Indefinite Detention Should End for Prisoner Detained for Being an Assistant Cook 12 Years Ago, Says CCR
April 8, 2014, Guantanamo Bay and Washington, DC – Today, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) client Ghaleb Al-Bihani, a Yemeni citizen who has been held without charge at Guantanamo for over 12 years, asked the Obama administration’s new Periodic Review Board (PRB) to approve him for transfer. While the government has stated that it does not plan to charge Mr. Al-Bihani with any crime, in 2009 it designated him for continued indefinite detention, as it did dozens of other prisoners. The PRB will now determine whether to recommend Mr. Al-Bihani for transfer from Guantanamo or whether to continue his 12-year imprisonment. In 2008, a federal judge upheld Mr. Al-Bihani’s detention on the basis of his admission that he had served as an assistant cook in 2001 for a now-disbanded Taliban-affiliated group.
“Mr. Al-Bihani is not a significant threat to the United States. He is a former cook who is severely ill and does yoga for stress relief,” said CCR Senior Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei, who is representing Mr. Al-Bihani before the PRB. “If Guantanamo is to close, men like Mr. Al-Bihani who are being unjustly and unnecessarily detained should be approved for transfer by the PRB – and actually transferred. A change in status only matters if it results in release.”
Mr. Al-Bihani is one of 88 Yemenis held at Guantánamo, who make up nearly two-thirds of the remaining population. Despite the fact that President Obama lifted his self-imposed ban on transfers to Yemen last May, he has yet to transfer any of the 56 Yemenis currently approved for transfer – even those who would accept transfer to a third country. While Mr. Al-Bihani would accept transfer to Yemen, his hope is for transfer to a third country.
Mr. Al-Bihani has stated before, “I want people whom I have never met before to know that I am a human being just like them, and I deserve to be given a chance just like they do. I want to become a father, and I want to hold my baby in my arms and provide to my family and to my child. I want to get an education just like everybody else. I want to be given the opportunity to get a decent job. I lost over twelve years of my life. Twelve years is enough.”
Ghaleb Al-Bihani sought justice all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear his case in April 2011.
He lives with physical illness, including diabetes, and suffers from physical pain and emotional anguish. He has expressed that his “current circumstances have become unbearable.” Despite his difficulties, he is trying to learn languages and other skills to improve himself in detention, and he still dreams of the chance to rebuild his life.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for more than 12 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.