Abu Zubaydah, the Guantanamo detainee who has been tortured to death by the CIA and held without charge by the United States for almost 20 years, has requested his release in federal court on the grounds that the US wars in Afghanistan and with al -Qaida are over.
In a case filed with the U.S. District Court in Washington DC, Zubaydah’s lawyers argue that recent White House statements that the armed conflict in Afghanistan is over – combined with the complete destruction of the original al-Qaida group that has perpetrated on September 11 – removed any remaining legal justification for keeping him captive. The motion calls for his immediate release, describing Zubaydah’s treatment over the past two decades as a “parade of horrors”.
At the heart of the new habeas corpus campaign for detainee freedom is Zubaydah’s status as a so-called “enemy combatant”. Under the 2001 Use of Military Force Authorization (AUMF) passed by Congress days after 9/11, then President George W Bush was given the power to prosecute the perpetrators of the attacks. terrorists in the war on terror.
But as the new dossier points out, Zubaydah was never accused of involvement in 9/11 and he was not even a member of al-Qaida, as the US government has conceded. On the contrary, he has been charged with offenses that took place in Afghanistan in the context of a war that is now officially over.
A day after the chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan ended in August, current President Joe Biden said, “My fellow Americans, the war in Afghanistan is now over.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin countered that while the war in Afghanistan may be over, military operations against al-Qaida continue. In court statements, Austin said troops and weapons were still deployed in “military operations against al-Qaida and associated forces … across the Middle East and Africa.”
Zubaydah’s lawyers insist that the new insistence on al-Qaida as a rationale for staying in Guantánamo is also based on legal bickering. Al-Qaida, they point out, was never specifically mentioned in the AUMF under which Zubaydah is being held.
They also highlight the fact that all of the main al-Qaida leaders involved in 9/11, including Osama bin Laden himself, were killed or captured with the sole exception of Bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, some of whom suggest he died of illness.
“They say if there is a conflict with al-Qaida anywhere in the world, in Africa or elsewhere, then the war continues and the Guantanamo detainees will be locked up forever,” the lawyer told The Guardian. principal of Zubaydah’s habeas request, Mark Denbeaux. . “This means that detention without a trial, without a hearing or justification, with detainees in isolation and without access to the public or their families – all of this will never end. “
Denbeaux added: “The war is over. How can you detain enemy fighters when there is no combat going on? “
Denbeaux described the Zubaydah affair as “the perfect storm that exposed the perverse behavior behind the global war on terrorism and the torture program in particular.” Zubaydah, a 50-year-old Palestinian whose birth name was Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, was the first terrorist suspect to be captured by the CIA months after September 11.
For more than four years, he was held in CIA black sites in Thailand and Poland and subjected to some of the most brutal torture ever practiced by the US state. Zubaydah became the guinea pig of a program devised by two psychologists under contract with the CIA, euphemistically known as “enhanced interrogation” but widely denounced as torture.
He was drowning 83 times in a month, held naked for hours with his hands chained above his head, deprived of sleep for days at a time and locked in a closed box resembling a coffin.
The devastating details of Zubaydah’s treatment are once again in the public spotlight as the United States Supreme Court is examining a state secrets case that was sparked by his stay at a black CIA site in Poland. While the case bears no relation to Zubaydah’s habeas petition, observers were struck by the fact that, for the first time, Supreme Court justices directly referred to what he endured as ” torture ”.
Several judges also expressed their amazement that Zubaydah remains in Guantánamo without charge despite clear Supreme Court rulings prohibiting such indefinite detention. In a series of critical rulings, the nation’s highest court has barred detainees from being held for life without checks and balances, granted them the right to appeal to a judge in a federal court and declared that their “detention shall not may last longer than active hostilities ”continue. in the particular armed conflict in which they were considered enemy combatants.
Zubaydah first challenged his imprisonment in Federal District Court in Washington DC in August 2008, just weeks after the Supreme Court granted this right to enemy combatants under habeas corpus in its Boumediene v Bush decision. . Habeas corpus requires the state to appear before a judge and bring charges against an individual or release him. Yet 13 years later, the case is still unresolved and Zubaydah remains locked up without charge.
In October, during oral argument in the state secrets case, Judge Stephen Breyer said the Supreme Court had ruled that the government could detain Guantanamo detainees while “active combat operations against Taliban fighters … are taking place in Afghanistan. Well, they’re not anymore. So why [Zubaydah] the?”
Breyer later added: “I don’t understand why he’s still here after 14 years.”