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Ex-Guantanamo detainee sues Canada over 14-year imprisonment and torture

April 26, 2022 at 3:45 pm

Former Guantanamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi in Nouakchott on October 22, 2016 [STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images]

A former detainee of Guantanamo Bay is taking legal action against the Canadian government for its alleged role in the series of events that led up to his 14 years of imprisonment, during which time he was tortured.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian who lived in Montreal for less than two months, filed a $35-million lawsuit alleging that faulty intelligence provided by Canadian authorities contributed to his detention at the US offshore military prison, where he said he suffered fierce beatings, sleep deprivation and sexual assault.

A statement filed on behalf of Slahi, 51, in the Federal Court of Canada on Friday, argues that Canadian authorities took actions that “caused, contributed to and prolonged his detention, torture, assault and sexual assault at Guantanamo Bay.”

“Canadian authorities took statements made by Slahi out of context, then presented them to American authorities as definitive proof of wrongdoing, despite their knowledge (or reckless disregard or wilful blindness) that Slahi risked being mistreated as a result,” the court filing states.

Built on a small area of Cuba that America has leased as a naval base since 1903, the prison site was chosen deliberately for being outside US territory and, therefore, not subject to US laws. Established to hold suspects following the 11 September 2001 attacks, the offshore prison came to symbolise the excesses of the US “war on terror” due to the harsh interrogation methods that critics say amounted to torture.

“Canadians need to understand this is a Canadian story,” Slahi told The Canadian Press. “Without Canada I’d never have been kidnapped. Without Canada I’d never have been tortured.”

READ: US repatriates Guantanamo detainee to Algeria after almost 20 years

“Slahi’s detention and maltreatment were prolonged because the receipt and use of forced confessions by Canadian authorities validated the continued torture and detention,” his lawyers said in the complaint.

Released from Guantanamo in 2016, Slahi is currently working as a writer in a Dutch theatre, Noord Nederlands Toneel, after moving there from his homeland in Western Africa in December.

The Hollywood film, “The Mauritanian”, shot last year, was based on one of his books he had written during his time at Guantanamo, which has been nominated for five Baftas.

Director, Kevin Macdonald, tells the story of Slahi’s arrest outside his family home in Mauritania in November 2002, his imprisonment in Guantanamo without trial, and the dogged work of his defence lawyer.

US President Joe Biden stressed during his vice presidency under Barack Obama, and during the 2020 presidential race, that Guantanamo should be closed. However, since taking office, Biden has released only one Guantanamo detainee.

With that release, the number of detainees in Guantanamo fell to 39 but there are still questions about Biden’s ability to close the notorious prison.