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USA: Human dignity denied: Torture and accountability in the war on terror


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A former US marine, now a military analyst with the mainstream Fox TV News Channel, has reportedly said that he tortured a Vietcong prisoner during the Vietnam War by allaching clectrodcs lo his genitals and thrcalening clectrocution. Liculcnant Colonel William Cowan claimed that the torture "worked like a charmi”, making the prisoner talk. Lt. Col. Cowan has also suggested thal torture should be used against high-ranking al-Qa'ida suspects: “If it's Abu Zubaydah, you start out being tough - physical pain and cmotional pain. You're putting him under physical duress outside the bounds of what the United Nations accepts. Government agents are already alleged to have done so (see Point 3.2).

Some of the lorlure and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in Abu Ghraib was apparently carricd out as punishunent or for the sadistic amusement of guards. As alrcady noted, the lay report found that authorized techniques such as nudity and physical stress were followed by violent physical and sexual assaults by some personnel. Thc Schlesinger report noted that one of the soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib torture and ill-treatment said that it had been committed “just for the fun of it”. During the Taguba investigation, a soldier assigned 10 Abu Ghraib stalcd:

The MPs Inuilitary police) were using the detainees as practise dummies, like they would show each other how to knock someone our by knocking the detainee out. They did this while another detainee would waich, when the other detainee would stari 10 get scared, the MPs would calm him down and then hit him in another way.'

On 17 January 2004, an Abu Ghraib detainee, Abd Alwhah, gave military investigalors a statement in which hc allcged that he was subjected to brulal punishment:

One day while in the prison the guard came and found a broken toothbrush, and
They said thai I was going to anack the American Police. I said the 100thbrush wasn't
mine. They said we are taking away your clothes and mattress for six days and we are
not going to beat vou. But the next day the guard came and cuffed me to the cell door
for two hours, after that they took me to a closed room and more than live guards
poured cold water on me, and forced me to put my head in someone's urine that was
already in that room. After that they hear me with a broom and stepped on my head
with their seer while it was still in the urine. The pressed my ass wiih a broom and spil
on it. Also a female soldier, whom I don't know the name was standing on my legs.
They used a loudspeaker to show at me for three hours, it was cold."363
Punitive brutality has also been alleged in Guantánamo:
"Soldiers told us personally of going into cells and conducting beatings with metal
bars which they did not report. Soldiers told us 'we can do anything we wanı.' We


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The dark art of interrogation. Auantic Monthly. October 2003.
The psychology of torture. Washington Post, 11 May 2004.

Punishmeni and amusemeni: Documents indicate three photos were not staged for interrogalion.
Wast on Post, 24 May 2004.

Sworn statement of Samuel Provance, 302'd Military Intelligence Battalion, 21 January 2004.
http://www.publicintegrity.org/docs/AbuGluaibi Ahull.pdi.
363 Translation. http://inedia.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/world/iraq/ahughraih 150425.pdf


USA: Human dignity denied: Torture and accountability in the 'war on terror


ourselves witnessed a number of brutal assaults upon prisoners. One. in April 2002, was of Jummah Al-Dousari from Bahrain, a man who had become psychiatrically disturbed, who was lying on the floor of his cage inunediately near to us when a group of eight or nine guards known as the ERF Team (Extreme Reartion force) entered his cage. We saw them severely assault him. They stamped on his neck kicked him in the stomach even though he had metal rods there as a result of an operation, and they picked up his head and smashed his face into the floor. One semale officer was ordered 10 go into the cell and kick him and beat him which she did, in his stomach. This is known as "ERFing". Another detainee, from Yemen, was bealen up so badly that we understand he is still in hospital eighieen months later. I was suggested that he was trying to commit suicide. This was not the case.

Support for such allegations has come from an unusual source. On 24 January 2003, an orange jump-suited individual was reportedly choked and beaten at Guantánamo Bay, and has suffered a brain injury as a result. I lis name is Sean Baker. Ile was not a detainee, but a US military guard who had volunteered to posc as an uncooperative dclaincc in a training exercise. However, the five-man team sent in to extract him from his cell was not told it was an exercise. Ile says that they slammed him to the floor, put him in a painful chokehold, and pounded his head at least three times against the sleel Moor. He was treated in a number of military hospitals, and a military evaluation referred to his "service-connected disability” and traumatic brain injury received as a result of his “playing role of detainee... Juring training cxcrcisc". The pursuit of intelligence at all costs Despilc such cvidence of a degree of punilive or sadistic brutality, much of the forlure and crucl, inhuman or degrading trcatncnt allcgcdly carricd out by US forces in Afghanistan, Guantánamo and Iraq appears to have been for intelligence-gathering purposes, to “soften up" detainccs prior to or during interrogation (see Point 4.1).

The authorities claim that they have oblained substantial intelligence from intcrrogations. For example, the Schlesinger Panel slaled that the interrogation of delainecs has “yielded significant amounts of actionable intelligence", adding that much of the informalion in the 9/11 Commission Report on the allacks of 11 September 2001 "came from interrogation of detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere” 100 The Schlesinger Panel, however, failed to qualify this in the way in which the 9/11 Commission had. The latter pointed out that the information could be unreliable. 307 Neither the Commission nor the Schlesinger Panel,





* Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal, Letics to Smatc Armed Services Committee, 13 May 2004.
Er-soldier recalls heating he received in Guantánano drill. Los Angeles Times, 16 June 2004.
Schlesinger report, page 18. see supra, note 30.

“Assessing the truth of statements by these witnesses – sworn enemies of the United States – is challenging. Our access to them has been limited to the review of intelligence reports based on communications received from the locations where the actual interrogations take place. We submitted questions for use in the interrogations, but had no control over whether, when, or how questions of particular interest would be asked. Nor were we allowed to talk to the interrogators so that we could

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USA: Human dignity denied: Torture and accountability in the war on terror

however, referred to, let alone publicly protested, the fact that some of the information may have been extracted under torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of individuals held in sccrct locations (scc Point 3.2).

The most recent version (1992) of the US Army Intelligence Interrogation Ficld Manual (CM 34-52) is instructive in this regard. It states:

Experience indicates that the use of prohibited techniques is not necessary to gain The cooperation of interrogation sources. L'se of torture and other illegal methods is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforis, and can induce the source 10 say whai he thinks the interrogator wants to hear."

There have also been reports that the “success” of this interrogation policy has been far morc limited than the government claims. There is evidence of widesprcad arbitrary arrests conducted on the basis of poor intelligence. l'or example, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has recently told Amnesty International that the US forces in Afghanistan appear to remain susccptible to manipulation by local tribal affiliations and interests in detaining people on the basis of false or malicious intelligence. US military intelligence officers told the ICRC that in their estimate between 70 per cent and 90 per cent of the persons deprived of their liberly in Iraq had been arrested by mistake”. In similar vein, "dozens of high-level military, intelligence and law-enforcement officials in the United States, Europe and the Middle East said that contrary to the repeated assertions of senior administration officials, nonc of the detainccs al lhc United States Naval Basc al Guantánamo Bay ranked as leaders or senior operatives of Al Qaeda". Je

Effective intelligence-gathering is a long-term task, not something that should be beaten or coerced out of a selection of people a government broadly defines as the enemy. A former intelligence oflicct familiar with the Guantánamo intclligcncc regime has said: “The quality of the screening, the quality of the interrogations and the quality of the analysis were all very poor. Efforts were made w improve things, but aller decades of neglect of human intclligcncc skills, il can'l bc sixcd in a few ycars.'

In the end, however, the absolute prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in international law rests firmly on moral grounds. It is about what sort of society we aim to build. Ariel Dorfman's country, Chile, suffered gross human rights violations on and following 11 September 1973, the day of the coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power. Dorfman has written:




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hetter judge the credibility of the detaines and clarify ambiguitics in the reporting. We were told that our requests might disrupt the sensitive interrogation process." Chapter 5.9/11 Commission report.

ICRC report. February 2004. supra, note 77.

US said to overstale value of Guantánamo detainees. New York Times, 21 June 2004. Similarly, an interrogator has said that “there are a large number of people at Guantánamo who shouldn't be there”. How expert gets detainees to ialk. The Capital Times (Wisconsin), 16 August 2004 370 Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Christino III, quoted in: US said to oversiate value of Guantánamo delainees. New York Times, 21 June 2004.

USA: Human dignity denied: Torture and accountability in the 'war on terror



"ITJorture is not a crime committed only against a body, but also a crime committed against the imagination. It presupposes, it requires, it craves the abrogation of our capacity to imagine someone else's suffering, 10 dehumanise him or her so much that their pain is not our pain. It demands this of the torturer, placing the victim outside and beyond any form of compassion or empathy, but also demands of veryone else the same distancing, the same numbness. those who know and close iheir eyes, those who do not want to know and close their eyes, those who close their eyes and ears and hearis.

President Bush has said that “the United States will continue lo lake seriously the nccd 10 question icrrorists who have information that can save lives. But we will not compromise the rule of law or the values and principles that make us strong. Torture is wrong no malier where it occurs, and thc United Staics will continue to Icad thc light to climinate il everywhere. Amnesty International believes that the USA has failed to live up to these words in the "war on terror".

A government's condemnation of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading trealment must mean what it says. If it genuinely opposes lorlure and ill-trealment, it must aci accordingly. From this simple proposition, all 11 other points of Amnesty International's 12Poini Program for the Prevention of Torture by Agents of the State follow.

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1.5 Recommendations under Point 1
The US authorities should:
- Provide a genuine, unequivocal and continuing public commitment to oppose torture

and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under any circumstances, regardless of
where it takes place, and take every possible measure to ensure that all agencies of
government and US allies fully comply with this prohibition;
Review all government policies and procedures relating to detention and interrogation
to ensure that they adhere strictly to international human rights and humanitarian law
and standards, and publicly disown those which do not;
Make clear to all menibers of the military and all other government agencies, as well
as US allies, that forlure or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment will not be

tolerated under any circumstances; - Commit 10 a program of public education on the international probibition of torture

and ill-treatment, including challenging any public discourse that seeks to promote tolerance of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.



Are there times when we have to accept torture? By Ariel Dorfman. The Guardian, 8 May 2004. President's statement, 26 June 2004, supra, note 4,


USA: Human dignity denied: Torture and accountability in the war on terror

Point 2- Ensure access to prisoners
Toriure osien takes place while prisoners are held incomniunicado unable to contact people

outside who could help them or sind oul what is happening 10 them. The practice of incommunicado detention should be ended. Governments should ensure that all prisoners are broughi besore an independeni judicial authority without delay asier being taken inio custody. Prisoners should have access to relatives, lawyers and doctors without delay and regularly


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2.1 Incommunicado detention facilitates torture
[P]rolonged incommunicado detention may facilitate the perpetration of torture and can in
itself constirue a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or even torture.

UN Commission on Human Rights, April 200473

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On 28 May 2004, Amnesty International issued an urgent appeal on hchall of Mohamunad
Jassem 'Abd al-'Issawi, a 43-year-old Iraqi civil engineer believed to be in detention in the
High Security section of Abu Ghraib prison. He was reportedly kicked and punched by the
US soldiers who arrested him on 17 December 2003. Since then, he had not had access to his
family, to legal counsel, or to the ICRC.374

The US military has taken more than 50,000 people into custody during its military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Alghanistan, the US has operated approximately 25 detention facilities, and in Iraq another 17.37 It has held people in Guantánamo and in undisclosed locations. Lawyers, relatives, and human rights organizations have systematically been denied access to detainees. While the ICRC has had access to some detainees, this cannot be considered enough under the circumstances (see Point 4). For example, the ICRC has had access to detainees held in the US air base in Bagram in Afghanistan, but not immediately after their arrest. In Afghanistan, the ICRC has only had access to Bagram and Kandahar and none of the numerous "forward collection points”, more remote US temporary holding facilities in other locations. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, detainees have been held at such facilities for sar longer than the 12-24 hours allowed under army doctrine. Some dclainces have been held for onc or two months al “Torward collection points”. Hundreds of detainees have been held incommunicado without charge or trial between ICRC visits to Guantánamo Bay.

Because of its urgency as a safeguard against torture, Amnesty International and international law and standards hold that relatives, lawyers and independent doctors should have access to detainees without delay and regularly thereafter. Access by others such as





Resolution: 2004/41, para. 8. 19 April 2004. 374 hup://web.amnesty.org/librarvíIndexINGMDE140272001. Ile is no longer held incoinmunicado.

Schlesinger report, page 11, sa supra, note 30. 376 ICRC Operational update, 26 July 2004.

Detainee Operations Inspection. Department of the Army Inspector General, 21 July 2004, page 28.


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