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Justice Denied: Voices from Guantánamo

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November 3, 2009

Most Americans have only seen Guantánamo detainees as one-dimensional caricatures. But a new ACLU video features original footage in which the men talk about their lives — before, after and during their detention by the U.S.

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The five men featured in the video were all held at Guantánamo for years, without charge and without any meaningful opportunity to challenge their detention. In the video, the men explain how they are attempting to put their lives back together since their release.

“I experienced sadness in a state that I have never had, cruelty in a depth that I’d never seen in my life,” Omar Deghayes tells the camera. He had graduated from law school in England and was studying the legal system in Afghanistan when he was captured and sent to Guantánamo for nearly six years. “”You will not leave a similar person anymore. You will leave as broken, physically broken, psychologically broken.”

Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul grew up together in England. They went to Pakistan for a friend’s wedding and took a short trip to neighboring Afghanistan where they were captured. It would be two and a half years before they would return home.

“Guantánamo Bay was hell for us,” Shafiq says. But Ruhal explains that their friendship helped them survive the brutal experience: “Anything that happened to me I could relate to somebody that was very close to me. Being friends from a young age — who else would you want in that kind of situation?”

Back home in England, Shafiq and Ruhal say the American leaders who allowed the injustices of Guantánamo should be held accountable. But they do not hold a grudge against the American people.

“The drinks we drink, Coca Cola — it’s American. We still drink it,” Ruhal says. “We still go to the movies. So we don’t hate Americans as American people.”

Omar says he feels the same way, but he wants Americans to know exactly what happened at Guantánamo: “I want the people themselves, the people in America, the good people — which I met many of — to realize what ugly things were done to others in their names.”

The ACLU is committed to combating any system of detention that violates fundamental principles of American justice, and is committed to seeking accountability for the torture and abuse of detainees committed in America’s name. The new video, “Justice Denied: Voices from Guantánamo,” puts a human face on the failed detention and interrogation policies of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror.”

We hope you’ll see for yourself.

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