Afghan report slams 'gross miscarriages of justice' at Guantánamo

Afghan report slams 'gross miscarriages of justice' at Guantánamo
© Getty Images

A leading research organization in Afghanistan is accusing the United States of “gross miscarriages of justice” at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility in a scathing report examining the cases of eight Afghans held at the facility.

“The Afghan experience in Guantánamo in itself highlights the peril of the power to arbitrarily detain,” the Afghanistan Analysts Network said in its report. “For individuals and their families, the consequences have been gross miscarriages of justice.”


The Thursday report, called “Kafka in Cuba,” is based on publicly available U.S. military and court documents about eight of the longest-serving Afghan detainees.

President Obama promised to close the facility in his first presidential campaign, with one of his arguments for doing so being that the facility undermines U.S. credibility abroad.

But Congress has imposed restrictions on transfers, including banning all transfers to the United States, making it unlikely Obama will be able to fulfill his promise as his presidency winds down.

U.S. detention policy at Guantánamo inadvertently fueled the war in Afghanistan, the report says.

“For Afghanistan, the mass arbitrary detentions in the early years of the US-led intervention was a major factor driving some Afghans towards insurgency,” it says. “It helped revive a conflict Afghans had hoped was finally over, one which they and the United States are still enmeshed in.”

The report found the allegations against the men to be “fantastical” and based on “hearsay, secret evidence, bad translations, gross errors of fact and testimony obtained under duress and torture.”

The public documents “show multiple, basic mistakes in Afghan geography, dates and factional membership, as well as fundamental misunderstandings, such as mistaking nonbelligerent and even anti-jihadist groups for extremists,” the report adds.

Further, the report says, none of the eight men were captured on the battlefield, but were instead handed over by Pakistani or Afghan forces or captured after tips from unknown sources. There’s evidence that at least three of the men were turned over for political or monetary reasons, according to the report.

The Pentagon has described the eight men as follows, according to an August Pentagon report on Guantánamo detainees:

— Haji Wali Mohammed was a moneychanger affiliated with Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, al Qaeda and the Taliban. He was Osama bin Laden’s financier and managed large sums of money for the Taliban in the 1990s and early 2000s.

— Abdul Zahir was misidentified when captured as a suspect in producing and distributing chemical or biological weapons for al Qaeda. Instead, he was “probably” a bookkeeper and translator for al Qaeda and a low-level member of a Taliban cell.

— Obaidullah was part of an al Qaeda-associated cell that targeted coalition forces with improvised explosive devices (IED) and admitted to working to acquire and plant anti-tank mines to target U.S. and coalition forces.

— Bostan Karim was “probably” the leader of an al Qaeda-associated IED cell and has consistently denied affiliation with any terrorist or extremist group.

— Mohammed Kamin was “aligned with several extremist groups,” “probably” worked for the Taliban and trained with al Qaeda.

— Hamidullah fought for Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin and “probably” ordered and conducted attacks against Afghan and coalition forces during Operation Enduring Freedom.

— Harun Gul was a Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin commander who organized and led attacks on Afghan and coalition forces.

— Muhammad Rahim was a high-level member of al Qaeda and a close associated of bin Laden.

By contrast, Thursday’s report from the Afghanistan Analysts Network says Mohammed, Karim, Kamin and Hamidullah “look to be innocent,” while Obaidullah and Zahir “may have been very junior insurgents."

“In recent weeks and months, the Periodic Review Board has reached similar conclusions about these six men, that the cases against them were flawed or, at least, the risk involved in transfer was not great,” the report says, referring to the parole-like board that clears detainees for transfer.

Obaidullah, Kamin and Hamidullah were transferred to the United Arab Emirates in August, while Mohammed, Zahir and Karim are awaiting transfer after being cleared this year.

The final two men, Gul and Rahim, have little public information available, but the report says what is available is “worrying.”

“What we can see of the evidence against them points to the same worrying patterns as in the first six cases: a reliance on unverified intelligence reports, confessions and detainee testimony, coupled with the use of torture and excessive secrecy,” the report says.

“Neither man has had the opportunity to defend himself and, in Rahim’s case much of the detail even of the allegations against him are secret.”