Guantanamo Britons Endured ‘Catalogue of Abuses’

Britain and the US stand accused of a shocking catalogue of human rights abuses today by three Britons who were held at Guantanamo Bay.

Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul, all from Tipton in the West Midlands, returned to Britain in March having spent more than two years without legal representation in American custody, first in Afghanistan, then at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

They were then released without charge by British police.

They were shackled, punched, kicked, slapped, hooded, forced to strip naked and deprived of sleep, they said in the 115-page dossier – Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo.

“I could hear dogs barking nearby and soldiers shouting ‘get ‘em boy’,” said Mr Rasul.

Mr Ahmed claimed that after his capture in Afghanistan in November 2001, he was interrogated by a man who identified himself as an SAS officer, while an American guard pointed a gun at his head threatening to shoot.

British detainees Moazzam Begg and Feroz Abbasi have been held in total isolation for well over a year and Mr Begg is “in a very bad way”, according to a guard quoted in the report.

Another prisoner Jordanian Jamil el-Banna, who had been living in London as a refugee, is said to be so traumatised that “mentally, basically, he’s finished”.

All inmates were subjected to a “sophisticated effort to tailor abuse to the weakness of the individual prisoner,” according to lawyers representing the detainees, both in Britain and the US.

Guantanamo Bay prisoners have and possibly continue to suffer the same shameful abuse inflicted upon inmates at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison which shocked the world.

One American guard at Guantanamo Bay told the inmates: “The world does not know you’re here – we would kill you and no-one would know,” according to the report.

Mr Rasul said an MI5 officer told him during an interrogation that he would be detained in Guantanamo for life.

Mr Rasul and Mr Iqbal reveal they were only allowed to leave the sweltering cells they shared with snakes in Cuba for a “few minutes” each week for one shower. They were often bitten.

Sexual humiliation of prisoners was common and targeted primarily at those who were strict Muslims. Guards would throw prisoners’ Korans into the toilet “as part of their clear policy to force people to abandon their religious faith”, it was claimed.

Prisoners were “forcibly injected with unknown drugs as part of the interrogation process” and offered medical care in exchange for confessions. And after endless pressure many prisoners gave false confessions, it was claimed.

The three Britons said they eventually wrongfully confessed to appearing in a video with al Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Atta, one of the September 11 hijackers.

Mentally ill inmates were physically abused and another man was left brain damaged after a beating by soldiers, who were punishing him for attempting suicide, it was claimed.

The treatment got worse when Major General Geoffrey Miller took over the camp. When Mr Miller was in charge, new practices began, including the shaving of beards, shackling detainees in squatting positions, playing loud music and putting prisoners naked in cells, the report alleges.

The Britons claim they were photographed naked and subjected to body cavity searches.

“Before, when people would be put into blocks for isolation they would seem to stay for not more than a month. After he (Gen Miller) came, people would be kept there for months and months and months,” Mr Rasul added.

Mr Ahmed said Foreign Office officials “did not seem to care or even ask him about the conditions”.

The report states: “It was very clear to all three that MI5 was content to benefit from the effect of the isolation, sleep deprivation and other forms of acutely painful and degrading treatment, including short shackling.

“There was never any suggestion on the part of the British interrogators that this treatment was wrong.”

The report leaves questions for the Foreign Office, which said that no British detainees at Guantanamo Bay had complained about their treatment.

All three men said they had made either written or verbal complaints to British embassy officials while they were being held.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The British Army follows the rules laid out in the Geneva Convention and soldiers are told to follow that.

“It is not permissible to point guns at people’s heads during interrogation. We would investigate if any allegation of that nature is made.”

Gareth Peirce, the lawyer for the three men, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The account they have given from start to finish of their time in detention is an account of systematic brutality, systematic coerced attempts to obtain confessions, interrogations carried out in ways that are banned by the international community, enforced isolation, induced sense of wholesale desperation, hopelessness, helplessness.”

She argued that if there is nothing to hide “it is very curious” that despite the Supreme Court’s findings, the Pentagon is even now in the courts in America fighting to the last ditch to prevent access by lawyers, access by doctors.

She said: “If we don’t stand by our underlying commitment to the rights of all persons, however heinous the allegations, then we have abandoned all hope for a just world.”

No-one could be immediately reached at the Pentagon for comment.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
PA News, UK
Aug. 4, 2004
Helen William and Mark Sage, PA News

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday August 4, 2004.
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