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Sami Al-Hajj Addresses Conference to Criminalize War

Posted: 2009-10-29
From: Mathaba
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Peace be Upon You... Sami Al Hajj opened his speech with the words of Muslim greetings to the 1,000 strong crowd at the Kuala Lumpur PWTC Conference Hall on the 2nd day of the Conference to Criminalise War.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Mathaba) After thanking those who are present and those who spoke out against torture and human rights abuses, and Dr Mahathir the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, and all the people of the world who want peace for mankind, the Al-Jazeera journalist who had been abducted to Guantanamo Bay and tortured, he went on to say:

"On 11th October 2001 I had been sent by Al-Jazeera to report on the US war of aggression on Afghanistan. I witnessed with my own eyes American cruise and tomahawk missiles raining on the heads of Afghan children and women. I saw young children, old men, mosques, all sorts of buildings were destroyed by this bombing campaign. We sent these pictures off through our cameras to the Jazeera programs. After the new government came about in Afghanistan we were forced to evacuate. At this point when we tried to return and report on the issues, people, especially foreigners, began to be arrested.

This happened on 15th December 2001. Then I was handed over to the US military on 7th January and I was sent to the Baghram detention facility. The accusations made against me was that I was going to be filming an interview between an Al-Jazeera reporter and Osama Bin Laden. When I explained to them that I was in Kandahar and the other colleague in Kabul so it would not be possible to do this, they said to me that the Pakistani government has understood that this may be a mistake.

The reason for wanting to capture my colleague was not because he had anything to do with terrorism but because after that he was the only person capable to make an interview with Laden and they wanted to know how it was possible and what Laden's last position was. In the end my collegue went to Doha where he remained, and other events followed. The message sent to the Pakistani government was that they should arrest the camera man.

There was another camera man whose name was also Sami from Morocco who by pure coincidence was also to be arrested. When they realised they made a mistake and that it was not me they wanted to arrest, they said if we free you what will you say? I said to them I will say what I have seen with my own eyes, that is that I have seen you torture... and that is what I will report.

I want to point out that my case is very different from many others, many were captured in places as diverse as Indonesia, or Georgia, Bosnia etc captured by mafia and handed over from all over the world, not just in the proximity of the war zone. I have seen amongst the people detained, men who were older than 90 and children as young as 11 and 12 years old held in U.S. custody.

Time does not permit me to mention all methods of torture used, but to summarise, stripping, beating, water boarding, sleep deprivation for long periods, humiliation, degradation and acts insulting our religion and beliefs, were some of the methods of torture used. One of the most disturbing things was the participation of medical staff including psychiatrists employed to break our resolve, who would formulate programs to destroy us. On top of this we were held incommunicado, we could not write letters to family or any other means of communication, and the worst for us was having to see the Holy Quran ripped to pieces and defecated upon.

Many were not told what crime they had committed and none given the chance to defend themselves against the allegations.

It is important to note that for almost 5 years we were denied any legal representation until a US supreme court decision which was then blocked anyway by President Bush. All this from a government that claims to be a leader in human rights.

People also lost parts of their limbs, eyes, legs etc as a direct result of the U.S. procedures to take us in, and sadly some of those died, both at Baghram and Guantanamo. Some of those who are said to have committed suicide, we believed were actually murdered or forced to do it.

There are people who also lost their minds, including Sudanese Ibrahim Osman Ibrahim. When asked why they do nothing about this they claim it is to protect him when he returns to Sudan.

Yemeni doctor Ayman Batarfi, who was taking care of wounded Afghan children and women, was also sent to Baghram and has lost his mental faculties and remains in Guantanamo after 8 years without charge or trial.

I want to break the myth that torture has finished with Bush, it continues under Obama, with around 40 still on hunger strike in Guantanamo, including a Saudi prisoner who has been on hunger strike for 5 years on and off. The way in which hunger strikes are dealt with is that liquids are forced by tubes up their nostrils and into their stomachs, the result of this is vomiting and all sorts of ailments, and they then remove the tubes and insert into the next one without any cleaning, and without any anesthetic.

The sad reality is that even after people are released, there are many whose ordeal is not over, after 8 years of imprisonment without charge or trial, and tortured, they are sent to countries such as Libya where imprisonment and torture continues. The largest single group are the Yemenis who are 97 who are still not released. Everybody knows that these people can easily return to Yemen but there are problems of finances and procedures for them to be reintegrated into Yemeni society.

Some of the individuals in Guantanamo cannot return even though they would now be released, because if they return to their countries they will be tortured as bad or worse than in Guantanamo. The remainder of the people still in Guantanamo cannot return for lack of place to go, including some Palestinians who cannot return as the Israelis will not allow them to return. They need help so that they could live out what remains of their shattered lives. Finally, the request I make to people in Malaysia and the free world in general, is to find home for these men who have been tortured for so many years, and the appeal is for you, including Dr Mahathir is to find homes for these people so they can lead meaningful lives again.

Mathaba News Agency will be giving special live coverage reports throughout the event, which readers can follow via Mathaba.Net, RSS, Email, Twitter, Facebook, Mobile or via additional tools. Paying subscribers will be able to receive further behind-the-scenes reports. See some of our readers testimonies here.

-- Mathaba
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