New claims of detainee torture

Documents obtained by the ACLU indicate that the U.S. used interrogation methods in Afghanistan as harsh as those employed at Abu Ghraib.

By Suzanne Goldenberg - James Meek

Published February 18, 2005 5:45PM (EST)

New evidence has emerged that U.S. forces in Afghanistan engaged in widespread Abu Ghraib-style abuse, taking "trophy photographs" of detainees and carrying out rape and sexual humiliation. Documents obtained by the Guardian contain evidence that such abuses took place in the main detention center at Bagram, near the capital Kabul, as well as at a smaller U.S. installation near the southern city of Kandahar. The documents also indicate that U.S. soldiers covered up abuse in Afghanistan and in Iraq -- even after the Abu Ghraib scandal came to light last year.

A thousand pages of evidence from U.S. Army investigations released to the American Civil Liberties Union after a long legal battle, and made available to the Guardian, show that an Iraqi detained at Tikrit, Iraq, in September 2003 was forced to withdraw his report of abuse after soldiers told him he would be held indefinitely.

Meanwhile, photographs taken in southern Afghanistan showing U.S. soldiers from the 22nd Infantry Battalion posing in mock executions of blindfolded and bound detainees, were purposely destroyed after the Abu Ghraib scandal to avoid "another public outrage," the documents show.

In the dossier, the Iraqi detainee claims that three U.S. interrogators in civilian clothing dislocated his arms, stuck an unloaded gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger, choked him with a rope until he lost consciousness and beat him with a baseball bat. "After they tied me up in the chair, then they dislocate my both arms. He asked to admit before I kill you, then he beat again and again," the prisoner says in his statement. "He asked me: 'Are you going to report me? You have no evidence.' Then he hit me very hard on my nose, and then he stepped on my nose until he broken and I started bleeding."

The detainee withdrew his charges on Nov. 23, 2003. He says he was told: "You will stay in the prison for a long time, and you will never get out until you are 50 years old."

A medical examination by a U.S. military doctor confirmed the detainee's account, yet the investigation was closed last October. "It is further proof that the Army is not seriously investigating credible allegations of abuse," said Jameel Jaffar, a lawyer for the ACLU.

The latest allegations from Afghanistan fit a pattern of claims of brutal treatment made by former Guantánamo Bay prisoners and Afghans held by the United States, and reported by the Guardian last year. In December the United States said eight prisoners had died in its custody in Afghanistan.

In a separate case, which the Guardian reveals Friday, two former prisoners of the United States in Afghanistan have come forward with claims against their American captors. In sworn affidavits to a British-American human rights lawyer, a Palestinian says he was sodomized by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Another former prisoner of U.S. forces, a Jordanian, describes a form of torture that involved being hung in a cage from a rope for days. Both men were freed from U.S. detention last year after being held in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. Neither has been charged by any government with any offense.

Hussain Adbulkadr Youssouf Mustafa, a Palestinian living in Jordan, told the lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, that he was sodomized by U.S. soldiers during his detention at Bagram Air Force Base in 2002. He claims to have been blindfolded, been tightly handcuffed, been gagged and had his ears plugged, been forced to bend down over a table by two soldiers, with a third soldier pressing his face down on the table, and had his trousers pulled down.

"They forcibly rammed a stick up my rectum," he reports. "It was excruciatingly painful ... Only when the pain became overwhelming did I think I would ever scream. But I could not stop screaming when this happened."

In a second affidavit, the Jordanian citizen, Wesam Abdulrahman Ahmed Al Deemawi, detained from March 15, 2002, to March 31, 2004, says that during a 40-day period of detention at Bagram he was threatened with dogs, stripped and photographed "in shameful and obscene positions," and placed in a cage with a hook and a hanging rope. He says he was hung from this hook, blindfolded, for two days, although he was occasionally given hourlong "breaks."

The Guardian asked the U.S. military's Central Command, which has responsibility for Afghanistan, to respond to the allegations on Wednesday. By the time of going to press Thursday night no response had been received other than an e-mail from a Maj. Steven Wollman in Kabul, saying he was researching the question.

Suzanne Goldenberg

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James Meek

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