I didn't want to make a big, grand speech. I am just deeply hurt," a mother
said after talking about her son detained in Guantánamo Bay. As they did
yesterday at the conference hosted by Amnesty International and Reprieve,
family members expressed the difficulties and desperation of not knowing if
their loved one is being tortured and whether they will ever see them again.
One US research group estimates there to be some eight to 15 secret
detention sites throughout the world in at least eight countries. It's
believed that detainees are being moved from site to site to evade public
knowledge and scrutiny and that foreign intelligence agents are being used
to extract information, usually through torture and ill-treatment.
Prolonged incommunicado detention can amount to torture. A Canadian, picked
up in a US Airport, sent to Jordan and then to Syria, agreed -- the 10
months and 10 days he was held alone in a dark cell 0.9 meters long by 1.8
meters deep by 2.1 meters high was torture, as were the beatings he received
When people are held in secret detention and the authorities refuse to
disclose their fate or whereabouts, they are described as having been
disappeared". Such "disappearances" often go hand-in-hand with torture and
Family members of people who have been "disappeared" are themselves being
ill-treated when deliberately deprived of any information and are desperate
for news. But as a panelist noted, "while the government practice of
disappearances' may erase someone from society for a time, the memory of the
person cannot be erased. This memory is what spurs family, friends,
activists to search for them, no matter what. Eventually, the truth comes
The conference discussed the medical impact and effects of torture. One
medical expert described torture as "killing a person without them dying".
Juvenile detentions, problems with the repatriation of formers detainees, as
well as litigation strategies and the role of the UN in defense of
individuals' rights were addressed by ex-detainees, family members, lawyers
and other activists.
Despite the immense challenges, participants are making new contacts,
sharing ideas and strategies and exploring new approaches to combating
The conference day ended on a rousing note with an impromptu rap performed by an ex-detainee released earlier this year after more than two and a half years in Guantánamo Bay.