'Widespread' abuse at Guantánamo Bay

The abusive treatment of inmates at Guantánamo Bay was far more widespread than the Pentagon has admitted, according to a new report published on Sunday.

Many detainees at the US prison camp were “regularly subjected to harsh and coercive treatment” over a long period of time, far beyond the isolated cases that have been acknowledged to date, according to the report, which appeared in the New York Times.

It quoted sources who once worked at the naval base and who were angry at the treatment dealt out to the prisoners, suspected terrorists from around the world who have been held without charge, most for more than two years.

The harsh treatment was intended to persuade inmates to talk, and was matched by incentives to co-operate.

One “regular procedure” was making prisoners strip to their underwear, sit on a chair while their hands and feet were shackled to a bolt on the ground, while they were subjected to strobe lights, loud music (reportedly by Limp Bizkit, Rage Against The Machine and Eminem) and cold. Such sessions could go on for up to 14 hours, with a few breaks.

“It fried them,” one official was quoted as saying. Another said: “They were very wobbly.
They came back to their cells and were completely out of it.”

Responding to the report, a Pentagon spokesperson, Major Paul Swiergosz, said on Sunday: “We take all allegations of detainee abuse seriously, and ... we’ve directed several enquiries to be conducted into a number of allegations.”

He pointed to an earlier Pentagon statement stating that: “Guantánamo guards provide an environment that is stable, secure, safe and humane. And it is that environment that sets the conditions for interrogators to work successfully and to gain valuable information from detainees because they have built a relationship of trust, not fear.”

Following the revelations earlier this year that torture was used by US military guards at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, the US military held enquiries, which found that a number of harsh interrogation techniques had been approved for use in Guantánamo by the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, but that they were rarely used.

The New York Times allegations suggest instead that the procedures used went beyond those guidelines, which allow interrogators to place detainees “in a setting that may be less comfortable” but should not “constitute a substantial change in environmental quality”.

Sunday’s report quoted an intelligence official as saying that much of the harshest interrogation was focused on a “dirty thirty” of detainees, thought to represent the best potential sources of intelligence on al-Qaeda.

However, other reports have suggested that very little, if any, “actionable” intelligence has emerged from the more than 600 prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, scores of whom have since been transferred to their home countries without charges.

High level al-Qaeda captives, like Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, and Abu Zubaidah have been held at secret locations in allied countries in the Middle East and elsewhere. Human rights group allege that these high-value prisoners are being held outside US territory to avoid legal obstacles to the use of torture.

One military official said on Sunday it was not clear when the sources quoted in the report worked at Guantánamo Bay, suggesting that procedures had recently improved. “There has been—after detainee abuse allegations,—a number of reviews, so it is important what period is being talked about,” the official said. - Guardian Unlimited

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