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Former Guantanamo Captives Continue to Struggle, Report Says

Resource type: News

The New York Times |

Former Guantanamo prisoners released after years of detention without charge went home to find themselves stigmatized and shunned, viewed either as terrorists or as United States spies, according to a report released Wednesday by a human rights group and a legal organization representing detainees.

The report urged President-elect Barack Obama to form an independent, nonpartisan commission with subpoena powers to investigate the treatment of detainees held by the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

”We cannot sweep this dark chapter in our nation’s history under the rug by simply closing the Guantanamo prison camp,” said one of the study’s authors, Eric Stover, director of the Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley.

The authors at the Human Rights Center and at the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has coordinated detainees’ legal cases, interviewed 50 United States government officials, military experts and former guards and interrogators, as well as 62 former Guantanamo prisoners in nine nations.

Two-thirds of the former captives said they had psychological and emotional problems, which the authors called consistent with being held in extreme isolation for extended periods.

Only six had regular jobs, with many saying that employers would not hire anyone who had been held at Guantanamo.

”It doesn’t matter that they cleared my name by releasing me. We still have this big hat on our heads that we were terrorists,” a former detainee, one of eight Chinese Muslims who was settled in Albania in 2006, said in the report.

That group was still struggling to learn Albanian and had abandoned the hope of ever being reunited with family, according to the report.

The United States has released 520 men from Guantanamo since it opened the detention camp for those suspected of being part of Al Qaeda and the Taliban after the Sept. 11 attacks. About 250 detainees are now there.

The most notorious prisoners, who are accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bali nightclub bombings and attacks on United States embassies in Africa, were not taken to Guantanamo until 2006, when they were transferred from secret C.I.A. prisons.

Many of the former prisoners said that they had lost their homes and businesses or that their families had piled up debts in their absence because there was no one to support them.

One returned to find that his wife had divorced him and remarried. Another returned to learn that his father had been killed and that his estranged wife had taken their children and moved away. Others said they had received death threats.

Those who fared the best seemed to be Afghans from tightly knit villages, where several said they were greeted when they came home with celebrations that even some local police officers attended.

Of the 55 who discussed their interrogations, 31 said they were abusive and 24 said they had no problems. The majority held ”distinctly negative views of the United States,” but many said that was directed at the United States government, not the American people.

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