Guantánamo's Children: The Wikileaked Testimonies

June 10, 2011

By Almerindo E. Ojeda of The Guantánamo Testimonials Project

The Guantanamo detention facility at sunrise, January 7, 2011.

A couple of months ago, the transparency organization Wikileaks began to release Detainee Assessment Briefs and other classified documents for all 779 Guantánamo prisoners.

As a consequence of these wikileaked releases, military documents now in the public domain acknowledge that fifteen children were imprisoned, at some time or another, at Guantánamo.

This would be three more than the twelve the State Department acknowledged to the public after the earlier report on the subject put out by the Guantánamo Testimonials Project, and seven more than the eight the State Department reported to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

In other words, wikileaked documents indicate that the number of children that have been imprisoned at Guantanamo is one-and-a-quarter times what the State Department has admitted to the public and almost twice as many as it reported to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

These and other findings are contained in a new report I authored and released earlier this month within our Guantánamo Testimonials Project. The Project aims to gather testimonies of prisoner abuse at the Cuban base, to organize them in meaningful ways, to make them widely available online, and to preserve them there in perpetuity.

The terrorist attacks of September 11 were an unspeakable crime against humanity. Unfortunately, what these attacks unleashed was the full scale military invasion and occupation of a severely impoverished country followed by the worldwide implementation of a set of policies and practices of detention – such as at Guantanamo — that have led to a profound betrayal of the values on which our nation was built. They have also undermined the security of our nation both at home and abroad.

Abuses we’ve recorded at UC Davis include: international alliances with criminal armed groups; human trafficking; civilian arrests without warrants; denial of the writ of habeas corpus; secret detention; life-threatening, open-air, holding pens; medical neglect; interference of interrogation on medical treatment; fatal, disabling, and disfigu­ring beatings; hanging by the wrists; threats of death or bodily harm; mauling by military dogs; torture by proxy (extraor­dinary rendition); controlled drowning (waterboarding); sensory deprivation; sensory assault; forced nudity; tempera­ture and dietary manipula­tion; sleep deprivation; disorientation in space and time; positional torture (stress positions and prolonged standing); binding tor­ture (tight shackling or cuffing); solitary confinement; indefinite detention; severe humiliation; sexual as­saults; assaults with excreta; forced feeding; interfer­ence with religious practi­ces; verbal abuse, and the exploitation of cultural idiosyncracies and personal phobias.

These policies and practices are outrages upon human dignity, and are subject to criminal prosecution under both national and international law.

The Guantánamo Testimonials Project has called for a full, independent, and transparent inquiry into the policies and practices of detention enacted by the US government since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Such an inquiry is the essential first step of a four-part process involving truth, accountability, reform, and reconciliation.

Truth is the foundation of all else. Without it, accountability is abusive, reform is blind, and reconciliation is hollow. Accountability and reform are preconditions for reconciliation as well. Without them, the victims have no reason to believe that the crimes will not be revisited, upon them or upon others, in the future. Consequently, they will continue to be on guard. Worse yet, they may feel that the period of abuse has not really ended, and they will not be delivered from the temptation to retaliate.

Almerindo E. Ojeda is the founding director of the UC Davis Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas and the Principal Investigator for its flagship Guantánamo Testimonials Project.

This post is part of our 2011 Torture Awareness Month series