Commentary

Kuwait Needs to Speak Up About Guantanamo Injustice

With the Obama administration’s January 2010 deadline for closing Guantanamo Bay now in the past, two Kuwaiti detainees remain imprisoned in Cuba where they have been held without trial for more than eight years. While the U.S. government is primarily responsible for the suffering these Kuwaitis have endured, the Government of Kuwait is also responsible for allowing the injustice to continue.

As is universally recognized, Kuwait is a close and faithful ally of the United States. The United States liberated Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion of 1990. More recently, Kuwait provided critical support as a staging area for the U.S. military during the Iraq War.

To be fair, the Emir of Kuwait has sought the return of the Kuwaiti detainees in face-to-face meetings with both President Bush and President Obama. The Emir has also sent a letter to the U.S. government requesting that all Kuwaiti citizens detained at Guantanamo be returned. Other Kuwaiti officials have repeated that request to their counterparts in the U.S. government.

The Government of Kuwait has also fulfilled all of the conditions the U.S. government established for the return of the Kuwaiti detainees. Perhaps most significantly, Kuwait established a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center that provides access to education, medical care, group discussions, and physical exercise to help detainees recover from their long ordeal in Guantanamo.

But while Kuwait has clearly made an effort to secure the return of its citizens, these efforts have not been strong enough. Contrast Kuwait’s quiet, diplomatic approach with that of Saudi Arabia, which openly criticized the U.S. government and demanded its citizens back. As a result, more than 100 Saudi detainees were transferred from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia.

Despite the close ties between the United States and Kuwait, the United States does not appear eager to send Kuwaitis home. For example, on September 17, 2009, a U.S. federal judge ordered the immediate release of Fouad Al Rabiah, an innocent Kuwaiti who was interrogated in “enhanced” ways at the hands of his U.S. captors. Rather than immediately returning him to Kuwait, the U.S. government delayed and stalled Mr. Al Rabiah’s transfer, forcing his attorneys to ask that U.S. officials be held in contempt of court.

It was not until December 9, 2009, almost three months after the judge’s order, that Mr. Al Rabiah was finally released from Guantanamo and returned to Kuwait. Still, even with a Federal judge’s opinion that the United States had no authority to detain Mr Al Rabiah, the Kuwaiti government refused to demand his return.

If the United States was reluctant to release a demonstrably innocent man, it most certainly will be in no rush to repatriate my client, Fayiz Al Kandari, whose habeas case is still pending despite Fayiz having spent more than eight years in Guantanamo.

At this critical time, the United States is turning its back on its faithful ally. The United States may be legitimately reluctant to return detainees to countries such as Tunisia or Libya where former prisoners may face further torture or persecution. But there are no such concerns about Kuwait. To the contrary, Kuwait treats its returned detainees humanely and helps reintegrate them into society with a rehabilitation program modeled after the successful Saudi program.

No one likes to tell their friends they are wrong. But there comes a time in every relationship when a little push back is necessary. And the friendship survives. Now is the time for the Government of Kuwait to take a stand. It might be outside its comfort zone, but it is the right thing to do for its two citizens still imprisoned at Guantanamo.

Lt. Col. Barry Wingard represents Fayiz al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti who has spent seven and a half years in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay without trial.

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4 Responses for “Kuwait Needs to Speak Up About Guantanamo Injustice”

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

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  2. Joe Scarry says:

    OK . . . so if I’m hearing you right . . .

    * we give people “justice” if someone pulls strings for them

    * the profile of who has juice in our system of “justice” is . . . Saudi Arabia . . . .

    * the profile of a country who is not yet jaded enough to play in our system of “justice” (but who may be trainable) is . . . Kuwait . . . .

    Yes? OK, that’s what I thought you were saying . . . .

  3. Diane1976 says:

    Canada needs to speak up too. I’m ashamed of the failure of our government to demand the repatriation of our lone citizen at Guantanamo. All other western countries have extricated their citizens except us.

    Omar Khadr was captured at the age of 15 after a battle between insurgents and the US military in Afghanistan in 2002 and he has been held, and abused, in Guantanamo ever since, contrary to international and Canadian law pertaining to minors involved in war.

    He was recruited into the insurgency by his father, a man who came to Canada from Egypt, and became immersed in Afghan causes at the time of the Russian invasion. Omar was born in Canada, but his father raised the family primarily in Afghanistan.

    I think President Obama would like to do what is right in regard to Guantanamo detainees but he is fighting fierce and irrational right wing forces in the US. He needs the international community to come on strong and give him support in all such cases.

  4. Dizzy says:

    Perhaps the two remaining detainees are larger than the Kuwait government. I”m sure the US would be good with its people being detained for more than eight years without trial or even allegations for that matter. Hope you can believe in.

    Luckily the world is not paying attention.

    Instead of terror, why not the war on bad thoughts? He haw he haw.

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