Sharqawi Al Hajj

"What have I done to remain detained? If I have committed a crime, bring me to trial." Sharqawi Al Hajj, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba

Sharqawi Al Hajj Sharqawi Al Hajj is a Yemeni citizen who has been detained at Guantánamo without charge since 2004. Before Guantánamo, he was detained for over two years in secret prisons in Afghanistan and Jordan, as detailed in unclassified district court filings in his habeas case. Sharqawi is among the 119 CIA detainees named in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's Study on the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program. His torture is also the subject of the Human Rights Watch report, Double Jeopardy: CIA Renditions to Jordan.

Sharqawi was born in 1974 to a well-respected family in Taez, Yemen, where he was raised and attended school. In 1994, when he was 20 years old, he traveled to Bosnia, motivated by a desire to help refugees and other vulnerable people affected by the war. He served for a year with the Bosnian army, on the same side as the United States and its allies, before returning to Yemen. In 2000, Sharqawi travelled to Afghanistan, fleeing to Pakistan shortly after the U.S. bombing campaign began in 2001. He has never been accused of taking up arms against the United States or involvement in any act of violence.

In February 2002, Sharqawi was arrested by U.S. and Pakistani personnel in Pakistan and held in solitary confinement for three weeks. He was then rendered to Jordan. There he was kept in an isolation cell and interrogated extensively. During his interrogations, he was beaten regularly and threatened with electrocution and serious physical violence. He was also hidden during visits from the Red Cross. His interrogators acknowledged they were seeking information on behalf of the Americans. Ultimately Sharqawi was forced to sign a lengthy confession that contained statements he had never made.

"Under pressure, tortured people have no choice but to say what the torturer wants them to say in order to put an end to the torture.”

After almost two years in Jordan, he was flown to a CIA prison in Kabul where he was kept in complete darkness and subjected to continuous loud music. He remained in this “Dark Prison” for approximately five months. He was subsequently flown to Bagram Air Force Base where he was kept in isolation for two and a half months, and beaten by soldiers. In August 2004, Sharqawi was transferred to Guantánamo, where he has been held ever since without charge.

In June 2011, a federal judge found that Sharqawi had been subjected to "patent ... physical and psychological coercion" in Jordan and Kabul, which tainted his subsequent interrogations by the United States and prevented the government from being able to rely on that information to justify his detention. Despite that ruling, during his 2016 Periodic Review Board (PRB) the government apparently drew on information against him that had been previously discredited in federal court. CCR began to represent Sharqawi shortly after the PRB declined to clear him for transfer. He was granted a subsequent review on February 28, 2017, only to be denied clearance a second time.

Sharqawi is gravely ill today. He suffers from the physical and psychological effects of his torture, which have never been evaluated by an independent physician in his 16 years of U.S. custody. He reports recurrent bouts of jaundice and weakness, which may indicate a potentially grave underlying condition. He has resorted to hunger strikes for long periods to protest his indefinite detention, and was hospitalized this past summer after he fell unconscious in his cell. According to an outside medical assessment obtained by CCR, Sharqawi may be on the verge of “total bodily collapse.” He is profiled in the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) report, Deprivation and Despair: The Crisis of Medical Care at Guantánamo (2019).

Last modified 

August 22, 2019