Bisher al-Rawi was wrongfully linked to terrorism after 9/11. So were others.
During a 2002 business trip in Gambia, Bisher al-Rawi was kidnapped. For the next five years, he was tortured, imprisoned, and interrogated — though never charged with a crime.
A year into the U.S.-led "War on Terror," al-Rawi was detained, suspected of having terrorist connections, and shipped to a secret CIA prison in Kabul, Afghanistan. In February 2003, he was flown to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, his new home for the next four years.
His story is featured in a new video from Reprieve, a U.K.-based human rights organization in which celebrities like David Tennant and Harry Enfield tell stories of people who, like al-Rawi, were wrongfully imprisoned or convicted.
Deprived of sleep, placed in solitary confinement for extended periods of time, beaten and subjected to daily interrogations, al-Rawi endured years of mistreatment based on suspicion of crimes he did not commit. In fact, as it turned out, until he was abducted, he had been helping the British spy agency MI5 in its efforts to fight terrorism.
His story, for what it's worth, has a relatively happy ending. In 2007, the British government helped lobby for al-Rawi's release from Guantanamo. It turned out that he was initially arrested after being found with a "suspicious device" — which was actually nothing more than a battery charger.
Like many held at Guantanamo, al-Rawi wasn't charged with a crime and wasn't given due process. While some detainees have been eventually released, many remain locked up after all these years.
A reported 59 prisoners are still being held at Guantanamo Bay, at the time of this writing. 20 of them remain imprisoned despite being cleared for release. 29 of them have not been charged with a crime. To keep someone locked up though they haven't committed a crime — as many of those in Guantanamo have not — is to deny them basic human rights. It's inexcusable.
Since opening in January 2002, the facility has held 779 prisoners, and just eight of them were convicted by the Guantanamo military commission. Of those eight, three have been overturned and another three have been partially invalidated.
On his first day in office, President Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay. That hasn't happened, and come January, it may actually get much, much worse. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to keep Guantanamo open and "load it up with some bad dudes."
There are organizations working to put an end to state-sanctioned human rights violations, and they need our help.
Groups like Reprieve, the ACLU, and Amnesty International have been — and will continue to be — vital in fighting for human rights even when governments fail to do so. Injustice has always existed, but there are things we can do to fight back.