We are thrilled to share this news: Center for Constitutional Rights client Majid Khan was transferred from Guantánamo to Belize today. He is the first “high-value” detainee to be released, and the first man to be resettled to a third country by the Biden administration.
As Majid said in our press release:
“I have been given a second chance in life and I intend to make the most of it. I deeply regret the things that I did many years ago, and I have taken responsibility and tried to make up for them. I continue to ask for forgiveness from God and those I have hurt. I am truly sorry. The world has changed a lot in twenty years, and I have changed a lot as well. I promise all of you, especially the people of Belize that I will be a productive, law-abiding member of society. Thank you for believing in me, and I will not let you down. My actions will speak louder than my words.”
This day has been a long time coming. Majid was captured and disappeared by the United States in 2003, when he was 23 years old, and detained in CIA detention sites where he was brutally tortured. His family hadn’t heard from him for years and thought he was dead when they reached out to the Center for Constitutional Rights for help. In September 2006, George W. Bush announced that Majid and 13 other men, referred to as “high-value” detainees, were transferred to Guantánamo. Two weeks later, we filed a habeas case in federal court challenging his detention.
Majid’s first words to us were in a postcard he sent through the International Red Cross to our then-president, Michael Ratner. “I just wanted to send [a] thank you note for fighting for me and doing your best to get me out of here. Please! Don’t give up, keep trying.”
We never gave up, even when the obstacles felt insurmountable.
The U.S. government fought to deny us access to Majid because of what he knew about the CIA’s secret torture program – because of what they had done to him – until we traveled to the prison to meet him in October 2007. Over the last two decades, we have litigated multiple cases on his behalf in federal court and in the military commissions system. As we challenged Majid’s detention, we also fought to expose the truth about the torture that he and other Muslim men endured in CIA detention sites across the globe, despite continued attempts every step of the way by the government to conceal key information about the program.
In February 2012, Majid was charged before a military commission at Guantánamo and pled guilty to various offenses pursuant to a plea agreement. At his sentencing hearing in 2021, he delivered a powerful personal statement for more than two hours in open court, expressing remorse for past actions and sharing his hopes of reuniting with his wife and daughter. Seven of the eight jurors at his hearing wrote a letter recommending clemency for him, and he completed his reduced sentence on March 1, 2022.
We are so proud of Majid. He not only survived but persevered within a system designed to break him, and he never stopped working toward his future.
We couldn’t have gotten here without our co-counsel at the law firm Jenner & Block and the Military Commissions Defense Organization, and all of the human rights advocates and supporters who have stood with us for the last 21 years demanding justice, accountability, and Guantánamo’s closure.
Today’s news is a victory for Majid, for us, and for the Biden administration, who can – and must – build on this momentum to release more men and meaningfully work to close the prison.
A world without Guantánamo is possible.