Military personnel supervise detainees in Guantanamo Bay. (File photo)
Determined to document alleged human rights abuses and
rule-of-law violations by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Peter Jan
Honigsberg, professor and director of legal research and writing at the University of San Francisco’s School of Law, has begun
conducting video taped interviews of former detainees of the military detention
Honigsberg has already completed multi-hour interviews with
16 former detainees, who ranged in ages from 16 to 50 years old when captured
as part of the United State’s so-called war on terror. The interviews, some conducted in English, can be reviewed on the project's Web site. The detainees include Brits, Bosnians, Chinese Uyghurs,
Frenchmen, a German, and an Uzbek.
Honigsberg, the author of Our
Nation Unhinged: The Human Consequences of the War on Terror, wants to interview about 200 of the more than 700 one-time
Guantanamo detainees and is currently trying to raise funds for additional equipment
and travel expenses.
Far from the hardened terrorists
the U.S. military has portrayed them to be, many former detainees, as many as
90 percent, were simply ransomed to U.S. forces by neighbors who held a grudge
against them or by a competing ethnic group in the region for as much as $20,000
a head, Honigsberg said.
“Before the invasion the military
airdropped fliers throughout Afghanistan inviting citizens to bring in a
Taliban or al Queda member for a cash reward,” Honigsberg said. “They were
arrested purely for financial rewards.”
Initially interested in a
Congressional truth commission to determine who was responsible for the rights
abuses and law violations, Honigsberg now sees the project, which he calls
Witness to Guantanamo, as an archival undertaking similar to the Shoah Foundation
model, which is dedicated to documenting the Holocaust.
“Twenty years from now or 50 years
from now, if people deny what happened at Guantanamo or deny it was a serious
problem, we will have documented all of these human rights and rule-of-law
violations,” Honigsberg said.
Whether the boys and men held at
Guantanamo were terrorist or not, U.S interests lie in pursing the rule of law.
“We have built our great nation on the rule of law and human rights and when we
violate those we need to be held accountable,” Honigsberg said.
Accounts by the detainees he has interviewed so far confirm
information found in recently released CIA documents and memos regarding
intelligence strategies and techniques of torturing and otherwise mistreating
detainees, Honigsberg said.
“It was very difficult to hear each man’s story,”
he said. “The narratives were mesmerizing, powerful, compelling, unnerving, and heartbreaking."