Shocking prisoner abuses are revealed

By Andrew Buncombe in Washington and Nigel Morris

The Independent

04 August 2004

Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were subjected to Abu Ghraib-style torture and sexual humiliation in which they were stripped naked, forced to sodomise one another and taunted by naked female American soldiers, according to a new report.

Some of the abuse has been captured on videotape.

Based on the testimony of three former British prisoners who spoke with other detainees, the report details a brutal yet carefully choreographed regime at the US prison camp in which abuse was meted out in a manner judged to have the "maximum impact". Those prisoners with the most conservative Muslim backgrounds were the most likely to be subjected to sexual humiliation and abuse while those from westernised backgrounds were more likely to suffer solitary confinement and physical mistreatment.

In addition to the sexual and physical humiliation, the report based on testimony provided by Rhuhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Safiq Rasul ­ the so-called Tipton Three ­ also details how prisoners had their religion mocked. "There was a clear policy to try to force people to abandon their religious faith," says one extract of the report, obtained by The Independent. The report also details how prisoners were injected with unknown drugs during interrogation sessions and were told they would only receive medicine if they co-operated with interrogators.

It was also reported that elsewhere in the report, Mr Ahmed claims he was questioned for three hours by a British interrogator claiming to be from the SAS while an American colleague held a gun to his head.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said last night: "These allegations make profoundly unpleasant reading. If they are true, they demonstrate a level of behaviour far short of what is acceptable. The American authorities said that the Geneva Conventions did not apply in Guantanamo Bay, but nevertheless they abide by their terms. It seems they have signally failed to do so and one can't help drawing a parallel with what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad."

Five British prisoners were released without charge from Guantanamo Bay, on a US naval base on the south-east coast of Cuba, last March and freed within a day by the British authorities. Another four remain: Feroz Abbasi, Moazzam Begg, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar. Three UK residents, Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil al-Banna and Jamal Abdullah, are also there. It is understood that Mr Begg and Mr Abbasi, have been held in total isolation for more than a year.

The abuse detailed in the report, compiled by British and American lawyers and being released today in New York by the Centre for Constitutional Rights, is likely to trigger fresh outrage about the way the US military treats prisoners. Investigators are examining allegations of widespread abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prisoner west of Baghdad. Male prisoners were abused, tortured and sexually humiliated by their US guards. They are also investigating the deaths of several prisoners in US military custody.

One factor which links Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib is Gen Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of the Cuban prison who left to take charge of Abu Ghraib in August last year. Mr Miller reportedly told his staff in Iraq that his intention was to turn the prison into an intelligence hub and "Gitmoize" the operation (Guantanamo is known in the US as Gitmo).

The allegations in the report match those made by other released prisoners. This week the French newspaper Libération detailed claims by two French men who said they had been physically and sexually abused, urinated on and refused medical treatment. And in a sworn statement yesterday, Tarek Dergoul, another Briton, said he had been beaten, tied up "like a beast", sprayed with pepper gun and had his head forced down the toilet. He claimed the brutality was recorded on video. The Foreign Office said yesterday no allegations of ill-treatment had been passed to British officials when they visited inmates.

'I was tied up like a beast and beaten'

A British prisoner at Guantanamo Bay said yesterday that he was interrogated for up to 10 hours at a time while chained like a dog to a metal ring in the floor.

During his incarceration, Tareq Dergoul said that he had endured similar abuse and humiliation to that meted out to the Iraqi inmates of Baghdad's Abu Ghraib jail.

In a sworn statement, he said he had been beaten, tied up "like a beast", sprayed with a pepper gun and had his head forced down the lavatory. He said the brutality was recorded on video camera.

Mr Dergoul, from Mile End, east London, was picked up by US forces in Afghanistan where he says he had travelled to buy property. He was held in Guantanamo Bay for 22 months - including more than a year in the isolation block - before being released without charge.

He also said that he was stripped, subjected to a full body search and photographed while naked, given forcible injections, forced to lie on a metal bunk without bedding in freezing conditions, and refused medical treatment when suffering frostbite. He later had to have a big toe amputated. Mr Dergoul, 26, said he was put in solitary confinement for translating from English for other prisoners and that soldiers mocked the Koran, played loud music and forced him to look at pornographic magazines during interrogation. "If I refused a cell search, military police would call the extreme reaction force, who came in riot gear with plastic shields and pepper spray. The ERF entered the cell, ran in and pinned me down after spraying me and attacked me."

He said he had been told to sign a form admitting he was a member of al-Qa'ida, but had refused. His lawyer, Louise Christian, said he had been a victim of a systematic regime of abuse "directed and ordered by the top command".

BRITONS HELD AT CAMP DELTA

DETAINED

Feroz Abbasi, 23: Moved to Britain from Uganda aged eight. May have attended Finsbury Park mosque. Arrested in Afghanistan.

Moazzam Begg, 36: Ran a religious bookshop in Birmingham. Was arrested in Islamabad in February 2002, then moved to Cuba in February 2003.

Richard Belmar, 23: Held in Pakistan before being moved to Cuba. Worshipped at Regent's Park mosque, close to his home in Maida Vale, north London.

Martin Mubanga, 29: Has joint Zambian and British nationality. Lived in London. Was arrested in Zambia after reportedly arriving there from Afghanistan.

RELEASED

Asif Iqbal, 22: Parcel depot worker from Tipton. Picked up in Afghanistan. Family had suggested he go to Pakistan to meet a bride.

Shafiq Rasul, 24: Captured in Afghanistan. From Tipton. Travelled to Pakistan in 2001 for a computer course.

Rhuhel Ahmed, 21: Left for Pakistan in 2001 with Rasul and Iqbal to attend wedding. Held in Kandahar before being sent to Cuba.

Jamal al-Harith or Jamal Udeen 37: Web designer. Believed to have been captured in a Kandahar jail.

Tarek Dergoul, 24: Former east London care worker. Believed to have been sent to Cuba in May 2002.