A Place Outside the Law: Forgotten Voices from Guantanamo (Paperback)
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Firsthand testimonies from Guantánamo Bay, inspiring future generations to never repeat the human rights violations of the detention center.
Law scholar and Witness to Guantánamo founder Peter Jan Honigsberg uncovers a haunting portrait of life at the military prison and its toll, not only on the detainees and their loved ones but also on its military and civilian personnel and the journalists who reported on it.
Honigsberg conducted 158 interviews across 20 countries so that the people who lived and worked there could tell their heartbreaking and inspirational stories. In each one, we face the reality that the healing process cannot begin until we start the conversation about what was done in the name of protecting our country. These are a few of them. Many alleged operatives in Guantánamo were purchased by the United States for ransom from Afghan and Pakistani soldiers. Brandon Neely, a prison guard who processed the first group of suspected operatives to arrive in Cuba, flew to London to embrace the detainees he guarded after leaving the military. Navy whistleblower Matt Diaz covertly released the names of 500 detainees by sending them in a greeting card to a lawyer in New York. Journalist Carol Rosenberg committed the past 17 years of her career to documenting life at Guantánamo. And Damien Corsetti, an interrogator who came to be known as the “King of Torture,” received ribbons and awards for the same cruel actions for which he was later prosecuted.
In startling, aching prose, A Place Outside the Law shines a light on these unheard voices, and through them, encourages the global community to embrace humanity as our greatest tool to make the world a safer place.
About the Author
Peter Jan Honigsberg is a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law and the founder and director of Witness to Guantánamo. His research and teaching focuses on the rule of law and human rights violations that occurred in the detention center in Guantánamo, as well as on the study of terrorism and post-9/11 issues. His books include Our Nation Unhinged: The Human Consequences of the War on Terror and Crossing Border Street: A Civil Rights Memoir. Honigsberg lives in Berkeley, CA.
“A well-documented, hard-hitting, necessary exposé.”
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“Eviscerating, powerful, and monumentally important, A Place Outside the Law must not be ignored.”
—Booklist, Starred Review
“What sets Honigsberg’s portrait apart is his focus on the lasting effects of isolation and controversial legal process on all involved . . . A sobering book for audiences interested in law and current affairs.”
“Compelling, human stories [that] paint a rich and complex picture of a deeply controversial chapter in America’s history.”
—Jennifer M. Granholm, former governor of Michigan
“[An] extraordinary effort in bearing witness to Guantánamo and recording the stories for years to come.”
—Brigadier General (Ret.) Stephen N. Xenakis, MD
“Powerful and poignant . . . Whatever one thinks of the complex and convoluted legal battles that Guantánamo has provoked and continues to engender, Honigsberg’s book is a powerful reminder of the very real individuals who have been, and many of whom remain, caught in the balance—and it’s a reminder to all of us that, as the Guantánamo detention program approaches the age of majority, we can’t just close our eyes and hope it, and the forty men still held there, will simply go away.”
—Stephen Vladeck, A. Dalton Cross Professor in Law, University of Texas School of Law
“The next generation will look back with open-mouthed shame at Guantánamo as a symbol of the United States’ disregard for the human suffering of others and for our own values. And when they do, they will have this book—and the hundreds of voices that Peter so carefully and sensitively captures—to bear witness and demand justice.”
—Hope Metcalf, lecturer, Yale Law School
“A Place Outside the Law . . . conveys the torture message with a fierceness and presence unlike any other. The reader hears the plaintive, tormented voices of both sides of the cruelties, tortured and torturer—or, as Nietzsche wrote, when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back.”
—Lawrence Wilkerson, colonel, US Army (retired), and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell
“A Place Outside the Law stands out as one of the only books that has endeavored to paint a complete picture of the tragedy through showing a more comprehensive picture of the infrastructure that was built and supported by negative discourses and a faux legal system . . . . Anyone looking for a book that truly bears witness to the horrors of Guantánamo should read this one.”
—Dr. Maha Hilal, codirector of Justice for Muslims Collective and expert on institutionalized Islamophobia in the war on terror
“A Place Outside the Law documents a dark time in America’s history and serves as an important reminder that the Constitution cannot be set aside for reasons of expediency. Ultimately, if America is to be an example and a force for good in the world, we must recognize that GITMO was a mistake and should never be repeated.”
—Major General Mike Lehnert, USMC (ret.), former Joint Task Force Guantánamo commander
“A Place Outside the Law makes an indispensable contribution to accountability for the multiple transgressions of the rule of law that the United States has committed—and continues to commit—in the Global War on Terror. From ignoring the presumption of innocence, to outrageous behavior against defense lawyers, from disappearance and prolonged arbitrary detention to physical and psychological torture, this shameful page of US history still demands truth and justice. Peter Jan Honigsberg’s book adds human voices and touching stories to show us why we need to insist on the US government’s obligation to investigate, reveal the truth, and prosecute and punish the perpetrators, especially those bearing the greatest responsibility for these crimes. This book brings us closer to that inevitable hour of reckoning.”
—Juan Mendez, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture
“This is the definitive account of what happened at Guantánamo in all of its chilling and horrifying detail. What makes this book unique and compelling is that it is the story of what it does to people’s lives to create ‘a place outside the law.’ Through his countless interviews, Professor Honigsberg describes the impact of Guantánamo on those who have been part of it: soldiers, medical personnel, lawyers, interrogators, torturers, detainees. It is the story of what happens when a country abandons the rule of law.”
—Erwin Chemerinsky, dean and Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law