The all-encompassing secrecy regime surrounding the U.S. prison camp at Guantánamo Bay concealed widespread abuses against the men who have been held there in the years following 9/11. Essential to that regime was the almost complete suppression of the voices of the prisoners themselves. A remarkable exception was the 466-page handwritten memoir of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, which was finally published in 2015 after a long legal battle and in heavily redacted form. His Guantánamo Diary became an international bestseller. 

Slahi’s memoir has now been turned into an award-winning film, “The Mauritanian.” And a thankful Slahi told more than 175 attendees at a recent virtual discussion and screening of the film: “The movie was a testimony that the pen wins against the sword.”

Sponsored by the Knight Institute and BPL Presents, the event also featured Nancy Hollander, Slahi’s lead attorney, and actor Tahar Rahim, who plays Slahi in the film. The Knight Institute’s Larry Siems, who edited Slahi’s book, moderated the conversation.  

According to Siems, “The knowledge gap that exists around what happened and is happening at Guantánamo … is deliberate. It’s the result of a secrecy regime that was built into the prison camp from the beginning.” He added, “Secrecy was the ingredient that enabled the torture and human rights abuses to take place and it’s the mechanism that continues to make it difficult to hold anyone accountable for those crimes.”

Watch the full discussion below (the panel begins at around 2:52):