Report: Sexual torture used at Guantanamo against Muslim detainees
American interrogators reportedly used sexual torture as systematic techniques to get information from alleged Al Qaeda detainees at the Guantanamo base.
According to an insider's written account, female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man's face with fake menstrual blood.
A draft manuscript obtained by The AP is classified as secret pending a Pentagon review for a planned book that details ways the U.S. military used women as part of tougher physical and psychological interrogation tactics to get "terror suspects" to speak.
It's perhaps the most revealing and detailed account thus far of interrogations at the secretive detention camp, where officials say they have halted some controversial techniques.
"I have really struggled with this because the detainees, their families and much of the world will think this is a religious war based on some of the techniques used, even though it is not the case," the author, former Army Sgt. Erik R. Saar, 29, told the news agency.
Saar, who is neither Muslim nor of Arab descent, worked as an Arabic translator at the U.S. camp in eastern Cuba from December 2002 to June 2003. At the time, it was under the command of Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who had a mandate to get better intelligence from prisoners, including alleged al Qaeda members caught in Afghanistan.
Saar said he witnessed about 20 interrogations and about three months after his arrival at the remote U.S. base he started noticing "disturbing" practices.
One female civilian contractor used a special outfit that included a miniskirt, thong underwear and a bra during late-night interrogations with prisoners, mostly Muslim men who consider it taboo to have close contact with women who aren't their wives.
Beginning in April 2003, "there hung a short skirt and thong underwear on the hook on the back of the door" of one interrogation team's office, he writes.
"Later I learned that this outfit was used for interrogations by one of the female civilian contractors ... on a team which conducted interrogations in the middle of the night on Saudi men who were refusing to talk."
Some Guantanamo prisoners who have been released say they were tormented by "prostitutes."
Events Saar describes resemble two previous reports of abusive female interrogation tactics, although it wasn't possible to independently verify his account.
In November, in response to an AP request, the military described an April 2003 incident in which a female interrogator took off her uniform top, exposed her T-shirt, ran her fingers through a detainee's hair and sat on his lap. That session was immediately ended by a supervisor and that interrogator received a written reprimand and additional training, the military said.
In another incident, the military reported that in early 2003 a different female interrogator "wiped dye from red magic marker on detainees' shirt after detainee spit on her," telling the detainee it was blood. She was verbally reprimanded, the military said.
Sexual tactics used by female interrogators have been criticized by the FBI, which have complained in a letter that U.S. defense officials hadn't acted on complaints by FBI observers of "highly aggressive" interrogation techniques, including one in which a female interrogator grabbed a detainee's genitals.
About 20 percent of the guards at Guantanamo are women, said Lt. Col. James Marshall, a spokesman for U.S. Southern Command. He wouldn't say how many of the interrogators were female.
"U.S. forces treat all detainees and conduct all interrogations, wherever they may occur, humanely and consistent with U.S. legal obligations, and in particular with legal obligations prohibiting torture," Marshall said.
However, some officials at the U.S. Southern Command have questioned the formation of an all-female team as one of Guantanamo's "Immediate Reaction Force" units that subdue troublesome male prisoners in their cells, according to a document classified as secret.
At Guantanamo, Saar said, "Interrogators were given a lot of latitude under Miller," the commander who went from the prison in Cuba to overseeing prisons in Iraq, where the Abu Ghraib scandal shocked the world with pictures revealing sexual humiliation of naked prisoners.
The book, which Saar titled "Inside the Wire," is due out this year with Penguin Press.
Meanwhile, three Britons freed from Guantanamo Bay in March released a 115-page dossier accusing the U.S. of carrying out torture and sexual degradation at the military camp in Cuba.
Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo, launched in the U.S. in August 2004 by the men’s British lawyers, is a devastating account of the abuse experienced and witnessed by the three at the camp, which draws direct parallels with the torture of detainees by U.S. forces at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
The allegations of mental and physical torture outlined in the dossier included U.S. forces subjecting inmates to repeated beatings, including punching and kicking. Additional allegations included sexual humiliation such as photographing prisoners naked and subjecting them to unwarranted and brutal anal searches.
In the meantime, a federal judge ruled Monday, January 31, that foreign "terror suspects" held in Cuba can challenge their confinement in U.S. courts and she criticized the Bush administration for holding hundreds of people without legal rights.
Judge Joyce Hens Green, handling claims filed by about 50 detainees at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, said the Supreme Court made clear last year that they have constitutional rights that lower courts should enforce.
"Although this nation unquestionably must take strong action under the leadership of the commander in chief to protect itself against enormous and unprecedented threats," she wrote, "that necessity cannot negate the existence of the most basic fundamental rights for which the people of this country have fought and died for well over 200 years."
Guantanamo has about 545 prisoners from over 40 countries, many held more than three years without charge or access to lawyers and many suspected of links to al Qaeda or Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)