Richard Moore

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Date: Fri, 7 Mar 2003 22:33:51 -0500

Published on Friday, March 7, 2003 by the Guardian/UK

Afghan Prisoners Beaten to Death at US Military
Interrogation Base

by Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles

Two prisoners who died while being held for
interrogation at the US military base in Afghanistan
had apparently been beaten, according to a military
pathologist's report. A criminal investigation is now
under way into the deaths which have both been
classified as homicides.

The deaths have led to calls for an inquiry into what
interrogation techniques are being used at the base
where it is believed the al-Qaida leader, Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed, is now also being held. Former prisoners at
the base claim that detainees are chained to the
ceiling, shackled so tightly that the blood flow stops,
kept naked and hooded and kicked to keep them awake for
days on end.

The two men, both Afghans, died last December at the US
forces base in Bagram, north of Kabul, where prisoners
have been held for questioning. The autopsies found
they had suffered "blunt force injuries" and classified
both deaths as homicides.

A spokesman for the Pentagon said yesterday it was not
possible to discuss the details of the case because of
the proceeding investigation. If the investigation
finds that the prisoners had been unlawfully killed
during interrogation, it could lead to both civil and
military prosecutions. He added that it was not clear
whether only US personnel had had access to the men.

One of the dead prisoners, known only as Dilawar, died
as a result of "blunt force injuries to lower
extremities complicating coronary artery disease",
according to the death certificate signed by Major
Elizabeth Rouse, a pathologist with the
Washington-based Armed Forces Institute of Pathology,
which operates under the auspices of the defense
department. The dead man was aged 22 and was a farmer
and part-time taxi-driver. He was said to have had an
advanced heart condition and blocked arteries.

Chris Kelly, a spokesman for the institute, said
yesterday that their pathologists were involved in all
cases on military bases where there were unusual or
suspicious deaths. He was not aware of any other
homicides of prisoners held since September 11. He said
that the definition of homicide was "death resulting
from the intentional or grossly reckless behavior of
another person or persons" but could also encompass
"self-defense or justifiable killings".

The death certificates for the men have four boxes on
them giving choices of "natural, accident, suicide,
homicide". The Pentagon said yesterday that the choice
of "homicide" did not necessarily mean that the dead
person had been unlawfully killed. There was no box
which would indicate that a pathologist was uncertain
how a person had died.

It is believed that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, described
as the number three in al-Qaida, is being interrogated
at Bagram. He is said to have started providing
information about the possible whereabouts of Osama bin
Laden whom he is said to have met in Pakistan last
month. Most al-Qaida suspects are being held outside
the US which means that they are not entitled to access
to the US judicial system.

Two former prisoners at the base, Abdul Jabar and
Hakkim Shah, told the New York Times this week that
they recalled seeing Dilawar at Bagram. They said that
they had been kept naked, hooded and shackled and were
deprived of sleep for days on end. Mr Shah said that
American guards kicked him to stop him falling asleep
and that on one occasion he had been kicked by a woman
interrogator, while her male colleague held him in a
kneeling position.

The commander of the coalition forces in Afghanistan,
General Daniel McNeill, said that prisoners were made
to stand for long periods but he denied that they were
chained to the ceiling. "Our interrogation techniques
are adapted," he said.

"They are in accordance with what is generally accepted
as interrogation techniques, and if incidental to the
due course of this investigation, we find things that
need to be changed, we will certainly change them."

In January, in his state of the union address,
President George Bush announced that "3,000 suspected
terrorists have been arrested in many countries" and
"many others have met a different fate" and "are no
longer a problem to the United States".

The other death being investigated is that of Mullah
Habibullah, the brother of a former Taliban commander.
His death certificate indicates that he died of a
pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot in the lung.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

Published on Thursday, March 6, 2003 by the Los Angeles Times

Rights on the Rack

Alleged Torture in Terror War Imperils U.S. Standards
of Humanity

by Jonathan Turley

In Afghanistan, it is hardly surprising to find two
dead bodies with signs of torture. This week, however,
a shocking U.S. military coroner's report also
suggested that the most likely suspect in the homicides
was the U.S. government. Even more disturbing is
emerging evidence that the United States may be
operating something that would have seemed unimaginable
only two years ago: an American torture facility.

Credible reports now indicate that the government, with
the approval of high-ranking officials, is engaging in
systematic techniques considered by many to be torture.

U.S. officials have admitted using techniques that this
nation previously denounced as violations of
international law. One official involved in the
"interrogation center" in Afghanistan said "if you
don't violate someone's human rights, you probably
aren't doing your job."

For months, international human rights groups have been
protesting activities at the Bagram Air Base in
Afghanistan. In a closed-off part of the base, the CIA
has constructed an "interrogation center" out of metal
shipping containers. Last year, reports began to
surface that the CIA was getting information the
old-fashioned way -- by breaking suspects physically,
except when they inconveniently die.

There is a striking consistency to these accounts,
including those from unnamed U.S. officials. Following
the arrest of terrorist suspect Abu Zubeida last year
after he was shot in the chest, groin and thigh, U.S.
officials admitted withholding painkillers as an
inducement to force information from him. For part of
his interrogation, John Walker Lindh was held naked in
an unheated metal container in the dead of winter and
duct-taped to a stretcher with a bullet in his leg.

The latest allegation concerns two men who died while
guests of the CIA. According to the military coroner,
both men show "blunt force trauma" that contributed to
their deaths. They died within a week of each other at
the base, one of a pulmonary embolism and one of a
heart attack. Both cases are now officially listed as

One U.S. official is quoted as predicting that "this
investigation will not go well for us."

U.S. Special Forces troops have been accused of beating
suspects before turning them over for exposure to other
techniques, such as being kept awake for days or forced
to stand or kneel for long periods in painful
positions. Witnesses also reported the use of bright
lights and loud noises to reduce suspects to blithering
idiots through sleep deprivation.

To the amazement of the international community, the
U.S. government has openly admitted that it is now
using such "stress and duress techniques." These
practices would be unconstitutional -- if not criminal
-- if committed in the United States.

However, the government insists that it can use the
techniques abroad and that they fall just short of a
technical definition of torture.

Respected international organizations like Human Rights
Watch and Amnesty International and other groups
disagree and have condemned the techniques as flagrant
violations of international law. Though not declaring
them to be torture, the European Court of Human Rights
found in 1978 that identical practices used by the
British in Ireland were "inhuman" and in violation of
various international agreements.

Among the violations is the denial of rights under the
Geneva Convention, which states in Article 17 that "no
physical or mental torture, nor any other form of
coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to
secure from them information of any kind whatsoever."

There is no retroactive clause: The U.S. cannot round
up suspects, torture them and, if they die,
retroactively label them enemy combatants outside of
the Geneva Convention.

The Bush administration position is also dangerously
shortsighted: Its alleged use of torture puts every
service member in any Iraq war at risk. Saddam Hussein
can now cite the U.S. in support of his taste for

Hussein missed his opportunity to market his services.
When U.S. techniques have proved unavailing, officials
have transferred suspects to countries that we have
previously denounced for grotesque violations of human
rights. Suspects are simply shipped to Pakistan, Saudi
Arabia or Morocco with a list of questions for more
crude torture techniques.

One official involved in these interrogations explained
that "we don't kick the [expletive] out of them. We
send them to other countries so they can kick the
[expletive] out of them."

This week, West Virginia Sen. John D. Rockefeller
actually encouraged the U.S. to hand over the recently
arrested Al Qaeda suspect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to
another country for torture. Whatever legal distinction
Rockefeller sees in using surrogates to do our
torturing, it is hardly a moral distinction. As a
result, we are now driving the new market for
torture-derived information. We have gone from a nation
that once condemned torture to one that contracts out
for torture services.

Instead of continuing our long fight against torture,
we now seek to adopt more narrow definitions to satisfy
our own acquired appetite for coercive interrogations.
If the U.S. is responsible for the deaths of the two
men in Afghanistan, it is more than homicide. It would
be suicide for a nation once viewed as the very
embodiment of human rights.

Jonathan Turley is a law professor at George Washington University.

Copyright 2003 Los Angeles Times

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