Detainee in Guantanamo Bay.

Al-Hawsawi: More than 18 years of Indefinite Detention and Torture

This week, after a long delay caused by the COVID pandemic, the Military Commission hearings in Guantánamo in relation to the 9/11 attacks have resumed. 

It is now over 18 years since Mustafa al-Hawsawi, one of the accused, was first detained by US forces in March 2003, and over 15 years since his rendition to Guantánamo from detention in Lithuania in March 2006.  

He remains unconvicted of any crime and continues to suffer the health impacts of the torture he suffered in detention as part of a CIA programme which operated several ‘black sites’ in Europe. 

Mustafa suffers from various serious and chronic medical conditions and yet is not receiving the specialist treatment which is needed. REDRESS therefore calls on the relevant US authorities to comply with US law by providing the necessary specialist treatment without further delay. 

At the time the pandemic stalled proceedings, the Military Commission had been receiving evidence and testimony from the parties regarding the suppression of statements allegedly made to the FBI, after black site interrogations. The subject of focus was the CIA’s prior torture, abuse, and coercion during more than three years of interrogations, and the impact of that experience on Mustafa and his co-accused.  

Detailed analysis of publicly available evidence on the CIA programme has found that Mustafa was secretly held in a CIA ‘black site’ in Lithuania between February or October 2005 and March 2006, before being rendered to Guantánamo Bay.  

In 2013, REDRESS and the Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) submitted a complaint in Lithuania calling for an investigation into allegations that Mustafa was illegally transferred to, and secretly detained and tortured, in Lithuania. The investigation has never been concluded and Lithuania has consistently refused to recognise that Mustafa is a ‘victim’ of any crime. In December 2016, REDRESS filed a complaint against Lithuania at the European Court of Human Rights, after local remedies were exhausted. 

Amongst the various forms of torture which Mustafa suffered whilst in CIA detention were so-called “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” including water-dousing (a technique similar to water-boarding), walling, attention grasps, facial holds, cramped confinement, psychological pressures and sleep deprivation. 

Mustafa now suffers from a number of serious medical conditions, including rectal prolapse, anal fissures, and Hepatitis C, conditions he did not have previously. 

Evidence now provided to the European Court of Human Rights in the case against Lithuania confirms that: 

  • Mustafa continues to endure severe and debilitating chronic pain from the years of abuse and degradation at US Government-sponsored black sites; 
  • Consultations with a colorectal surgeon and a gastrointestinal specialist which were recommended by the attending medical officer in February 2021 have (to our knowledge) still not occurred, and in the meantime Mustafa is frequently having to take narcotic-strength drugs (both orally and via injection) to control the pain; 
  • He has received no specialist care for his other serious medical conditions since March 2020; 
  • The military physician appointed by President Joe Biden in April 2021 as an independent overseer of the medical care to detainees at Guantánamo, has repeatedly refused to meet Mustafa’s defense team to discuss their concerns. 

US law requires that the detainees at Guantánamo receive the medical standard of care “accepted by medical experts and reflected in peer-reviewed medical literature as the appropriate medical approach for a condition, symptoms, illness, or disease and that is widely used by healthcare professionals” (see National Defense Authorization Act of 2020, Pub. L. 116-92, § 1046(e)(3)). 

You can read more about the case here.

Photo credit: PO2 Kilho Park.