Wednesday, May 14, 2008


The Bush administration has dropped charges against Guantanamo detainee Mohammad al-Qahtani, who they had alleged would have been the "20th hijacker" in the 9/11 attacks. For those who don't recognise the name, al-Qahtani is otherwise known as "detainee 063". He was subjected to prolonged torture - sleep deprivation, forced exercises, stress positions, white noise, sexual humiliation, snarling dogs, forced enemas and prolonged isolation - under the personal supervision of then US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. This torture eventually drove him mad:

By late November 2002, an FBI agent wrote, Detainee 063, Mohamed al-Kahtani, was "evidencing behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma (talking to nonexistent people, reporting hearing voices, cowering in a corner of his cell covered with a sheet for hours on end.)"
No court in the world would convict a defendant after that sort of criminal misconduct by the prosecution, or regard statements extracted by such methods as even remotely reliable. And this is why the charges have been dropped. So the Bush administration's policy of torture isn't just a disaster for human rights - it is also a disaster for justice.

The question now is what the US will do with al-Qahtani. They can't prosecute him. They can't even use him as a witness. They should therefore let him go, but I doubt they'll do that. Instead, they will almost certainly continue to detain him, effectively punishing him without trial or appeal. In their effort to fight monsters, the US have become monsters themselves.