A briton released from the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay told Europe's top human-rights body yesterday he was beaten, shackled, kept in a cramped cage and fed rotten food...
PARIS A Briton released from the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay told Europe’s top human-rights body yesterday he was beaten, shackled, kept in a cramped cage and fed rotten food as part of “systematic abuse” in American custody.
Jamal al-Harith’s testimony before a Council of Europe panel came as part of an inquiry by the body into human-rights abuses at the U.S. detention facility to be made public in a report due out early next year.
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Al-Harith described his two-year detention at Guantánamo Bay as a period of continual mistreatment that ranged from humiliation and 15-hour interrogations to physical abuse that he says left scars.
At one point, al-Harith said, he refused to take an unidentified injection and was chained up and attacked by five men wearing helmets, body armor and shields.
“They jumped on my legs and back and they kicked and punched me,” said the 37-year-old Web site designer and father of three from Manchester, England. “Then I was put in isolation for a month.”
Al-Harith said he was kept mostly in a wire cage and given food marked “10 to 12 years beyond their usable date” as well as “black and rotten” fruit. Sometimes, unmuzzled dogs were brought to the cage and encouraged to bark, he said.
Detained in Afghanistan in October 2001, al-Harith maintains he had traveled to the region to attend a religious retreat in Pakistan.
He and three other Britons were released in March and have filed a lawsuit in a U.S. court seeking $10 million each in damages. Never charged, they maintain they were innocents caught up in the American war on terrorism. They were denied access to lawyers, as are most prisoners in Guantánamo.
When al-Harith and the others filed their lawsuits in October, the Pentagon denied the abuse allegations and said the men were properly held in Guantánamo after being captured in Afghanistan and having fought for al-Qaida.
“The U.S. policy is to treat all detainees and to conduct interrogations, wherever they may occur, is in a manner consistent with all U.S. legal obligations,” Maj. Michael Shavers, a Pentagon spokesman, said at the time.
Robert Lizar, al-Harith’s lawyer, urged the panel to use strong language in its report and to condemn U.S. behavior at Guantánamo that he called “totally shocking and unacceptable from international norms.”
“The actions are closer to those of kidnappers and bandits than to those of a state with a strong tradition of liberty and due process,” Lizar said.
Al-Harith said interrogators threatened to seize his family’s home unless he admitted to having gone to Pakistan to buy drugs or to join up with terrorists.