The War Profiteers - War Crimes, Kidnappings, Torture and Big Money
October 13th, 2006 - Southern Command to Probe Gitmo Charges
By Andrew O. Selsky
The Associated Press
Friday, October 13, 2006; 3:39 PM
San Juan, Puerto Rico - The U.S. Southern Command has been told to investigate possible abuse at the Guantanamo Bay prison after a Marine officer said she overheard guards boasting about abusing detainees, the Pentagon's Inspector General's office said Friday.
Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, who represents a detainee at the U.S. naval base in eastern Cuba, filed the "hotline" complaint last week, attaching a sworn statement from his paralegal, Sgt. Heather Cerveny, 23. In it, Cerveny described comments made by several guards in a bar at Guantanamo Bay. Several of them bragged about beating detainees and described it as common practice.
"Other ones of them were talking about how when they get annoyed with the detainees, about how they hit them, or they punched them in the face," Cerveny told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday night. "It was a general consensus that I (detected) that as a group this is something they did. That this was OK at Guantanamo, that this is how the detainees get treated."
Cerveny visited the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba last month and said she spent an hour with the guards at the military club. She said they stopped discussing beating detainees after finding out she works for a detainee's legal team.
In her complaint, she wrote: "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."
Asked Thursday if the conversation could have been exaggerated bar talk, she said, "I don't think that they were trying to impress me in any way. They were already in a discussion in there when I walked into a group."
She said she filed the complaint because "I don't think it's right for us to be allowing these prisoners to be treated poorly. ... I think we should hold ourselves to a higher standard."
Gary Comerford, spokesman for the Pentagon's Inspector General's office, told The Associated Press that in the past two days, the case "has been referred to Southcom for action. They're going to have to look into this."
The military Joint Task Force that runs the detention camps in Guantanamo Bay pledged to work with investigators from the Miami-based Southern Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Caribbean and Latin America.
"The Joint Task Force will cooperate fully with Southcom to learn the facts of the matter and will take action where misconduct is discovered," said Navy Cmdr. Rob Durand, spokesman for the detention center, in an e-mail to the AP from the base.
He insisted that his group's mission "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 Inspector General receives 14,000 tips on misconduct each year via the hotline, and opens 3,000 cases each year as a result, Comerford said.
There are now 454 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, according to Vincent Lusser, a spokesman for the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Red Cross just completed a two-week visit to the prison, meeting the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and 13 other high-profile detainees who were transferred there weeks ago from CIA custody.
Guantanamo Bay began receiving prisoners, most of them captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in January 2002. Only 10 of the detainees have been charged with crimes.
Associated Press writer Thomas Watkins in San Diego contributed to this report.
© 2006 The Associated Press
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 13, 2006; A23
An International Committee of the Red Cross delegation that visited the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, met with the 14 detainees who had been held for years in secret CIA custody, the first time the alleged high-value terrorism suspects had contact with the outside world since their initial confinement.
The U.S. military and ICRC officials confirmed yesterday that Red Cross representatives spent time with each of the 14 men in the weeks after they were transferred to Guantanamo, a series of standard meetings during which the detainees were officially registered with the international humanitarian organization and had an opportunity to meet with a doctor.
Among the men is Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Red Cross officials do not comment on the details of such meetings or their recommendations to government captors, citing confidentiality agreements that allow them unfettered access. They also declined to comment on the conditions the detainees faced while in secret U.S. custody and on their mental and physical well-being.
Simon Schorno, an ICRC spokesman in Washington, said yesterday that representatives met with the 14 men who had been in CIA custody and shared their observations with Guantanamo authorities.
"We were able to work according to our standard modalities," Schorno said.
During a visit that began on Sept. 25 and ends today, the Red Cross met with a total of 454 detainees - believed to be the facility's entire detainee population - as part of a regular series of visits aimed at assessing their treatment and facilitating contact with their families through official letters.
Cmdr. Robert Durand, a Guantanamo spokesman, said yesterday that the ICRC had the opportunity to meet with all detainees and specifically cited the humane treatment afforded both the general detainee population and the 14 high-value detainees who recently arrived. In an e-mail statement, Durand said they receive "adequate food, shelter and clothing," may worship and have access to a Koran, and are given exercise and reading opportunities.
Also yesterday, Pentagon officials announced that they had transferred 17 detainees out of Guantanamo Bay as part of an ongoing effort to reduce the facility's population and to share the detention burden with allies. Sixteen men were released to Afghanistan and one was released to Morocco, bringing the total number of detainees held at Guantanamo to approximately 440. The U.S. military has deemed an additional 110 detainees eligible for release or transfer.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company
By Rahim Faiez
Associated Press Writer
October 13, 2006
Kabul, Afghanistan - Sixteen Afghans and one Iranian released from years in captivity at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, arrived in Afghanistan on Thursday, an Afghan official said.
The 16 Afghans appeared at a news conference alongside Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, head of Afghanistan's reconciliation commission, which assists with the release of detainees from Guantanamo and the U.S. prison at the Bagram military base north of Kabul.
Mujaddedi said many of the detainees, who are now free, had served up to four years in Guantanamo. He said "most" of the prisoners were innocent and had been turned in to the U.S. military by other Afghans because of personal disputes.
The released Iranian prisoner, who also arrived in Afghanistan on Thursday, was handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross, he said.
A U.S. military spokesman in Kabul confirmed that 16 Afghans had been released from Guantanamo and turned over to the Afghan government. Lt. Marcelo Calero said he had no information about the Iranian prisoner.
One of the released prisoners, Sayed Mohammead Ali Shah, said he had been a delegate at the country's first loya jirga, a council of leaders that helped establish the interim government in 2002 after the U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban in 2001.
"For four years they put me in jail in Cuba for nothing," said Shah, a doctor from the eastern province of Paktia whose hands shook from nervousness when he spoke.
"All these people (the other prisoners) and all those Afghans still in Cuba, they are innocent," he told reporters. "All were arrested because of false reports, and the Americans, without investigating, they arrested innocent people and put them in jail for a long time."
Another former prisoner, Habib Rahman, 20, said he was arrested because he had a weapon in his home.
"They told me, 'You are against us, you are anti-American and anti-government and you are fighting with us,'" said Rahman, from Paktia. "At that time in our area everyone had weapons. I was innocent and I hadn't participated in any fighting."
Rahman said that he was treated harshly at Guantanamo, and that one time he was kept awake for 38 hours while being questioned about ties to terrorists.
"The last time they tortured me like that was four months ago," he said. "They were kicking us all the time, beating us with their hands."
Sayed Sharif Yousufy, a spokesman for the Afghan reconciliation commission, last month said that between 90 and 110 Afghans were still at Guantanamo, meaning that between about 74 and 94 would still be there.
One of the released prisoners, Sadir, who only goes by one name, said 74 Afghans remain in Guantanamo.