On January 11, 2011, Kuwaiti citizen Mohammad Ghazzai al-Mutairi was reportedly beaten and tortured to death by members of the Kuwaiti police force (part of Kuwait's Ministry of Interior). Of course, in the interest of “security,” what actually transpired will never truly be known.
Nonetheless, this horrific example of how the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior values human life may help explain why two other Kuwaiti citizens have been confined at Guantanamo Bay for more than nine years without Kuwait ever formally demanding their return. In fact, given the minister of interior's recently leaked opinion that Guantanamo detainees should be returned to Afghanistan to be killed, it is clear neither Kuwait nor the United States retains the moral authority they once held to champion human rights throughout the world.
As an Air Force judge advocate general (JAG) officer, I represent Fayiz al-Kandari, one of two Kuwaitis now in his tenth year of confinement, without trial, at America's notorious island prison. As Fayiz's attorney, I cannot help but feel the recent death of al-Mutairi does not bode well for my client. In fact, given President Obama's preference for indefinite detention and the Kuwaiti government's unwillingness to prevent such detention, Kuwait may be responsible for not one, but three, dead bodies.
Like al-Mutairi, al-Kandari was beaten and abused by government officials who believed physical assault was an appropriate means of extracting information, but unlike al-Mutairi, whose fatal abuse was relatively brief, Fayiz was beaten and abused for a much longer period of time. He is arguably fortunate to have survived such an ordeal. But if Fayiz survived only to die in a cage, he has only prolonged the inevitable. His torment will likely continue until he is returned home in a box.
As the most powerful nation the world has ever known, the United States once stood as a hallmark of human rights, but in the wake of “enhanced interrogation,” and in the shadow of “indefinite detention,” can the United States still claim the moral authority to police human rights abuses by other nations? In Fayiz's case, for example, the United States has elected to hold him indefinitely, without trial, because its evidence is too weak to prove any offense in a legitimate court. I say again: Fayiz will be presumed guilty and spend the rest of his life in confinement because the government's “evidence” is too weak to convict him.
If Kuwait wants to reassert its commitment to human rights, it should begin by demanding justice for its citizens detained at Guantanamo Bay. If the United States wishes to regain its status as the world's champion of human rights, it should honor such a demand by one of its closest allies. At the same time, the citizens of Kuwait and the United States must ensure their governments take meaningful action and are held accountable for their actions. Otherwise, if such individual human rights abuses are allowed to continue, the clock begins to tick for you, me and those close to us.
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