Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Post-Release Treatment of Guantanamo Detainees

Something to keep an eye on, since the process of releasing and moving Guantanamo detainees is one of those things that could potentially slow down the actual closure of the prison. It has already, after all, as figuring out what to do with the detainees is what's responsible for the allocation of a year to shut down the prison. The Chicago Tribune has an excellent and interesting article on the attempt of one former Gitmo detainee to return to a normal (and terror-free) life:

"Umar Abdullah al-Kunduzi, a trained militant who spent almost six years in the
detention center in Guantanamo Bay, says he is trying to live a straight life.

He has no job. He has only the money his brother occasionally sends him.
During an interview, he wanted to know how much he could earn selling his
laptop, a gift from his brother, who lives outside Afghanistan. No one will hire
him, and a stint in Guantanamo—plus the fact that he has plenty of Al Qaeda and
Taliban associates—does not bode well for future job prospects.

Kunduzi, who hid out for a month with Al Qaeda militants in the Tora Bora
mountains after the Sept. 11 attacks, was returned to Afghanistan in December
2007. After four months, he was freed when an Afghan judicial commission ruled
he no longer posed any danger, and now his old associates want him back.

'When I say I am vulnerable, understand this—the policy of those on the
other side is, "You're with me, or you're against me,"' said Kunduzi, 30, who
spoke to the Tribune in a Kabul restaurant. 'One day, finally, they will come
after me. That's why I want to disappear.'"

And although we are eager to expand our military efforts in Afghanistan, apparently we haven't done much to help them set up an effective re-integration program for the detainees they have received:

"More than a dozen former detainees who have spoken to the Tribune in
recent years say they received nothing after leaving Guantanamo but a large gym
bag and, in some cases, toiletries, a change of clothes and $10 in taxi or bus
fare home.

In Afghanistan, unlike in countries such as Saudi Arabia, there is no
program to integrate detainees back into society. At first, the freed detainees
were simply flown back and released after signing a pledge to the new
government. They were allowed to go back to their villages, many of which are
now under Taliban control.

In the past 18 months, 40 detainees once considered dangerous, such as
Kunduzi, have been sent home. They were flown to the United States' Bagram Air
Base and handed over to the Afghan army, which brought them to a newly fortified
prison wing of the Pul-i-Charkhi prison near Kabul.

At first, hearings on their future were held behind closed doors. After
complaints, a new commission was set up and has so far released all but five

But no one seems to know where they are. The National Independent
Commission for Peace and Consolidation of Afghanistan, which is working to
reconcile former Taliban members with the Afghan government and has vouched for
Guantanamo detainees, knows of only 63 in the country.

'We do not have any system to observe people coming back,' commission
spokesman Sayed Sharif Yousofy said.

The country's intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, is
tasked with tracking the detainees, but the directorate spokesman repeatedly
declined to comment, saying he did not have the information.

Some detainees probably returned to the Taliban fold. The Pentagon in
January said that 61 former detainees from Guantanamo may have returned to
terrorist activities but declined to name them. Security experts have questioned
that number. So far, seven have been publicly identified, including a top Al
Qaeda leader in Yemen and three Afghans killed in fighting."

Well, holy sh*t. No wonder some of the detainees returned to the "Taliban fold." If there is no coordinated effort to monitor them and help them reenter society, what would you expect them to do?

President Obama might want to work on the government in Afghanistan to provide more assistance to the detainees released from Guantanamo. Unless Obama is interested in giving ammunition to right wing critics like Dick Cheney. Guantanamo has ruined lives - it's important to ensure that we provide or otherwise work with other countries to provide the detainees of Guantanamo the tools they need to live peacefully and in freedom again.

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