November 11, 2014, Geneva – Today, Murat Kurnaz, tortured and detained by the U.S. for five years at Kandahar and then Guantanamo, addressed the U.S. government and the members of the Committee Against Torture at the United Nations in Geneva for the review of U.S. compliance with the Covenant Against Torture (CAT). He traveled with his attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy. His statement to the committee is below.
Murat Kurnaz Statement to the Committee Against Torture (CAT)
53rd Session, Geneva, 3 November – 28 November 2014
Good afternoon. My name is Murat Kurnaz. I am a Turkish citizen who was born and raised in Bremen, Germany, where I currently live. I spent five years of my life in detention in Kandahar and Guantanamo Bay from 2001-2006.
My story is like many others. In 2001, while traveling in Pakistan, I was arrested by Pakistani police and sold to the U.S. military for a $3,000 bounty. In Kandahar, the U.S. military subjected me to electric shocks, stress positions, simulated drowning, and endless beatings. In Guantanamo, there was also psychological torture—I was stripped of my humanity, treated like an animal, isolated from the rest of the world, and did not know if I would ever be released.
Even though my lawyers proved that the U.S. knew of my innocence by 2002, I was not released until 2006. I lost five years of my life in Guantanamo.
Eight years later, I cannot believe that Guantanamo is still open and that there are almost 150 men detained there indefinitely. My time in Guantanamo was a nightmare, but I sometimes consider myself lucky. I know that part of the reason I am free today is because I am from Germany.
Most of the current prisoners remain in Guantanamo because they are from Yemen and the U.S. refuses to send them home. Many are as innocent as I was. But they are enduring the torture of Guantanamo for over 12 years because of their nationality, not because of anything they have done.
I understand that international human rights laws like the Convention Against Torture were created so that the people who commit torture are punished. Isn’t that how we can end torture in the world? So why has no U.S. official been held responsible for brutal practices and torture at Guantanamo or other U.S. prisons?
I will never get five years of my life back, but for me and others, it is important that the Committee confronts the United States about its actions in Guantanamo and other prisons.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.