At 1:11 p.m. GMT, a plane carrying Binyam Mohamed touched down in West London. Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen and resident of the U.K., is a victim of extraordinary rendition. He'd been at Guantánamo for four years, but his ordeal began in April 2002 when he was first arrested by Pakistani authorities at the airport on his way back to Britain. He was rendered by the U.S. to Morocco, Afghanistan and finally to Guantánamo, where he was detained for four years. In a statement released through his Reprieve UK lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, Mohamed said:
I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares. Before this ordeal, "torture" was an abstract word to me. I could never have imagined that I would be its victim. It is still difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways — all orchestrated by the United States government.
While I want to recover, and put it all as far in my past as I can, I also know I have an obligation to the people who still remain in those torture chambers. My own despair was greatest when I thought that everyone had abandoned me. I have a duty to make sure that nobody else is forgotten.
[…] I wish I could say that it is all over, but it is not. There are still 241 Muslim prisoners in Guantánamo. Many have long since been cleared even by the US military, yet cannot go anywhere as they face persecution. For example, Ahmed bel Bacha lived here in Britain, and desperately needs a home. Then there are thousands of other prisoners held by the US elsewhere around the world, with no charges, and without access to their families.
Mohamed is the lead plaintiff in Mohamed v. Jeppesen, the ACLU's extraordinary rendition lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan. On February 9, 2009, lawyers for President Obama stood before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and reaffirmed the Bush administration's argument that the case should not be heard because doing so would be a threat to state secrets. We, and many others, strongly disagree.
This week, a report commissioned by President Obama on the conditions of confinement at Guantánamo will be released. According to The New York Times, the report concludes that the naval base "complies with the humane-treatment requirements of the Geneva Conventions."
We're puzzled too. As ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero pointed out in a statement, while he was running for President, then-Senator Obama himself acknowledged that the detention center violated international and domestic law. So for the Pentagon to report otherwise is a whitewash, at best. Because we're almost certain that if you ask Binyam Mohamed, who endured four years at Guantánamo, he would testify to quite the contrary.