A plea from a ‘forever prisoner’ at Guantánamo Bay

USA (Reprieve) – Abdul Malik, a Kenyan, is one of the so-called ‘forever prisoners’ at Guantánamo Bay (GTMO), which means he is held indefinitely without charge or trial. For these prisoners, in recent years the only route out of Guantánamo is to be ‘cleared for release’ by the Periodic Review Board (PRB) – the military equivalent of a parole hearing. (Sadly, the US courts no longer function as a route to justice).

At the hearings, my clients appear before a six-member board  – comprised of heads of the security agencies – and explain why they think they should be allowed to leave Guantánamo. It is not a trial and there is no opportunity to challenge any allegations against them—in any case, I am usually not allowed to tell them exactly what they are supposed to have done, as so much of the case remains “classified.”

Rather, the prisoners are expected to show that they are well-behaved, that they do not hold extremist views, that they will have family or community support when they leave the prison, and that they have employment prospects on the outside.

Since Trump’s inauguration, all of the detainees in GTMO have been refused clearance by the Periodic Review Board, even when they are clearly harmless—the standards for clearance sometimes seem impossibly high, especially these days.

Between hearings, prisoners have ‘File Reviews’ to decide whether they merit another hearing. Abdul Malik’s File Review is this week. Here is what I submitted on his behalf.

An open letter, from Shelby Sullivan-Bennis to the Periodic Review Board regarding Guantanamo detainee Abdul Malik Bajabu

This article was prepared by Shelby Sullivan-Bennis for Reprieve.