Families Decry Cruelty of Indefinite Detention as Senate Holds Gitmo Hearing

“When in 2002, I was told that Nabil was detained by the Americans, I thought that at least he would have a right to a fair trial. I thought his rights would be respected and that justice would prevail. What I feel today is mostly incomprehension. How can this nation, one that prides itself of defending human rights, close its eyes to these violations of its founding principles?” -Ahmed Hadjarab from France, uncle of Nabil Hadjarab

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“My nephew Younous is cleared for release, yet he remains in Guantánamo. His young adulthood has been wasted during the 11 years of his detention. How many more years is he going to be in Guantánamo? I know this limbo is causing him a lot of pain,[…] and I spend sleepless nights thinking that he may do something to put an end to his anguish.” -Abd Alhaq Barka, from Germany, uncle of Younous Chekkouri

“One of the worst things is the uncertainty, and the false hope that things are about to change. Sometimes I hear rumors that men have been released from Guantánamo and that Hisham is one of them. I miss and love my son so much that although my mind knows the rumors are probably false, my heart believes them every time. And every time I am devastated when I realize he is not coming home.” -Maherzia Sliti from Tunisia, mother of Hisham Sliti

These were just some of the testimonies shared with members of Senate by the families of those held captive at the Guantanamo Bay detention center Wednesday, during a Senate Subcomittee hearing on the prison.

While reportedly called to examine proposals to enable the detention center’s closure, the hearing—the first of its kind since 2009—spelled more indecision and procrastination on the part of both lawmakers and President Obama—who recently professed renewed interest in closing the facility but blamed Congress for the inaction.

However, as Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), noted during the hearing, “the administration could be doing more to close Guantanamo.”

In addition to the families who sent letters describing the impact of their loved ones’ imprisonment, the five attending enators took in testimony from human rights groups, think tanks and military leaders on the long-ignored issue of how best to proceed with the facility and the 86 individuals who have been cleared for transfer yet remain in indefinite detention.

“The reality is that every day that it remains open, the Guantanamo prison weakens our alliances, inspires our enemies and calls into question our commitment to human rights,” said Durbin, who chairs the subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights.