Inside Story America

Letters from Guantanamo Bay

As a detainee accuses US military guards of sexual assault, we ask if prison conditions are deteriorating even further.

In a letter obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera, a Guantanamo Bay detainee has accused United States military guards of sexually assaulting him, five months since a mass hunger strike began. 

In 2009 President Barack Obama set up a task force ... to review the conditions at Guantanamo ... so for many years there were no genital searches. Everything we are seeing now with regard to this hunger strike can be directly linked to the death of Adnan Latif, a Yemeni prisoner last September, and the way which the military is now responding has essentially given rise to the mass hunger strike.

by Jason Leopold; investigative reporter

For more than 11 years, Younous Chekkouri has been behind bars. He is one of more than 100 of Guantanamo Bay’s 166 detainees who are on hunger strike. And he says his protest is being met with brutality.

In the letter obtained by Al Jazeera, Chekkouri describes being sexually assaulted by guards as they search him each time he leaves and returns to his cell in order to talk to his lawyer or his wife. And he says he is not the only one enduring this kind of treatment.

In response to the allegations, the Pentagon described Guantanamo guards as “some of the most professional, most heavily scrutinized guards on the planet” adding that “absurd accusations simply do not withstand intellectual rigor”.

Inside Story Americas interviewed Cori Crider, the strategic director for Reprieve, a London-based legal action charity, who is also Chekkouri’s attorney. She shared information on his life before he was taken to Guantanamo. According to Crider, Cherkkouri comes from a Sufi family in Morocco, but has not lived in Morocco in many years. He was a travelling student living abroad with his family across the Middle East and South Asia, and was living with his wife and brother in Afghanistan before the US invasion.

Chekkouri was arrested trying to flee the invasion. He has been cleared and awaiting release for a long time now, his lawyer said.

Crider said there is no intention to charge Chekkouri with an offense at any point, and she has tried to take his case to a judge. Chekkouri has done everything he can to pursue the legal avenues available to him, she said, adding that “Barack Obama’s task force cleared him, yet still he is there”.

Another letter from a Guantanamo detainee, Abdelhadi Faraj, was published on Huffington Post. Faraj is a Syrian national who has been in US custody since 2002. He was cleared for release by a US government inter-agency taskforce in 2010, but remains imprisoned at Guantanamo.


Read Younous Chekkouri’s
letter from Guantanamo Bay,
obtained exclusively by
Inside Story Americas.

Click here to read

“It is not unusual for prison guards here to search prisoners’ genital parts and their rectum 10 times in a single day. Daily, I am forced into a restraint chair, my arms, legs and chest tied down tight. Big guards grab my head with both hands. I feel like my skull is being crushed. Then, so-called nurses violently push a thick tube down my nostril. Blood rushes out of my nose and mouth. The nurses turn on the feeding solution full throttle. I cannot begin to describe the pain that causes,” Faraj’s letter says.

It continues: “Recently, a nurse brutally yanked out the force-feeding tube, threw it on my shoulder, and left the cell, leaving me tied down to the chair. Later, the nurse returned to the cell, took the tube off my shoulder and began to reinsert it into my nose. I asked him to cleanse and purify the tube first but he refused. When I later tried to complain to another nurse about the incident, the other nurse threatened to force the feeding tube up my rear, not down my nose, if I did not suspend my hunger strike.”

So are conditions for detainees deteriorating even further at Guantanamo Bay? 

To discuss this, presenter Shihab Rattansi is joined by guests: Jason Leopold, an investigative reporter and a contributor to Al Jazeera English; and Ramzi Kassem, associate professor of law at the City University of New York..

“It is equally important to step back and look at the large picture. The entire Guantanamo system is built on the disregard for the rule of law …. What we are seeing in Guantanamo today of course is a violation of medical ethics, is a violation of international law.”

– Ramzi Kassem, associate professor of law at the City University of New York