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Amnesty Releases New Gitmo Torture Testimony

Amnesty Releases New Gitmo Torture Testimony
Amnesty International Press Release
Tuesday 10 January 2006

Washington - Marking the fourth anniversary of the first transfers of detainees to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, January 11, 2006, Amnesty International released new testimonies alleging the use of torture and ill treatment against prisoners in the U.S. detention center and additional details on several detainee cases.

The testimonies include that of one of the first detainees to be transferred to Guantánamo, Jumah al-Dossari, a 32-year-old Bahraini national who was taken to the U.S. Naval Base in January 2002 after being held by U.S. forces in the Kandahar airbase in Afghanistan.

Al-Dossari's testimony, corroborated by people who have now been released from Guantánamo, includes several allegations of physical and psychological torture and ill treatment inflicted by U.S. personnel both on him and on other inmates in Afghanistan and Guantánamo.

"Anniversaries usually represent milestones. Today's milestone is a frightening and disheartening one. The situation at Guantánamo is not getting better - in fact, it may be worse. First, the Bush Administration wants all 186 pending habeas corpus petitions filed on behalf of the detainees to be dismissed based on a new law that was not meant to apply to cases filed before the law went into effect. And now, after Congress overwhelming passed the historic Anti-Torture Amendment, President Bush is asserting that he can waive the restrictions on the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment against detainees. When does the hypocrisy of defending democracy around the world while continuing to curtail fundamental due process end?" said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.

"There are approximately 500 men who have been treated with complete and utter disdain - the antipathy of the American value of recognizing the basic human dignity of all people. It isn't surprising that after years of uncertainty about their fate, some of these men have expressed their intention to die rather than remain in Guantánamo indefinitely," added Schulz.

Amnesty International also revealed further details on the cases of Al-Jazeera journalist Sami al Hajj, transferred to Guantánamo in June 2002 after spending time in detention in Bagram and Kandahar, and Abdulsalam al-Hela, a Yemeni businessman, subjected to rendition and secret detention before being transferred to Guantánamo. Amnesty International is urging Congress to create an independent commission to investigate all aspects of U.S. detention and interrogation policies including the dozens of reports of torture and ill treatment that have taken place since 2002 and to take measures to prevent torture from recurring in the future.

**********

Below are highlights from testimony of Jumah al-Dossari, which he wrote in July 2005 in the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay naval base, Cuba. The hand written testimony was given to Amnesty International by Jumah al-Dossari's civilian lawyer. At the date of publication Jumah al-Dossari remains detained in Guantánamo Bay. This testimony is Jumah al-Dossari's personal account of his experiences in Pakistani and US custody, and the views expressed in it are his own.

From here, from the depths of the degradation that debase a person's dignity, attack his religion, his person, his honour, his dignity and his humanity, all in the name of fighting terror. I am writing for those who will read my words. I am writing the story of what I have suffered from the day I was kidnapped on the Pakistani border and sold to American troops until now and my being in Guantánamo, Cuba. What I will write here is not a flight of fancy or a moment of madness; what I will write here are the established facts and events agreed upon by detainees who were eye witnesses to them, representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as well as soldiers, investigators and interpreters.

Arrest and Treatment by Pakistani Authorities

• I passed through several small jails where there was a lot of abuse. I had previously met several people when I was on the border, they were of different nationalities. They had left Afghanistan and the Pakistani army abused us and gave us the worst and most nasty kind of food. They put me in a cell which was 4m x 4m in which there were 59 prisoners without mattresses, blankets or a bathroom; there was only one bucket in the cell for everyone to relieve themselves in without a screen.

• They stole many passports from the prisoners who were of many nationalities and we were abused. They abused me personally and beat me several times during investigations. The worst tribulation for us was when they transported us from one place to another: they would tie us up in the most savage way, so much so that some of us got gangrenous fingers and our hands and feet swelled and turned blue. They would tie us up for long periods of time in military trucks, sometimes from daybreak until night, in addition to the hours that they spent transporting us in trucks.

• When we reached the airport, an American military plane, American soldiers and an American interpreter who spoke Arabic were waiting for us. They took one by one and handed us over to the American soldiers. The deal was done and they sold us for a few dollars and they were not interested in us. US custody in Afghanistan

• When we were all in the plane - there were approximately 30 of us - they closed the plane door which from behind said "designed to carry machinery". After they closed the door, the soldiers started shouting, screaming and insulting us with the most vulgar insults and nasty curses. They started beating us and took pictures of us on a camera; I could see the flash. I had a violent pain in my stomach - I had had an operation on my stomach and there was a piece of metal in it; when I complained about the severity of the pain, a soldier came and started kicking me in my stomach with his military boot until I vomited blood. I do not know how many hours I was in that state as we went from the base in Kohat to Kandahar Airport where there is an American military base.

• We arrived at Kandahar airport after midnight. It was a Friday night at the beginning of January 2002. They started to wrap a very strong wire around our right arms; each of us was tied at a distance of about two metres from the person in front of him. After they pulled this wire, they started making us run towards the unknown. When we approached the tents which had previously been an instalment, they started to insult us savagely. The prisoners started shouting and crying because of their severe pain - there were many young people with us - and the soldiers increased their insults and beatings and those of us who fell started to drag themselves on the grounds on the asphalt of the airfield and the others continued to jog. As I have already mentioned, I still had the Pakistani shackle which made it hard for me to walk, so I was one of those who fell and was dragging himself along on the asphalt.

• When they wanted to take one of us, they would order us to lie on our stomachs on the floor, and then they would tie our hands behind our backs. When it was my turn, two soldiers took me. I was barefoot and they beat me before I met the investigator. They banged my head against the metal building and made me walk on the barbed wire. They raised my hands from behind my back so high that my shoulders were almost dislocated. When I entered the investigation tent, I found that there were two Americans among the investigators, one of whom was white and the other was black. I said to them, "why are you torturing me and you haven't even started questioning me? What do you want from me? Give me a piece of paper and I will sign anything you want". He said to me, "there is no torture here and there are no beatings".

• During that time, I was moved to the camp clinic because of the terrible state of my health. They would take me for investigations which were mostly held at night; they would beat me severely and tell me to confess that I was a terrorist!! Once, from the excessive and severe beatings, one of my foot shackles broke. Once, they poured boiling hot liquid on my head and the investigator stubbed his cigarette out on my foot. I said to him, "why are you treating me like this?" He then took a cigarette and stubbed it out on my right wrist and said, "in the name of Christ and the Cross I am doing this". Once, they had beaten me so severely that my clothes were ripped and my genitals were exposed. I tried to cover myself up but they started kicking me with their boots.

• They started preparing to move us to Cuba. When it was my turn and I was in approximately the third group to be moved to Guantánamo, I was moved to another tent with several people. We were next to an empty tent in which they put Afghans from the northern states and Shabarghan.

Transfer to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba

• The third stage started on the day the plane landed us in Guantánamo in Cuba; we did not know where we were. The soldiers put us on a military bus that had no seats in it. They made us sit on the floor of the bus. A translator who was Lebanese came and said, "you are at an American base and you mustn't talk or move. You have to keep your heads down.

• When I was put in the cage, a soldier told me, "you mustn't talk, you mustn't touch the mesh, you mustn't cover your head and your hands when you sleep and you have to stay in the middle of the cage". He also me that there was a toilet outside the cage; if I needed to relieve myself, I would have to ask one of the soldiers. In the cage, there were two buckets, one had water in it and the other was empty. The soldier said that the empty bucket was for urine.

• It was then that my suffering started. If we wanted to go to the outside toilet, a portaloo, the soldiers would take us violently and would look at our genitals; even the female soldiers did that. They would stand outside the door which was open while we relieved ourselves.

Torture and Ill-Treatment in Guantánamo Bay

• During investigations, I was threatened with rape, attacks on my family in Saudi Arabia, my daughter being kidnapped, and my murder - assassination - by their spies in the Middle East if I went back to Saudi Arabia.

• They went to a detainee and put his head in the toilet. The toilets in Camp Delta are iron, Turkish-style toilets and then they flushed his head down the toilet until he almost died. They went to a detainee and started beating his head against the toilet rim until he lost consciousness and he could not see for more than 10 hours.

• One detainee, called Abdul Aziz Al-Masri, was ill and was asleep in the hospital. These soldiers went and beat him very badly in the hospital in front of the doctors and nurses. His injuries were excessive and caused his spine to break. He is now hemiplegic. They are now trying to operate on him but he is refusing out of fear that they will play with his back and make it worse rather than make it better as their operations often do. These kinds of incidents happen often. They would make sending them to the detainees an excuse for incidents in which we would suffer extensive injuries, severe disfiguration and fractures as there was no one monitoring or following up their actions. Rather, their officers and officials gave them the orders.

• At the end of 2003, a major incident happened to me in the investigation room. The soldiers took me to the investigation room and the investigator - who I only ever saw on this one occasion - had a Koran in his hand when he entered the room. He put it on the table and started talking and raving. Then he asked some soldiers to come in so some soldiers came. This investigator had brought the American and Israeli flags in with him. He then ordered the soldiers to wrap the flags around me tightly and then he took the Koran, threw it on the floor and damaged it with his shoe. Then he exposed his penis and urinated on it. He said a lot of things to me, such as, "this is a holy war between the star of David and the cross against the crescent" and "the whole world will submit to us and if any one doesn't submit to us.

Camp 5

• This stage finished when they finished building Camp 5 which was opened on 25 May 2004. I went into this new camp to start a new stage of misery, privation, humiliation and distress. There was an order to move me to Camp 5 for me to finish off the rest of my days in solitary isolation there. All the cells in Camp 5 were isolation cells and the whole building was made entirely of pre-cast concrete.

• I return now to my story. In March 2005, I met the lawyer who had taken on my case. I was telling him about the torture, violations and assaults I had faced and I do not know if they were spying on us. When the lawyer left, a soldier came and he had put on the military [illegible] and he was angry. He said, "it's best that you forget everything that's happened to you and don't mention it again to anyone if you want to stay safe."

• My state of health has become very poor recently. I fall and faint nearly every day. On 12 June 2005, in the evening, when my evening meal was brought to me, there was a dead scorpion on the plate. When I ate a little and saw the scorpion, I gave the food back to the soldier and showed him the scorpion. On that same night, in the same meal, a Tunisian brother called Hecham was also given a plate of food with a dead scorpion on it. Since the day that they threatened until now, I have been removing insects and dung beetles from the food and showing it to the soldier who then says, do you want another plate?

• Today is the end of the second week and the strike is still continuing. We have been in Cuba for nearly four years, during which time we have not faced any trial or charges. We are also on hunger strike because of the medical abuse and neglect we face and because they prevent us from learning about our religion and about religious issues. Two days ago, while I was writing these memoirs, I became really ill; I fell and was taken to the hospital. I spent two days there and then they brought me back here. Here I am now; as I try to write the last page of my memoirs, I am in a terrible state.

• I would thus like to point out that NOT all of the soldiers in Guantánamo tortured and oppressed us. There were some soldiers who treated us humanely, some of them would cry because of what was happening to us and were embarrassed by the style of management at the camp and even by the American government, their lack of justice and oppression of us. To give an example, when I was in Camp India in Camp Delta and I was being tortured, an Afro-American came to me. He said sorry to me and gave me a cup of hot chocolate and some sweet biscuits. When I thanked him, he said, "I don't want your thanks. I want you to know that we are not all bad and we think differently". When I was talking to a soldier and I told him what happened to me, he cried and had tears in his eyes. He was clearly moved. He said sorry to me about what had happened to me and he also offered me some food. These are examples to show the reader that there are some soldiers who have humanity, irrespective of their race, gender or faith.

ENDS

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