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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 2-5, 2001

       The Special Forces officer who questioned him the day before ties Lindh's hands with rope and puts a hood over his head. Lindh is then driven back to Mazar-i-Sharif, where he is taken into a school building. For the next two to three days, Lindh will be kept blindfolded and bound in custody of the US military. He asks for the time of day, explaining that he needs to know for religious reasons. But he is told to shut up. US soldiers frequently call him “sh_tbag,” or “sh_thead.” He is fed military rations twice a day, which he feels is insufficient given his state of malnourishment. Requests for more food and more medical attention are refused. [Sources: Proffer of facts in support of defendant's suppression motions submitted June 13, 2002] Throughout the week at the school, Lindh expresses concern about his bullet wound, which appears to be festering. On the first two days, he is visited twice by a Red Cross worker, who on December 3 gives him the opportunity to dictate a letter to his parents. It is faxed eight days later. [Sources: Proffer of facts in support of defendant's suppression motions submitted June 13, 2002] For the rest of his incarceration at Mazar-i-Sharif, the Red Cross workers are prevented from seeing Lindh. [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
          

April-May 2002

       28-year-old Afghan taxi driver Sayed Abassin is on his way from Kabul to Khost, when he is stopped at a checkpoint at Gardez. One of his passengers is identified as a wanted suspect, and all the occupants in the vehicle, Abassin included, are arrested. At the Gardez police station Abassin is beaten before being turned over to the US military. After a brief interrogation, he is flown by helicopter to the Bagram base. When his father makes inquiries, he is only told that his son has been taken to Bagram. For the first week he is held in shackles and kept in a cell with 24-hour lighting, with the guards waking him up whenever he would fall asleep. He does not get enough to eat and is forced to stand or kneel for four hours a day. A year later he will say he still has problems with his knees. He is interrogated six or seven times. In total, he spends 40 days at Bagram. [Associated Press, 3/15/2003 cited in Amnesty International, 8/19/2003]
People and organizations involved: Sayed Abassin
          

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
          

December 25, 2003

       After her brother's dead body has been taken away, Huda al-Azzawi and 18 other Iraqi detainees at the US base in Adhamiya are put inside a minibus. “The Americans told us: ‘Nobody is going to sleep tonight.’ They played scary music continuously with loud voices. As soon as someone fell asleep they started beating on the door. It was Christmas. They kept us there for three days. Many of the US soldiers were drunk.” [The Guardian, 9/20/2004] During the coming days, she is subjected to severe physical violence when a US guard either breaks [The Guardian, 9/20/2004] or dislocates her shoulder. It leads to her being examined by a doctor. “Paradoxically, that was the best thing that happened to me. The doctor was furious with the guard and demanded that they cuff my hands in front of me, instead of behind my back, a less painful position.” For a week she is kicked or hit with rifle butts in her breasts and her stomach. She is forced to squat or stand up for hours. She is denied sufficient food and sleep, and is forced to listen to “terrifying” music. [Le Monde, 10/12/2004]
People and organizations involved: Huda 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
          

March 2004

       Saddam Salah al-Rawi has spent three months in room 42 of Tier 1A at the Hard Site of Abu Ghraib. He is given one meal every 12 hours. When his health deteriorates he is moved to camp 7, tent 2. “I was weak at that time, and I had many health problems.” [Sources: Testimony of Saddam Saleh Al Rawi]
People and organizations involved: Saddam Salah al-Rawi
          

June 7, 2004

       The Wall Street Journal reports that according to an unnamed military official, “Methods now used at Guantanamo include limiting prisoners' food, denying them clothing, subjecting them to body-cavity searches, depriving them of sleep for as much as 96 hours and shackling them in so-called stress positions.” [Wall Street Journal, 6/7/2004]
          


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