Jesurgislac’s Journal

January 22, 2010

Omar Deghayes: seeing clearly into Guantanamo

In response to a post by Eric Martin of Obsidian Wings about the denial of legal rights to people accused of terrorism, regular/right-winger Marty quotes Scott Brown: “And let me say this, with respect to those who wish to harm us, I believe that our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation – they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.”

and claims that “for better or worse” this answers the question about why people who have been accused of terrorism ought not to receive the same legal rights as people accused of any other crime.

Here’s one of the “enemies in wartime”: Omar Deghayes, a refugee from Gadaffi (his father was executed in Libya in 1980) who was a legal British resident since age 10, whose wife and son are British citizens, who was taken in Pakistan when he took his family there to escape the war in Afghanistan after “the Americans began paying large amounts of money to find Arabs who had been in Afghanistan”.

In Guantanmo Bay:

It is not hot stabbing pain that Omar Deghayes remembers from the day a Guantánamo guard blinded him, but the cool sen­sation of fingers being stabbed deep into his eyeballs. He had joined other prisoners in protesting against a new humiliation – inmates ­being forced to take off their trousers and walk round in their pants – and a group of guards had entered his cell to punish him. He was held down and bound with chains.

“I didn’t realise what was going on until the guy had pushed his fingers ­inside my eyes and I could feel the coldness of his fingers. Then I realised he was trying to gouge out my eyes,” Deghayes says. He wanted to scream in agony, but was determined not to give his torturers the satisfaction. Then the officer standing over him instructed the eye-stabber to push harder. “When he pulled his hands out, I remember I couldn’t see anything – I’d lost sight completely in both eyes.” Deghayes was dumped in a cell, fluid streaming from his eyes.

The sight in his left eye returned over the following days, but he is still blind in his right eye. He also has a crooked nose (from being punched by the guards, he says) and a scar across his forefinger (slammed in a prison door), but otherwise this resident of Saltdean, near Brighton, appears ­relatively ­unscarred from the more than five years he spent locked in Guantánamo Bay.

read the rest

The “evidence” against Omar Deghayes, aside from the US having paid the Pakistani authorities a lot of money for him (apparently the Libyans and the Americans were competing in the auction) is that someone spotted someone who looked like him in an “Islamic terrorist” videotape: a Chechnyan rebel called Abu Walid, who is dead. His lawyers were denied access to the videotape by the American authorities: they eventually obtained a copy via the BBC and were able to show that the tape was of a different person.

Omar Deghayes is one of at least eight hundred of the US’s kidnap victims who suffered illegal imprisonment for years. He’s one of eight hundred people that Scott Brown claims are “enemies in wartime”. He’s a legal British resident whose brutal treatment Scott Brown defends because he’s not a US citizen and so was not entitled to any of the legal rights of a US citizen – including the right not to have your guards stick their fingers in your eyes and half-blind you: including the right for your lawyers to be able to see the evidence for the charges alleged against you.

Omar Deghayes did not take up arms against the US: he did not engage in criminal activity: he went to Afghanistan to do charitable work for some of the poorest people on Earth, and he fled to Pakistan to save his family when the US attacked. Yet Marty repeats this lie – that Omar Deghayes is an “enemy in wartime” and so this brutal treatment is justified – and will not explain why he thinks the lie answers the question.

Why is that?

A year ago, President Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay within 12 months. Even though his intent was to move many of the prisoners to another illegal prison camp in Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan, he has not yet managed even the face-saving exercise of closing down the US’s best known prison camp: the Cuban oubliette.

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3 Comments »

  1. Hmm. Obama made the promise then after he was sworn into office didn’t make good on his promise. Since he can make this happen with the stroke of a pen we have a couple options. 1. President Obama lied to garner your vote with no intention of ever really closing Guantanimo down. 2. President Obama believed just like you that we had to close Guantanimo on humanitarian reasons an stop the practice of rendition, but after being sworn in, and in subsequent breifings, was given information that caused even an ardent humanitarian like himself to change his mind.

    I wonder which you choose to believe. If you choose the first you have to reconsider your ardent support of him. If you choose the later you must reconsider your perspective on rendition and Guantanimo. Or I guess you could bury your head in the sand and pretend that you have access to more accurate and timely information than the POTUS.

    Comment by Jay Burns — January 26, 2010 @ 11:01 pm | Reply

  2. If you choose the first you have to reconsider your ardent support of him.

    Jay, this is kind of weird.

    One, I’m not a US citizen: I never voted for Obama – though if I were a US citizen, given the choice was voting for McCain/Palin or voting for Obama/Biden, naturally I’d vote Obama/Biden, but so would everyone registered to vote who had smarts, sense, and the energy to wait in line at the polls: McCain/Palin was such an obviously dreadful choice that merely voting for Obama is by itself not enough to imply “ardent support”: anyone not a racist nutjob would obviously have done so.

    Two, I have been clear since 22nd November 2008 that “the torture might stop, but no one’s going to be penalized for involvement in the US’s breach of the Geneva Conventions and the convention against torture”. That was clear to me as soon as it was confirmed that Obama was going to reconfirm Bush’s secretary of defense as his own: you don’t do that if you genuinely mean to clean out the US military of all those implicated in the crimes ordered by the previous regime.

    President Obama believed just like you that we had to close Guantanimo on humanitarian reasons an stop the practice of rendition, but after being sworn in, and in subsequent breifings, was given information that caused even an ardent humanitarian like himself to change his mind.

    Obama is a skilled and experienced politician. And there are enough racist nutjobs in the US that want him dead for being the first black President.

    I think two things changed his mind about closing down Guantanamo Bay: first, that like most criminal fascist regimes, the Bush administration had deliberately obscured their crimes with regard to the prisoners held illegally by ensuring records were not kept; and second, that if he released all of the prisoners – either with apologies and compensation, in the case of those already cleared, or brought them to trial if there was any evidence against them, it would have to come clear that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and many other senior members of the Bush administration including Obama’s own Secretary of Defense, ought themselves to be charged with their crimes and brought to trial.

    Which Obama has always been absolutely clear he does not wish to do. It’s always been the factor that made me feel he was not the best choice in the field: he was absolutely clear he didn’t want to ensure his predecessors were brought to book for the crimes they committed while in office.

    No: Not the best choice. Just the only one left when the other option was Pinky and the Brain.

    Comment by Jesurgislac — January 27, 2010 @ 2:16 am | Reply

  3. Jay: I’ll go with option 2a: President Obama believed just like you that we had to close Guantanimo on humanitarian reasons and stop the practice of rendition, but after being sworn in, and in subsequent briefings, was given new information about the degree of fearmongering that Republicans were willing to kick up and its likely success that caused even an ardent humanitarian like himself to change his mind.

    Details in this Time magazine article, especially about the sequence of events around the planned release of the Uighurs to the US on page 3 of the article. The politics of it is disgusting, but nothing there suggests a reevaluation of the actual threat level posed to the United States, just a decision to pick his battles.

    Comment by Dave W. — February 5, 2010 @ 5:35 pm | Reply


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