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Guantánamo – Norway and the West's shame

Serious war crimes have been committed against the prisoners at Guantánamo while Norwegian politicians and military have been silent – and thus are co-responsible.

Last week in August, a select group of journalists were escorted into a conference room in the Pentagon. There they had the opportunity to watch a live video transmission from Guantánamo. Inside an anonymous room, some sort of jury would discuss whether the prisoner Abu Zubaydah could be released. Apart from American torturers, interrogators, soldiers and prisoners' lawyers, he has not been seen by anyone in nearly 15 years.

It was a lonely experience for the journalists. An officer read a written statement from the prisoner. In it, Zubaydah wanted to be released to return to his family. "He has no desire or intent to harm the United States or any other country," the officer read. Then the video transmission was turned off. The shoot lasted for ten minutes.

Zubaydah from Saudi Arabia is a terrible example of the Guantánamo shame, which peace prize winner Barack Obama promised to close eight years ago. Zubaydah was caught in 2002. Seriously injured, he was transported to a torture center set up by the CIA in Thailand. There he was tortured through 22 days and nights. He became the trial rabbit for the CIA's new torture methods. His lawyers have been telling the story for many years. But war crimes were only confirmed in 2014 when the 6000-long CIA report on torture was sent to the US Congress.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-13-36-46A smaller part of the report was published. It says what Zubaydah was exposed to. He had to undergo simulated drowning (waterboarding) 83 times. He was beaten up and locked inside a small box filled with insects for 11 days. He was not allowed to sleep, he was dressed naked, he was subjected to frost torture and sound torture. After a while, it rubbed off on the man, who "confessed" and lied to everything he thought would make it possible to release more torture. Everything was recorded on 90 videotape. The CIA has deleted the footage. No one is responsible for the crimes. Zubaydah's lawyers believe he is still locked in on Guantánamo because the United States does not want the world to hear the torture stories from the prisoner's own mouth.

He was subjected to simulated drowning 83 times. He was beaten up and locked inside a small box filled with insects for 11 days.

"When Zubaydah was arrested, it was alleged that he was behind the bombing of US embassies, and that he had planned terrorist attacks in the United States. None of this has been documented and proven. The prisoner, who has now spent a third of his life on Guantánamo, has also never been charged with such crimes.

Norway's support. The torture against Zubaydah and many other prisoners in Guantánamo was planned and carried out by the regime of President George W. Bush. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld personally approved the torture. This is not only the shame of the United States, but also of Norway. In April 2002, Defense Secretary Kristin Krohn Devold was visiting his colleague Donald Rumsfeld in the Pentagon. It was only four months since the US, Norway and other countries had attacked Afghanistan. At a press conference, Krohn Devold was smiling at Rumsfeld's side. She stated that the "main purpose" of the visit was "to express the great support Norway gives ... to the fight against terror". At the same press conference, Rumsfeld boasted that the United States had just captured Abu Zubaydah, who he said was one of the top executives in Al Qaeda. Krohn Devold's good friend had little reason to brag.

In June 2005, the same Rumsfeld was received by Krohn Devold at Sola Airport outside Stavanger. Krohn Devold has stated that Rumsfeld is "sparklingly intelligent and interesting". It was noticed that Krohn Devold, wearing a costume, almost flung himself around the war criminal and torturer. When Rumsfeld came to Norway, it was known to the world that the United States had tortured prisoners in a number of countries. Several of the Guantánamo prisoners had been released the year before, and many had told their stories. None of this was on the agenda in the talks between Rumsfeld and Krohn Devold.

Silence. In the Storting in 2005, Foreign Minister Jan Petersen was asked if he had any knowledge of the US secret prisons. The injustice of Guantánamo was well known. Several human rights organizations had long focused on the "black places" of the United States, high above international law and law. Petersen replied: "I am aware that there have been allegations in the media of US initiatives to establish prisons for terror suspects outside US territory. Investigations ... we have done ... cannot confirm the information that establishing such prisons is part of American politics. "

Kjell Inge Røkka's machines were involved in the construction of the notorious tiger cages.

779 prisoners came to Guantánamo. Most of them got there in 2002, and have turned out to be completely innocent. Many of the prisoners were designated by poor people who received "torture showers" by the CIA. This applies to Norway because most of the prisoners who came to Guantánamo were captured during the Afghanistan war, in which Norway participated from the very beginning. This also applies to Norway because Kjell Inge Røkka's company, Kvaerner, had 600 employees at Guantánamo up to 2006. Smoke's machines were involved in the construction of the notorious tiger cages. The company's men renovated the cells, built the training lanes for the torture dogs and filled the CIA's secret prisoner with fuel. The contracts signed by Kvaerner mentioned that these operations were to support the United States' international fight against terrorism. Kvaerner and Røkke have refused to submit the contracts that can tell the whole truth about what they were involved in. Kvaerner's former top executives at Guantánamo have been forced to sign contracts of silence about what they were doing there.

Children. Only five of the Guantánamo prisoners are convicted of anything. Nine prisoners have ended their lives inside the base. At least 22 prisoners were children when they were brought there. When Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik was invited to visit George W. Bush in 2003, Save the Children asked him to address the plight of the children on Guantánamo. He chose not to. Leading Norwegian politicians and Norwegian military leaders have been silent about what has happened.

61 prisoners are still on Guantánamo after 15 prisoners were just released and sent to Saudi Arabia.

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Erling Borgen
Journalist and documentary filmmaker.

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