Hearing Is Second Under Trump
February 28, 2017, Guantánamo – Today, an attorney from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) urged a Periodic Review Board (PRB) at Guantánamo to recommend that CCR client Sharqawi Al Hajj be cleared for release. The hearing is the second held under the Trump administration. Mr. Al Hajj has been detained without charge at Guantánamo since 2004. Before being sent to Guantánamo, he was tortured for two years in secret prisons. As detailed in an unclassified district court opinion in his habeas case, in Jordan, Al Hajj was beaten and interrogated under threats of electrocution and violence. He was then transferred to an infamous “dark prison” in Kabul for five months, where he was held in complete darkness and subjected to continuous loud music. He is among 26 remaining detainees the Obama administration designated for continuing detention without charge.
“Mr. Al Hajj is among those prisoners the government might as well say are ‘too tortured’ to charge but won’t release,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei. “It remains to be seen whether the PRB exercises real discretion in reviewing his detention or will be reduced to a rubber stamp under Trump, if the boards continue at all.”
A federal court ruled in 2011 that the torture tainted subsequent interrogations of Mr. Al Hajj in Bagram and Guantanamo and prevented the government from relying on information obtained in them to justify his detention. Despite that ruling, during Al Hajj’s initial PRB hearing the government drew upon information that had been previously discredited. While Al Hajj was subsequently granted a new PRB hearing in November, the hearing date was deferred until this month, and Mr. Al Hajj’s request to expedite his hearing before the end of the Obama administration was denied.
Mr. Al Hajj, a citizen of Yemen, is 43 years old and in poor health. He traveled to Afghanistan in 2000 for reasons having nothing to do with the U.S., and fled to Pakistan when the U.S. invaded after 9/11.
The PRB is a forward-looking, administrative process to determine whether “detention is necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”
For more information, see Mr. Al Hajj’s profile.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for over 15 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country, ensuring that nearly all the men detained at Guantánamo have had the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts.