While Donald Trump’s dealings with Russia have triggered a political scandal, the mainstream media continue to maintain silence on a foreign policy area that Trump’s predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, long colluded on with the Russian government: Guantánamo Bay.
The Modern Gulag
Eight Russian nationals were held at Guantánamo Bay. All were released without charge or trial. Seven of the men were returned to Russia in March 2004, after being quickly deemed to have no useful intelligence to offer or links to terrorist organizations.
All of the men had fled persecution before being arrested or sold to the US military in Pakistan or Afghanistan in 2001-2002. Previous experience of torture and arbitrary detention in Russia had led some to flee over the border to Afghanistan. For some, this led to further detention by the Taliban, who took them for Russian spies.
Some of the men told the US military they had fled to Afghanistan for “religious freedom reasons.” However, unlike another persecuted Muslim minority held at Guantánamo, the Uighurs from China, the men were not considered refugees fleeing persecution. Desperate pleas from themselves and their families that they should either remain at Guantánamo or be sent to any country other than Russia fell on deaf ears.
The United States knew exactly what would happen if the men were returned home. The risk was so severe that the US returned them on the basis of diplomatic assurances that Russia — a state known for its widespread use of torture in spite of being a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture — would not torture them.