Pakistan’s government appears to have washed its hands off the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners denied justice as part of the so called “war on terror” led by the United States (US). A majority of the men who found themselves dropped in the middle of the Caribbean ocean at the notorious detention facility at Guantanamo Bay were in fact kidnapped in Pakistan and turned over to the US in exchange for dollars – or to be more precise “bounties totaling millions of dollars” as stated by the President and Chief of Army Staff at the time, Pervez Musharraf.

Among the 41 men who remain imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, 23 are known as “forever prisoners” because they continue to be indefinitely held without charge or trial. Of the remaining 18, five are cleared for release, two have been convicted of terrorism related charges by the military commissions and 11 are facing charges before the Military Commissions. Alarmingly, President Trump has talked about loading up Guantanamo with “some bad dudes” and revoked Barrack Obama’s executive order to close the detention facility.

Five men are facing the death penalty before the Military Commissions for their alleged involvement in the attacks on US soil on 11 September 2001. Among them is a Pakistani national, Ammar al Baluchi who was kidnapped in Karachi and turned over to the US authorities almost 15 years ago. For three years, he was held incommunicado by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in multiple “black sites” operated by the agency in secret locations around the world. The CIA subjected Ammar to “enhanced interrogation techniques” - a euphemism for torture. One such technique was water drowning which is similar in its effect to water boarding. His head was dunked in ice cold water and held under the surface until he thought he was drowning. He was also subjected to “walling”. Ammar’s head was smashed against the wall so forcefully and so many times that he saw sparks of light exploding in front of his eyes, growing in size and intensity, until he experienced what felt like a jolt of electricity and then passed out.

Sleep deprivation was another form of torture forced upon many of the men detained at CIA’s black sites. When Ammar was left starving and naked in cold temperatures, he was tied into painful stress positions and kept awake for days at a time. Whenever he started to fall asleep, the guards would rush in and beat him ruthlessly. They warned him of the same consequences if he dared to call asleep again.

More than 10 years have passed since Ammar was transferred from a CIA black site to Guantanamo Bay where his suffering continues. While his lawyers are fighting tooth and nail for Ammar to have meaningful rehabilitation for the torture he endured, the military commissions continue to deny Ammar the right to speak publicly of how the CIA isolated, humiliated, and terrorized him.

Instead of sitting back and allowing the United States to continue Ammar’s ongoing torture, Pakistan has a moral and legal international obligation towards its citizen. Pakistan is state party to the Convention Against Torture (CAT) which bars the transfer of individuals where there are substantial grounds for believing they will be tortured. When Ammar was kidnapped on 20 April 2003, the torture of Muslim men in CIA’s secret detention centers as part of the so called “war on terror” was widely known and yet Pakistan continued to turn them over. Although Pakistan was not state-party to CAT at the time, by 2010 it did had signed and ratified it. While Pakistan may never be completely absolved of its complicity in the torture of men like Ammar, it can and must ensure that it’s citizen have access to rehabilitation for the torture inflicted upon them and that evidence obtained as a result of torture is not admissible in Guantanamo’s kangaroo courts. An investigation by Pakistan of such serious torture allegations would be one way of demonstrating its commitment to implement the Convention Against Torture.


The writer is part of Mr. al Baluchi’s defense team.