Summary and Current Status
On Wednesday, December 9, 2009, engineer Fouad al-Rabiah was released from U.S. custody and returned to his native Kuwait. A 50-year-old father of four, he had been held at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for almost exactly eight years. U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly granted Mr. al-Rabiah’s habeas corpus petition and ordered him released “forthwith.” In a strongly-worded decision she found that aggressive interrogation tactics were used to extract confessions the government knew were false. His release came 83 days after it had been ordered.
At the time of his capture in 2001, Mr. al-Rabiah had been an engineer and manager at Kuwait Airways for 20 years. He also had an established history of traveling to poor and war-torn countries to engage in international relief work. In October 2001 he took 10 days leave from Kuwait Airlines and traveled to Afghanistan to coordinate the delivery of aid supplies from Iran to refugees on the Afghan-Iraqi border and to hospitals in Kandahar. On October 17 he wrote to his family to let them know that he was having trouble leaving Afghanistan because the border with Iran, from where he had entered Afghanistan, had been closed. He told them that he would try to leave Afghanistan through the Tora Bora Mountains and cross into Pakistan from there and asked that they notify Kuwait Airways that his return would be delayed. Several weeks later he was captured in Afghanistan by members of the Northern Alliance and turned over to U.S. forces for a bounty. After being held in a Pakistani prison for a short time, he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he subsequently was charged by a military commission with conspiracy and providing material support to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. As Judge Kollar-Kotelly states in her ruling, the U.S. government had no case for detaining Mr. al-Rabiah. “Far from providing the Court with credible and reliable evidence as the basis for al-Rabiah’s continuous detention, the Government asks the Court to simply accept the same confessions that the Government’s own interrogators did not credit. . . If there exists a basis for al-Rabiah’s indefinite detention, it most certainly has not been presented to this Court,” she said.
One of Mr. al-Rabiah’s pro bono U.S. attorneys, David Cynamon, made the following statement on behalf of the legal team that worked hard to secure his release:
We are pleased that the U.S. Government has at long last complied with the court order to return Mr. al-Rabiah to Kuwait. The court’s opinion in his case is proof that his release is long overdue. Mr. al-Rabiah is an innocent man. His complete innocence is clearly demonstrated in the trial court’s decision, which the U.S. Government did not attempt to appeal. In fact, at the very outset of Mr. al-Rabiah’s confinement, the United States’ own expert intelligence analyst concluded Mr. al-Rabiah was an innocent man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nonetheless, this innocent citizen of one of the United States best allies was wrongfully imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for almost eight years, during which he was tortured, abused, and coerced into making false confessions. We call upon President Obama to provide both a formal apology on behalf of the United States and appropriate compensation for Mr. al-Rabiah’s ordeal. Mr. al-Rabiah can never reclaim the eight years he lost at Guantanamo Bay—and the United States must not simply turn and forget.
In accordance with requests by the Bush administration, Kuwait completed a state of the art rehabilitation center modeled after a successful program in Saudi Arabia. The new facility is to provide Mr. al-Rabiah and other detainees returning from Guantanamo with access to education, medical care, group discussions, etc. to help them recover from their lengthy ordeal in U.S. custody.
The CHR thanks its correspondents who sent letters to the U.S. authorities appealing for Mr. al-Rabiah’s release in response to the committee’s November 13, 2009, Action Alert. Pressure from U.S. citizens and the international community played an important role in bringing the attention of the U.S. government to his case.