The U.S. Has 1 Day Left to Answer for This Man’s American Torture Story -- in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

July 22, 2015


By Kimie Matsuo

Time is running out on another opportunity for the United States to do the right thing by Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, who is allegedly languishing in solitary confinement at Guantánamo after suffering torture and ill-treatment in CIA secret detention.

Today is the deadline for the U.S. to respond to a request from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to take action on Mustafa al-Hawsawi’s case. His lawyers report that at Guantánamo, he is without adequate medical care for his chronic health issues–some of which are likely a consequence of his earlier ill-treatment.

On July 7, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights passed a resolution adopting “precautionary measures,” specifically calling upon the United States to provide Mustafa al-Hawsawi with adequate medical care, to ensure his conditions of detention meet international standards, and to investigate his allegations of torture and other ill-treatment. You can read the resolution here.

Here’s more information about Mustafa al-Hawsawi:

  • A Saudi Arabian national, he was arrested in Pakistan in March 2003, and was kept in various “black sites” operated by the CIA before being transferred to Guantánamo Bay in early September 2006.
  • According to the summary of the Senate report on torture, released in December 2014, Mustafa al-Hawsawi was subjected to cold “water dousing” in CIA detention in a manner that may have been “indistinguishable” from the torture technique known as “water-boarding.” The Senate report also found that he had been subjected to excessive force during rectal examination, and was later diagnosed with “chronic haemmorhoids, an anal fissure, and symptomatic rectal prolapse.”
  • Over the years, he has experienced ongoing health issues, some of which appear to be the direct result of torture or other ill-treatment endured in CIA custody. The Senate report found that he had suffered serious medical problems in 2006 when held in a secret detention facility believed to have been in Lithuania. Lawyers for Mustafa al-Hawsawi have been seeking accountability in Lithuania and Poland, where he also alleges he was held.
  • Over 12 years after being taken into custody, Mustafa al-Hawsawi remains in Guantánamo, where, according to his attorney, his health continues to deteriorate due to inadequate medical care.
  • He faces capital charges in a trial by military commission at Guantánamo Bay for his alleged role as a financier of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US. The US military commission system does not meet international fair trial standards. Imposition of the death penalty after an unfair trial is an unequivocal violation of international law.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights resolution called on the U.S. to report on the actions taken to investigate Mustafa al-Hawsawi’s case so that there is no recurrence of the torture and other abuses he faced, and asked for a response from the U.S. government within 15 days. Yet as of today – day 15 – we know of no response from the U.S. government.

Unfortunately, any such silence would not come as a surprise. In fact, silence seems to be the U.S. government’s default when it comes to accountability for torture—at least when it comes to torture committed in its name. The U.S. government has often been quick to condemn other countries when allegations of torture surface, yet it refuses to pursue accountability for the torture committed under the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program.

The release of the Senate report summary last December was an opportunity for the U.S. to take a step in the right direction and end impunity for torture. Instead, the last seven months have been characterized by inaction, continuing government secrecy, and attempts to block release of the full 6,700 page Senate torture report. This hypocrisy completely undermines the United States’ position as a self-professed human rights leader. The U.S. can hardly demand that other countries confront and remedy torture practices, and apologize and recognize victims of torture, when it refuses to do the same.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights resolution set forth straightforward requests, which can be boiled down to one simple principle: the U.S. needs to respect its human rights obligations toward torture victims. And not only is it failing to do so, it’s not even trying.

Join us in demanding justice and accountability for torture: learn more here