The torture and abuse of detainees in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and Iraq happened on Bush’s watch and at his urging. Yet this issue has not been raised at all during the present campaign.
Including high-level policy memos, special investigations and witness testimony, the documents describe attacks, prisoner riots, interrogation methods and the torture and deaths of detainees. They reveal that the torture and abuse of inmates at the prison by military police, exposed in April 2004 news accounts of the classified report, took place under the guidance of military intelligence with little direct supervision from overburdened senior officers.
The January 2004 Criminal Investigation Division investigation and depositions that preceded Taguba’s report would document that most of the alleged prisoner abuse occurred in these areas. The investigation—which readers should be warned is extremely graphic in its details—lists the involvement of more than 10 soldiers and civilian contractors in abusing more than 20 detainees, including repeated, severe beatings—some of injured detainees, as well as nudity, sexual abuse including raping and sodomizing detainees, forced food and sleep deprivation and various methods of humiliation.
An August 2004 report in the Lancet accused medical personnel of complicity in abuses, and the documents provide some new support for those charges. One detainee, for example, received several beatings, had his kidney, back and legs jumped on, and was sodomized with a police baton. A comparison of detainee identification numbers with serious incident reports reveals that a detainee with the same number was evacuated on December 2 to a combat army surgical hospital on suspicion of a ruptured appendix. Another detainee, shot during the incident with Sergeant Cathcart on November 24, stated that he was beaten on his injured legs, a statement corroborated by Sergeant Reuben Layton. Layton, who witnessed the beating by Corporal Charles Graner while treating the detainee, said that he did not report that and other incidents because he knew military intelligence was involved in some of them and thought they were sanctioned.
CID testimony would also reveal the use of military dogs in interrogations, including an incident in which a prisoner was bitten. Witnesses indicated that Colonel Thomas Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, approved the use of those dogs for interrogations, contrary to his statements in his deposition. In fact, a November 30th memo from Pappas to coalition commander Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez specifically requests the use of muzzled dogs in an interrogation. Sanchez would state that he never specifically approved a request to use dogs in an interrogation
In September, intelligence operations were consolidated under the Joint Interrogation and Detention Center at the prison and the head of the center, Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan, told investigators that the interrogation center had been put together at the direction of the White House specifically to consolidate intelligence information regarding possible terrorist activity.
At least 11 al-Qaeda suspects have “disappeared” in U.S. custody, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. U.S. officials are holding the detainees in undisclosed locations, where some have reportedly been tortured.
The 46-page report, “The United States’ ‘Disappeared’: The CIA’s Long-Term ‘Ghost Detainees,’” describes how the Central Intelligence Agency is holding al-Qaeda suspects in “secret locations,” reportedly outside the United States, with no notification to their families, no access to the International Committee of the Red Cross or oversight of any sort of their treatment, and in some cases, no acknowledgement that they are even being held.
“‘Disappearances’ were a trademark abuse of Latin American military dictatorships in their ‘dirty war’ on alleged subversion,” said Reed Brody, special counsel with Human Rights Watch. “Now they have become a United States tactic in its conflict with al-Qaeda.”
International treaties ratified by the United States prohibit incommunicado detention of persons in secret locations. The Geneva Conventions require that the International Committee of the Red Cross have access to all detainees and that information on those detained be provided to their relatives. Under international human rights law, detainees must be held in recognized places of detention and be able to communicate with lawyers and family members.
Human Rights Watch called on the United States to bring all detainees, wherever they are being held, under the protection of the law. In particular, it demanded that the government grant unrestricted access to the International Committee of the Red Cross to all detainees held pursuant to anti-terrorist operations.
“Those guilty of serious crimes must be brought to justice before fair trials,” said Brody. “If the United States embraces the torture and ‘disappearance’ of its opponents, it abandons its ideals and international obligations and becomes a lesser nation.”