Lakhdar Boumediene, the named plaintiff in a seminal Supreme Court case preserving Guantanamo Bay detainees’ right to challenge the legality of their detention, recounts his experience as a man falsely accused of terrorism and imprisoned at Gitmo for seven years in an op-ed in the New York Times. The whole thing is worth reading, but one sentence in particular stands out:
I left Algeria in 1990 to work abroad. In 1997 my family and I moved to Bosnia and Herzegovina at the request of my employer, the Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates. I served in the Sarajevo office as director of humanitarian aid for children who had lost relatives to violence during the Balkan conflicts. In 1998, I became a Bosnian citizen. We had a good life, but all of that changed after 9/11.
When I arrived at work on the morning of Oct. 19, 2001, an intelligence officer was waiting for me. He asked me to accompany him to answer questions. I did so, voluntarily — but afterward I was told that I could not go home. The United States had demanded that local authorities arrest me and five other men. News reports at the time said the United States believed that I was plotting to blow up its embassy in Sarajevo. I had never — for a second — considered this.
Boumediene was not simply arrested and imprisoned for years despite no evidence that he was a terrorist, he was arrested while he was working as a humanitarian aide worker. For children. The man devoted his life to helping the youngest and most vulnerable victims of a terrible conflict, and we locked him up and tortured him.
Sadly, America still has not learned the lesson Justice Louis Brandeis tried to teach us 85 years ago: “Men feared witches and burnt women.”