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October 6th, 2006 - Prisoner Abuse by U.S. Guantanamo Guards Described

News article by Reuters

News article by the Associated Press

Profile of the Guantánamo Concentration Camp

Prisoner Abuse by U.S. Guantanamo Guards Described

 

By Will Dunham

Reuters

Friday, October 6, 2006; 8:06 PM

 

Washington - Guantanamo guards described physically and mentally abusing detainees, including slamming one's head into a cell door and denying them privileges merely to anger them, a U.S. Marine said in a document made public on Friday.

 

"Examples of this abuse included hitting detainees, denying them water, and removal of privileges for no reason," the Marine Corps sergeant stated in a sworn affidavit sent to the Pentagon's inspector general's office for investigation.

 

The affidavit, signed on Wednesday, was provided by lawyers representing some of the approximately 455 foreign terrorism suspects held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It represents the latest in a series of allegations of abuse of Guantanamo detainees by U.S. personnel.

 

The name of the sergeant, a female paralegal in a detainee criminal case, was blacked out. The sergeant described an hourlong conversation with guards at a bar at the base on September 23, but the affidavit mentioned only the first names of those accused of taking part in the abuse.

 

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand, a spokesman for the military task force running the Guantanamo facility, said: "The mission of the Joint Task Force is the safe and humane care and custody of detained enemy combatants. Abuse or harassment of detainees in any form is not condoned or tolerated."

 

"The Joint Task Force will cooperate fully with the inspector general to learn the facts of the matter and will take action where misconduct is discovered," Durand added by e-mail.

 

A Navy sailor named Bo told of beating detainees. "One such story Bo told involved him taking a detainee by the head and hitting the detainee's head into the cell door," the sergeant wrote, adding that Bo stated that others at Guantanamo knew of his actions and did not punish him.

 

A guard named Steven said that even when the conduct of detainees was good, guards would take away personal items. "He said they do this to anger the detainees so they can punish them when they object or complain," she stated.

 

‘A common practice’

 

The affidavit said about five other guards talking at the bar admitted to hitting detainees, including punching them in the face. "From the whole conversation, I understood that striking detainees was a common practice. Everyone in the group laughed at the others' stories of beating detainees," she wrote.

 

Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, a Marine lawyer assigned to defend a Canadian detainee, Omar Ahmed Khadr, charged with murder, said in a memo to the inspector general's office that the abuse described violated U.S. and international law.

 

The United States has faced international criticism over its indefinite detention of Guantanamo detainees, many held more than four years without charges. The Pentagon contends the facility is vital to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects who might otherwise return to the battlefield.

 

Wells Dixon, a lawyer representing four current Guantanamo detainees, said the latest account of abuse reflected a complete breakdown in the chain of command at Guantanamo and a lack of accountability by senior military officials there.

 

"The fact that members of the U.S. Navy can sit around at a bar and laugh about beating detainees for no reason is outrageous. We're one step away from Abu Ghraib (Iraq prison abuse scandal) or possibly worse," Dixon said.

 

© 2006 Reuters

 

External link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/06/AR2006100601368.html


AP Learns Gitmo Guards Brag of Beatings

 

By Thomas Watkins

Associated Press

Friday, October 6, 2006

 

Camp Pendleton, Calif. - Guards at Guantanamo Bay bragged about beating detainees and described it as common practice, a Marine sergeant said in a sworn statement obtained by The Associated Press.

 

The two-page statement was sent Wednesday to the Inspector General at the Department of Defense by a high-ranking Marine Corps defense lawyer.

 

The lawyer sent the statement on behalf of a paralegal who said men she met on Sept. 23 at a bar on the base identified themselves to her as guards. The woman, whose name was blacked out, said she spent about an hour talking with them. No one was in uniform, she said.

 

A 19-year-old sailor referred to only as Bo "told the other guards and me about him beating different detainees being held in the prison," the statement said.

 

"One such story Bo told involved him taking a detainee by the head and hitting the detainee's head into the cell door. Bo said that his actions were known by others," but that he was never punished, the statement said. The paralegal was identified in the affidavit as a sergeant working on an unidentified Guantanamo-related case.

 

The statement was provided to the AP on Thursday night by Lt. Col. Colby Vokey. He is the Marine Corps' defense coordinator for the western United States and based at Camp Pendleton.

 

A Guantanamo Bay spokesman said the base would cooperate with any Pentagon investigation. A Pentagon spokesman declined immediate comment. A call to the inspector general's office was not immediately returned.

 

Other guards "also told their own stories of abuse towards the detainees" that included hitting them, denying them water and "removing privileges for no reason."

 

"About 5 others in the group admitted hitting detainees" and that included "punching in the face," the affidavit said.

 

"From the whole conversation, I understood that striking detainees was a common practice," the sergeant wrote. "Everyone in the group laughed at the others stories of beating detainees."

 

Vokey called for an investigation, saying the abuse alleged in the affidavit "is offensive and violates United States and international law."

 

Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand condemned abuse or harassment of detainees and said he would cooperate fully with the inspector general.

 

"The mission of the Joint Task Force is the safe and humane care and custody of detained enemy combatants," he said.

 

Guantanamo was internationally condemned shortly after it opened more than four years ago when pictures captured prisoners kneeling, shackled and being herded into wire cages. That was followed by reports of prisoner abuse, heavy-handed interrogations, hunger strikes and suicides.

 

Military investigators said in July 2005 they confirmed abusive and degrading treatment of a suspected terrorist at Guantanamo Bay that included forcing him to wear a bra, dance with another man and behave like a dog.

 

However, the chief investigator, Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt, said "no torture occurred" during the interrogation of Mohamed al-Qahtani, a Saudi who was captured in December 2001 along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

 

Last month, U.N. human rights investigators criticized the United States for failing to take steps to close Guantanamo Bay, home to 450 detainees, including 14 terrorist suspects who had been kept in secret CIA prisons around the world.

 

Described as the most dangerous of America's "war on terror" prisoners, fewer than a dozen inmates have been charged with crimes.

 

AP Writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

 

External link: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2006/10/06/national/a092938D55.DTL

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