Younous Chekkouri was told “you’re going to hell” by the American guards as they put him on a plane to Guantánamo. He quickly learned what they meant – 13 years of detention without trial, physical and psychological torture, separation from his family, hunger striking, force-feeding, and beatings.
Reprieve has fought for the prisoners in Guantánamo since the day it opened. We’ve used the law and harnessed public pressure to free 77 of our clients. We know what they have gone though at Guantánamo, and we can’t just leave them at the gates and move on.
That’s why our Life After Guantánamo team provides the support former detainees need to recover from years in ‘hell’.
We support former detainees as they face the challenges of rebuilding their lives. We strive to ensure that they have access the services and conditions that they need to rebuild their lives—including torture rehabilitation services, specialised medical care, housing, and a secure legal status. We follow up on their progress as they try to reunite with their families, and provide advice on accessing education, training, and employment.
Our unique Life After Guantánamo project was launched in 2009, spurred by both President Obama’s pledge to close Guantánamo and Reprieve’s recognition that former detainees deserve the chance to rebuild their lives after years of abuse.
Despite being cleared by six US agencies before their release, including the CIA and FBI, many former detainees are unable to return to their country of origin due to the risk of persecution and torture. Instead, they are resettled in countries around the world that are willing to give them a new home.
But the abuse does not end there. Many detainees are shackled, hooded and made to wear ear defenders for the duration of their release journey. Then, they find themselves in new and unfamiliar lands, dealing with the after-effects of their long imprisonment, often without social support networks.
Through years of legal representation in Guantánamo, Reprieve has built relationships of trust with our clients, allowing us to understand what they will need when they are finally released. We also work closely with their families in order to understand what support will be available to them after they are transferred. In some cases, our team is waiting on the tarmac to meet the men off the plane and assist in their immediate transition. We stay in contact with former detainees and work with them to define what they need to safely rebuild their lives, and then help them meet those needs.