Online proceedings for the IRCT General Assembly and 10th International Scientific Symposium - Delivering on the Promise of the Right to Rehabilitation

Time: 10:40 to 11:00

Torture by other means: CIA Victims and the denial of rehabilitation to survivors at Guantanamo Bay

Presenter(s) and co-author(s): Dr. Mitch Robinson ( United States Department of Defense - United States of America ), Prof. Jess Ghannam ( University of California - United States of America )


In 2014, the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a redacted executive summary of its investigation into the CIA Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program (“Torture Program”) that was authorized by President George W. Bush shortly after 11 September 2001 and continued until September 2006. The pages of the report revealed that one victim of CIA forced disappearance, Mr. Mustafa al-Hawsawi, suffered brutal acts of torture that included not only “garden-variety'” CIA torture, such as sleep deprivation and water dousing, but also sodomy with an object of such size and force that Mr. al-Hawsawi subsequently developed severe rectal injuries.


The US Government has maintained absolute control over Mr. al-Hawsawi since his rendition kidnapping and transport to multiple CIA black sites between 2003 and 2006 followed by his transfer to Guantanamo Bay where he has been kept up to the present day. The authors are part of Mr. al-Hawsawi's legal defense team at Guantanamo Bay and in our paper we argue that, despite the Obama administration's denunciation of torture, the US in fact continues a policy of Government sanctioned abuse by actively denying rehabilitation efforts thereby allowing victims to suffer for years from injuries sustained from the original torture. Our methodology is qualitative and threefold:

  1. Extensive personal interviews with Mr. al-Hawsawi and review of the ``Torture Report''
  2. Discernment of the clinical rehabilitation practices applicable to Mr. al-Hawsawi in a situation of national security confinement
  3. Review of international legal obligations and standard practices of torture rehabilitation.

We have been authorized by Mr. al-Hawsawi to discuss his condition and have relied on information released from the declassified Torture Report. All information discussed has been approved for release by appropriate security officials and Mr. al-Hawsawi.


Because of the unique conditions of Mr. al-Hawsawi's confinement, we continue to search for additional approaches and mixed methodologies that can be performed in a top secret classified setting. This presentation reflects our current state of research and knowledge, both of which we seek to increase. Our research highlights the challenges of on-site rehabilitation within the emerging global trend of national security extended confinement. Mr. al-Hawsawi has received wide international support from both authoritative international institutions and global non-government organizations, such as the UN, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and Amnesty International. It is likely that no single torture victim in the world currently receives more international attention and support than Mr. al-Hawsawi. Yet, he receives no formal rehabilitation. Thus, the question we pose for consideration is: when everything has been done, and yet the right to rehabilitation is still not being honored - what else is to be done?

Funding & No Conflicts Declaration

Although funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, our funding is walled-off from conflicting interests. We declare that we have no conflicts of interest.

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