Mohamedou Ould Slahi
|Mohamedou Ould Slahi|
December 31, 1970 |
|Alternate name||Mohammedou Ould Salahi, kunya: Abu Musab|
|Status||Detained under AUMF-AT as a "part of" al Qaeda. Writ of habeas corpus granted his release on March 22, 2010. Overturned by the Court of Appeals and remanded to the District Court on November 5, 2010.|
Mohamedou Ould Slahi or Salahi (Arabic: محمد ولد صلاحي) (born December 31, 1970) is a Mauritanian who has been detained at Guantánamo Bay detention camp since August 4, 2002. He is being held under the authority of Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), alleged by the US government to be "part of" al Qaeda at the time of his arrest.
Slahi traveled to Afghanistan in December 1990 “to support the mujahideen”. He trained in an al Qaeda camp and swore bayat to al Qaeda in March 1991. At that time, the United States was providing covert support to the mujahideen through the CIA against the Soviet invasion. Slahi returned to Germany soon after and then traveled to Afghanistan again for three months in early 1992. Slahi alleges that he "severed all ties with ... al-Qaeda" at that time.
The U.S. government maintains that Slahi "recruited for al-Qaeda and provided it with other support" since then. Slahi was detained in Mauritania on November 20, 2001 and questioned for seven days by Mauritanian officers and by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The CIA rendered him to Jordan; he was held for eight months at a black site, and he claims that he was tortured. After being flown to Afghanistan and held for two weeks, Slahi was transferred to military custody and the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba on August 4, 2002.
Slahi was subjected to isolation, temperature extremes, beatings and sexual humiliation at Guantánamo. In another incident, he was blindfolded and taken out to sea for a mock execution. Lt. Col Stuart Couch refused to prosecute Slahi in a Military Commission in 2003. He said in 2007 that "Slahi's incriminating statements—the core of the government's case—had been taken through torture, rendering them inadmissible under U.S. and international law."
Following the Supreme Court decision in Boumediene v. Bush (2008), Slahi challenged the lawfulness of his detention in federal district court. Judge James Robertson granted a writ of habeas corpus, ordering Slahi to be released on March 22, 2010. In his unclassified opinion, Judge Robertson wrote: "Associations alone are not enough, of course, to make detention lawful." The Department of Justice appealed the decision, which was heard on September 17, 2010. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the ruling and remanded the case to the District Court on November 5, 2010 for further factual findings.
Slahi moved from Mauritania to Germany in 1988 on a scholarship with the Carl Duisberg Society; he earned an engineering degree from the University of Duisburg. In December 1990, Slahi went to Afghanistan to support the mujahideen against the communist central government. He trained for six weeks at al-Farouq, an al Qaeda-run training camp near Khost. At the end of his training in March 1991, he swore bayat to al Qaeda and was given the kunya "Abu Musab." He returned to Germany to continue his studies.
In January 1992, he traveled again to Afghanistan, to fight in support the mujahideen. He was assigned to a mortar battery in Gardez. In March, the Mohammad Najibullah regime fell and Slahi returned to Germany. (p. 12) In hearings in Guantanamo, Slahi has stated that he traveled to Afghanistan twice, attended the al Farouq training camp in 1990 and fought against the Afghan central government in 1992, but that those actions do not make him an enemy combatant against the United States. (pp. 2–4)  (pp. 4–6)
Slahi graduated from the university (renamed Gerhard Mercator University in 1994) with a degree in electrical engineering in 1995. The next year, he sought an unlimited visa and work permit to remain in Germany as well as landed immigrant status in Canada. (p. 12) Slahi obtained landed immigrant status in Canada in September 1998.
Slahi's cousin and former brother-in-law is Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, also known as Abu Hafs al-Mauritania. Al-Walid is alleged to be one of the spiritual advisers to Osama bin Laden and a high-ranking leader of al Qaeda. (p. 21) While al-Walid was in the Sudan, he twice asked Slahi to help him get money to his family in Mauritania, about $4,000 in December 1997 and $4,000 in December 1998. About these transactions, the US District Court said, in his 2010 habeas corpus case: "[T]he government relies on nothing but Salahi's uncorroborated, coerced statements to conclude that the money transfers were done on behalf of and in support of al-Qaida." (p. 26) In 1998, Slahi was heard by U.S. intelligence talking to al-Walid on a satellite phone traced to bin Laden. (p. 12)
The 9/11 Commission Report (2004) said in its report that in 1999, Slahi advised three members of the Hamburg Cell to travel to Afghanistan to obtain training before waging jihad in Chechnya. But, the district court found in 2010 only that Slahi "provided lodging for three men for one night at his home in Germany [in November 1999], that one of them was Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and that there was discussion of jihad and Afghanistan." (p. 19)
Slahi moved to Montreal, Canada on November 26, 1999 because German immigration authorities would not extend his visa for residence in Germany. Since he was a hafidh, he was invited by the imam of a large mosque to lead Ramadan prayers. Ahmed Ressam, who was caught with explosives crossing the Canadian border in December 1999 as part of the 2000 Millennium Plot, was a member of the same mosque. Since Slahi was known to U.S. intelligence, he became suspected of activating Ressam.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) put Slahi under surveillance for several weeks but did not find any grounds to arrest him. According to a classified report of German intelligence, "there is not only no evidence of any involvement by Ould Slahi in the planning and preparation of the attacks, but also no indication that Ressam and Ould Slahi knew each other." Slahi left Canada to return to Mauritania on January 21, 2000.
During his trip home, Slahi was arrested in Senegal at the request of United States authorities and questioned about the Millennium plot. He was transferred to Mauritania to be interrogated by local authorities and American FBI agents. After three weeks in custody, during which Slahi was accused of being involved in the Millennium Plot, he was released.
Slahi worked at various companies in Mauritania as an electrical engineer from May 2000 until the end of September 2001. On September 29, he was again detained by the Mauritanian authorities for questioning. He cooperated with the authorities several times though November 2001. The last time he went in for questioning was November 20, 2001. He was interrogated by both Mauritanian officials and the FBI for seven days.
The CIA arranged for him to be transported to Jordan through extraordinary rendition. There the CIA supervised his interrogation for months. An Amnesty International report describes his rendition and treatment there.
On July 19, 2002, the CIA transported Slahi to Bagram, Afghanistan, where he was transferred to military custody and held at the detention facility. The US military flew Slahi to Guantanamo Bay detention camp on August 4, 2002.
Guantánamo Bay detention
Memos summarizing meetings held on October 9, 2003 and February 2, 2004 between General Geoffrey Miller and Vincent Cassard of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) acknowledged that camp authorities were not permitting the ICRC to have access to Slahi, due to "military necessity." Officials belonging to Canadian Security Intelligence Service interviewed Slahi in February 2003.
Lt. Col V. Stuart Couch, a Marine Corps lawyer, was appointed as Slahi's prosecutor at Guantanamo. He withdrew from the case in May 2004 after reviewing it in depth. Couch said that, while he believed that Slahi "had blood on his hands", he "could no longer continue the case in good conscience" because of the alleged torture, which tainted all confessions Slahi had made. He said that "the evidence is not believable because of the methods used to obtain it and the fact that it has not been independently corroborated." This was a critical point, as Slahi was among the fourteen "high-value" detainees claimed by the Bush administration.
The Wall Street Journal published a letter that Slahi wrote to his lawyers on November 9, 2006. In the letter, Slahi claims that all the confessions of crimes were the result of torture. He laughed at being asked to recount "everything" that he had said during interrogations, joking that it was "like asking Charlie Sheen how many women he dated."
According to Peter Finn of the Washington Post in 2010, Slahi, along with Tariq al-Sawah, is one of "two of the most significant informants ever to be held at Guantanamo. Today, they are housed in a little fenced-in compound at the military prison, where they live a life of relative privilege -- gardening, writing and painting -- separated from other detainees in a cocoon designed to reward and protect."
Allegations of torture
According to the Wall Street Journal, Slahi had his last Federal Bureau of Investigation interrogation on May 22, 2003. His FBI interrogator warned him "this was our last session; he told me that I was not going to enjoy the time to come." Three month later Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques". Among other techniques Slahi was subjected to isolation, temperature extremes, beatings and sexual humiliation. In one incident he was blindfolded and taken out to sea for a mock execution.
The Wall Street Journal paraphrases an incident described in the 2005 Schmidt-Furlow Report, the result of an investigation by the Department of Defense into detainee treatment at Guantanamo following FBI allegations of torture used by DOD interrogators:
- On July 17, 2003, a masked interrogator told Mr. Slahi he had dreamed of watching detainees dig a grave.... The interrogator said he saw 'a plain, pine casket with [Mr. Slahi's] identification number painted in orange lowered into the ground.'
In the summer of 2003, Slahi was repeatedly subjected to the use of an interrogation technique which the Schmidt-Furlow Report stated had been prohibited by the Secretary of Defense on December 2, 2002.
What was not revealed until 2008 was that in a March 14, 2003 legal opinion memo issued by John Yoo of the Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice, to the General Counsel of DOD, Yoo advised DOD that federal laws related to torture and other abuses did not apply to interrogations overseas. At that point the Bush administration contended that Guantanamo Bay was outside US jurisdiction. DOD used this memo to authorize the use of enhanced interrogation techniques at Guantanamo and in Iraq. Also, by 2005, the New York Times reported that by an April 2003 memo from Rumsfeld to General James T. Hill, he authorized 24 specific permitted interrogation techniques to be used. Jack Goldsmith in June 2004 withdrew the Yoo Torture Memos and advised agencies not to rely on them, but resigned in July. The memos were reaffirmed by the succeeding head of the Office of Legal Counsel in December 2004.
|July 3, 2003||21||
|July 17, 2003||24||
|July 20, 2003||24-25||
|August 2, 2003||26||
|August 2, 2003||25||
|August 2, 2003||23||
Slahi's lawyers have threatened to sue Jordanian, Mauritanian and US officials over his torture.
Habeas corpus proceedings
In Rasul v. Bush (2004, the US Supreme Court ruled that detainees at Guantanamo Bay detention camp had the right of habeas corpus to challenge their detention. Slahi had habeas corpus petitions submitted on his behalf. In response, the Department of Defense published 27 pages of unclassified documents from his CSRT on July 14, 2005.
The Military Commissions Act of 2006 mandated that Guantánamo detainees were no longer entitled access to the US Federal court system, so all pending habeas petitions were stayed.
In June 2008, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that the MCA of 2006 could not remove detainees' right to habeas corpus and to access to the Federal courts. All previous habeas petitions were eligible to be re-instated.
On July 16, 2008, Sylvia Royce filed a status report on the progress of Slahi's previous petitions. Slahi's habeas petition had been dismissed on April 5, 2007 and a motion to reinstate was filed on June 23, 2008.
Before submitting briefs in the habeas case, the U.S. government dropped its previous allegations that Slahi had participated in the Millennium Plot and that he knew about the 9/11 attacks before they happened.
After review of the case, US District Court Judge James Robertson granted the writ of habeas corpus and ordered Slahi's release on March 22, 2010. Robertson's ruling was criticized by several GOP politicians. Slahi was the 34th detainee whose release was ordered by a federal district court judge reviewing government materials associated with his habeas petition. The unclassified decision was filed on April 9, 2010.
Referring to the government's claim that Slahi gave "purposeful and material support" to al Qaeda, Judge Robertson wrote:
"Salahi may very well have been an al-Qaida sympathizer, and the evidence does show that he provided some support to al-Qaida, or to people he knew to be al-Qaida. Such support was sporadic, however, and, at the time of his capture, non-existent. In any event, what the standard approved in Al-Bihani actually covers is "those who purposefully and materially supported such forces in hostilities against U.S. Coalition partners." 530 F.3d at 872 (emphasis added). The evidence in this record cannot possibly be stretched far enough to fit that test.
Judge Robertson addressed the other government claim, that Slahi was "part of" al Qaeda at the time of his capture. He said the law was not as clear in this instance,
"neither Al-Bihani nor any other case provides a brightline test for determining who was and who was not 'part of' al-Qaida at the time of capture. The decision, in other words, depends on the sufficiency of the evidence." In regard to Slahi's case, Judge Robertson wrote, "The question of when a detainee must have been a 'part of' al-Qaida to be detainable is at the center of this case, because it is clear that Salahi was at one point a sworn al-Qaida member."
Judge Robertson discusses other factors in his decision, including which side had the burden of proof and considering the reliability of coerced or hearsay testimony.(pp. 7–12) In conclusion, Judge Robertson stated:
- The government had to adduce evidence - which is different from intelligence - showing that it was more likely than not that Salahi was "part of" al-Qaida. To do so, it had to show that the support Salahi undoubtedly did provide from time to time was provided within al-Qaida's command structure. The government has not done so. (p. 31)
The Department of Justice appealed the decision. Oral arguments were heard on September 17, 2010 by a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In oral arguments, Judge David Tatel questioned whether swearing bayat in 1991 is evidence of actions a decade and more later against the United States. He noted, "When he swore bayat, the United States and al-Qaida had a common goal. Both the United States and al-Qaida were opposing a communist government of Afghanistan."
The panel discussed sending the case back to the District Court or over-ruling the decision, based on other recent D.C. Circuit rulings on the criteria that justify detention. On November 5, 2010, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the decision and remanded the case to the D.C. District Court for further factual findings.
Appeal for the release of evidence through the Canadian Justice System
Mohamedou Slahi and Ahcene Zemiri appealed through the Canadian Justice system for the release of classified documents about them, as both were former Canadian residents. Both men had been interviewed by Canadian security officials before leaving Canada for Afghanistan. Their lawyers argued that the notes from the Canadian interviews would have been relied on by the United States when its agents built their own dossiers against the two men. The attorneys requested the Canadian evidence in order to make the case for the men's freedom in the US justice system.
Justice Edmond Blanchard ruled that since the men were not Canadian citizens and their connection to Canada was "tenuous", the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms did not apply to them. Slahi is married to a Canadian, and had once been granted permanent residence status in Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada had ruled that the Canadian government should publish classified documents which the Americans had shared about the Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, who was returned to Canada in 2012.
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