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April 09, 2006

ANDREW SULLIVAN links this story from The Guardian on how prisoners released from Guantanamo thought it was pretty nice. Excerpt:

On January 29, Asadullah and two other juvenile prisoners were returned home to Afghanistan. The three boys are not sure of their ages. But, according to the estimate of the Red Cross, Asadullah is the youngest, aged 12 at the time of his arrest. The second youngest, Naqibullah, was arrested with him, aged perhaps 13, while the third boy, Mohammed Ismail, was a child at the time of his separate arrest, but probably isn't now.

Tracked down to his remote village in south-eastern Afghanistan, Naqibullah has memories of Guantanamo that are almost identical to Asadullah's. Prison life was good, he said shyly, nervous to be receiving a foreigner to his family's mud-fortress home.

The food in the camp was delicious, the teaching was excellent, and his warders were kind. "Americans are good people, they were always friendly, I don't have anything against them," he said. "If my father didn't need me, I would want to live in America."

It's a good story. It's also from March of 2004 (here's my post from back then), which is why I've been rather skeptical, in the interim, of accounts that Guantanamo was some sort of torture-house. Yes, these are juveniles, not adults -- but for those who have been portraying the entire enterprise as depraved and vicious, it's hardly support, is it? And this other oldie but goodie -- about released prisoners having gained weight in the facility, from Slate -- isn't about juveniles.

Then there's this, from an OSCE official: "'At the level of the detention facilities, it is a model prison, where people are better treated than in Belgian prisons,' said Alain Grignard, the deputy head of Brussels' federal police anti-terrorism unit. Grignard, who is also a professor of Islam at the University of Liege, served as an expert to a group of lawmakers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on a visit to Guantanamo Bay last week."

That's from March of this year. Didn't get much attention, though. Maybe by March of 2008. Meanwhile, perhaps human rights activists will turn their attention from Guantanamo to places where it might actually do some good:

European politicians and human rights groups have repeatedly rapped the U.S. military for its treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. But this torrent of criticism was undermined last month by a report on French prisons by the Council of Europe, the pan-European human rights organization. The author of the report, human rights commissioner Alvaro Gil Robles, said France had the shabbiest prisons of any country he had visited, with the exception of Moldova.

But what's to gain from that?