Guantanamo “Living like an animal living in a cage”

By Mohamed Vall in Khartoum, Sudan

Adil Hassan Hamad can scarcely believe he is back with his family in Sudan, because only days ago he was still in the US’s Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

“I am very, very happy and not believing this,” Adil tells Al Jazeera, “That I am here with my family – even now I feel this could all be taken away at any moment.”

In 2002, Adil and another man, Salim Mahmoud Adam, were picked up from their homes in Peshawar, Pakistan, by Pakistani troops and were later handed over to the US.

Most of his children were babies when their father, who was then working as the director of a hospital in Afghanistan, was taken to Guantanamo.

His daughter, Rahma, now six, was only a few months old when he was taken and now her father seems like a stranger.

“She knows I am her father,” says Adil, balancing Rahma on his knee and holding her close. “But she’s not used to me.”

“Like a cage”

Since his release from Guantanamo, family, friends and neighbours have come to Adil’s home in Khartoum to greet a man many thought they might never see again.

Adil recounts stories of torture, interrogation and solitary confinement when speaks of his time in the prison.

“The cell was all made of iron on iron. You don’t see anyone or hear anything,” he says.

“It was a boring and miserable life… psychologically very tiresome. It was like a cage … like an animal living in a cage.”

Among those present to celebrate Adil’s return is Assim al-Haj, brother of Sami al-Haj, the Al Jazeera cameraman imprisoned in Guantanamo six years ago.

He listens to Adil’s story of his release from the prison, but knows that his brother’s health is deteriorating in captivity.

“Injustice and abuse”

More than 750 people have been held in Guantanamo since January 2002 and only three have been formally charged.

Despite international criticism, there are few
signs the US will close the prison [GALLO/GETTY]

Even with the recent releases, over 270 detainees remain in Guantanamo Bay.

The US supreme court has reviewed the legal status of Guantanamo prisoners on several occasions and found in favour of the inmates – that they should be allowed to have the legality of their detention examined by US courts.

The US administration, which argues that since the base is outside the country rights under the US constitution do not apply, has avoided following this judgment.

Amnesty International, the UK-based human rights group, has called Guantanamo “a symbol of injustice and abuse” and called on the US government to close the down the prison “in a transparent manner which fully respects the human rights of those detained and brings to fair trial all those who are accused of recognisable crimes”.

But though the US has drawn international criticism for holding foreign nationals captive in Guantanamo, there are few signs that the US has any plans to close the prison.

Adil and Salim were two of 15 people, the rest Afghan, recently released by the US. Neither have ever been told why they were imprisoned.