1st Guantanamo Bay detainee memoir declassified


U.S. Army members escort a detainee to his cell during in-processing to the temporary detention facility at Guantanamo Bay on Jan. 11, 2002. There are currently 171 prisoners at the prison, down from around 700 in mid-2003. (Reuters)

First aired on Q (08/05/13)


Mohamedou Ould Slahi has been detained at Guantanamo Bay since the summer of 2002. He says he's been tortured, beaten and humiliated -- without any charges ever pressed against him.

"I was too hurt to be able to move. After all I was bleeding from my mouth, my ankles, my wrists, and maybe my nose, I could not tell for sure," he writes in a harrowing 466-page redacted memoir. Slate published excerpts from his memoir in early May. The excerpts were chosen by PEN's Freedom to Write Program Director Larry Siems.

"Making it public is simply a matter of giving a detainee the opportunity to have his voice heard publicly, and that's something that is a necessary part of the process of acknowledging and accounting for what happened in Guantanamo," Siems told CBC's Jian Ghomeshi in a recent interview for Q. "People who are subjected to torture have a right to hear their voices heard, stories told, and have them documented and have ... the mistreatment acknowledged."

Slahi actually wrote the memoir around 2005 and 2006, but it has only recently been declassified following a long battle by his attorneys.

His story is the first time the public is able to read a detailed first-hand account of a prisoner's experience at Guantanamo. Siems maintains Slahi's memoir "point by point follows the narrative of his interrogation that we have from declassified documents."

And it's not all torture. Slahi paints a surprising, perplexing picture at time.

"I can't think of a more dehumanizing environment than the isolation, interrogation regime at Guantanamo," said Siems. "Yet, Slahi not only maintains his humanity, but is able to perceive and to document the humanity of those he's with."

Slahi remains at Guantanamo indefinitely.

Image of Mohamedou Ould Slahi courtesy International Committee of the Red Cross, via Wikimedia Commons.

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