Stuck in detention camp, year after year, I often wonder if I will ever get my “day in court”. Not as a defendant – I have never been charged with a crime – but as a claimant seeking redress for the torture and mistreatment I have suffered at the hands of the US and its allies.
Today my lawyers are at least at the international criminal court (ICC) in the Hague. The ICC’s prosecutor wants to investigate crimes against humanity committed during the Afghan war. In April, ICC judges decided an investigation would “not serve the interests of justice”. This came after the US revoked the prosecutor’s visa.
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This week’s hearing is a chance to appeal against April’s decision. Many people want to keep their names confidential. I have waived anonymity as I am willing to stand up against the world’s most powerful people and demand justice. I only ask that the ICC does the same.
The ICC said in April that it would not proceed, partly because any prosecution would be unsuccessful because the United States, and the Taliban would not cooperate. In reality, it looks like the court succumbed to US pressure: the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said the decision to refuse visas to the prosecutor and other ICC staff was “part of the [US’s] continued effort to convince [the court] to change course”. John Bolton even threatened “sanctions”.
I have trodden a very long road in search of justice since I was taken from my wife and my infant son in Karachi in 2002 by Pakistan’s intelligence service. I was tortured by the Pakistanis, who tried to get me to “admit” that I was Hassan Ghul, a notorious member of al-Qaida. Naturally, I refused.
When I was sold to the US for a bounty, I thought the situation would change. I told my American interrogators the truth: I was a taxi driver, a victim of mistaken identity. I expected justice immediately. Instead they sent me to a notorious CIA black site in Kabul where I was tortured for over 540 days and nights. Their methods included and sleep deprivation.
When I was eventually moved in 2004 to the US prison at Bagram airbase, in Afghanistan, the Red Cross was allowed to visit, and I thought again it might be time for everyone to accept that a big mistake had been made. Instead all I got was months more abuse, followed by a one-way ticket, in shackles, to Guantánamo Bay.
I held out more hope for the inquest conducted by the US Senate, which began in 2009. Surely, I thought, since they were investigating the CIA torture programme, they would learn what had happened to me, and then I would be released. No such luck. Although I appear many times in the executive summary of the report, I remain imprisoned. The inquest is now the basis of a movie starring Adam Driver. Back home in Karachi, my son is 18 years old.
President Trump wants to keep Guantánamo Bay open. He also recently pardoned two US soldiers who killed Afghans, seemingly against the wishes of his generals. We clearly cannot expect justice from him.
My lawyers tell me there is a section of the ICC website titled “defendants at large”, which includes militia members, politicians and terrorists. The names of the people who tormented me should be added to that list. Perhaps Trump himself should be included, since his administration has been “perverting the course of justice” by interfering. It would be an affront to justice were the ICC to bow to his wishes.
• Ahmed Rabbani is a taxi driver from Karachi who has been held in Guantánamo Bay detention camp since 2004. He has never been charged with a crime