November 11, 2008 – Detainees released from U.S. detention in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and Afghanistan live shattered lives as a result of U.S. policies in the “war on terror,” according to a new report by the Human Rights Center and International Human Rights Law Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley.
The report, “Guantánamo and Its Aftermath: U.S.
Detention and Interrogation Practices and Their Impact on Detainees,” based on a two-year study, reveals in graphic detail the cumulative effect of Bush Administration policies on the lives of 62 released detainees. Many of the prisoners were sold into captivity and subjected to brutal treatment in U.S. prison camps. Once in Guantánamo, prisoners were denied access to civilian courts to challenge the legality of their detention. Almost two-thirds of the former detainees interviewed reported having psychological problems since leaving Guantánamo.
This report provides the first systematic glimpse into the world of former detainees once held in U.S.
custody in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The primary objective of the study was to record the experiences of these men, assess their treatment in detention, and explore how the conditions of their incarceration affected their subsequent reintegration with their families and communities.
Using semi-structured questionnaires, researchers interviewed 112 people from July 2007 to July 2008. Of these, 62 were former detainees residing in nine countries who had been held in U.S. custody without trial. Another 50 respondents were key informants, including former and current U.S. government officials,
representatives of nongovernmental organizations, attorneys representing detainees, and former U.S.
military and civilian personnel who had been stationed in Guantánamo or at detention facilities in Afghanistan.
Researchers compared this interview data to media reports about former Guantánamo detainees, relevant documents released by the Department of Defense, and reports by the U.S. government, independent organizations, and the media.
The report recommends establishing an independent, nonpartisan commission to investigate and publicly report on the detention and treatment of detainees. The commission should have subpoena power to compel witnesses and gain access to all classified materials concerning apprehension, detention, interrogation, and release of detainees taken into U.S. custody.
About the Authors
The lead authors for the study are Laurel Fletcher, Director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic and
Clinical Professor of Law, and Eric Stover, Faculty Director of the Human Rights Center and Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health and School of Law. The authors have conducted numerous studies pioneering the use of empirical data collection in emerging areas of international human rights and humanitarian law.
Professor Fletcher has expertise designing and implementing an interdisciplinary, problem-based approach to human rights research, advocacy, and policy. She works in international criminal and humanitarian law as well as globalization and migration. She has conducted field work on grave human rights violations in countries including Bosnia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the United States. Professor Fletcher has extensive experience interviewing survivors of gross human rights violations as legal counsel, investigator, and researcher.
Professor Stover has extensive research experience conducting fieldwork with victims of gross human rights violations in over a dozen countries, including the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
During the wars in Croatia and Bosnia he led several
medico-legal investigations of mass graves as an Expert on Mission to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. He also conducted a survey of mass graves throughout Rwanda for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 1995. He is the author of an award-winning book, The Witnesses: War Crimes and the Promise of Justice in The Hague. Since 2006, he has investigated the relationship between human rights violations and the spread of infectious disease in Burma and its border regions.
The study was conducted in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights