Forced to make false confessions
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Posted on Thu, Aug. 05, 2004
Three Britons Allege Guantanamo Abuses
NEW YORK - Three Britons freed from Guantanamo Bay claim they suffered systematic brutality and were kept in cages in the sweltering Cuban heat during their detention at the U.S. military base.
In a report released by their lawyers Wednesday, the men say the brutal treatment forced them to make false confessions.
"The idea that these three people were kept in this prison, this gulag and forced to make false confessions is amazing," Michael Ratner, head of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said at a news conference at the group's Manhattan offices.
Asif Iqbal, Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul, friends from England, were released from the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo in March after more than two years. They were detained in late 2001 in Afghanistan. Officials did not explain how the men wound up there.
Maj. Michael Shavers, a Pentagon spokesman, said U.S. policy condemns abuse of detainees. He declined to address specific allegations of abuse or say whether any had been, or would be, investigated.
"The U.S. operates a humane and professional detention operation at Guantanamo that is providing valuable information on the war on terror," Shavers said.
Navy Secretary Gordan England said he doubted the allegations, telling CNN that "I don't believe they are true."
The men describe repeated beatings throughout their detentions in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. One says he was told by a U.S. soldier: "You killed my family in the towers and now it's time to get you back."
At the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, they say other prisoners were subjected to brutal treatment similar to the abuse later uncovered at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. One of the men says prison guards would stage races of detainees in short leg shackles, violently punishing them if they fell.
According to the report, the men were told prisoners had been stripped naked and forced to watch videotapes of other prisoners ordered to sodomize each other. The men said the guards would throw the prisoners' Qurans into the toilet and forcibly shave the prisoners to try to force people to abandon their Muslim faith.
Under pressure, Iqbal confessed to being the man interrogators pointed to on a videotape with Osama Bin Laden. This was later disproved by British intelligence; in truth, Iqbal was in England at the time the videotape was made.
The British Ministry of Defense said it would investigate any official complaint. A government official said the three men had not reported any allegations of mistreatment to the British government until now.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy repeated his calls for an independent inquiry into abuses in American detention centers.
"These detainees apparently confessed to things they did not and could not have done, which suggest that they may have been subjected to coercive interrogation techniques," Leahy said.
Such techniques would be "illegal as well as unreliable," he said.
The center, a well-known civil rights law firm, represented Rasul and Iqbal in the U.S. Supreme Court case that successfully challenged the Bush administrations policy of indefinitely holding detainees at Guantanamo Bay without judicial review.
In its ruling, the court held that foreign terrorism suspects may use the American legal system to challenge their detention.