Failure to shut Guantánamo 'a mark on the face of the US', says ex-detainee


The legacy of detention is impossible to escape for an Uzbek man who has resettled in Ireland

A FORMER Guantánamo Bay detainee who was resettled in Ireland in 2009 has condemned the continuing existence of the facility on the 10th anniversary of its opening, saying it is “a mark on the face of the US in the world”.

Oybek Jabbarov (34) was one of two Uzbek detainees who arrived in Ireland for resettlement in September 2009 as part of an agreement between the Government and the Obama administration.

US authorities had cleared the men for release some time before, saying they were no longer considered to pose a security threat. The two were among dozens of detainees who were cleared for release but could not return to their countries of origin due to the risk of persecution or ill-treatment.

In his first interview since arriving in Ireland, Jabbarov, who spent seven years in detention at Guantánamo, told The Irish Times yesterday that his experience there had changed the way he looked at the US.

“Before I went to Guantánamo I saw America as a democratic country which respected human rights,” he said. “I know from my own experience that Guantánamo is a terrible place where people are held without charge and cut off from the world with no rights. People suffer mental torture there. It is hard to believe it is still open a decade later.”

Jabbarov noted that despite President Barack Obama’s promise shortly after his January 2009 inauguration to shut the detention centre within a year, more than 170 men are still being held at the facility. “After all the promises, Guantánamo is still open. It is like a mark on the face of the US in the world,” he said.

Jabbarov says he and his pregnant wife, infant son and elderly mother were living as refugees in northern Afghanistan in October 2001 as fighting raged between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. According to his own account, Jabbarov was delivered to US troops by Northern Alliance fighters who had promised to give him a ride after he met them at a roadside teahouse.

He believes he was handed over in exchange for a bounty.

Since their arrival in Ireland, Jabbarov and the other former detainee, Shakhrukh Hamiduva, who is in his late 20s, have lived in different parts of the country. Jabbarov’s wife and children joined him in Ireland shortly after he was resettled here. The two men have completed integration programmes and undergone training.

The legacy of Guantánamo lingers, however. “There are lots of challenges in adjusting to normal life after spending so many years in a place like that,” he says.

“Guantánamo was a horrible experience. It has changed all of us.”

Meanwhile, Spirasi, the only specialist organisation in Ireland that works for the rehabilitation and integration of survivors of torture, has called on the Government to accept more detainees for resettlement. Of the 171 men remaining at Guantánamo, 59 have been cleared for release but are at risk if they return to their home countries.

View a gallery of images from Guantánamo on