Abu Wa’el Dhiab

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Abu Wa’el Dhiab is a devoted husband and father of three children. When his family fled the instability in Kabul in 2002, he was abducted by Pakistani authorities and handed over to US forces. He was then taken to Guantánamo, where he was held without charge or trial for 12 years.

Abu Wa’el was finally released to Uruguay in December 2014.

As a result of his abuse in Guantánamo, Abu Wa’el’s health has deteriorated such that he is now confined to a wheelchair.

Reprieve represented Abu Wa’el when he was a prisoner at Guantánamo, and helped him to take legal action in the US courts to stop the guards abusing him.

“We are grateful to the government of Uruguay – and President Mujica in particular – for this historic stand. Very few people can truly comprehend what the cleared men in Guantánamo suffer every day, but I believe Mr. Mujica is one of them. Like President Mujica, Mr Dhiab spent over a dozen years as a political prisoner. Mr Dhiab was never charged, never tried. President Mujica spent two years at the bottom of a well; for most of the past two years, Mr Dhiab has had a team of US soldiers truss him up like an animal, haul him to a restraint chair, and force-feed him through a tube in his nose. The President’s compassion has ended that torture.
Cori Crider (pictured above), Reprieve lawyer for Abu Wa’el

Abu Wa’el was born in Lebanon, but moved to Syria with his family at an early age. He married, started a family, and ran a successful business in Afghanistan. But the tragic events of September 11 meant Kabul was no longer safe, and he and his family were forced to flee across the border into Pakistan.

A few months later, however, Abu Wa’el was abducted by Pakistani police. He was not charged with any crime, but was handed over to the US, probably for a large bounty. First rendered to the US-run prison at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, he was then taken to Guantánamo Bay. He remained there, without charge or trial, until December 2014.

I want Americans to see what is going on at the prison today, so they will understand why we are hunger-striking, and why the prison should be closed. If the American people stand for freedom, they should see these tapes.
Abu Wa’el

Abu Wa’el was on peaceful hunger strike on and off for years, to protest his indefinite detention without charge. The Guantánamo authorities repeatedly and abusively force-fed him against his will, right up until his release in December 2014 – and despite a federal judge urging them to find an alternative that would spare Abu Wa’el “the agony of having tubes inserted and removed for each feeding.” The force-feeding technique at Guantánamo involves a six-member riot squad tackling a detainee and then strapping him into a multi-point restraint chair. These methods have been condemned by the UN and international medical organisations.

In 2014, Reprieve supported Abu Wa’el in mounting a legal challenge against the US government for the abusive manner in which he was force-fed. Our lawyers watched the video footage of his brutal force-feeding sessions. Although the footage is (for now) classified as “secret”, Cori Crider, our strategic director and one of Abu Wa’el’s lawyers, said that she had trouble sleeping after seeing it. In June 2014, 16 news organisations, including Reuters and the New York Times, intervened in Abu Wa’el’s case, seeking access to the videos on public interest grounds, and won.

The US government has since appealed the judge’s decision to release the footage. 76 members of Congress have called on President Obama to let them view the footage, claiming that “US personnel…should not carry out policies that are contrary to American laws or values.”

Despite years of suffering, Abu Wa’el is now focused on building a positive future for himself in Uruguay. He hopes that he will one day be reunited with his family, and looks forward to beginning his life again.

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