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WITNESSES OF THE UNSEEN by Lakhdar Boumediene


Seven Years in Guantánamo

by Lakhdar Boumediene & Mustafa Ait Idir with Daniel Hartnett Norland & Jeffrey Rose & Kathleen List

Pub Date: April 5th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-5036-0115-4
Publisher: Redwood Press/Stanford Univ.

Two former detainees of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp come forward with their stories after being declared innocent and freed.

After seven years in prison with no charges, Boumediene and Idir finally won the right to challenge their imprisonment in court, and they won. While they were never able to see the classified evidence against them, their lawyers successfully argued that their imprisonment was unconstitutional. In 2001, the two men had been arrested in Bosnia on suspicion of bombing the American Embassy; as they were released, American soldiers, with the permission of the Bosnian government, seized the men and took them to Cuba. This no-frills account of their time in Guantánamo is disturbing, as the authors detail their mistreatment at the hands of prison guards and interrogators and how they were held in outdoor cages as the prison was built around them. Readers will be shocked by the lack of evidence against the men and how the tenuous ties among a group of casual friends fueled the government’s crusade against them. The narrative follows both men in turn, giving each the chance to recount his own unique experience. Kept mostly in separate areas of the detention center, they crossed paths occasionally; throughout, their different accounts of the same events don’t feel repetitive. Other than an introduction and some additional material about the authors’ cases, the book is entirely made up of the words of Boumediene and Idir, translated in interviews with Norland and List. The prose is straightforward, which is appropriate given the raw power of the story. Through hunger strikes, forced feedings, isolation cells, and countless other tribulations, the authors stayed strong, and their faith in themselves and their families kept them going.

An intense, important read for anyone interested in the American government’s misguided efforts at Guantánamo.