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Obama Does Not Release Ill-treated Guantanamo Detainee, Despite Court Order

– From Amnesty International USA

To read the current Urgent Action newsletter, go to
For a print-friendly version of this Urgent Action (PDF):

19 February 2009

UA 49/09          Legal concern/Ill-treatment

USA                 Mohammed el Gharani (m), Chadian national, aged 22

More than a month after a US federal judge ordered that Chadian national Mohammed el Gharani be released from the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, he is still held there. Taken into custody when he was a child, he has spent nearly a third of his life in US military custody. He is alleged to have been ill-treated since the judicial order for his release was handed down. He has previously been ill-treated in Guantanamo in the context of interrogations to which he has been subjected.

Judge Richard Leon on the US District Court for the District of Columbia (DC) ordered on 14 January that Mohammed el Gharani’s detention was unlawful and that he should be immediately released. El Gharani, a Chadian national who was born and brought up in Saudi Arabia, has been held at Guantanamo as a so-called “enemy combatant” since February 2002. He was taken into custody by Pakistani forces in Pakistan in late 2001, at the age of 14, handed over to US authorities and taken to Kandahar air base in Afghanistan, before being transferred to Guantanamo.

Judge Leon ruled that the evidence against Mohammed el Gharani “consists principally of the statements made by two other detainees while incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay. Indeed, these statements are exclusively, or jointly, the only evidence offered by the Government to substantiate the majority of their allegations. In addition, unlike the other cases reviewed by this Court to date, the credibility and reliability of the detainees being relied upon by the Government has either been directly called into question by Government personnel or has been characterized by Government personnel as undetermined.” “Simply stated,” Judge Leon concluded, “a mosaic of tiles bearing images this murky reveals nothing about the petitioner with sufficient clarity, either individually or collectively, that can be relied upon by this Court.” He ordered the government “to take all necessary and appropriate diplomatic steps to facilitate his release forthwith,” (see USA: Judge orders release of detainee held in Guantanamo as child ‘enemy combatant,’ 15 January 2009, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/006/2009/en).

Mohammed el Gharani is held in the harsh conditions of Camp 5 of the detention facility. Camp 5 was opened in 2004 as an isolation and interrogation facility in which detainees are held for up to 24 hours a day in small cells. Amnesty International understands that Mohammed el Gharani is being allowed out into Camp 5’s exercise yard for about two hours a day, during which time he is also alone.

It is alleged that Mohammed el Gharani was subjected to repeated beatings by Guantanamo Bay’s “Immediate Reaction Force” (IRF) following the order for his release last month. Over the years of the detention operations at Guantanamo, there have been consistent allegations of IRF teams using excessive force.

Mohamed el Gharani has previously been ill-treated in Guantanamo. Some details of this were revealed in a 2008 report by the Inspector General at the US Department of Justice. FBI agents described how in 2003, when still only 16 years old, el Gharani was “short-chained:” a chain round his waist was bolted to the floor, preventing him from standing up straight. He was left like this for several hours. Another FBI agent stated that a military interrogator had ordered guards to place Mohammed el Gharani in a “stress position,” described as being “shackled on the hands and feet and then chained to the floor to force him to sit on the floor or crouch without a chair.” Left like this for several hours, el Gharani was forced to urinate on himself. El Gharani himself told investigators of another occasion when military guards chained him overnight for 12 to 16 hours. The report also revealed that the teenager had been subjected to the “frequent flyer program” of disorientation and sleep disruption and deprivation that has been used against numerous detainees in Guantanamo (see USA: From ill-treatment to unfair trial. The case of Mohammed Jawad, child “enemy combatant,” August 2008, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/091/2008/en). Mohammed el Gharani has alleged that during interrogations in 2003, he was subjected to racist abuse, physical assaults, and doused with cold water.

Under international law and standards, detention and imprisonment of a child must be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. Under international law, states must adhere to the principle that the best interests of the child are to be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children who come into conflict with the law. However, the USA’s treatment of children labeled as “enemy combatants” has been conducted in accordance with its own perceived national security interests rather than the best interests of the child.

On 22 January, President Obama signed three executive orders on detentions and interrogations (see: The promise of real change. President Obama’s executive orders on detentions and interrogations, 30 January 2009, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/015/2009/en).One of the orders required his administration to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility “as soon as practicable” and to conduct a review of all the cases of detainees held there to decide what should happen to them.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in your own words:
– expressing concern that Mohammed el Gharani is still detained in Guantanamo Bay, more than a month after District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled his detention unlawful and ordered his immediate release;
– expressing concern that Mohammed el Gharani is not only still in custody, but is being held in isolation in Camp 5;
– calling on the authorities to improve his conditions of detention immediately, give him increased time in the fresh air outside his cell and an end to his isolation, and allow him to telephone his family;
– expressing further concern at reports that he has been subjected to beatings by members of the Immediate Reaction Force, and calling for an investigation into these allegations and for the results to be made public;
– calling on the authorities to release him immediately to Saudi Arabia, where he resided and has immediate family, or, if this cannot be promptly arranged, to Chad, the country of his nationality, where he has extended family.


The Honorable Eric Holder, Attorney General
US Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Fax: 1 202 307 6777
Email: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov
Salutation: Dear Attorney General

The Honorable Robert Gates
US Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington DC 20301
Fax: 1 703 571 8951
Salutation: Dear Secretary of Defense

Gregory Craig, Counsel to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Fax: 1 202 456 2461
Salutation: Dear Mr Craig

Check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if sending appeals after 2 April 2009.

Tip of the Month:
Use shortcuts: Do whatever is necessary to make your letter writing as quick and easy as possible. This way, letters
will not be put off and they can be sent out sooner. Start by making a generic file for each type of concern; paragraphs on torture, the death penalty, disappearances, denial of medical care and so on, can be copied into your working file and edited as needed.

Within the United States:
$0.27 – Postcards
$0.42 – Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)
To Mexico and Canada:
$0.72 – Postcards
$0.72 – Airmail Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)
To all other destination countries:
$0.94 – Postcards
$0.94 – Airmail Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)

Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement that promotes and defends human rights.

This Urgent Action may be reposted if kept intact, including contact information and stop action date (if applicable). Thank you for your help with this appeal.

Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
600 Pennsylvania Ave SE 5th fl
Washington DC 20003
Email: uan@aiusa.org
Phone: 202.544.0200
Fax: 202.675.8566

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