The Afghan Experience In Guantanamo, has been released by the Afghanistaninfo-icon Analysts Network (AAN), an independent, nonprofit research group.

AAN examined the cases of eight of the longest-serving Afghan detainees, all either still in Guantanamo Bay or recently moved to the United Arab Emirates.

The detainees, including a former flower seller and a doorman, were held over accusations ranging from being a Talibaninfo-icon financier to being a member of an Al-Qaeda bomb-making cell.

But the report said the US military had been unable to substantiate accusations against any of them.

"Reading through the United States military and court documents outlining the allegations and evidence against these eight men, one enters a Kafkaesque worldinfo-icon of strange, vague accusations, rife with hearsay, secret evidence, bad translations, gross errors of fact and testimony obtained under duress and torture", it said.

The report said the cases demonstrate the “perilousness of the power to arbitrarily detain,” which in Afghanistan has led to “miscarriages of justice,” a major factor in driving some Afghans toward insurgency.

AAN senior analyst, Kate Clark, investigated the Afghan experience in Guantanamo and found the Afghan case files full of mistakes, bad translations and fantastical allegations, and evidence made up of hearsay, double hearsay, unsubstantiated intelligence reports and testimony from those who were tortured.

“None of these eight Afghans were captured on the battlefield,” said Clark. “Six were handed over by Pakistaninfo-icon or Afghan forces and two were detained after tip-offs from unknown sources. The basis for their detentions is intelligence only and that intelligence is threadbare.”

The new report finds the US military getting dates, geography and factions wrong. It mixes up groups that laid down their weapons long ago or never fought with jihadists.

One of the eight detainees, Hamidullah from Kabul, for example, detained by the Afghan intelligence agency, the NDSinfo-icon and handed over to US forces in 2003, is accused of plotting with the “extremists” of Mahaz-e-Mili (National Front).

Mahaz was famously the most moderate faction of the mujahedin ever, nicknamed the ‘Gucci guerrillas’ by hardliners who mocked it for being westernised.

In the cases of three of the detainees featured in AAN’s report, their association with the mass, quietest, missionary organisation, Tablighi Jamat, is held to be proof of their terrorist intent.

The files also treat those who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s with the  Hezb-e-Islami faction as suspicious.

“Which faction you or your older brother or uncle fought with in the 1980s hardly says anything about your combatant status in the 2000s,” said Clark.

“Actually, the US also supported Hezb-e-Islami in the 1980s – it was their favourite mujahedin faction, the largest recipient of US military aid. And anyway, since 2001, there have been plenty of Hezbis in the US-supported, Afghan government.”

Afghans make up a quarter of the population ever held at Guantanamo, the largest national grouping (220 detainees out of 781). In the early days of the intervention, almost any Afghan could end up in Cuba.

There were mass, arbitrary detentions by US forces desperate to get intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

They also believed there were ‘remnants’ of the Taleban to hunt down, even though remnants, in terms of forces offering resistance did not then exist; it would be some years before an insurgency took off.

Afghan strongmen allied to the US were able to pass off their factional enemies as ‘terrorists’ or hand them over for money. Pakistan also made millions out of bounties during that period.

Those ending up in Cuba included men who had opposed the Taleban, members of the new post-2001 political establishment, old men with dementia and physical ailments, minors and at least one Shia Muslim (both the Taleban and al Qaeda are Sunni).

Once in Guantanamo, detainees found there were no mechanisms in place to argue their innocence.

The Bush administration’s decisions to treat the ‘war on terror’ as unprecedented, and disregard the normal laws for dealing with military detainees meant it had set up no procedures for sifting combatants from non-combatants.

Eventually, after legal challenges in the US courts, military boards were set up in Guantanamo to do this, and some detainees also managed to get federal courts to hear their petitions for habeas corpus.

AAN’s study shows how the military boards at Guantanamo were not even able to clear out the obvious, factual mistakes from detainees’ files.

The role of civilian courts, said Clark, has been even more disturbing. “Judges have accepted hearsay, debated whether testimony obtained from those who were tortured could be heard and allowed the state to present secret evidence and repeatedly delay proceedings. They have utterly failed to hold the executive to account.” 


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