What torture at Guantanamo Bay feels like

Powerful statement by the campaigning British group Reprieve:

Younous Chekkouri, a detainee who has been cleared for release but remains held in Guantanamo, has given the first inside account of… the raid carried out by prison authorities on Saturday 13 April.

Speaking to a lawyer from human rights charity… Reprieve… via an unclassified phone call, Mr Chekkouri has described how guards used tear gas and “shot guns”¦with small [rubber] bullets” to subdue a peaceful protest after detainees covered cameras inside their cells. Only cameras inside the detainees’ cells were covered – this was not a new development but has been the case since… the beginning of the hunger strike around twelve weeks ago.

He describes how “nobody thought to fight,” asking “what do we have to fight with?” and adding that life in the camp is “like it was seven years ago.”

Commenting, Clive Stafford Smith, Director of Reprieve and one of Mr Chekkouri’s US lawyers said: “We all should have learned the danger of a secret prison from the Soviets. Unfortunately the US military has been dissembling again. The prisoners did not start this. The US military went in there with guns literally blazing at 5.10am in the morning, as detainees prepared for morning prayer, immediately after the Red Cross left the base, so there would be no independent observers. Sad to say, torture and abuse continue in Guantánamo Bay and… the US is throwing away yet more of its dwindling moral authority.”

The following are extracts from Mr Chekkouri’s call:

“What has happened here now is real nightmare. Nobody dreamed that what has happened would happen. After our peaceful demonstration, on [Saturday] morning the guards came in with guns”¦they used shot guns and three people were injured”¦used guns with small bullets.”

“The guards came in, closed all of our cells”¦[removed us from our cells and] told us to get on the ground.”

“We lay there on our belly for 3 hours or more.”

“They took everything”¦cells empty, nothing left.”

“They moved us into another empty block and after a while they give us blanket and that is all.”

“They said it’s punishment.”

“History repeats itself”¦like it was seven years ago.”

“Punishment because we hide cameras in cell and so this is what happened. They took everything, left cell empty.”

“I was sleeping on [Saturday]”¦at almost 5am guards came in with shot guns”¦there was no confrontation that prompted it”¦”

“When I woke up I heard them using guns on the detainees in block next door”¦the detainees didn’t have anything”¦”

“The guards used force to control some of the detainees”¦to force them out of the cells.”

“Used tear gas [as well]”

“More than 50 [guards] came in on my block and there were only 13 detainees on my block. Nobody [no detainees] thought to fight”¦what do we have to fight with”¦[plus] we were out numbered”¦”

“Guards were scary, they were ready to use guns, use force”¦it was very scary.”

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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