July 22, 2016

After fourteen years, Guantánamo detainee who chronicled torture will go home


Guantanamo via Shutterstock.

Guantánamo Bay detention camp. Via Shutterstock.

We’ve previously written about Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the Mauritanian man imprisoned for fourteen years in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp without being charged with any crime, whose book chronicling his experience there became a bestseller and went on to be published in twenty-five countries.

Now, the New York Times’s Charlie Savage reports, Slahi has finally been cleared for release by the six-agency Period Review Board, which determines when prisoners are “not enough of a threat to national security to continue to be detained.” The director of the National Security Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, which had campaigned for Slahi’s release, announced that the Mauritanian government would welcome him home.

As Savage recounts, Slahi was taken to Guantánamo in 2003 and “subjected to a special interrogation approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.” He began writing Guantanamo Diary in 2005 and it was published last year after a prolonged legal battle and many redactions. In his harrowing account, he describes being subjected to “sleep deprivation, beatings, dousings with ice water, and… being shackled for days in a freezing cell.”

While the ACLU is applauding Slahi’s release, they note that there are still dozens “trapped in the misery that is indefinite detention at Guantánamo.” President Obama sent a plan to close Guantánamo to Congress last February, and the announcement that three other detainees were transferred from the prison in June had some speculating that the end was in sight. But as the New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson explained in a deeply depressing piece (depressing not least for quoting Donald Trump that rather than close the prison we should “load it up with some bad dudes”), it’s beyond Obama’s power to once and for all shutter that hellhole that robbed Slahi of so many years of his life.



Kait Howard was a publicist at Melville House.