Afghan prisoners beaten to death at US military interrogation base - Guardian, UK
- Afghan prisoners beaten to death at US military
'Blunt force injuries' cited in murder ruling
Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles
Friday March 7, 2003
Two prisoners who died while being held for
interrogation at the US military base in Afghanistan
had apparently been beaten, according to a military
pathologist's report. A criminal investigation is now
under way into the deaths which have both been
classified as homicides.
The deaths have led to calls for an inquiry into what
interrogation techniques are being used at the base
where it is believed the al-Qaida leader, Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed, is now also being held. Former
prisoners at the base claim that detainees are chained
to the ceiling, shackled so tightly that the blood
flow stops, kept naked and hooded and kicked to keep
them awake for days on end.
The two men, both Afghans, died last December at the
US forces base in Bagram, north of Kabul, where
prisoners have been held for questioning. The
autopsies found they had suffered "blunt force
injuries" and classified both deaths as homicides.
A spokesman for the Pentagon said yesterday it was not
possible to discuss the details of the case because of
the proceeding investigation. If the investigation
finds that the prisoners had been unlawfully killed
during interrogation, it could lead to both civil and
military prosecutions. He added that it was not clear
whether only US personnel had had access to the men.
One of the dead prisoners, known only as Dilawar, died
as a result of "blunt force injuries to lower
extremities complicating coronary artery disease",
according to the death certificate signed by Major
Elizabeth Rouse, a pathologist with the
Washington-based Armed Forces Institute of Pathology,
which operates under the auspices of the defence
department. The dead man was aged 22 and was a farmer
and part-time taxi-driver. He was said to have had an
advanced heart condition and blocked arteries.
Chris Kelly, a spokesman for the institute, said
yesterday that their pathologists were involved in all
cases on military bases where there were unusual or
suspicious deaths. He was not aware of any other
homicides of prisoners held since September 11. He
said that the definition of homicide was "death
resulting from the intentional or grossly reckless
behaviour of another person or persons" but could also
encompass "self-defence or justifiable killings".
The death certificates for the men have four boxes on
them giving choices of "natural, accident, suicide,
homicide". The Pentagon said yesterday that the choice
of "homicide" did not necessarily mean that the dead
person had been unlawfully killed. There was no box
which would indicate that a pathologist was uncertain
how a person had died.
It is believed that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, described
as the number three in al-Qaida, is being interrogated
at Bagram. He is said to have started providing
information about the possible whereabouts of Osama
bin Laden whom he is said to have met in Pakistan last
month. Most al-Qaida suspects are being held outside
the US which means that they are not entitled to
access to the US judicial system.
Two former prisoners at the base, Abdul Jabar and
Hakkim Shah, told the New York Times this week that
they recalled seeing Dilawar at Bagram. They said that
they had been kept naked, hooded and shackled and were
deprived of sleep for days on end. Mr Shah said that
American guards kicked him to stop him falling asleep
and that on one occasion he had been kicked by a woman
interrogator, while her male colleague held him in a
The commander of the coalition forces in Afghanistan,
General Daniel McNeill, said that prisoners were made
to stand for long periods but he denied that they were
chained to the ceiling. "Our interrogation techniques
are adapted," he said.
"They are in accordance with what is generally
accepted as interrogation techniques, and if
incidental to the due course of this investigation, we
find things that need to be changed, we will certainly
In January, in his state of the union address,
President George Bush announced that "3,000 suspected
terrorists have been arrested in many countries" and
"many others have met a different fate" and "are no
longer a problem to the United States".
The other death being investigated is that of Mullah
Habibullah, the brother of a former Taliban commander.
His death certificate indicates that he died of a
pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot in the lung.
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