On April 12th 2023, former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Salem Ghereby passed away in Libya after suffering from Motor Neurone Disease. His death is a stark reminder of the cruel and inhumane treatment that former prisoners have faced in Guantanamo Bay prison and the lack of care and support they have received after being released and ‘resettled’.
Ghereby was born in the Libyan city of Zlitan in 1961. In the 1990s, he fled the oppressive regime of Muammar Ghaddafi and settled in Pakistan where he married and taught at a school. Fearing deportation to Libya by Pakistani authorities, Ghereby fled to Afghanistan and settled in refugee camps.
In 2002, Ghereby was kidnapped by the US military following its invasion of Afghanistan and transferred to Guantanamo Bay where he would be detained, tortured and abused for 14 years without charge or trial.
In 2016, Ghereby and fellow Libyan national Omar Khalifa Abu Baker were resettled in Senegal following an agreement with the US and were given the chance to rebuild their lives. However, despite welcoming him to the country, Ghereby’s freedom of movement was severely restricted by the Senegalese government.
A year after his resettlement, Ghereby was injured in a car accident in which CAGE assisted him in receiving medical treatment and care. In 2018, Ghereby and Abu Baker were told by the Senegalese government they were to be deported back to Libya with no explanation. This coincided with the Trump administration’s closing of the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure which negotiated and followed up on the release of prisoners.
Although Ghereby offered to return voluntarily, he and Abu Baker were arrested by the Rada militia at the Mitiga Military Airbase in Tripoli. Ghereby was later reunited with his family in Western Libya while Abu Baker was transferred to the more violent and volatile East. Both men were subjected to refoulement which represents a breach of both international law and agreements between the governments of the USA and Senegal. During this period Ghereby’s health, already in a bad state due to the torture he faced in Guantanamo Bay, worsened. He was able to seek further medical assistance in Turkey on medical grounds.
Whilst receiving treatment in Turkey, Ghereby was informed by medical experts that his condition was in part due to the torture and abuse he faced in Guantanamo Bay and Libya at the hands of his captors. Ghereby returned to Libya and in the months before his death, his condition rapidly deteriorated to the point where he was bound to his bed and lost the ability to speak. Ghereby was described by former fellow inmates as being a soft, kind, humble, and gentle individual who remained patient throughout his ordeal at Guantanamo Bay.
The US government, after having pledged to, reneged on its promise to provide shelter and support for former prisoners such as Ghereby. The abuse, torture, and false imprisonment that Ghereby endured since 2002 is a travesty of justice, and it is unacceptable that there has been no accountability for these crimes.
We call for action to be taken so that justice is served for Salem Ghereby, and those responsible for his abuse and torture are held accountable. The US government must fulfil its obligation towards former Guantanamo prisoners by providing them with better protections and safeguards. Host nations and civil society must also strive to uphold and maintain these protections so that these innocent men may have a fair chance at life one again.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)