TORTURE AND SECRET DETENTION – Testimony of the ‘disappeared’ in war on terror’

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America is ‘complicit in torture’ carried out in secret detention centres around the world, accuses Amnesty International in its latest report.

Torture and secret detention: Testimony of the ‘disappeared’ in the ‘war on terror’ features the experience of two Yemeni men.

The report states: ‘On 20 June 2005, Amnesty International delegates visited two Yemeni detainees said to have recently been transferred from the US detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.

‘However, their accounts described another US detention regime just as sinister, yet more secretive, than Guantánamo.

‘The men appear to have been victims of the US administration’s policy of secret detentions around the world. For over a year and a half they had effectively “disappeared”. . . .’

Muhammad Faraj Ahmed Bashmilah and Salah Nasser Salim ’Ali are friends from the Yemeni capital of Aden.

The two men were held for four days in Jordan, where they say they were tortured,

The report continues: ‘For over a year and a half, the two men were then detained incommunicado without charge or trial in unknown locations, held and interrogated by guards they say came from the USA.

‘Neither was ever told why they were detained.’

Both men remain in detention in Yemen. Yemeni officials told Amnesty that the men are in continued detention solely at the request of US authorities.

Salim ’Ali, 27 years old, was living in Jakarta with his Indonesian wife Aisha when he was detained by plain clothes police on 19 August 2003.

Amnesty says: ‘He said that he was held there for four days handcuffed, blindfolded and without food. His requests to make telephone calls to his family were refused.’

After the initial four days of detention, during which his passport expired, Salim ’Ali was told that he would be deported to Yemen, via Thailand and Jordan.

Ahmed Bashmilah, aged 37, also lived in Indonesia.

The report states: ‘In October 2003 he travelled to Jordan with his wife Zahra to be with his mother who was about to have medical treatment there.

‘On arrival at Amman airport, Jordanian immigration authorities took his passport and told him to collect it three days later on 19 October. However, when he tried to collect it he was detained by the Da’irat al-Mukhabarat al-’Amah (General Intelligence Department (GID) and asked whether he had ever travelled to Afghanistan. He answered “yes”.

‘From that moment, he didn’t see anyone except Jordanian and US prison guards and interrogators, until he was transferred to custody in Yemen more than a year and a half later.’

The report continues that on his arrival in Jordan, Salim ’Ali was taken to a Jordanian intelligence service detention facility, where he says he was tortured repeatedly for four days.

The report states: ‘He says that he was routinely beaten by Jordanian officials, spat on, verbally abused and threatened with sexual abuse and electric shocks.

‘He also describes in detail being subjected to the torture technique known as falaqa (beatings with sticks on the soles of the feet).

‘He states that two guards tied him so that he was suspended upside down, hands and feet tied, whilst the guards beat his feet.

‘On other occasions during the four days he says that he was surrounded by 15 guards in a circle. The guards would make him run around in the circle until he was exhausted.

‘At this point the guards would run after him, beating him with a stick. When he was so tired that he could run no longer, the guards lay him down in the centre and all took turns to beat him.

‘He also says the guards attempted to abuse him sexually.

‘On one occasion they tried to force him to sit on a bottle so that it would penetrate his anus. It was only when he threatened to hit the guards with the bottle that they backed off.

‘Salah Nasser Salim ’Ali says that he was only interrogated at the beginning of his detention in Jordan and then only asked questions about his presence in Afghanistan.

‘At no point was he told why he had been detained, offered contact with lawyers or allowed to make telephone calls.

‘Muhammad Faraj Ahmed Bashmilah was unable to talk in detail about the torture he says he suffered during his four days of detention in Jordan, stating only that his treatment was “inappropriate” before breaking down in tears.’

Muhammad Faraj Ahmed Bashmilah and Salah Nasser Salim ’Ali described separately to Amnesty the next stages of their detention.

The report states: ‘Their accounts were remarkably similar in the descriptions of the places of detention, the presumed nationality of the guards and their treatment and interrogations.’

Neither the men nor Amnesty know the location of the detention facilities, although Ahmed Bashmilah stated clearly that he was not held at Guantánamo Bay.

The report continues: ‘After approximately four days of solitary confinement in Jordan, both men state that they were blindfolded and shackled before being transported in what they described as a small plane for between three and a half to four and a half hours to a second location.

‘Both men state that the guards during the transfer were from the USA.

‘The place they were held for the next six to eight months was described as an old-style underground facility with high walls.

‘The cells were approximately 1.5m x 2m with buckets instead of toilets.

‘Western music was piped into the cells 24 hours a day.

‘They describe being interrogated by US officials about people they might have known and about their activities in Afghanistan and Indonesia.

‘Apart from the guards, the interrogators and translators, the men did not speak to or see any other people during this stage of detention.

‘Neither knew the other was detained. Each was held in solitary confinement, “disappeared” as far as the rest of the world was concerned.

‘After this, the men describe being transferred once more.

‘Again in shackles and blindfolded, they were taken in a small aircraft and flew for around three hours.

‘They were then transferred to what they believed was a helicopter and flown for a further two hours.

‘Muhammad Faraj Ahmed Bashmilah stated that he believed there were other detainees on both flights.

‘The next, unknown place of detention was described by the men as a modern purpose-built detention facility, run by US officials.

‘Salah Nasser Salim ’Ali stated that the place of detention was not Guantánamo Bay and from the descriptions given Amnesty International would conclude that it was another place of detention.

‘Both men stated that they thought the facility was underground because they entered it down stairs and when they left they climbed stairs.

‘It was fully air-conditioned with modern toilets and surveillance cameras in the cells.

‘Both men describe being given Islamic books and copies of the Koran as well as watches and prayer schedules.

‘In addition they were given Arabic and Western films to watch. Salah Nasser Salim ‘Ali states that a doctor came to check on him once a fortnight.

‘They were held in this facility for over a year and a half in solitary confinement, mostly shackled and in handcuffs.’