This essay is a cultural analysis of the legal testimony given in Haitian Centers Council v. Sale (HCC III), a federal lawsuit brought against the U.S. state on behalf of nearly 300 HIV-positive Haitian refugees imprisoned in a United States–operated refugee camp at Guantánamo Bay from 1991 to 1994. By reading this legal archive as both storytelling and truth-telling, it examines how the refugees speak to their experiences of persecution and of their lives inside the Guantánamo camp to illuminate what it means to have their rights and humanity stripped by their supposed guardians. These Haitian refugees inhabited both literal and discursive “zones of exclusion” that they had to negotiate in order to communicate their stories and have their claims for recognition as full persons heard and taken seriously. The essay opens by examining the historical, political, and economic context in which these refugees were situated to uncover how their rightlessness was produced and how these historical conditions established the terms of their demands for recognition. It then explores how the legal frame shaped the limits and opportunities mediating the refugees' testifying acts and moves to the testimonies themselves, outlining my method and highlighting prominent themes. It concludes by focusing on the testimonies that spoke to the hunger strike through which the refugees verbally and physically communicated their demands to be released from camp and have their full humanity recognized.

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