Guantanamo: Torture of British Inmates
- Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit
sent by Sanjoy Mahajan (activ-l)
For the unfortunates in Guantanamo, 'inmates' (as in 'concentration camp
...') is a more accurate term than 'prisoner'. Prisoners are supposed
to confined after a procedure at least slightly resembling a legal
process, rather than after being kidnapped from one country by invaders
from a second country and taken to a torture camp in a piece of a third
country stolen by the second country.
Compared with the 100,000 Iraqis we have killed in this war, and the
hundreds of thousands we killed with sanctions, Guantanamo is small
change (which is why it is reported more than the wholesale killing is).
But, as Neal Ascherson warned, people should watch how governments treat
refugees for that is how they would treat us if they thought that they
could get away with it. If Americans stay sheep willing to sacrifice
liberty for (bogus) security, Guantanamo will come to the Vater-, I mean
`A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves.'
- Bertrand de Jouvenal
The Observer - Jan 2, 2005
David Rose on the allegation that a British detainee was suspended by
his wrists as punishment for reciting the Koran while in US military
Guantanamo Briton 'in handcuff torture'
by David Rose
A British detainee at Guantanamo Bay has told his lawyer he was
tortured using the 'strappado', a technique common in Latin American
dictatorships in which a prisoner is left suspended from a bar with
handcuffs until they cut deeply into his wrists.
The reason, the prisoner says, was that he was caught reciting the
Koran at a time when talking was banned.
He says he has also been repeatedly shaved against his will. In one
such incident, a guard told him: 'This is the part that really gets to
you Muslims, isn't it?'
The strappado allegation was one among many made about treatment at
both Guantanamo and the US base at Bagram in Afghanistan made to the
British lawyer Clive Stafford Smith when he visited his clients
Moazzam Begg and Richard Belmar at the Cuban prison six weeks ago,
having tried for the previous 14 months to obtain the necessary
But it is clear the disturbing claim is only the tip of the iceberg.
Under the rules the United States military has imposed for defence
lawyers who visit Guantanamo, Stafford Smith has not been allowed to
keep his notes of meetings with prisoners, and will not be able to
read them again until they have been examined and de-classified by a
He cannot disclose in public anything the men have told him until it
too has been been de-classified, on pain of likely imprisonment in the
Stafford Smith has drawn up a 30-page report on the tortures which
Begg and Belmar say they have endured, and sent it as an annexe with a
letter to the Prime Minister which Downing Street received shortly
before Christmas. For the time being - possibly forever - the report
cannot be published, because the Americans claim that the torture
allegations amount to descriptions of classified interrogation
However, Stafford Smith's letter to Tony Blair - which has been
declassified - says that on his visit to the Guantanamo prisoners, he
heard 'credible and consistent evidence that both men have been
savagely tortured at the hands of the United States' with Begg having
suffered not only physical but 'sexual abuse' which has had 'mental
Thousands of documents obtained last month under the US Freedom of
Information Act by the American Civil Liberties Union support the
claims of torture at Guantanamo, which has apparently continued long
after the publication last April of photographs of detainees being
abused at the US-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. They include memos and
emails to superiors by FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency officers,
who say they were appalled by the methods being used by the young
military interrogators at Guantanamo.
According to the memos, the abuse was 'systematic', with frequent
beatings, chokings, and sleep deprivation for days on end. Religious
humiliation was also routine, with one agent reporting a case in which
a prisoner was wrapped in an Israeli flag.
'On a couple of occasions I entered interview rooms to find a detainee
chained hand and foot in a foetal position to the floor, with no
chair, food or water,' an anonymous FBI agent wrote on 2 August. 'Most
times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left
there for 18 to 24 hours or more.'
Reports of identical treatment were first published by The Observer
last March, in interviews with three British detainees who had been
released - Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed. They were then
strenuously denied by the Pentagon. But according to another FBI memo
dated 10 May, when an agent asked Guantanamo's former commander, Major
General Geoffrey Miller, about techniques the FBI regarded as illegal,
he was told that the interrogators 'had their marching orders from the
Sec[retary] Def[ense]', Donald Rumsfeld. General Miller told the US
Congress under oath that although Rumsfeld had authorised the use of
dogs to intimidate prisoners at Guantanamo, this had never happened.
According to the memos, this was inaccurate.
Stafford Smith asks Blair in his letter 'to approach the plight of my
clients with renewed vigour'. Asked by The Observer whether he planned
to do this last week, a Downing Street spokesman declined to comment.
In a second letter, to the Foreign Office minister Baroness Symons,
Stafford Smith suggests that Britain's complicity in abusive
techniques at both Guantanamo and Afghanistan, where Begg and Belmar
were held before being taken to Cuba, is wider than previously
Begg and Belmar, he writes, were both questioned by an MI5 officer who
gave his name as 'Andrew', while they were being abused by Americans
both in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. According to the letter, 'he was
the one who told Mr Begg that the more Mr Begg (falsely) said he was
guilty of something, the quicker he would get home. Andrew was also
the one who said that he would not comply with both of my clients'
requests for consular notification, as well as Mr Begg's requests to
learn whether his pregnant wife, Sally, and their three children were
safe in Pakistan.' Stafford Smith is asking for Andrew's full name and
access to him, to assist his client's defence.
Having fled Afghanistan where he had been trying to set up a school
before the war against the Taliban began in October 2001, Begg was
abducted by American agents from the house the family was renting in
Belmar was captured after attending a religious school for a few weeks
before the 11 September terrorist attacks. An FBI source who
personally questioned him before he was sent to Guantanamo has told
The Observer he recommended his immediate release because he had 'no
involvement' with terrorism, but was overruled by MI5.
Stafford Smith says in his letter to Baroness Symons that Begg made a
false written confession after being tortured in February 2003, when
two agents who had abused him at Bagram - where Begg witnessed the
deaths of two prisoners officially classed as homicide - came to
Guantanamo. But neither he nor Stafford Smith have been allowed to see
this statement, which apparently forms the main grounds for his
continued incarceration. Stafford Smith asks the Foreign Office for
help in obtaining a copy, and asks: 'What kind of civilised legal
system does not allow the suspect to see his own statements? How can
the prisoner's statement be said to be classified information when, if
it were true, the prisoner would already know it?'
Last night the Foreign Office said 'we are trying to do our utmost'
for the four British detainees while 'we take every allegation of
torture seriously'. The request for information about the MI5 man
would be considered.
Azmatt Begg, Moazzam's father, said he had given up hope the British
government would intervene in a meaningful way to help his son. 'They
are not protecting their own citizens, but merely falling in with
whatever the Americans want to do.'
(c) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005
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