Clinic Students Aid Former Guantanamo Bay Detainee

In early April, a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court against several U.S. officials, including U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, on behalf of Adel Hamad of Sudan for damages sustained when he was unlawfully seized from his apartment and illegally detained for more than five years at Guantanamo Bay.

The lawsuit alleges that Hamad was subjected to forced disappearance, prolonged arbitrary detention and torture, as well as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment at the hands of certain U.S. officials, all in violation of international law. The lawsuit also alleges, based on a declaration by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (Ret.), a former high-ranking official, that certain U.S. officials knew that they had seized and were holding innocent men at Guantanamo Bay, and that they simply refused to release them out of fear of political repercussions. The lawsuit alleges that Hamad, a humanitarian aid worker, was one of these innocent men.

Hamad was under the control of U.S. officials when he was taken from his apartment in the middle of the night in Pakistan. He was held at Bagram, a U.S. air base located in Afghanistan, before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay. In both locations, he endured shocking and deplorable treatment. His repeated claims of innocence fell on deaf ears.

In 2005, Guantanamo Bay officials determined that Hamad should be released back to the Sudan, but they did not inform him or his counsel for nearly two years after the decision was made. In December 2007, Hamad was released from Guantanamo Bay back to the Sudan, where he currently resides. In total, he was held for more than five years before being released. 

A Guantanamo Bay military official who participated in the Combatant Status Review Tribunal that reviewed Hamad's case stated: "Even assuming all the allegations [in an exhibit proffered by the government] are accurate, the detainee does not meet the definition of an enemy combatant. To reach such a conclusion would provide for unconscionable results."

Following Hamad's imprisonment, his family fell into poverty, and his youngest daughter died because the family did not have the money to get her medical treatment. Today, Hamad continues to suffer from physical and emotional injuries. He also has had difficulty finding a job because his reputation has been ruined.

"The fate of Hamad demonstrates the necessity of having adequate due process procedures in place so that innocent people are not taken from their families and unlawfully held in prison for years without being allowed to contest adequately what is happening to them," said Clinical Law Professor Gwynne Skinner, who supervises the International Human Rights Clinic at Willamette University College of Law. Skinner serves as Hamad's counsel and is supervising Clinic students' work on the case.

"Hamad deserves justice," she concluded. "The Clinical Law Program students are committed to helping him find that justice."