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Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo - NY Times, USA (And related links)

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  • Zafar Khan
    Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo By NEIL A. LEWIS Correction Appended http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/30/politics/30gitmo.html WASHINGTON, Nov. 29
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2004
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      Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo
      By NEIL A. LEWIS
      Correction Appended


      WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 - The International Committee of
      the Red Cross has charged in confidential reports to
      the United States government that the American
      military has intentionally used psychological and
      sometimes physical coercion "tantamount to torture" on
      prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

      The finding that the handling of prisoners detained
      and interrogated at Guantánamo amounted to torture
      came after a visit by a Red Cross inspection team that
      spent most of last June in Guantánamo.

      The team of humanitarian workers, which included
      experienced medical personnel, also asserted that some
      doctors and other medical workers at Guantánamo were
      participating in planning for interrogations, in what
      the report called "a flagrant violation of medical

      Doctors and medical personnel conveyed information
      about prisoners' mental health and vulnerabilities to
      interrogators, the report said, sometimes directly,
      but usually through a group called the Behavioral
      Science Consultation Team, or B.S.C.T. The team, known
      informally as Biscuit, is composed of psychologists
      and psychological workers who advise the
      interrogators, the report said.

      The United States government, which received the
      report in July, sharply rejected its charges,
      administration and military officials said.

      The report was distributed to lawyers at the White
      House, Pentagon and State Department and to the
      commander of the detention facility at Guantánamo,
      Gen. Jay W. Hood. The New York Times recently obtained
      a memorandum, based on the report, that quotes from it
      in detail and lists its major findings.

      It was the first time that the Red Cross, which has
      been conducting visits to Guantánamo since January
      2002, asserted in such strong terms that the treatment
      of detainees, both physical and psychological,
      amounted to torture. The report said that another
      confidential report in January 2003, which has never
      been disclosed, raised questions of whether
      "psychological torture" was taking place.

      The Red Cross said publicly 13 months ago that the
      system of keeping detainees indefinitely without
      allowing them to know their fates was unacceptable and
      would lead to mental health problems.

      The report of the June visit said investigators had
      found a system devised to break the will of the
      prisoners at Guantánamo, who now number about 550, and
      make them wholly dependent on their interrogators
      through "humiliating acts, solitary confinement,
      temperature extremes, use of forced positions."
      Investigators said that the methods used were
      increasingly "more refined and repressive" than
      learned about on previous visits.

      "The construction of such a system, whose stated
      purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be
      considered other than an intentional system of cruel,
      unusual and degrading treatment and a form of
      torture," the report said. It said that in addition to
      the exposure to loud and persistent noise and music
      and to prolonged cold, detainees were subjected to
      "some beatings." The report did not say how many of
      the detainees were subjected to such treatment.

      Asked about the accusations in the report, a Pentagon
      spokesman provided a statement saying, "The United
      States operates a safe, humane and professional
      detention operation at Guantánamo that is providing
      valuable information in the war on terrorism."

      It continued that personnel assigned to Guantánamo "go
      through extensive professional and sensitivity
      training to ensure they understand the procedures for
      protecting the rights and dignity of detainees."

      The conclusions by the inspection team, especially the
      findings involving alleged complicity in mistreatment
      by medical professionals, have provoked a stormy
      debate within the Red Cross committee. Some officials
      have argued that it should make its concerns public or
      at least aggressively confront the Bush

      The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is
      based in Geneva and is separate from the American Red
      Cross, was founded in 1863 as an independent, neutral
      organization intended to provide humanitarian
      protection and assistance for victims of war.

      Its officials are able to visit prisoners at
      Guantánamo under the kind of arrangement the committee
      has made with governments for decades. In exchange for
      exclusive access to the prison camp and meetings with
      detainees, the committee has agreed to keep its
      findings confidential. The findings are shared only
      with the government that is detaining people.

      Beatricé Mégevand-Roggo, a senior Red Cross official,
      said in an interview that she could not say anything
      about information relayed to the United States
      government because "we do not comment in any way on
      the substance of the reports we submit to the

      Ms. Mégevand-Roggo, the committee's delegate-general
      for Europe and the Americas, acknowledged that the
      issue of confidentiality was a chronic and vexing one
      for the organization. "Many people do not understand
      why we have these bilateral agreements about
      confidentiality," she said. "People are led to believe
      that we are a fig leaf or worse, that we are complicit
      with the detaining authorities."

      She added, "It's a daily dilemma for us to put in the
      balance the positive effects our visits have for
      detainees against the confidentiality."

      Antonella Notari, a veteran Red Cross official and
      spokeswoman, said that the organization frequently
      complained to the Pentagon and other arms of the
      American government when government officials cite the
      Red Cross visits to suggest that there is no abuse at
      Guantánamo. Most statements from the Pentagon in
      response to queries about mistreatment at Guantánamo
      do, in fact, include mention of the visits.

      In a recent interview with reporters, General Hood,
      the commander of the detention and interrogation
      facility at Guantánamo, also cited the committee's
      visits in response to questions about treatment of
      detainees. "We take everything the Red Cross gives us
      and study it very carefully to look for ways to do our
      job better," he said in his Guantánamo headquarters,
      adding that he agrees "with some things and not

      "I'm satisfied that the detainees here have not been
      abused, they've not been mistreated, they've not been
      tortured in any way," he said.

      Scott Horton, a New York lawyer, who is familiar with
      some of the Red Cross's views, said the issue of
      medical ethics at Guantánamo had produced "a
      tremendous controversy in the committee." He said that
      some Red Cross officials believed it was important to
      maintain confidentiality while others believed the
      United States government was misrepresenting the
      inspections and using them to counter criticisms.

      Mr. Horton, who heads the human rights committee of
      the Bar Association of the City of New York, said the
      Red Cross committee was considering whether to bring
      more senior officials to Washington and whether to
      make public its criticisms.

      The report from the June visit said the Red Cross team
      found a far greater incidence of mental illness
      produced by stress than did American medical
      authorities, much of it caused by prolonged solitary
      confinement. It said the medical files of detainees
      were "literally open" to interrogators.

      The report said the Biscuit team met regularly with
      the medical staff to discuss the medical situations of
      detainees. At other times, interrogators sometimes
      went directly to members of the medical staff to learn
      about detainees' conditions, it said.

      The report said that such "apparent integration of
      access to medical care within the system of coercion"
      meant that inmates were not cooperating with doctors.
      Inmates learn from their interrogators that they have
      knowledge of their medical histories and the result is
      that the prisoners no longer trust the doctors.

      Asked for a response, the Pentagon issued a statement
      saying, "The allegation that detainee medical files
      were used to harm detainees is false." The statement
      said that the detainees were "enemy combatants who
      were fighting against U.S. and coalition forces."

      "It's important to understand that when enemy
      combatants were first detained on the battlefield,
      they did not have any medical records in their
      possession," the statement continued. "The detainees
      had a wide range of pre-existing health issues
      including battlefield injuries."

      The Pentagon also said the medical care given
      detainees was first-rate. Although the Red Cross
      criticized the lack of confidentiality, it agreed in
      the report that the medical care was of high quality.

      Leonard S. Rubenstein, the executive director of
      Physicians for Human Rights, was asked to comment on
      the account of the Red Cross report, and said, "The
      use of medical personnel to facilitate abusive
      interrogations places them in an untenable position
      and violates international ethical standards."

      Mr. Rubenstein added, "We need to know more about
      these practices, including whether health
      professionals engaged in calibrating levels of pain
      inflicted on detainees."

      The issue of whether torture at Guantánamo was
      condoned or encouraged has been a problem before for
      the Bush administration.

      In February 2002, President Bush ordered that the
      prisoners at Guantánamo be treated "humanely and, to
      the extent appropriate with military necessity, in a
      manner consistent with" the Geneva Conventions. That
      statement masked a roiling legal discussion within the
      administration as government lawyers wrote a series of
      memorandums, many of which seemed to justify harsh and
      coercive treatment.

      A month after Mr. Bush's public statement, a team of
      administration lawyers accepted a view first advocated
      by the Justice Department that the president had wide
      powers in authorizing coercive treatment of detainees.
      The legal team in a memorandum concluded that Mr. Bush
      was not bound by either the international Convention
      Against Torture or a federal antitorture statute
      because he had the authority to protect the nation
      from terrorism.

      That document provides tightly constructed definitions
      of torture. For example, if an interrogator "knows
      that severe pain will result from his actions, if
      causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the
      requisite specific intent even though the defendant
      did not act in good faith," it said. "Instead, a
      defendant is guilty of torture only if he acts with
      the express purpose of inflicting severe pain or
      suffering on a person within his control."

      When some administration memorandums about coercive
      treatment or torture were disclosed, the White House
      said they were only advisory.

      Last month, military guards, intelligence agents and
      others described in interviews with The Times a range
      of procedures that they said were highly abusive
      occurring over a long period, as well as rewards for
      prisoners who cooperated with interrogators. The
      people who worked at Camp Delta, the main prison
      facility, said that one regular procedure was making
      uncooperative prisoners strip to their underwear,
      having them sit in a chair while shackled hand and
      foot to a bolt in the floor, and forcing them to
      endure strobe lights and loud rock and rap music
      played through two close loudspeakers, while the
      air-conditioning was turned up to maximum levels.

      Some accounts of techniques at Guantánamo have been
      easy to dismiss because they seemed so implausible.
      The most striking of the accusations, which have come
      mainly from a group of detainees released to their
      native Britain, has been that the military used
      prostitutes who made coarse comments and come-ons to
      taunt some prisoners who are Muslims.

      But the Red Cross report hints strongly at an
      explanation of some of those accusations by stating
      that there were frequent complaints by prisoners in
      2003 that some of the female interrogators baited
      their subjects with sexual overtures.

      Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who commanded the detention and
      intelligence operation at Guantánamo until April, when
      he took over prison operations in Iraq, said in an
      interview early this year about general interrogation
      procedures that the female interrogators had proved to
      be among the most effective. General Miller's
      observation matches common wisdom among experienced
      intelligence officers that women may be effective as
      interrogators when seen by their subjects as mothers
      or sisters. Sexual taunting does not, however, comport
      with what is often referred to as the "mother-sister

      But the Red Cross report said that complaints about
      the practice of sexual taunting stopped in the last
      year. Guantánamo officials have acknowledged that they
      have improved their techniques and that some earlier
      methods they tried proved to be ineffective, raising
      the possibility that the sexual taunting was an
      experiment that was abandoned.

      Correction: December 1, 2004, Wednesday:

      A front-page article yesterday citing a confidential
      report in which the International Committee of the Red
      Cross accused the American military of using
      psychological and sometimes physical coercion on
      prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, misstated the rank
      of Jay W. Hood, commander of the detention facility
      there. He is a brigadier general, not a general.

      U.S. Group Urges Rumsfeld War Crimes Probe in Germany


      BERLIN (Reuters) - A U.S. human rights group urged
      German prosecutors Tuesday to investigate accusations
      that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and senior U.S.
      officers are guilty of war crimes over the Iraqi
      prisoner abuse scandal. In an unusual legal move, the
      U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has filed
      a criminal complaint with Germany's Federal
      Prosecutors along with four Iraqis who say they were
      tortured and humiliated alongside other prisoners by
      U.S. soldiers at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison
      outside Baghdad.

      US torture at Guantanamo 'increasingly repressive'


      The Red Cross has accused President George Bush's
      administration of overseeing the intentional physical
      and psychological torture of prisoners held at
      Guantanamo Bay. It also accused doctors and medics of
      liaising with interrogators in what was a "flagrant
      violation of medical ethics".

      Abu Ghraib, Caribbean Style
      Published: December 1, 2004


      Ever since the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the Bush
      administration has claimed that the abuses depicted in
      those horrible photos were an isolated problem that
      was immediately fixed. The White House has repeatedly
      proclaimed its respect for the Geneva Conventions,
      international law and American statutes governing the
      treatment of prisoners. An article in The Times on
      Tuesday by Neil A. Lewis showed how hollow those
      assurances are. According to the International
      Committee of the Red Cross, prisoners at Guantánamo
      Bay, where the United States warehouses men captured
      in Afghanistan, have been subject to unremitting abuse
      that is sometimes "tantamount to torture." This
      continued well after the Abu Ghraib scandal came to
      light, and it may still be going on.

      List of American War Crimes:

      List of Abuses in Iraq:

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