The London Guantánamo has been campaigning since 2006 for the return of all British residents from the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, the release of all prisoners, the closure of this prison and other similar prisons and an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition. Human rights for all.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Report: Parliamentary Briefing on Case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi: 19 April 2016
A well-attended and informative meeting was held at the
Houses of Parliament on 19 April to provide information and an update on the
case of best-selling author and Guantánamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who
has been held without charge or trial since November 2001, when he was
kidnapped from his native Mauritania by the CIA. From there, he was taken to
Jordan and tortured before being taken to Bagram, Afghanistan, where he faced
further abuse before he was taken to Guantánamo in November 2002. For several
years, his whereabouts were unknown to his family; he had simply “disappeared”.
(L-R) Jamie Byng, Jo Glanville, Nancy Hollander, Yahdih Ould Slahi
The meeting was hosted by Tom Brake MP (Lib Dem, Carshalton
and Wallington), who stated that “as long as Guantánamo is open it remains a
blot on US justice.” As part of the meeting, a letter was announced, for MPs
and peers to sign (please see below), to be sent to the US Defence Secretary
Ashton Carter demanding that he “Immediately certify to Congress that Mr. Slahi
will be released” and “Ensure that Mr. Slahi is quickly transferred out of
Guantánamo Bay so he can restart his life as a free man.”
The meeting was started and concluded with readings from Guantánamo
Diary, as well as before the Q&A session. The readings were provided skilfully
by actors Sanjeev Bhaskar and Toby Jones; they were to be joined by actor Jude
Law who was unable to make it to the meeting.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s lawyer, Nancy Hollander spoke about
his case. She took up the case in 2005 after having being contacted by a lawyer
in France who via a lawyer in Mauritania had learned that his family thought he
might be held at Guantánamo Bay and wanted to find out if it was true. Ms
Hollander applied through the courts to find out from the US government. Once
it was ascertained that he was being held at Guantánamo, she went to meet him
with fellow lawyer Sylvia Royce. When they met him for the first time, they
were bemused to find him smiling and with his arms out to welcome them but he
did not come towards them; he stood where he was. They later realised that was
because he was shackled. So they went towards him and embraced him.
He had asked the guards to give him paper and wrote 90 pages
about his life, kidnap and torture. At that point, his lawyers did not know if
his story was true, but that turned out to be the case. His writings show that
throughout he has maintained his dignity and humanity. Incredibly, Mr Ould
Slahi wrote in English, a language he largely picked up after his imprisonment
and through talking to guards, many of whom developed a friendly and warm
relationship with him.
In 2010, Mohamedou Ould Slahi was granted a hearing in the
US federal court. Judge Robertson, at the time, ordered his immediate release
as there was no evidence to support his continued detention. As in many other
cases, the Obama administration appealed the case. The court of appeal asked
for the case to be reheard but it never happened. In 2011, Barack Obama issued
an executive order setting up the Prisoner Review Board to consider all cases
such as Mr Ould Slahi’s of prisoners who have not been cleared for release but
potentially could be. The Board was to conclude its work within one year but
did not even start until 2013, and has to date not considered each of the
several dozen cases before it. It is only now, on 2 June, that Mohamedou Ould
Slahi will go before the board for the first time.
Ms Hollander said that it is important that everyone should
read his book and learn his story and ultimately help in the effort to free
Mohamedou Ould Slahi and close Guantánamo.
Yahdih Ould Slahi and Nancy Hollander
Speaking through a German interpreter, Yahdih Ould Slahi,
Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s younger brother, said that if he was to talk about his
brother’s case and the impact it has had on his family, he would probably be
there all night and the next day, but that his family had forgiven those who
had harmed his brother and they just wish that he can go home. He thanked the
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and everyone involved in the campaign for
justice for his brother.
He said that on the day Mohamedou Ould Slahi was arrested,
he was at home with his mother. They were both reassured that he would only be
held in Mauritania. Instead he was taken to Jordan. Not knowing where her son
was, his mother would take clothes and food to the police to give to Mohamedou
Ould Slahi thinking that they were giving it to him. Yahdih Ould Slahi said
that he was not surprised by the corrupt actions of Mauritanian officials but
was surprised that the US would behave the way it did. He said that he wanted
the American people to know that “The pain caused on and after 9/11 isn’t only
the US’s pain, it’s our pain too.”
Yahdih Ould Slahi said, “We hope and we live in hope that Guantánamo
will be closed one day as President Obama said. I don’t know why it isn’t.”
Jo Glanville from English Pen described Guantánamo Diary
as an extraordinary book “full of humanity”. Mohamedou Ould Slahi wrote the
book in English even though he had learned this language there simply by
communicating with guards. She called it “the prison memoir of our times” and
of particular importance as he was “’disappeared’ by a country that sees itself
as a beacon of human rights”. Picking up on the issue of censorship – it took
many years for the book to see the light of day – she mentioned that it
contains 2600 redactions, including of whole pages and sections. Ms Glanville
stated that censorship is integral to the post-9/11 US and the secrecy
surrounding the US’s practices at Guantánamo and elsewhere needs to be broken
Jamie Byng, from Canongate, publisher of Guantánamo Diary
said that in reading the manuscript he was “humbled, enraged but also moved by
how Mohamedou Ould Slahi expressed himself so articulately.” The book has been
translated and published in 24 languages and more are planned. He called it an
important human document and a reminder of what still happens at Guantánamo. Mr
Byng said there is a need to show solidarity in Britain to get Mohamedou Ould
There are currently plans to turn the book into a film
produced by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Unfortunately, only a handful of MPs were present at the otherwise
well-attended event. The US ambassador to the UK declined an invitation to
attend the meeting. The Mauritanian chargé d’affaires attended and said on
behalf of his government that the Mauritanian authorities are willing to
receive Mohamedou Ould Slahi and have him return home to his family. He pointed
out that two other former Guantánamo prisoners have been released to the
country and have been resettled. He said that his country is opposed to
arbitrary detention and detention without trial.
The LGC thanks the organisers of this successful meeting
3 – The following letter will be signed by British
politicians and celebrities to be sent to US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter.
Please send it to your MP (find them at www.theyworkforyou.com)
and ask them to add their name to it – please let us know their response:
Dear Secretary Carter,
Mohamedou Slahi has been unlawfully imprisoned by the U.S.
government for 14 years. Thirteen of those years have been at Guantánamo
Bay prison, where he was subjected to gruesome torture.
Mr. Slahi has never been charged with a crime.He has never taken part in any hostilities
against the United States. A former chief military prosecutor in the Guantánamo
military commissions, Colonel Morris Davis, has said he couldn’t
find any crime with which to charge Mr. Slahi.
At long last, Mr. Slahi has been granted the Periodic Review
Board hearing he should have had five years ago. At this hearing he can prove
not a threat to the United States and that there is no reason to continue to
Despite all his suffering, Mr. Slahi has repeatedly stated -
including in his best-selling book - that he bears no ill will towards anyone.
Assuming a positive outcome in Mr. Slahi’s
Periodic Review Board hearing, we the undersigned, call upon you to:
1. Immediately certify to Congress that Mr. Slahi will be
2. Ensure that Mr. Slahi is quickly transferred out of Guantánamo
Bay so he can restart his life as a free man.