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Torture, rendition, and other abuses against captives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere

 
  

Project: Prisoner abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

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Mid-December 2001

       Sometime in December, [Sources: Petitioners' Brief on the Merits, in the case of Shafiq Rasul, et al., v. George W. Bush, et al., No. 03-334, US Supreme Court] Rhuhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal, and Shafiq Rasul are handed over to US forces. The “Tipton three,” as they will be known, are taken by Northern Alliance troops to a US military base, together with 200 other prisoners. The journey by means of containers is allegedly so exhausting, that the three are among only 20 who survive. They suffer from “cold, dehydration, hunger, and uncertainty.” As they are handed over, US soldiers allegedly kick and beat them. According to Iqbal, “They kept calling us ‘motherf_ckers,’ and I think over three or four hours ... I must have been punched, kicked, slapped or struck with a rifle butt at least 30 or 40 times.” One of the soldiers says, according to Iqbal, “You killed my family in the towers [of the World Trade Center], and now it's time to get you back.” [The Guardian, 8/4/2004] The three Britons are temporarily detained at the US military base at Kandahar. Allegedly they are systematically deprived of sleep and kept on a special diet designed to weaken them. In the meanwhile they are interrogated. In one instance, according to Iqbal, US soldiers hold a gun to his head during questioning. “An American shouted at me, telling me I was al-Qaeda. I said I was not involved in al-Qaeda and did not support them. At this he started to punch me violently and then when he knocked me to the floor started to kick me around my back and in my stomach.” [The Guardian, 8/4/2004]
People and organizations involved: Rhuhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul
          

December 7-8, 2001

       US soldiers enter the school, blindfold Lindh, and take photographs of Lindh and themselves posing next to him. One soldier scrawls “sh_thead” across Lindh's blindfold and poses with him. Another soldier makes fun of his Islamic religion. Someone says Lindh is “going to hang” and another one that he wants to shoot him on the spot. They then put Lindh in a van and tie his hands with plastic handcuffs so tight they severely cut off the blood circulation. The scars and numbness that result from this treatment are still present months later. He is then put on a plane and flown to the US marine base Camp Rhino, seventy miles south of Kandahar. During the flight, Lindh screams because the pain in his hands have become unbearable. But his American guards refuse to loosen the cuffs. Immediately upon arrival at Camp Rhino, when the winter night has already fallen, US soldiers cut off all of Lindh's clothing. Wearing only his blindfold and shaking violently from the cold, Lindh is bound to a stretcher with heavy duct tape wrapped tightly around his chest, upper arms and ankles. In this position military personnel again take photographs of him. One photograph is later released by his attorneys and corroborates the described treatment. He is then placed, stretcher and all, in a metal shipping container. Twenty minutes later, a US marine begins to question him. [Sources: Proffer of facts in support of defendant's suppression motions submitted June 13, 2002]
People and organizations involved: John Walker Lindh
          

December 8-9, 2001

       According to government papers, later quoted by John Walker Lindh's defense, “A Navy physician present at Camp Rhino recounted that the lead military interrogator in charge of Mr. Lindh's initial questioning told the physician ‘that sleep deprivation, cold, and hunger might be employed’ during Mr. Lindh's interrogations.” This interrogator later says, “he was initially told to get whatever information he could get from the detainee. However, ... once it was determined from their initial questioning of Lindh that he was an American, which was done within an hour or so, [the military interrogator] informed a superior and was told they were done questioning him.” [US v. John Phillip Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002] Lindh nevertheless does receive the treatment of “sleep deprivation, cold, and hunger.” The container Lindh is kept in has no light or heat source. Only two small holes in the sides of the container allow some light and air to enter, through which military guards frequently shout swearwords at Lindh and discuss spitting in his food. According to his defense attorneys, “Mr. Lindh's hands and feet remained restrained such that his forearms were forced together and fully extended, pointing straight down towards his feet. The pain from the wrist restraints was intense. Initially, Mr. Lindh remained fully exposed within the metal container, lying on his back; after some time had passed, one blanket was placed over him and one beneath him. While in the container the first two days, Mr. Lindh was provided minimal food and little medical attention. He suffered from constant pain from the plastic cuffs on his wrists and the bullet wound in his thigh. Because the metal container was placed next to a generator, the loud noise it generated echoed within the container. According to government disclosures, Mr. Lindh repeatedly said he was cold and asked for more protection from the weather. When Mr. Lindh needed to urinate, his guards did not release him from the restraints binding him to his stretcher, but instead propped up the stretcher into a vertical position. Due to hunger, the cold temperature, the noise, and the incessant pain caused by his wounds and the position in which he was restrained, Mr. Lindh was unable to sleep. Mr. Lindh was held under these conditions continuously for two days.” [US v. John Phillip Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002]
People and organizations involved: John Walker Lindh
          

December 28, 2001

       Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed (the “Tipton Three”), held at Sheberghan prison, are among thirty to fifty other foreign prisoners whose custody is taken over by US Special Forces from the troops of the Northern Alliance. [Sources: Composite statement by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, 7/26/2004] Abdul Razaq, a Pakistani teacher of English, says he is singled out for no other reason than that he speaks English. [The Guardian, 12/3/2003] Taken to the main gate, US Special Forces personnel surround them pointing their guns at them. One by one they are stripped of all their clothes, despite the freezing temperature, and photographed. After five minutes they are allowed to put their clothes back on. [Sources: Composite statement by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, 7/26/2004] One by one, they are taken to a shed. With their hands and feet tied with plastic cuffs, each of them is questioned by US soldiers in uniform. As one American starts the interrogation, another soldier, Rasul says, keeps a machine gun aimed at him. The interrogator, according to Rasul, says, “if you move, that guy over there will shoot you.” When it is Iqbal's turn, a soldier, he says, is “holding a black 9mm automatic pistol to my temple. The barrel of the pistol was actually touching my temple.” [Sources: Composite statement by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, 7/26/2004] Razaq's interview takes only three or four minutes with only two questions asked: “What is your name, and why have you come to Afghanistan?” [The Guardian, 12/3/2003] Immediately after the interrogations, the non-Afghan prisoners have a sandbag put over their heads. For three or four hours, they have to wait in the cold for all detainees to complete the interrogations. “I think we were all suffering from the cold, dehydration, hunger, the uncertainty as well as the pain caused by the plastic ties,” Ahmed recalls. “Added to this, periodically Special Forces soldiers would walk along a line of sitting detainees and kick us or beat us at will.” Iqbal remembers that “one of them said ‘you killed my family in the towers and now it's time to get you back.’ They kept calling us motherf_ckers and I think over the three or four hours that I was sitting there, I must have been punched, kicked, slapped or struck with a rifle butt at least 30 or 40 times. It came to a point that I was simply too numb from the cold and from exhaustion to respond to the pain.” [Sources: Composite statement by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, 7/26/2004] In the end, the prisoners are dragged, tied up and hooded, the skin scraping off their feet, to the backs of a number of trucks that take them to an airstrip. Loaded onto freezing cold cargo planes, they are forced to sit on the floor, still hooded, with their tied-up feet straight in front of them and their hands tied behind their backs. [Sources: Composite statement by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, 7/26/2004] Rasul testifies, “Given that I was extremely weak and that I was suffering from dysentery, dehydration, hunger, and exhaustion it was impossible to maintain this position for more than a few minutes at a time. If however I leant back or tried to move, I would be struck with a rifle butt. These blows were not designed to prevent us from falling back or to adjust our position, they were meant to hurt and punish us.” [Sources: Composite statement by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, 7/26/2004] They eventually land at a US air base at Kandahar. According to Razaq prisoners arriving at Kandahar are offloaded in a particularly violent manner. “They haul you from your neck and drop you off the plane.” Relating his experience at Kandahar, Mohammed Saghir, a grey-bearded sawmill owner, says: “They would just pick us up and throw us out. Some people were hurt, some quite badly.” And Pakistani detainee Shah Mohammed, who arrives at Kandahar from a prison near Mazar-e-Sharif, says: “They kicked us out of the plane and threw us on the ground.” [The Guardian, 12/3/2003] At Kandahar, probably on the evening of December 28, the newly arrived prisoners are forced to walk in a circle which is “unbearably painful” because their cuffs cut into their skin. US soldiers force their foreheads into the stony ground, hit, kick, and punch them and occasionally strike them with a rifle butt. They cut off their clothes and carry out “humiliating” cavity searches. [Sources: Composite statement by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, 7/26/2004]
People and organizations involved: Mohammed Saghir, Noor Aghah, Rhuhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul
          

January 11, 2002-April 30, 2002

       The first prisoners who arrived at Guantanamo Bay (see January 11, 2002) are accommodated in a location known as “Camp X-Ray.” This camp consists of small cages, measuring eight-by-eight feet, with open-air, chain-link walls, a concrete floor and a roof made of wood and metal. [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] Inside, detainees are provided with a mattress, a blanket, a sheet, two towels, a toothbrush, shampoo, soap, flip-flops, two buckets, and plastic water bottles. [The Guardian, 12/3/2003] One of the buckets is for water to wash with; the other to urinate in. [Sources: Composite statement by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, 7/26/2004] The cages have no plumbing and thus guards have to escort detainees to portable toilets. [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] The cells at Camp X-Ray are described by released British prisoners as being without privacy and open to the elements as well as to “rats, snakes, and scorpions.” [The Mirror, 3/12/2004] During the first weeks until about the middle of February, the prisoners, according to Asif Iqbal, are “not allowed any exercise at all.” [Sources: Composite statement by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, 7/26/2004] And later, Amnesty International confirms that prisoners are kept inside their cages “sometimes up to 24 hours a day with little exercise time out of their cells.” [Amnesty International, 10/27/2004] Only after some months, according to the Tipton Three, are prisoners allowed, “once a week, to walk in a small recreation yard for about 5 minutes.” [The Mirror, 3/12/2004] Jamal Udeen recalls: “Recreation meant your legs were untied and you walked up and down a strip of gravel. In Camp X-Ray you only got five minutes.” [The Mirror, 3/12/2004] At first, prisoners are allegedly allowed a shower—a cold two-minute one—only once a week, and never in solitary confinement. Later the number of showers is increased to three a week. [The Mirror, 3/12/2004] Eating has to be done in 10 minutes and the amount of food is very little. [The Guardian, 12/3/2003] Speaking to each other is strictly prohibited. [The Guardian, 12/3/2003] Five days later, however, he will be allowed to speak to neighboring detainees. [Sources: Composite statement by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, 7/26/2004] But apparently worse than the accommodations is the uncertainty the prisoners are facing. “When we first got there, the level [of fear] was sky-high,” Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed, and Shafiq Rasul, who were among the first to arrive, recall: “We were terrified we might be killed at any minute. The guards would say, ‘Nobody knows you're here, all they know is that you're missing and we could kill you and no one would know.’ ” [The Guardian, 8/4/2004] The prison operations at Guantanamo are at first handled by two Joint Task Forces: JTF-160 and JTF-170. JTF-160, first under the command of Brig. Gen. Michael R. Lehnert, is responsible both for guarding the prisoners, and for dealing with migrants seeking asylum. JTF-170, under command of Major-General Michael E. Dunlavey, is tasked with handling interrogation operations for the Department of Defense and ensuring coordination among government agencies involved in the interrogation of the suspected terrorists. [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] It consists of personnel from the DIA, the CIA, and the FBI. [The Guardian, 10/16/2002] Sccording to later statements by several officers who served at Guantanamo, aggressive methods of interrogation are introduced in early 2002. Prisoners are derived of sleep, forced into “stress positions,” and put into extra cold, air-conditioned rooms. [New York Times, 5/13/2004]
People and organizations involved: Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul, Rhuhel Ahmed, Jamal Udeen, Michael E. Dunlavey, Michael R. Lehnert
          

January 12 or 13, 2002

       In Kandahar, American soldiers call out a number of prisoners including Rasul. He has a sack placed over his head and his wrists and ankles are shackled. Someone, “for no reason,” hits him on the back of his head with a hand-gun. During the night, he stays with about 20 other detainees in a tent with a wet floor, and “no bed or mattress or anything.” The next morning, Asif Iqbal and Rasul, both recall, have their clothes cut off and their beards and heads shaven. [Sources: Composite statement by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, 7/26/2004] Taken outside, naked, shackled, and hooded, Rasul hears dogs nearby and soldiers shouting, “Get 'em boy.” In another tent, something is painfully forced into his anus. He and the others are then given orange uniforms, and new handcuffs are attached to a chain around their waists and cuffs around their ankles. The cuffs, according to Rasul, are “extremely tight and cut into my wrists and ankles.” Next, they are donned with mittens, ear-muffs, blacked-out goggles, and a sort of surgical mask. Rasul is then made to sit down outside in the freezing cold on the ground “for hours and hours, perhaps nine or ten altogether,” not allowed to move. At last Rasul, Iqbal, and about 40 other prisoners are led aboard a cargo plane, and chained on benches with no back. Any movement is responded to with a kick. [Sources: Composite statement by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, 7/26/2004] Later on, the passengers' hands will be tied to hand rests and their bodies held attached by a belt to the back of a chair. [The Guardian, 12/3/2003] Their destination is unknown to them. During the flight, according to Iqbal, they receive an unusual luxury: “peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and orange slices.” At some point during the journey, more than halfway, the plane lands and the prisoners are transferred to another plane. As to where this is, the two Britons have no clue, but it is “obviously somewhere very hot.” Ahmed, who will come to Guantanamo one month later, makes a similar landing during the journey and is told by soldiers they have landed in Turkey. During the switch, a soldier stamps on the chain between Iqbal's ankles, which is “extremely painful.” Two-and-a-half years later Rasul will still have scarring on his left arm from the tightness of the shackles during the flight. He also loses the feeling in his right hand for a long time because of it. [Sources: Composite statement by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, 7/26/2004] Around January 13, Iqbal and Rasul arrive at Guantanamo.
People and organizations involved: Rhuhel Ahmed, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal
          

June 2002

       Omar al-Faruq, a top al-Qaeda senior operative in Southeast Asia, is captured by Indonesian agents after receiving a tip from the CIA. He is flown to the CIA interrogation center at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan where is subjected to months of intense interrogations . “It is likely, experts say, that ... Mr. Faruq [was] left naked most of the time, his hands and feet bound. [He] may also have been hooked up to sensors, then asked questions to which interrogators knew the answers, so they could gauge his truthfulness,” the New York Times will later report. One Western intelligence official will tell the newspaper that Mr. Faruq's interrogation was “not quite torture, but about as close as you can get.” For three months he is provided with very little food, subjected to sleep and light deprivation, prolonged isolation and temperatures ranging from 100 degrees to 10 degrees. After being softened up, Faruq provides information about “plans to drive explosives-laden trucks into American diplomatic centers [and] detailed information about people involved in those operations and other plots, writing out lengthy descriptions.” [The New York Times, 3/9/2003]
People and organizations involved: Omar al-Faruq
          

June 4, 2002-early August 2002

       Palestinian Hussein Abdelkadr Youssouf Mustafa, arrested 10 days earlier (see May 25, 2002), is flown from the Pakistani Khaibar prison to Bagram together with 34 other Arab prisoners. They are stripped naked and subjected to stress positions, sleep deprivation, beatings, and humiliation. “They made me stand on one leg in the sun,” he later recalls. “They wouldn't let me sleep for more than two hours. We had only a barrel for a toilet and had to use it in front of everyone.” [The Independent, 1/8/2005] He hears other detainees screaming, who he believes are being beaten. [Mother Jones, 3/2005] The same happens to him. “I was beaten severely,” he claims. He is also doused with cold water and subjected to cold air. “[W]ater was thrown on me before facing an air conditioner,” he will say. [The Independent, 1/8/2005] On one occasion, he later recounts to British journalist Robert Fisk, “an American soldier took me blindfolded. My hands were tightly cuffed, with my ears plugged so I could not hear properly, and my mouth covered so I could only make a muffled scream. Two soldiers, one on each side, forced me to bend down, and a third pressed my face down over a table. A fourth soldier then pulled down my trousers. They rammed a stick up my rectum.” [Mother Jones, 3/2005] Nevertheless, he says, “My torture was even less than what they did to others.” [The Independent, 1/8/2005]
People and organizations involved: Hussein Abdelkadr Youssouf Mustafa
          

December 2002

       US troops arrest Saif-ur Rahman in the northeastern province of Kunar, Afghanistan, and fly him out by helicopter to Jalalabad. There, according to an account Rahman later provides to Associated Press, he is stripped and doused with ice-cold water. Two US interrogators question him with two dogs. After 24 hours, Rahman is sent to Bagram, where he is deprived of sleep, forced to stand for a long period of time, humiliated by female soldiers who scream abuses at him, and forced to lie on the floor with his arms and legs spread wide and a chair placed on his hands and feet. For 20 days he remains handcuffed. At some point, interrogators threaten to send him to Guantanamo. “One of them brought me 50 small stones and said ‘count these stones.’ When I finished he said, ‘We will send you there for 50 years.’ ” When a military spokesperson is later asked to comment on Rahman's account, the spokesperson says it sounds only partially true (see January 22, 2002). [Associated Press, 3/15/2003]
People and organizations involved: Saif-ur Rahman  Additional Info 
          

Early July 2003

       The International Committee of the Red Cross sends the Coalition Forces a working paper reporting 50 allegations of mistreatment in the military intelligence section of Camp Cropper. Among the allegations reported in the memo are: “threats (to intern individuals indefinitely, to arrest other family members, to transfer individuals to Guantanamo) against persons deprived of their liberty or against members of their families (in particular wives and daughters); hooding; tight handcuffing; use of stress positions (kneeling, squatting, standing with arms raised over the head) for three or four hours; taking aim at individuals with rifles; striking them with rifle butts; slaps; punches; prolonged exposure to the sun; and isolation in dark cells.” The report says that medical examinations of the prisoners supported their allegations. [New York Times, 5/11/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]
          

August 2003

       An unnamed US soldier witnesses two interrogators pull an Iraqi man, gasping for air, from the trunk of a black Mercedes after having driven around with him in the back for some time. “They kind of had to prop him up to carry him in. He looked like he had been there for a while,” the soldier later tells the Guardian. The soldier also notes that it had been extremely hot that day. According to the soldier, the torture tactic is referred to as the “bitch in a box.” [The Guardian, 5/14/2004]
          

(Late August 2003)

       A detainee is reportedly held in an extremely hot shipping container as punishment. [New York Times, 5/13/2004]
          

October 20-25, 2003

       Abu Ghraib prisoner Abd Alwhab Youss is punished after guards accuse him of plotting to attack an MP with a broken toothbrush that he allegedly sharpened to make a weapon. [Sources: AR 15-6 Investigation of the Abu Ghraib Detention Facility and 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, 8/23/2004] In the MP log book, Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick writes that the detainee should be kept naked in his cell for six days. Youss, who denies having made the weapon, is denied the privilege of a mattress as well. The following day, he is cuffed to his cell door for several hours. Afterwards, MPs take him into a closed room, pour cold water on him, push his face into someone's urine and beat him with a broom. Then a female soldier “pressed my _ss with a broom and spit on it,” Youss claims. [Rolling Stone, 7/28/2004] Meanwhile she stands on his legs. For the next three days, he is left naked only during the night. During the day an MP will hand him his clothes back. Gen. George R. Fay in his later report (see August 25, 2004), notes, “It is plausible his interrogators would be unaware of the alleged abuse.” [Sources: AR 15-6 Investigation of the Abu Ghraib Detention Facility and 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, 8/23/2004]
People and organizations involved: Abd Alwhab Youss, Ivan L. Frederick II
          

January 4, 2004

       Huda al-Azzawi and her siblings are detained at Abu Ghraib. Numbered 156283, she is to spend a total of 197 days in the prison, [Le Monde, 10/12/2004] of which 156 days will be in solitary confinement at the Hard Site in one of the upstairs cells. [The Guardian, 9/20/2004] She will be interrogated thirty times. [Le Monde, 10/12/2004] Her cell at the Hard Site measures two square meters, and initially it has no bed and just a bucket for a loo. For the first three weeks she is forbidden to talk. Guards give her a Koran. With a stolen pen, she records her experiences in its margins. In the first weeks at Abu Ghraib, Al-Azzawi witnesses many instances of torture. “The guards used wild dogs. I saw one of the guards allow his dog to bite a 14-year-old boy on the leg. The boy's name was Adil. Other guards frequently beat the men. I could see the blood running from their noses. They would also take them for compulsory cold showers even though it was January and February. From the very beginning, it was mental and psychological war.” [The Guardian, 9/20/2004] Possibly the worst she sees, are incidents of rape. “I saw men that had water bottles forced up their butt by soldiers.” To the question whether women also ran the risk of rape, she says, “the women were relatively sheltered.” But it may also be more difficult to learn of women being raped. “You won't find a single one who will testify to having been raped. A rape, for a man, is the supreme humiliation, but for a woman, it is a death sentence by her own family.” [Le Monde, 10/12/2004]
People and organizations involved: Adil, Huda al-Azzawi, Nahla al-Azzawi, Ali al-Azzawi, Mu'taz al-Azzawi
          

February 24, 2004

       “There was never enough food and one day,” Huda al-Azzawi, detained at Abu Ghraib (see January 4, 2004), recalls, “I came across an old woman who had collapsed from hunger. The Americans were always eating lots of hot food. I found some in a packet in a bin and gave it to her. They caught me and threw me in a one-meter-square punishment cell. They then poured cold water on me for four hours.” [The Guardian, 9/20/2004]
People and organizations involved: Huda al-Azzawi
          

May-June 2004

       Conditions for Mehdi Ghezali, a detainee at Guantanamo, become worse. After he is released in July, he will say that during this period he was shackled for hours, deprived of sleep, put in isolation, and subjected to cold temperatures for up to 14 hours at a time. “They put me in the interrogation room and used it as a refrigerator. They set the temperature to minus degrees so it was terribly cold and one had to freeze there for many hours; 12 to 14 hours one had to sit there, chained.” [Agence France-Presse, 7/14/2004; Reuters, 7/14/2004]
People and organizations involved: Mehdi Ghezali
          


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