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Judge says US held Afghan man unlawfully at Guantanamo Bay

Introduction A federal judge in the United States recently made a significant ruling, shedding light on the longstanding issue of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. The judge declared that Haroon Gul, an Afghan detainee, lacked any association with Al-Qaeda or an associated force, rendering his detention without legal basis. While this ruling marks a modest step toward justice, it also draws attention to the broader predicament faced by hundreds of men unlawfully held at Guantanamo since its inception in January 2002. Most of these individuals, including Haroon, have never been charged with a crime. Questionable Legal Basis for Detention The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay has been a subject of intense controversy and criticism for decades. Under the dubious "war on terror" detention theory, detainees have been held indefinitely, with the government asserting the right to detain them until the end of this so-called "war." Haroon's case is exceptional in that a US federal court has found his detention unlawful even under this contentious legal framework. Haroon's Detention and Unresolved Peace Haroon Gul was detained in 2007 due to his alleged association with Hezb-e-Islami (HIA), an Afghan militia group. Despite a peace deal between the US-allied Afghan government and HIA in 2016, Haroon remains in custody. Notably, a military review board has approved roughly one-third of Guantanamo detainees, including Haroon, for transfer to other countries on the grounds that they do not pose a threat to the United States. Nevertheless, these detainees continue to languish in custody. Challenges to Haroon's Repatriation While the recent court ruling underscores the injustice of Haroon's detention, his release is far from guaranteed. To secure his repatriation, the United States would need to establish a security agreement with the new Taliban-led government in Afghanistan. Alternatively, an agreement with another country for his resettlement is a challenging process, complicated by stringent certification requirements imposed by the US defense secretary. Human Rights Concerns at Guantanamo Over the years, human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have documented serious abuses and violations suffered by detainees at Guantanamo Bay. These include reports of torture, inadequate medical care, and infringements of due process rights. Continuing to detain Haroon, despite a court order deeming his detention unlawful, would not only perpetuate his individual suffering but also contravene international law. The Biden Administration's Responsibility The Biden administration has expressed its intention to end detention at Guantanamo Bay, a promise that must be followed through with unwavering commitment. Detainees who have been cleared for transfer should be released immediately, and any pending criminal proceedings should be resolved expeditiously. Furthermore, mechanisms should be established to put an end to prolonged indefinite detention and ensure that military tribunals meet international fair trial standards. Conclusion The ruling in Haroon Gul's case serves as a glimpse of justice within the larger context of Guantanamo Bay's enduring injustice. While the legal system has recognized the unlawfulness of his detention, many others remain in similar circumstances. The United States, under the Biden administration's leadership, has an obligation to address this issue comprehensively. It must uphold the principles of justice, human rights, and international law, ensuring that those unjustly detained at Guantanamo find redress and that such injustices are not repeated in the future. For Asadullah Haroon Gul and others like him, these changes cannot come soon enough.


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