Mon, May 02, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Guantanamo Bay prisoners abused, report to conclude

MISTREATMENT Terrorist suspects held at the US prison in Cuba were subjected to abuse and humiliation by guards, a yet-to-be released high-level report will say


A high-level military investigation into allegations of detainee abuse at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has concluded that several prisoners were mistreated or humiliated, perhaps illegally, as a result of efforts to devise innovative methods to gain information, senior military and Pentagon officials said.

The report on the investigation, which is still a few weeks from being completed and released, will deal with accounts by agents for the FBI who complained after witnessing detainees subjected to several forms of harsh treatment.

The FBI agents wrote in memorandums that were never meant to be disclosed publicly that they had seen female interrogators forcibly squeeze male prisoners' genitals, and that they had witnessed other detainees stripped and shackled low to the floor for many hours.

Although the Pentagon has issued other reports about allegations of abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, the new investigation by Lieutenant General Randall Schmidt of the Air Force, was intended to be the first major inquiry devoted solely to determining what interrogation practices were used at Guantanamo. The investigation was initiated in response to the disclosure of FBI messages that especially concerned Pentagon officials because the bureau's complaints carried great credibility.

It remains unclear, however, how high up the chain of command the report's authors will assign responsibility for the abuses. Pentagon officials have been criticized for absolving high-level officers in previous investigations.

The new report by Schmidt also comes as an increasing number of Guantanamo prisoners who have been released are providing accounts of their treatment for the first time to journalists and supportive American lawyers.

One recently released detainee, interviewed by telephone from Kuwait, said he had witnessed or learned from fellow inmates about many of the abusive practices that have been described in previous reports by nongovernmental groups like the International Committee of the Red Cross.

But that detainee, Nasser Nijer Naser al-Mutairi, also said in a series of interviews with the New York Times that detainees sometimes prevailed over the authorities after protesting conditions with campwide hunger strikes.

Al-Mutairi said there were three major hunger strikes in his more than three years of imprisonment at Guantanamo. He said that after one of them, a protest of guards' handling of copies of the Koran, which had been tossed into a pile and stepped on, a senior officer delivered an apology over the camp's loudspeaker system, pledging that such abuses would stop. Interpreters, standing outside each prison block, translated the officer's apology.

A former interrogator at Guantanamo, in an interview with The Times, confirmed the accounts of the hunger strikes, including the public expression of regret over the treatment of the Korans.

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