Guantanamo Deaths, Where Does the Truth Lie?
Friends of Humanity International:
We have the firm conviction that Al-Zahrani, Al-Salami and Al-Otaibi passed away due to the many transgressions practiced at the “Shame Jail” in Guantanamo.
On 10 June 2006 the American authorities announced the death of three of the prisoners detained at Guantanamo jail. Motivated by the responsibility to expose the repulsive practices committed by these authorities against the detainees, and the circumstances associated with these deaths, Friends of Humanity International has prepared a special report titled: “Where Does the Truth Lie?”
The report contains testimonies given by a number of former and present prisoners at Guantanamo Base jail. These testimonies are intended to provide a documentation of the ongoing violations committed by the jail authorities and the American army and security squads operating at the base against the prisoners. It further records the recurrent cases of physical and psychic torture and sexual harassment which are deemed as the most repugnant methodical and deliberate torture operations ever witnessed at the present time.
The report refers to the policy of disdaining the prisoners’ beliefs, religion and the Holy Book, the Noble Quran, as well as assaulting them whilst performing their prayers and supplications.
Friends of Humanity International stresses in the report that the testimonies have shed light on the repeated interventions made by the army riot fighting forces and the Extreme Reaction Force “ERF” with the aim to suppress the prisoners’ protests by severe beating which led in many cases to severe fractures, bleeding, unconsciousness and paralysis.
The report reminds of the announcement made by the American authorities of the violent confrontation between the detainees and the soldiers on 18 May 2006 which was made by the American authorities.
The Organization states in its sui generis report that the American authorities announced repeatedly alleged attempts on the part of prisoners detained at Guantanamo Military Base jail. It expresses the view that such announcements were intended to prepare the international public opinion to accept the possibility of some death occurrences at this detention camp. Being fully aware that Guantanamo prisoners experience grave health and psychic conditions rarely endured by any other human group elsewhere, that tens of prisoners are beaten savagely on various occasions, the authorities have assumed that “they were then reaping the fruit of their perfect preparations and could confidently announce to the world that three detainees hanged themselves”.
Friends of Humanity International dismisses the suicide statement or assumption, which the American authorities hold onto, on basis of the knowledge that the prisoners have been kept under thorough and ongoing surveillance since their detention at Guantamano as a preventive measure against any suicide attempt. The Organization’s conviction is further strengthened by the traces of torture detected on the bodies of the deceased prisoners.
The report considers that the refusal of the American authorities to conduct an impartial investigation in the death of the three prisoners reinforces doubt about the truth of the story told by these authorities. It also confirms that the prisoners are quite aware that those who commit suicide are doomed to eternal abode in Hell according to the Islamic teachings. For this reason it is improbable that any of the prisoners would commit suicide if he is fully conscious of his actions.
The Organization establishes a connection between the death incident and the confrontations of 18th May 2006 and other previous incidents that took place between the American security teams and the prisoners. The Organization’s conclusion is grounded on the testimonies given by former and present prisoners of Guantanamo which affirmed the infliction of brutal beating and torture on the detainees and the repetition of transgressions which have caused the death of several prisoners at the jails managed by the American Forces in Iraq as well.
The Organization makes it clear that the above facts reinforce its conviction that the death of Yaser Al-Zahrani, Mane’e Al Otaibi and Salah Al-Deen Al-Salami was caused by the intervention of the riot fighting forces and ERF during the protestation actions initiated by the prisoners in the mid of last May.
The Organization called the American authorities to put an end to all forms of torture practiced against all the detainees under their custody, and to conduct an unbiased investigation in the death of the three prisoners that would bring the perpetrators to trial. The Organization further requested the authorities to give permission to the prisoners’ families and relatives to pay regular visits to them at Guantanamo Base jail until a decision regarding the closure of the jail is taken.
The Organization called the American Supreme Court to delegitimize the military committees which the American Government formed for the purpose of judging the prisoners and to take a decision to close the Guantanamo jail. The Organization expressed the view that the existence of this jail contributes substantially to deepen the absence of impartial laws and disgraces the human rights system. It further called the American authorities to free all the war prisoners detained in Guantanamo and to send them back home.
Vienna, 28 June 2006
FRIENDS OF HUMANITY INTERNATIONAL / HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION
Hirschstettnerstrasse 19-21/D00, 1220 Vienna, Austria
Tel : 0043 1 2028501
Fax: 0043 1 2028547
E-mail: [email protected]
A Report scrutinizing the circumstances accompanying the death of three detainees at Guantanamo Base Jail
Mane’e Al-Otaibi, Yaser Al-Zahrani and Salah Al-Deen Al-Salami
Doc. Nr. AG / 040 / 06 / Eng.
Fifty fore months have elapsed since the U.S authorities transferred the war prisoners from Afghanistan and other regions to the U.S Military Prison on the Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where they are denied many of the rights granted to ordinary prisoners.
The detainees at the Guantanamo Bay have been experiencing despotic detention and boundless violations of their humanity for 54 months. Violations are being perpetrated by the authorities of the U.S.A where laws prohibit such detention and transgressions.
On 10 June 2006, the American authorities announced the passing away of three prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. This report attempts to look into the practices of the American authorities against the detainees at the base and the circumstances accompanying the announced deaths by presenting extracts from testimonies given by prisoners who were subjected to torture at the mentioned jail. Meanwhile, it is worth bringing in focus the statements made by the American authorities in reference to what was described as violent confrontation between the detainees and the soldiers on 18 May 2006, and the American official story about the death incident as well as the view expressed by the Friends of Humanity International in regard to this event.
Brief excerpts from testimonies given by former and present prisoners at Guantanamo
All testimonies given by former and present detainees at Guantanamo Bay indicate that the Guantanamo jail authority and the American army and security squads have perpetrated ongoing violations against the prisoners and have subjected them repeatedly to physical and psychic torture as well as sexual abuses. The tactics adopted in these violations dispel the tendency to describe them as individual practices and unfortunately confirm the fact that they reflect the most repulsive systematic and intentional torture operations at the present time. The testimonies uncovered the policy to profane and disdain the prisoners’ beliefs, religion and the Holy Book, the Noble Quran, in addition to assaulting them while they performed their prayers and supplications.
The testimonies further affirm the engagement of the army riot fighting forces and the so-called Extreme Reaction Force “ERF” in recurrent interventions to suppress the prisoners’ protests by aggressive beating which led in several cases to fractures, bleeding, unconsciousness and paralysis as well.
Excerpts from some testimonies are provided here below:
The former Bahraini prisoner at Guantanamo Base, Mr. Adel Kamel Abdullah, wrote in his diary that the army riot fighting forces were summoned in cases of protestation initiated by the prisoners. Riot fighters attacked the dungeons and joined in inflicting violent beating and torture on the prisoners. He made special reference to the brutal beating of the Saudi detainee, Meshaal Al-Harbi and his consequent hospitalization. He also referred to the authorities’ allegation, following the incident that he attempted to commit suicide.(1)
The Sudanese prisoner currently detained at Guantanamo, Sami Mohyi Deen al-Hajj, wrote a description of the methods of torture applied by the army riot fighting forces during a protestation carried out by the prisoners in reaction to the soldiers’ violation of their religious rights. The army squads beat the prisoners and tied them with chains and cuffs. Al Hajj was beaten brutally by one of the riot fighters who threw him to the ground and beat his head against the concrete ground several times, whilst having his hands cuffed, causing such severe head and eyelid wounds that his face was drenched in blood.
In another incident, Mr. al-Hajj wrote that riot fighters stormed into the dungeon where Abdul Aziz Al-Masri was detained and beat the prisoner savagely causing spinal vertebrae fracture and consequently whole paralysis.(2)
In his testimony about the circumstances associated with his detention and interrogation in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, the former British prisoner, Mr. Jamal Al-Harith, described the methods of torture and oppression practiced by the army and security squads against the prisoners at the Base.(3)
The former British prisoner at Guantnamo, Mr Tariq Dergoul reported that the Extreme Reaction Force “ERF” suppressed the protestation of the prisoners by chaining and beating them like beasts, at the same time as such scenes were videotaped.(4)
The former three British prisoners at Guantanamo, Mr Shafiq Rasul, Mr. Asif Iqbal and Mr.Rhuhel Ahmed reported that they witnessed the aggressive torture inflicted on the Saudi/Bahraini prisoner Juma’a Al-Dosari when he answered back an American female conscript. She was infuriated by his answer and gave order to eight soldiers to beat him. The soldiers treated him with violent kicks and blows and beat his face against the solid cement ground till his nose and jaws were crushed. Al-Dosari lost such huge amounts of his blood that the water with which the dungeon’s floor was washed turned red.(5)
The present prisoner of Saudi/ Bahraini nationality reported that the jail authority appealed to riot fighting forces for aid in several situations. He wrote that only when riot fighters made the prisoners bleed or caused them severe fractures that they felt satisfied. They never left the dungeons without having inflicted severe injuries on the defenseless prisoners.(6)
Preparing the Public Opinion, The 18th May Violent
Confrontation between the Prisoners and the Soldiers
On 19 May 2006, the American authorities referred to violent confrontations between ten prisoners and ten soldiers that took place on 18 May at Guantanamo jail. The confrontation was followed by protestation actions on the part of other prisoners. The authorities reported that six prisoners were injured during the confrontation and two other lost consciousness after they had swallowed pills in an attempt to commit suicide.
The American authorities announced repeatedly alleged suicide attempts (deliberately described as war actions) by prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay. We believe that such statements were intended to prepare the international public opinion to accept the death of some detainees at this detention camp. Whereas the authorities were certain that the detainees endured tough health and psychic conditions rarely experienced by any other human group, that tens of them were savagely beaten on different occasions, that the public opinion had been relatively influenced to take in the news, they assumed it was the right time for them to announce to the world that three detainees took their lives by hanging themselves.
The Official Story
On 10 June 2006, the American authorities announced that three detainees at the Guantanamo Bay had committed suicide. It was reported that the guards found the three detainees lying unconscious after they hung themselves with bed sheets and some clothes. The authorities claimed that they made sure that the bodies were treated with respect in accordance with tradition.
It was made clear later that the deceased prisoners were:
Mane’e Ben Shaman Ben Turki Al-Habardi Al-Otaibi, of Saudi nationality
Yaser Talal Abdullah Yehya Al-Zahrani, of Saudi nationality
Salah Al-Deen Ali Abdullah Al Salami, of Yemeni nationality.
The suicide statement or assumption is dismissed
Friends of Humanity International regard the suicide assumption, which the American authorities hold onto, as improbable due to several reasons:
The American security teams maintain a thorough and continuous surveillance on the detainees through guards and camera and other means.
Since the establishment of the detention camp and over the past five years, not a single suicide case was recorded.
The presence of signs and traces of torture (such as bruises and scares) on the bodies of the three dead prisoners according to the testimonies of their families.
The American authorities dissected the bodies of the dead prisoners removing the internal organs of at least two of them (Al-Otaibi and Al-Salami’s bodies).(7+8)
On 19 June 2006, prisoner Al-Zahrani’s father confirmed that his son died three weeks before the official announcement
The American authorities refused to conduct an unbiased investigation of the death incident, which bring doubt to the story told by the authorities.
All the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are Muslims. They are fully aware that those who commit suicide reside in hell for eternity. For this reason, there is no way that any of the prisoners would be driven to such an act.
In view of the above stated reasons and the confrontations of 18 May 2006 and other clashes between the American security teams and prisoners,
On basis of the testimonies given by former and present Guantanamo prisoners which confirmed the subjection of detainees to violent beating and torture,
Considering the repeated aggressive torture incidents which caused the death of a number of the prisoners in the jails managed by the American forces in Iraq,
Friends of Humanity International has developed the firm conviction that death of the prisoners Yaser Al-Zahrani, Mane’e Al-Otaibi and Salah Al-Deen Al-Salami was caused by the transgressions perpetrated at the “human rights crushing” jail at Guantanamo.
The death might have been the result of the intervention made by the army riot fighting forces and the ERF during the mentioned protestations that took place in the mid of last May.
The Demands of Friends if Humanity International
In view of the lack of evidence for the engagement of the Guantanamo prisoners in crimes and the illegitimacy of the war prisoners’ trial, Friends of Humanity International calls the American authorities to:
Cease all forms of torture practiced against the prisoners detained by the American authorities.
Conduct an impartial investigation in the death of the three detainees that would bring the culprits before a court.
Grant permission to the prisoners’ families and relatives to pay regular visits to them at Guantanamo until a decision to close the jail is taken.
The American Supreme Court is called to delegitimize the military committees formed by the US government to conduct the trial of Guantanamo prisoners.
Close Guantanamo Base jail which plays a substantial part in dismissing the impartial laws and discredits the human rights system.
Free all the war prisoners detained at Guantanamo and send them back home.
Testimonies given by former and present prisoners at Guantanamo and sources
(1) Extracts from the diaries written by the former prisoner Mr. Adel Kamel Abdullah / Bahrain
The former prisoner Adel Kamel Abdullah wrote: “Following the Fitr Feast (Feast celebrating the end of the fasting month) in 2002, the Saudi brother Meshaal Al-Harbi was held in solitary confinement in “India” Wing. Following the evening prayer, one of the soldiers scoffed at the Islamic religion and the Noble Quran. He touched the Quran and mocked at it which drove the prisoners into outrageous turmoil.
This time, the new jail commander wanted to break the prisoners’ will. He summoned one or two squads from the army riot fighting forces who switched off the lights inside the dungeons and in the outside yards of the jail leaving the “India” Wing fall in deep black darkness.
Then, the riot fighters dashed into the dungeons and the solitary dungeons one after another, focusing intense flashlights on the prisoners’ eyes and beating them so barbarously that blood squirted from the their bodies, faces, mouths and noses.
Suddenly, we heard hums and murmurs among the soldiers who turned the lights on. The window of the solitary dungeon where one of the detainees was placed was not tightly closed. Because it was close to the solitary dungeon of the Saudi prisoner Meshaal Al-Harbi, he was able to report that he saw the riot fighters carrying Meshaal out of his dungeon while he was bleeding from the mouth and nose. As they took him to the clinic, the blood splashed on the floor of the passages and his solitary dungeon. This testimony was supported by another prisoner witness who was on his way back from the interrogation room when the incident took place.
The jail officers arrived at the scene to investigate the incident. They saw the blood on the floors and closed the dungeon. The next day, experts wearing white garments came to the place and took the fingerprints and blood samples. The investigations and examination lasted for two days and were concluded by wiping the blood off the floors of the passages and dungeons, shutting and sealing Meshaal’s dungeon.
The prisoners inquired insistently about Meshaal’s health condition. A rumor that he died under torture spread among the prisoners. We asked the jail officials to uncover the truth. Our request confounded the jail chief and soldiers who denied Meshaal’s death and confirmed that he was hospitalized. They assured us that they would keep us updated on his health condition.
One week later, some doctors came up with one of the authorities’ unbounded lies. They told us that Meshaal attempted to kill himself in the solitary dungeon with the hand towel, which is too small to be even wrapped around the waist. How was it possible for Meshaal to tie the towel to the ceiling and wrap it around his neck? As we were certain that this could not happen, we accused them of lying and faking charges against us and against our brother Meshaal who had firm will and patience and had always advised us to be forbearing and seek God’s reward.
How could such person speculate suicide? The truth is that Meshaal was violently beaten while the lights were off with the aim to terrify the rest of the prisoners, thus force them to give up insurgence and objection to orders.”
Statement by Adel Kamel Abdullah made available to Friends of Humanity International
(2) Extracts from the Guantanamo present prisoner, Mr. Sami Muhy al-Din al-Hajj / Sudan
Excerpts from two lengthy letters sent by the prisoner Sami al-Hajj at the beginning of November and mid of July 2005 to his British lawyer Clive Stafford Smith.
The present prisoner Sami al-Hajj wrote in his letter to his lawyer: “The soldiers’ provocations are endless and varied from time to time. I remember one they told us that one of the soldiers trod on the Holy Quran until his shoe print covered the words of Allah. This act infuriated the prisoners who decided to send the holy books back to the American administration to prevent having them profaned before their eyes, especially that the General’s previous pledge to put an end to such acts was not kept as usual.
Afterwards, the prisoners decided not to go out of their dungeons for any reason, not even for a walk or shower which they badly needed, until the holy books are collected.
As usual, the officials threatened the prisoners and it was only a matter of few minutes when the courageous riot fighting forces arrived. The riot fighters stormed into the dungeons beat and chained the prisoners. They shaved the prisoners’ beards, moustaches and cut their hair and kept them into solitary dungeon.
Being one of the prisoners, it was my turn to undergo the haunting experience. They sprayed a chemical substance into my eyes and signaled to five soldiers to come in. the soldiers beat me and led me to the walk area where I was flung on the ground. One soldier caught me by the head and beat it against the cement ground until it bled. He treated me with several blows until my face was drenched in blood whilst I was handcuffed. At this point they shaved my beard and moustache and cut my hair. Then I was sent back to my solitary confinement where I was left to swim in my blood.
An hour later a soldier came up and talked to me through the window. He asked whether I needed clinical treatment. I refused and got absorbed in my supplications to Allah complaining the oppression I was experiencing in this place. When I felt I was about to fall into unconsciousness due to severe bleeding, I called for clinical aid. Through a small window they treated my eyelid wound with three stitches and bandaged my head. They gave me a tranquilizer claiming it was antibiotic. The extreme rage inside me eventually put me to sleep.”
In another letter he wrote: “Riot fighters stormed into the dungeon of Abdul Aziz Al-Masri and beat him savagely causing him spinal vertebrae fracture and whole paralysis. He refused to have any surgery especially after he had seen that the surgeries done to Meshaal Al-Harbi had resulted in his inability to move”.
The letters of Mr. Sami al-Hajj to his lawyer are available on line at:
(3) Extracts from the testimony of the former Guantanamo prisoner, Mr. Jamal Al-Harith / Britain
The former prisoner Jamal Al-Harith tells the story of his detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo: “They placed me in a 4x4m room and exerted pressure on me and to confess acts which I did not commit. However, I held onto my innocence. I went through many acts of transgression which I realized later as being unlawful. I suffered from grave injuries as a result of such acts. Also, I was threatened with dogs, exposed to extremely high and low temperatures and prevented from sleep by focusing intense lights on me. I could not even perform my prayers and was given rotten fruits to eat.
They chained me in a way that stiffened my muscles and rendered me incapable of standing. This position resulted in many injuries. Maximum interrogation time ranged from six to seven hours; however, one time I was interrogated for 15 continuous hours during which I was not allowed to visit the lavatory. On another occasion, the interrogator tried to convince me to make confession for specific acts in exchange for my freedom. Once they placed me in a steel crate that was extremely cold during the night and very hot during the day. Besides, the crate was very tight that I could not sit comfortably. We further suffered from insomnia due to intense lighting.
I was once placed in solitary confinement as a punitive measure for a letter I wrote. The dungeon was extremely cold. They wanted to give me an injection without giving me any idea as to what it was. When I rejected the injection, they beat me and cuffed my hands and feet and gave me the injection against my will. I remained in this condition for almost three months. They also took away the Holy Quran from me.”
Statement by Mr. Jamal al-harith made available to Friends of Humanity International
(4) Extracts from the testimony of the Guantanamo former prisoner Mr. Tariq Dergoul
The former prisoner Tariq Dergoul says: “I stayed at Guantanamo for one year and three months … I took part in the protests against the acts intended to profane the Noble Quran as the interrogators trod on the holy book and threw it in the toilet. We organized a protestation and hunger strike. We experienced molestation and grave physical and psychic agony. They used the Noble Quran as a torture method, forced us to shave and flung us to the ground. Five ERF members tied us with chains and beat us like beasts whilst cameras took shots of the scenes.”
Statement by Mr. Tarek Dergoul made available to Friends of Humanity International
(5) Excerpts from former Guantanamo prisoners Mr. Shafiq Rasul, Mr. Asif Iqbal and Mr. Rhuhel Ahmad / Britain.
The three former prisoners said that they witnessed terribly brutal acts at Guantanamo following their detention in the North of Afghanistan on 28 February. In a report falling in 115 pages published by the Guardian Daily, they presented the various forms of torture and abuse to which the detainees at the detention camp were subjected by the American soldiers. The three detainees said that they witnessed the torture inflicted on a Bahraini prisoner, Joma’a Al-Dosari, who was heard screaming and raving in his dungeon under the pressure of his psychic disturbance.
The three prisoners reported that Al-Dosari once answered back an American female who was so angry at him that she eight soldiers to beat him. The soldiers treated him with violent kicks and blows and beat his face against the solid cement ground till his nose was crushed and his jaws were broken. They affirmed that the water the soldiers used to clean the dungeon turned into red with Al-Dosari’s blood.
Statements of Mr. Shafiq Rasul, Mr. Asif Iqbal and Mr. Rhuhel Ahmed, “Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay,” are available online at link: www.ccrny.org/v2/reports/docs/GitmocompositestatementFINAL23july04.pdf
(6) Extracts from the testimony of the present Guantanamo prisoner Mr. Joma’a Abdel Latif Al-Wadani Al-Dosari / Saudi-Bahraini
Excerpts from a lengthy letter sent by prisoner Joma’a Al-Dosari to the team of Bahraini lawyers defending Guantanamo prisoners.
The present prisoner Joma’a Al-Dosari wrote bout the Guantanmo jail authorities: “They used riot fighting forces in the simplest situations as a pretext to assault us with the knowledge and consent of their officers. Their visits to the dungeons would never spare the defenseless prisoners grave injuries resulting from bleeding or fractures.
I would mention in this report some of the incidents which I personally witnessed:
They stuck the head of a prisoner into the toilet and pulled the flush until he almost perished.
Once they beat the head of another prisoner against the edge of the toilet seat until he fell unconscious, lost vision for 10 hours and suffered from facial spasms. Another prisoner was performing the evening prayer in his solitary dungeon in “India” Wing when they entered into the dungeon and beat him violently. On the same day, they beat me as well…”
Statement by Mr. Joma’a Al-Dosari made available to Friends of Humanity International
Statements of the Yemeni ex-Minister of Health and the Head of the Health and Population Committee at the Yemeni Parliament, Dr. Najeeb Ghanim.
“The Yemeni ex-Minister and Parliament member representing the opponent Reform Party, Dr. Najeeb Ghanim, uncovered the fact that Al Salami’s dead body was emptied from the internal organs including the blood veins during the necropsy operation. He said that the Americans removed the brain, heart and kidneys with the aim to conceal any information that would be made available by these organs in service of the truth.”
The statements of the ex-Minister Ghanim are available online at the Middle East Daily website at link:
Statements of Mohammad Jehjah Al-Otaibi, a relative of the deceased prisoner Mane’e Ben Shaman Al-Otaibi; and Talal Al-Zahrani, father of the deceased prisoner Yaser Ben Talal Al-Zahrani.
“A relative of one of the two Saudi prisoner’s whom the USA announced as to have recently committed suicide at Guantanamo detention camp, said that some organs were removed from the dead body of his cousin to conceal the real causes of his death. The American authorities returned the dead bodies of Yaser Al-Zahrani and Mane’e Shaman Al-Otaibi to Riyad after the post death tests had been conducted.
Mohamad Jahjah Al-Otaibi, cousin of Mane’e Ben Shaman Al-Otaibi, said that the American authorities at Guantanamo removed the brain, heart, kidneys and liver from the body “So that the cause of the death is not known to anyone”. He said that the back of his cousin’s head had “a deep cut and was stitched once again”, quoting the Saudi newspaper Al Madina on 20 June 2006.
Jahjah, the guardian of the deceased prisoner after his father’s death, said the body had “traces of bruises and black spots especially on the arms”, which means that the deceased prisoner was tortured. He demanded that the Saudi authorities repeat the body dissection in order to reach true findings”.
The father of Yaser Al-Zahrani, the second Suadi detainee who was announced as to have committed suicide by America, confirmed that his son’s body showed traces of bruises though he had been dead for 20 days. Talal Abdullah Al-Zahrani said that the bruises on Yaser’s body proved that he was subjected to aggressive beating. Al-Zahrani clarified that he checked his son’s head, face and chest at Al Shmeisi hospital.”
The statements of Mr. Mohamd Jajah Al Otaibi on the torture inflicted on his deceased imprisoned relative Mane’e Al Otaibi, and emptying his dead body before sending it back to Saudi Arabia; and statements of Mr. Talal Al Zahrani on the torture endured by his deceased son are available online on Al Arabiya website at link
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