Book Review – The Guantánamo Lawyers – Inside a Prison Outside the Law. NYU Press, 2009.

Posted on December 7, 2009. Filed under: Books, Human Rights | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Guantánamo Lawyers – Inside a Prison Outside the Law
ISBN-13: 9780814737361

The Gitmo Lawyers

The Guantánamo Lawyers is a great read.

Everyone of us has been peppered for years now with stories from the media of Guantanamo inmates and their abuse, either at the hands of their guards, or by the legal system (lack of due process). This book, the Guantanamo Lawyers, brings over 100 personal narratives from not only the inmates at “Gitmo” but also from other overseas prisons/detention centres. It brings these narratives to us first hand from their direct representatives, their Lawyers. The inmates, range from teenagers to octogenarians from approximately forty separate countries. For years, so many have been detained without charges, without any form of trial, and/or a fair and proper hearing. Many of these inmates are indeed America’s enemies but what is so scary is that in the book we learn of stories of how many of the inmates weren’t even captured on any form of battlefield. They were just rumored to be enemies, sometimes on little or faulty intelligence and delivered up to US forces for handsome bounty.

What really pulls at ones sensitivities is the utter mental and physical despair that the detainees go through, their feeling of hopelessness and fear as they are terrorized daily.
Its is hard to believe that civilized society can be driven to these depths. Especially the United States, the once shining example of freedom and justice.
Countless studies have been done on inmates and detainees over hundreds of years and this is probably one of the best (and most horrible) studies of how an intense isolation of a torturous military imprisonment devoid of so many human rights and international legal norms, can wreak havoc on an inmates mind and body and in the process, collaterally rip apart the very soul of the people and country that the system is supposed to protect. One can’t help but draw parallels with these stories with those of the harshest of colonial era penal colonies. These inmates have no sense of future. Deprived of their reality they are driven to self harm such as suicide, hunger strikes, self mutilation etc to add to the harm already heaped upon then day after day by their overseers.

Guantanamo detainees like the ones from 'The Guantanamo Lawyers"

We learn of the brave fight by true American patriots – the lawyers who represent them. The lawyers, many of them military lawyers, thankfully, are not beholden to their military masters, but driven by their devotion and oaths to justice, fairness and human rights for all. Their plight is moving. One finds themselves cheering for these advocates like one would cheer on a football team. Their lesson is our lesson and that is, no matter who we are, we must respect the rule of law, human rights and never stoop to the level of our enemies.
Grab a copy – it’s sure worth the read.


Contents of The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law

Introduction by Mark P. Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz

Chapter 1 Representing the “Worst of the Worst”
How and Why the Lawyers Started Representing Detainees

Chapter 2 Getting behind the Wire
Rasul/Al Odah: The Right to Representation

Chapter 3 – Uncovering Guantánamo’s Human Face
First Impressions
Rendered: How the Detainees Got to Guantánamo
Female Attorneys
Family Members

Chapter 4 Red Tape and Kangaroo Courts
Barriers to Representation
The No-Hearing Hearings: Combatant Status Review Tribunals
Military Commissions
Political Maneuvering
Boumediene v. Bush: The Death Knell for Prisons beyond the Law

Chapter 5 – Tortured
A Product of Torture Culture
Hunger Strikes

Chapter 6 – Alternative Forms of Advocacy

Chapter 7 – Leaving Guantánamo
Stuck in Limbo
Out but Not Free
Happy Endings?

Chapter 8 – Guantánamo beyond Cuba: A Global Detention System outside the Law
Guantánamo Comes to America
Black Sites
Timeline: Guantánamo and the “War on Terror”


If one is inclined to go further with the research or understanding of the Lawyers narrative, New York University Library has produced a Guantánamo Lawyers digital archive for this purpose. The site is dedicated to collecting the narratives of the legal representatives who acted on behalf of detainees at the Guantánamo Bay Detention Center. Anyone can download and view the documents as PDFs. Please visit the site here: Guantánamo Lawyers Digital Archive

Michael Simon
The Human Rights Book Review


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