Shafiq Rasul is a British national who was detained for two years at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mr. Rasul was the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case of Rasul v. Bush, which, contrary to the position then asserted by the United States government, held that detainees at Guantanamo had legal standing to challenge their detentions in federal court.
Mr. Rasul is also one of the "Tipton Three" whose experiences are the subject of the soon to be released film, The Road to Guantanamo. After the recent suicides of three Guantanamo detainees, I interviewed Mr. Rasul, by e-mail exchange, on June 13, 2006.
The Talking Dog: Are you personally familiar with either of the two named Saudi detainees (Manei al-Otaibi and Yasser al-Zahrani) or the Yemeni (Ahmad Abdullah) who apparently committed suicide?
Shafiq Rasul: Yes I am familiar with the 2 Saudi detainees, I came across them a few times while I was in Guantanamo. The time that I met them they were just like myself, they did not know what was going on, were being
interrogated regularly, but that in all was relatively the same for all of us. From what I can remember I did not come across the Yemeni detainee, maybe if I was to see his picture that would jog my memory.
The Talking Dog: When were you released, and by that time, were you aware of suicide attempts by detainees as of that time?
Shafiq Rasul: I was released on March 7 2004 and yes we were aware of numerous suicide attempts at the camp. I witnessed a number of them happening right in front of me. People were just losing the will to live because of the despair and fear of being in Guantanamo.
The Talking Dog: If I recall correctly, you were the lead party in the law suit under which the Supreme Court first found that Guantanamo detainees had the legal right to challenge their detentions. However, years have passed since that decision, and hundreds are still detained. Can you comment on how that effected morale among detainees? How did it effect you
personally? How long after the legal decision was your release?
Shafiq Rasul: Yes that's right, but myself and four other British Detainees were released before the decision was made, maybe that had something to do with our release. And while we were in Gitmo we never had any access to lawyers or any other kind of legal representatives. I cannot say how it affected the others still there but I have spoken to some of the lawyers
who are representing some detainees there and most have a problem gaining trust because for the first three years they had nobody to represent them and nobody other than fellow prisoners to confide in. All they see is another group of Americans (some lawyers were in Military Uniforms) saying that they are here to help, but you have to understand that they have been abused by people in the same uniform, so you have to understand that they are not going to trust these lawyers because they have been treated like animals.
The Talking Dog: Can you briefly describe the conditions of your own detention? Can you describe the circumstances of your capture, and what the US militaryclaimed you had done to merit capture and detention?
Shafiq Rasul: Myself, and 2 of my friends, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed were initially arrested by the Northern Alliance and taken to Sheberghan
Prison where we were held with about 4000 other people. We stayed there for about a month and then we were taken out of the prison and handed over to the U.S Military on the basis that we spoke English. We were straight away accused of being terrorists and being members of Al Qaeda. We kept denying their ridiculous accusations but they were not prepared to listen to what we had to say. We were later told that our conditions were going to improve and that we would be treated a lot better and we believed this because we were now in the hands of a so called democratic society.. But the first thing that was done to me was that a sack was put over my head and taped very tightly over the eyes and neck, my hands were tied behind my back and my feet were tied together. Then we were thrown on the back of a truck constantly being abused at by the
soldiers who were shouting things like we were the ones responsible for 9/11 and that we had killed members of their families in the attack. At the same time we were being hit in the backs of our heads with the butts of their guns.
The Talking Dog: What media outlets are you speaking to, concerning these suicides, if you can tell me?
Shafiq Rasul: The main ones that I have spoken to so far are Americans.
The Talking Dog: Is there anything else my readers, the British, American or world public needs to know about this situation, and can you tell me your general feelings about these suicides?
Shafiq Rasul: I think the American Government needs to stop using phrases like "warfare against the U.S", and "Jihadi Code of conduct" for these recent deaths and stop blaming the detainees for what is happening in Guantanamo and start blaming themselves for what is happening . I mean it is very sad and shocking that these deaths have happened for me personally because we were all like family to each other and we would do anything to help each other in any way but knowing that these guys are never going to get any kind of justice and never be able to see their families is hard and hurts a lot. Inevitably, it was going to happen because of the despair that they were going through. People have to understand that when we say that these people have no rights that we mean that they do not have any rights at all, they are being treated much, much worse than if they had actually been convicted of a crime. They have now been incarcerated for four and half years in Guantanamo with no form of justice. They are in constant fear, worry and despair. For some reason the American Government thinks that these people have no values and are not human, and that this situation that they are in is not enough punishment for them. We in the west believe in democracy and in justice, so I believe it is about time that these people got some form of justice.
The Talking Dog: I'm sure I join my readers in thanking Mr. Rasul for that candid and moving interview.
Readers interested in legal issues and related matters associated with the "war on terror" may also find talking dog blog interviews with attorneys Thomas Wilner, Jonathan Hafetz, Joshua Denbeaux,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing Guantanamo detainees and others held in "the war on terror"), with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila), with Dr. David Nicholl, who spearheaded an effort among international physicians protesting force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and with former Clinton Administration Ambassador-at-large for war crimes matters David Scheffer to be of interest.
Great interview. I remember your interview with Baher Azmy. He recently wrote an op-ed about his visits to Gitmo for a German paper. We linked to it and wrote about the importance of Gitmo for transatlantic relations:
Posted by Joerg at June 17, 2006 11:23 AM