I Spent 14 Years inside Guantanamo Without a Trial

February 19th, 2021 - by Mohamedou Ould Salahi / Amnesty International

Mohamedou Ould Salahi / Amnesty International


(February 18, 2021) — I remember the hope I felt twelve years ago, as President Obama took office. In my prison cell, I read a copy of his order to finally close Guantánamo Bay, and tears of joy streamed down my face. 

My horrific, endless nightmare — held behind bars since 2002, tortured, and never even charged with a crime — was finally going to end. I was held there for seven more gruesome years before being released in 2016, thanks to Amnesty International and other groups who campaigned tirelessly for my freedom. 

But I’m just one person to be freed: today, Guantánamo remains open. Forty Muslim men are still held there behind bars, most of whom have also never been charged with a crime nor given a fair trial. Now, President Biden needs to pick up where President Obama left off and end these grave human rights violations by closing Guantánamo. 

Amnesty just released a report shining a light on the 19-year record of human rights violations at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. The report also maps out how the current US President and Congress can take tangible action to close it once and for all.

During my first few years detained, I was subject to what most people couldn’t even imagine: extreme isolation, sleep deprivation, frigid rooms, beatings, humiliations, and threats made against not only me, but my mother, too.

One day, I was blindfolded and taken out to sea in a boat for a mock execution. 

In 2010, a military prosecutor acknowledged that there was no untortured evidence to charge me with any crimes… and a federal judge ordered my release. But the US government appealed and continued to hold me without charge or trial until my release to my home country of Mauritania six years later.

During this time I was waiting to go home, my mother passed away, not knowing whether I would ever be set free. And now that I am free, I’m facing another kind of prison — the stigma of being a former detainee means that governments severely restrict my freedom of movement. I can’t travel to receive much-needed medical attention for the damage that was done to my body from the torture I endured. I can’t even visit my baby son and wife abroad.

I am still so thankful for my freedom — but my story is not unlike others who remain there to this day. 

My experience is now being told in a new film called The Mauritanian, and it gives me hope that this spotlight and attention will encourage President Biden to finally end this nightmare for human rights, and for the 40 men still behind bars. 

President Biden has made important changes on human rights already, but he hasn’t yet said what he’ll do about Guantánamo. That’s where we come in — where defenders of human rights speak up and join Amnesty International’s all-important campaign. 

During my time behind bars, I knew that there were many people fighting for my freedom. I am so grateful for all the people who spoke out for me when I didn’t have a voice — and I am grateful for Amnesty International, which has been fighting for justice and human rights for Guantánamo detainees since its opening in 2002. 

When human rights advocates speak up, we can make a huge difference. We can secure human rights for all. Please support Amnesty’s work to help finally close this horrific prison.

Thank you.

Amnesty International, 311 W. 43rd Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10036. 1-800-AMNESTY

Amnesty International is excited to endorse the new feature film, The Mauritanian, based on the life of Mohamedou Ould Salahi. You can watch the trailer below.


Amnesty International

SUMMARY — The military prison at Guantánamo Bay represents grave violations of human rights by the US government. As it enters its 20th year of existence as a center for indefinite detention, it continues to hold 40 Muslim men, most without charge, none having received a fair trial.

Many, like Toffiq al-Bihani, were tortured by the US government. Six of the detainees, including al-Bihani, have been cleared for transfer to other countries yet remain behind bars.

At the beginning of his presidency, President Trump signed an executive order to keep the military prison at Guantánamo Bay open. Now, President-Elect Biden has an opportunity to end this ongoing abuse of human rights by closing the detention center once and for all.


Amnesty International has released a new report highlighting ongoing and historic human rights violations at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, as detentions there enter their 20th year and as a new President prepares to enter the White House. Check out the full report, entitled USA: Right the Wrong, Decision Time on Guantánamo.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.