Wednesday, June 14, 2023

A Dysfunctional State Department

 When it comes to the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners it is important to have all of the details ironed out in advance. It is especially true when dealing with countries like Algeria. Algeria has long been a tricky country for the men to be sent back to. In recent years it has been even trickier as the Algerian government further cracked down on civil society.

I knew this as my client was moving towards repatriation and I spoke with and emailed the people in the State department responsible for Saeed’s safe repatriation. I was assured on five separate occasions that everything was worked out and Saeed would be treated fairly and humanely. I was especially concerned because Saeed had been subjected to torture by the US and he continues to suffer from that trauma. Saeed preferred to go to his home country if it was safe for him and he knew that I would not let him go back to Algeria if I did not think it was safe. I determined, from the assurances provided by the State department, that it was safe for Saeed to go home.

Then I learned that Saeed was brought before a judge (after his initial interrogations) and that the judge announced that Saeed’s version of events that led him to be captured by the U.S. did not match the version put forward by the U.S.. The Judge announced that Saeed was being stripped of all of his rights and he was sent off to the notorious Boufarik prison to await trial. And there he sits.

I have learned that Saeed has been treated harshly at Boufarik. Somehow Saeed’s heel was broken. The medication sent with Saeed when he boarded the plane in Guantanamo was taken from him. Saeed is awaiting trial on charges that he has pledged loyalty to Osama Bin Laden- a charge never levied at Saeed by the U.S.

I learned of the Court proceeding two days after it happened. I immediately contacted the people in the State department with whom I had worked. Much to my chagrin the State department did not monitor Saeed’s repatriation, and I was the one to let them know what was happening to Saeed.

Officials in the State department expressed alarm and concern and promised to look into it. I too was alarmed and concerned- but my alarm and concern was a little different. I was (and continue to be)alarmed and concerned that the State department failed to do any monitoring of Saeed once he stepped off the plane in Algiers.

All of the assurances that were supposedly reached between the State department and the Government of Algeria have disappeared. There is nothing safe or humane about Saeed's treatment at the hands of the Algerian government. Now the State department shrugs its collective shoulders and says, “there is nothing we can do.”

Stay tuned. I plan on proving them wrong.

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