The Guantanamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law

The Guantanamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law


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The Guantanamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law by Jonathan Hafetz

Read free excerpts from the book at and explore the complete archive of narratives at

Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the United States imprisoned more than seven hundred and fifty men at its naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. These men, ranging from teenage boys to men in their eighties from over forty different countries, were detained for years without charges, trial, and a fair hearing. Without any legal status or protection, they were truly outside the law: imprisoned in secret, denied communication with their families, and subjected to extreme isolation, physical and mental abuse, and, in some instances, torture.

These are the detainees’ stories, told by their lawyers because the prisoners themselves were silenced. It took habeas counsel more than two years—and a ruling from the United States Supreme Court—to finally gain the right to visit and talk to their clients at Guantánamo. Even then, lawyers were forced to operate under severe restrictions designed to inhibit communication and envelop the prison in secrecy. In time, however, lawyers were able to meet with their clients and bring the truth about Guantánamo to the world.

The Guantánamo Lawyers contains over one hundred personal narratives from attorneys who have represented detainees held at “GTMO” as well as at other overseas prisons, from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to secret CIA jails or “black sites.” Mark Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz—themselves lawyers for detainees—collected stories that cover virtually every facet of Guantánamo, and the litigation it sparked. Together, these moving, powerful voices create a historical record of Guantánamo’s legal, human, and moral failings, and provide a window into America’s catastrophic effort to create a prison beyond the law.

An online archive, hosted by New York University Libraries, will be available at the time of publication and will contain the complete texts as well as other accounts contributed by Guantánamo lawyers. The documents will be freely available on the Internet for research, teaching, and non-commercial uses, and will be preserved indefinitely as a historical collection.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814737361
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 11/09/2009
Pages: 464
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Jonathan Hafetz is Associate Professor at Seton Hall Law School and has litigated numerous landmark habeas corpus detention cases. He also is the co-editor (with Mark Denbeaux) of The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law (NYU Press, 2009).

Mark Denbeaux is a professor at Seton Hall Law School, where he also directs the Center for Policy and Research.

Table of Contents

Mark P. Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz
1 Representing the “Worst of the Worst”
How and Why the Lawyers Started Representing Detainees
2 Getting behind the Wire
Rasul/Al Odah: The Right to Representation
3 Uncovering Guantánamo’s Human Face
First Impressions
Rendered: How the Detainees Got to Guantánamo
Female Attorneys
Family Members
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
5 Tortured
A Product of Torture Culture
Hunger Strikes
6 Alternative Forms of Advocacy
7 Leaving Guantánamo
Stuck in Limbo
Out but Not Free
Happy Endings?
8 Guantánamo beyond Cuba: A Global Detention System outside the Law
Guantánamo Comes to America
Black Sites
Timeline: Guantánamo and the “War on Terror”

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“In this admirable compliation, Mark P. Denbeaux, a professor at Seaton hall University School of Law and Jonathan Hafetz, a staff attorney at the ACLU's National Security Project, have explored one of this generation's great moral questions by assembling first-person reports from over 100 attourneys who represent prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.”
-New York Law Journal


“[M]akes for gripping if somber reading. . .They have produced a book that will make other lawyers vicariously proud.”


The Guantánamo Lawyers is a powerful and important book. These first-hand accounts strip way much of the veneer that has encased tepid and lifeless news stories of what has happened at Guantanamo and elsewhere. This behind-the-scenes look at these brave lawyers and abused detainees is fascinating and revealing.”



“Provides an invaluable perspective—or more accurately, perspectives, since more than one hundred lawyers contributed to the volume. These men and women, all working for nothing, have gained intimate access to those whom the United States sought to keep hidden behind strictly closed doors….The stories these lawyers have been able to tell, adroitly edited by Mark Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz, offer a multifaceted portrait of life on the base.

-New York Review of Books


"The most compelling reason to read The Guantanamo Lawyers is that the legal questions created by Guantanamo have not yet been fully resolved. President Obama's promise to close the prison has so far gone unfulfilled, and John Paul Stevens, who will perhaps be remembered more for his writings on Guantanamo than any other subject, will leave the Court at the end of this term. No matter how the Guantanamo question is resolved, historians will no doubt benefit from Denbeaux and Hafetz's excellent book."-Tyler D. Helmond, in The Champion (NACDL)

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