Cover of Witnesses of the Unseen by Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir
Witnesses of the Unseen
Seven Years in Guantanamo
Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir

April 2017
288 pages.

Cloth ISBN: 9781503601154



Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir were living quiet, peaceful lives in Bosnia, working and raising young children.

In October 2001, they were arrested and accused of plotting to attack the American Embassy in Sarajevo. After a three-month investigation, all charges were dropped and Bosnian courts ordered their freedom. However, under intense U.S. pressure and the cover of darkness, Bosnian officials turned the men over to American soldiers—dressed in Bosnian police uniforms—who had come to the jail to seize them. They were beaten, blindfolded, shackled, and flown to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Housed outdoors in steel mesh cages, they watched as the now-infamous military prison was built around them. For seven years, they languished in subhuman conditions, enduring torture and harassment, force-feedings and beatings, cut off from communication with their families. Neither was charged with a crime nor given an opportunity to argue his innocence.

Witnesses of the Unseen shares the stories of two plaintiffs behind the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Boumediene v. Bush, which confirmed Guantanamo detainees' constitutional right to challenge their detention in federal court. After years of brutal mistreatment and casual violence, Lakhdar and Mustafa, with the pro bono assistance of an American law firm, compelled a judge to review the government's case against them. Weeks later, that judge, a George W. Bush–appointee, ordered their release. In this book Lakhdar and Mustafa share their trauma and triumphs in the hope that what happened to them does not happen to innocent people in the future, especially under a flag that should stand for liberty and justice.

About the authors

Lakhdar Boumediene was the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case Boumediene v. Bush. Prior to his seven-year internment in Guantanamo Bay, he was an aid worker for the Red Crescent Society in Bosnia. He now lives in France with his wife and children.

Mustafa Ait Idir, a co-plaintiff in Boumediene v. Bush, was also held in Guantanamo Bay for seven years. Before his internment, he worked for Qatar Charities in Bosnia, and was widely recognized as a talented athlete and coach. He has reunited with his wife and children and is now a computer science teacher at a secondary school in Sarajevo.

Lakhdar and Mustafa shared their stories with Kathleen List, who helped translate them from Arabic into English. Daniel Hartnett Norland and Jeffrey Rose edited their accounts.

"The U.S. government didn't want you to hear about life in the 'legal black hole' of Guantanamo. Having won the right to a judicial hearing and secured their release, Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir tell the urgent, compelling story behind their detention and one of the most important Supreme Court decisions of this century. It's a revealing and moving look at what the U.S. government tried desperately to hide."

—David Cole, Professor, Georgetown Law, and National Legal Director, ACLU

"Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir are two of the most notorious victims of the U.S.'s post-9/11 program of rendition, torture, and indefinite detention. Kidnapped on groundless suspicions, they are perfectly placed to reflect on the horrors of Guantanamo and the 'war on terror.' With a warmth and intelligence sadly lacking in America's treatment of them, this powerful joint memoir exposes their captors' cruelty and the Kafkaesque twists and turns of the U.S. government's efforts to build a case against them."

—Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison

"Witnesses of the Unseen courageously exposes all that is ugly within the U.S. government, restoring to Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir the humanity hijacked from them by two consecutive U.S. Presidents. This book transcends geography and time to take readers from Boumediene and Ait Idir's early years of innocence to their long imprisonment in the cages of Guantanamo. A must read for all people of conscience."

—Shakeel Syed, Former Executive Director, Islamic Shura Council