Buried at Guantanamo Bay — human rights, justice and the inmates deemed too guilty to stand trial

Source: Dawn

Saifullah Paracha, the oldest prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, has lost 17 years of his life and never been charged with a crime.

By Mariam Ahmed Published April 25, 2022

Saifullah Paracha has lost around 17 years of his life to the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp. That’s 6,205 days. 148,920 hours. 8,935,200 minutes. 536,112,000 seconds … and counting.

Once a wealthy businessman from Karachi, Pakistan, the inmate no. 1094 is now 74 years old — the oldest of all the detainees at the controversial US military prison located on the coast in southeastern Cuba.

For many outside the detention centre, he could be a menacing, vile character clad in the fluorescent orange jumpsuit that has become synonymous with Guantanamo Bay detainees, rightfully kept behind bars for his (alleged) direct or indirect involvement in heinous acts of terrorism — one of the “bad dudes”, as former US president Donald Trump once referred to men he believed deserved to be held at the prison.

Or, he could be none of that.

He could be an innocent, beleaguered septuagenarian, who, for years, has been surviving abysmal conditions, torture and pain at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre for a crime he never committed.

Which of these two scenarios is closer to reality is anybody’s guess since Paracha has never faced trial over the accusation that led to his detention — facilitating al Qaeda. And naturally, he was never formally charged.

Why, then, does he — and several other uncharged detainees — continue to spend their days in isolation, locked up in cells at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Few may have a definite answer to that.

Paracha’s lawyer in the US, Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who may have provided a clear-cut reasoning, at least in the case of her client, did not respond to requests to speak on the subject. Meanwhile, others identified “bureaucratic inertia”, changing priorities in the US and fallacies in the legal system surrounding the detention camp as probable reasons.

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