War Crimes Commission Hears Graphic Accounts of US Torture From Former Detainees

War Crimes Commission Hears Graphic Accounts of US Torture From Former Detainees

The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission today heard harrowing testimonies about the atrocities committed against the Guantanamo Bay detainees, which included psychological torture and routine humiliation.

A total of seven detainees including Sudanese journalist Sami Al’Hajj, and British nationals Moazzam Begg and Rahul Ahmed testified today about the atrocities that took place in the camps including how they were shackled, stripped naked in front of female soldiers, thrown naked into makeshift cells made with barbed wires, injected with substances and subjected to mental torture to the point they hallucinated.

Begg was detained in January 2002 in Pakistan, said he was told that there was no specific reason for his arrest except for the fact that he “fit a profile”.

The family man, who had previously worked in Kabul, Afghanistan on a project to build a school for girls, moved to Pakistan after the Sept 11 bombings.

He said he was “kidnapped” from his home, labelled an “enemy combatant” and detained for four years.

Begg, who is now director of Cage Prisoners – a human rights organisation that works to raise awareness of the plight of the prisoners held as part of the War on Terror – testified about the excruciating conditions in which he was transported from Pakistan to Kandahar and then to Guantanamo Bay.

Begg also revealed that he was interrogated more than 300 times including once when insinuations were made that his wife was in danger while the screams of a woman could be heard next door.

He also said he was forced to sign a confession that he was member of the terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda under threat of torture and because he though it would give him access to legal recourse.

Begg also spoke of the psychological torture inflicted on him while he was imprisoned.

He said a psychiatrist assigned to speak to him had asked him if he had ever considered committing suicide and even suggested how he could kill himself by tying his prison clothes to make a rope that could be used as a noose.

“Of the six deaths that I knew of during detention, five were carried out in this way,” Begg said, adding that the detainees were also drugged.

Summing up his testimony, Begg revealed to the commission that 92% of people held in Guantanamo Bay were not involved with the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, saying he believed many were detained and handed to the Americans to get the hefty bounty paid for each detainee.

He also had some harsh words for the role played by the British government in the affair.

“The British idea was that they were guests and that this was an American show and I believe my incarceration would not taken place without the aid of the British government who were closest allies to Americans.”

Meanwhile Ahmed and his friends learnt the hard way about the dangers of seeking pleasure in a hostile environment.

In 2002, the then 18-year-old and two friends crossed the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to obtain drugs and alcohol which they were told was easily available in the American-occupied Afghanistan.

They were promptly arrested and Ahmed spent the next two and the half years of his life in Guantanamo Bay.

He said he was interrogated frequently, sometimes in awkward positions while being forced to listen to loud music and dogs barking for up to two days.

“When subjected to this for several hours, the effects of this prolonged exposure makes you hallucinate and see things that are not here,” he added.

Commissioners at the hearing were former Bar Council president Zainur Zakaria, former UN assistant secretary general for humanitarian operations in Iraq Prof Hans-Christof von Sponeck, former assistant secretary general for human resource management and head of UN humanitarian programme in Iraq Dennis J.Halliday, lawyer and former magistrate Musa Ismail, professor of law Gurdial Nijar, Perdana Foundation’s Dr Zulaiha Ismail and Prof Dr Mohd Akram Shair Mohamed of the Islamic University.

The testimonies before the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission Hearings will be submitted to a tribunal in conjunction with the Criminalise War Conference and War Crimes Tribunal 2009 spearheaded by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.