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

Time: 11:00 to 11:20 Download Presentation

Challenges in implementing the right to rehabilitation for former Guantanamo detainees

Presenter(s) and co-author(s): Ms. Polly Rossdale - former Deputy Director, Reprieve ( Human Rights Consultant ), Ms. Katie Taylor ( Abuses in Counter Terrorism, Reprieve - United Kingdom )


Since 2002, 780 men have been held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Most were subjected to extraordinary rendition and torture or inhuman and degrading treatment. Only four were ever convicted by military commission. 710 men have been transferred to 59 countries and in many cases left to recover from the ordeal with little support and no access to rehabilitation expertise. Based at the UK-based legal NGO, Reprieve, from 2009 the authors ran `Life after Guantanamo', an international rehabilitation project for some of these men. This talk describes the challenges we faced.


….to craft some form of torture rehabilitation program. The United States holds former CIA prisoners largely but not completely incommunicado: disallowing simultaneous telecommunication with families and attorneys; refusing requests of human rights bodies to interview the prisoners; denying consular access; and prohibiting access to the postal system. Attorneys can provide case-related material, including audiovisual disks, to their clients through a ``privilege team.''  Prisoners cannot directly communicate with service providers, but may be able to provide information to service providers after classification review. The classification of prisoner statements about torture is a complex and evolving issue. In November 2014, the UNCAT condemned the “draconian system of secrecy surrounding high-value detainees . . . keeps their torture claims out of the public domain”. Following the publication of the redacted SSCI torture report in December 2014, the military commission has revised its protective order to allow prisoners to make statements about torture other than its location and participants. The actual effect of this change is still being evaluated. Finally, the only form of true human connection that these men can have is with their legal team. Therefore, their mere engagement in the process to defend themselves is unfortunately intertwined with their


dependency on us for simple human contact. Conversely, the legal team also can be dependent on prisoners for a sense of accomplishment, professional success, and for employment, as they could fire their entire legal team at any moment. This intra-dependency complicates the process of building mutual trust between prisoners and their legal team. It is no small feat on the part of the tortured men and the legal teams to have spent years finding common ground toward healing for all. Despite the logistical and ethical challenges in crafting some plan for torture rehabilitation at Guantánamo, the alternative is to abandon them to their suffering. This presentation will seek to advance the conversation in the hope of finding a path forward on Guantánamo torture rehabilitation.

Funding & No Conflicts Declaration

The panelists' travel will be funded by the United States government. There are no conflict issues.

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