Vienna, 11 October 2012
Dear Supporters of the “Copy-Shop Project”!
With this letter we would like to inform you about the recent developments of our copy-shop project in support of Mustafa Ait Idir and Hadj Bouldella and to express again our sincere gratitude for your generous support.
During a recent trip to Sarajevo, Wolfgang Petritsch and Roland Schmidt (Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights) had the opportunity to visit the copy-shop and obtained a first hand impression of the project’s progress.
Together with Mustafa and Hadj we are as delighted as excited about the recent opening of the copy-shop. In recognition of your courage to support the project, Mustafa and Hadj have named their shop ‘Respekt’. In close vicinity to the same Bosnian court which cleared both men in 2002 from allegations of terrorism, only for them to be captured in violation of basic human rights standards by US troops a few hours later, Mustafa and Hadj now open their doors every day from 08:00 hrs to 18:00 hrs. Inside, the shop is equipped with copy-machines, pen-plotters, computers and other devices which have been bought thanks to your contributions.
During our visit we got a promising impression of how students with their course materials, architects with their plans, and even participants of a demonstration for the rights of persons displaced during the war with their flyers came to the ‘Respekt’ copy-shop in order to get their documents copied. But the shop’s offer is not limited to merely producing copies: business cards, leaflets, T-Shirts and even cups are printed by Mustafa and Hadj. In cooperation with another copy-shop stamps are made to order.
While the first entrepreneurial steps have been positive and encouraging, Mustafa and Hadj are well aware of the challenges which the successful management of a business entails. Both work hard in order to expand their range of customers and to ensure that their start-up not only covers its costs but also generates a profit as soon as possible.
At the same time, during our visit it became once again obvious that the copy-shop is more than just a mere business enterprise to Mustafa and Hadj. The shop is also a symbolic as well as public acknowledgement of the suffering and injustice they had to endure while being arbitrarily detained in Guantanamo for seven years. To this day, the US Government has refused to extend such an acknowledgement. President Obama’s first term in office draws to an end and despite all early announcements to close the detention camp more than 160 persons are still detained today.
Among those detainees is also Besayah Belkacem who was arrested together with Mustafa and Hadj in Sarajevo in 2001. For many years now, Wolfgang Petritsch has been trying, together with those American lawyers who successfully litigated the release of Mustafa and Hadj in front of the US Supreme Court, to find a solution also for his case. Unfortunately, these efforts have been so far in vain. What would be needed to bring an end to Besayah’s detention after 10 years is a state which is willing to facilitate his resettlement and offers him a new home. Despite some laudable forerunners (e.g. France) who have received former Guantanamo detainees in similar circumstance, to this day no Government demonstrated this courage and put humanitarian values above short-term political tactics. Unfortunately, also in Austria related requests received nothing but rejection.
From the initiation of the ‘Copy-Shop project’, the first related conversations between Mustafa Ait Idir and Wolfgang Petritsch, via the project elaboration by Manfred Nowak and the Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights, the fundraising through the crowd-sourcing platform Respekt.net, to the recent opening of the copy-shop, it has been a long way. The fact that Mustafa and Hadj have today their own copy-shop is the result of a joint effort, which required optimism and resilience by everybody involved. Particularly we would like to emphasize the kind support we received by the World University Service (WUS) under the leadership of Wolfgang Benedek and Adi Kovacevic. It was WUS’s office in Sarajevo which allowed for a local supervision and constituted a crucial link in the project’s overall implementation.
Above all, however, the copy shop would not have been possible without your believe and trust in this project and the generous donations provided by you. For this, we would like to express our sincere gratitude – also on behalf of Mustafa Ait Idir, Hadj Boudella and their families.
Please find below a few photos from the copy-shop as well as audio-clips which the Austrian radio station ORF/FM4 has produced on the occasion of our visit to Sarajevo.
With kind regards,
Wolfgang Petritsch Manfred Nowak Roland Schmidt
it is with great joy that I can inform you that we made it.
But this was evidently only the first step, and until Mustafa will be able to open his copy shop some further work will be necessary. Together with Ambassador Petritsch and Prof. Nowak we had already our first meeting to coordinate the next steps (purchase of the copy machines, rental contract for office…) in order to ensure that Mustafa can open his business as soon as possible. Once we are there, be assured that we’ll post some photos.
Again, many many thanks. http://youtu.be/hTlrSYbCbHE
On behalf of the “copy shop project”,
If you would like to support Mustafa’s copy shop project and are not based in Austria – you can now transfer your contribution via:
Name of Recipient: Respekt.net – Betriebsgesellschaft m.b.H.
Address: Alserstraße 21/11, A-1080 Vienna, Austria
Bank: Raiffeisenlandesbank NÖ/Wien
Address: F.-W.-Raiffeisen-Platz 1, A-1020 Vienna
Bank Account Number: 111043536
Important – please state “Project number 168” as the purpose of your transfer. This will ensure that the crowd sourcing platform Respekt.net correctly categorizes your donation.
Note – Since Respekt.net is a crowd sourcing platform and subject to the regulations of Austrian financial oversight authorities it is required to be transparent on who contributed to each project. Your name will therefore be visible on Respekt.net’s website. See e.g. here on the right side.
In case you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Roland.Schmidt@univie.ac.at
For almost seven years, Mustafa Ait Idir, a citizen of Bosnia, was detained in Guantánamo until the US authorities eventually dropped all allegations against him in 2008. To this day, he has not received any compensation or other form of redress for the suffering he experienced.
On the contrary. Since his release, Mr. Ait Idir has been confronted with the stigma of being a former Guantánamo detainee which hampers his efforts to start his life again. In addition to the physical and psychological consequences of his detention he is now also faced with economic challenges since he has not been able to find any new employment. The Austrian diplomat Wolfgang Petritsch and human rights expert Manfred Nowak, both have been working in high-ranking functions in Bosnia, are now initiating a project with the intention to rectify this shortcoming. By raising small contributions via the crowd sourcing internet platform http://www.respekt.net it is hoped to get the start-up capital for a copy shop in Sarajevo. The small business will provide a stable source of income for Mr. Ait Idir, a computer graphics expert by training, his wife and four children and with this some hope and perspective for the future. With small contributions from as many people as possible, the engagement of civil society shall prevail where democratic states failed to live up to their fundamental rights and humanitarian obligations and left the victims of severe human rights violations alone.
Centre for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas: Report on Torture, Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment of Prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. (Ait Idir)Posted: July 9, 2011
In July 2006, The New York Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) published its Report on Torture, Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment of Prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. This report is based on accounts drawn directly from habeas counsels’ unclassified notes reflecting prisoner statements made to counsel during in-person interviews conducted at Guantánamo beginning in the fall of 2004. Some information for that report was taken also from public sources compiled in Cecili Thompson Williams & Kristine A. Huskey, Detention, Interrogation, and Torture at Guantánamo Bay: Materials and Case Files, a report published by the law firm of Shearman and Sterling LLP in October 2005. The testimony by or about Mr. Mustafa Ait Idr in the CCR report can be found below.
(CCR7) Mustafa Ait Idir asked to speak with an officer after guards refused to turn down fans that were making prisoners cold. He was alone in his cell at about 2 p.m. when guards entered, saying they wanted to search his cell. He sat on the floor as he was instructed, and his hands were secured behind him. Suddenly guards grabbed him and picked him up. They began to curse him and to say horrible things to him and about him and his family. The bunk in that cell was on a 3-foot high steel shelf. The guards banged his body and his head into the steel bunk. The bunk and cell appear to be of a single piece or welded construction – much like a tub and wall unit – but made of steel. The guards then threw him on the floor and continued to pound him and bang his head and body on the floor. The guards then picked him up and banged his head on the foot stirrups of the toilet unit in his cell. Mustafa described the toilet as like a Turkish toilet – with a hole beneath it and a sturdy place to place one’s feet and from which to squat. They banged his head onto the foot holding apparatus. He was taken to solitary confinement after that beating. Officers visited him twice that night to examine the bruises covering much of his upper body (Center for Constitutional Rights 2006, 6).
(CCR8) Mustafa Ait Idir was kept in isolation for two months, during which time the lights were either kept at maximum intensity, even during the night, or (occasionally and briefly) turned off completely (Center for Constitutional Rights 2006, 17).
(CCR9) Mustafa Ait Idir was left shackled in a room with the air conditioning on very high for 5 or 6 hours, exacerbating a kidney ailment he was known to have. He was then placed in a solid steel isolation cell (“very cold”), and his sleeping pad was taken away because he refused to cooperate with interrogators (Center for Constitutional Rights 2006, 17).
(CCR10) Mustafa Ait Idir sat down on the floor when guards, angry because he had asked to see an officer, told him to; the vindictive guards tied his hands behind his back, picked him up and banged his body and head into the side of his steel bunk. They threw him down and pounded his head into the floor (Center for Constitutional Rights 2006, 20).
(CCR11) Mr. Ait Idir observed that medical personnel also have played a role in discipline. If the guards claimed a prisoner had misbehaved, regardless of whether the allegation of misbehavior was true, a medical staff member would “determine” that the prisoner had “mental problems.” After such a determination was made, everything, except underwear and the Qur’an, was removed from the cell as a way of punishing the prisoner (Center for Constitutional Rights 2006, 24).
(CCR12) In the early days of Camp X-Ray, soldiers repeatedly threw copies of the Qur’an on the ground.192 Mr. Ait Idir witnessed a guard throw a Qur’an on the ground and place underwear on top of it, and he saw a supervisor order a soldier to search the Qur’an, even after the soldier said that he was not supposed to touch it (Center for Constitutional Rights 2006, 25).
(CCR13) Mr. Ait Idir’s resistance during the episode of religious-physical abuse described above led to a further, unprovoked attack, which ultimately resulted in partial facial paralysis and a life-long disability. One day shortly after the pantsrelated beating, guards told him they wanted to search his cell. There had been no intervening disciplinary issues. He sat on the floor as instructed. Despite his full cooperation, he was sprayed in the face with chemical irritant, and put into restraints. Guards then slammed him head first into the cell floor, lowered him, face-first into the toilet and flushed the toilet – submerging his head. He was then carried outside and thrown onto the crushed stones that surround the cells. While he was down on the ground, his assailants stuffed a hose in his mouth and forced water down his throat. Then a soldier jumped on the left side of his head with full weight, forcing stones to cut into Mr. Ait Idir’s face near his eye. The guards twisted his middle finger and thumb on his right hand back almost to the point of breaking them. The knuckles were dislocated. As a result of this incident, the left side of Mr. Ait Idir’s face became paralyzed for several months. The symptoms from that attack continue to plague him two years later (Center for Constitutional Rights 2006, 27f).
(CCR14) Knowing that Arab men are required to be clothed while praying, military police ordered all 48 prisoners in Romeo Block to give up their pants. Mr. Ait Idir told the guards that, as a Muslim, he would be unable to pray without his pants on, and so he begged them not to force him to undress. He offered them his shoes only. The guards threatened to use force. A colonel – with a flower on his hat– spoke with him and demanded the pants. The officer told him the IRF would forcibly take the pants. The Colonel would make no accommodation to allow Mustafa to pray in his pants. Mr. Ait Idir offered to give up the pants if the officer promised to return them for prayers. The officer said the pants would not be returned for prayers. When the officer left to summon the IRF, Mr. Ait Idir feared the soldiers would leave him naked. He tore off a portion of his pants and left it in a corner of his cell. He also put on his short pants underneath so he would not be left naked if they took his pants. As threatened, the IRF came. Before entering, they sprayed tear gas into his cell. He shielded his face behind his sleeping pad. After the spraying stopped, the IRF – in full protective gear – charged into the cell. He struck defensively at the first soldier – who carried a shield. Mr. Ait Idir, a former demonstration team Karate champion, knocked the soldier back, and all 5 IRF members retreated. The colonel returned and again demanded the pants. Mr. Ait Idir pleaded that he could not give up his pants or he could not pray. A few minutes later the IRF resumed tear gas spraying. By then many internees near him . . . were yelling, encouraging him to surrender his pants so he would not be injured. The IRF charged into his cell again. Mr. Ait Idir again assumed a defensive posture and managed to drive them out of his cell. The officer again approached and asked Mustafa to surrender his pants. Other internees were by then pleading with him to give up his pants. Mr. Ait Idir again offered his pants, if he could have them back when he needed them to pray. He was told the pants would be taken away and he would not get them back to pray. The third spray event was much more prolonged and intense than the first two. His cage was so filled with spray that he could not see. When the IRF entered, Mr. Ait Idir again defended his pants. He knocked the first IRF enforcer to the side. By then, a second IRF enforcer was in the cell. He and Mr. Ait Idir were wrestling with each other. The second IRF enforcer grabbed Mr. Ait Idir’s legs and wrapped them in a tight hug, trying to knock him over. Mr. Ait Idir struggled to knock the enforcer away. His eyes were blurry and stinging from the spray. The lead IRF enforcer ran back from the wall and grabbed Mr. Ait Idir’s testicles and squeezed. Mr. Ait Idir was in intense pain. He feared he would be crippled and lay down in a fetal position. The IRF enforcers jumped on him. The first team member landed on his back while he was face down; the second did the same. Both landed on their padded knees. Mr. Ait Idir’s hands now were behind his back, secured in restraints by the IRF enforcers. While the two enforcers pinned him down – after he had stopped resisting and his hands were tied, and after he was fully in their control, one of the guards slowly bent his fingers back until one of them broke. The pain was excruciating, but he was afraid that if he screamed the IRF would react by injuring him further. He was not given medical treatment for his fingers despite many requests and the clear deformity of his hand […] Mr. Ait Idir’s GTMO medical records confirm that his finger was broken. The records fail to reflect that it was the IRF that broke his finger. Lakhdar Boumediene also witnessed Mustafa Ait Idir’s finger being bent back (Center for Constitutional Rights 2006, 26f, 48).
Robert Kirsch (2004) Unclassified Attorney Notes Regarding Mustafa Ait Idir.
Carol D. Leonnig “Further Detainee Abuse Alleged”. Washington Post, December 26, 2004, page A1.
Stephen Oleskey (2005) Unclassified Attorney Notes Regarding Lakhdar Boumediene.
FOIA Documents 4622-24, http://www.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/FBI_4622_4624.pdf (last visited June 15, 2006) (describing a similar incident in which a female interrogator bent back prisoner’s thumbs).