[Ppnews] Cal study finds ex-Guantanamo prisoners broken

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Nov 17 10:44:01 EST 2008

Cal study finds ex-Guantanamo prisoners broken

<mailto:begelko at sfchronicle.com>Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

Monday, November 17, 2008

The first extensive study of prisoners released from the U.S. 
detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, finds that many of them are 
physically and psychologically traumatized, debt-ridden and shunned 
in their communities as terrorist suspects.

"I've lost my property. I've lost my job. I've lost my will," said an 
Afghan man, one of 62 former inmates in nine countries interviewed 
anonymously by UC Berkeley researchers for a newly released report.

Another man, jobless and destitute, said his family kicked him out 
after he returned, and his wife went to live with her relatives. "I 
have a plastic bag holding my belongings that I carry with me all the 
time," he said. "And I sleep every night in a different mosque."

The report, "Guantanamo and its Aftermath," also found that 
two-thirds of former prisoners interviewed between July 2007 and July 
2008 suffered from psychological problems, including nightmares, 
angry outbursts, withdrawal and depression.

Many also reported recurring or constant pain from their treatment in 
captivity. Six men said that for them, the treatment included being 
suspended from the ceiling in chains at a U.S. air base.

Investigation urged

The authors called for a commission to investigate conditions at 
Guantanamo and other prisons where terrorist suspects are held and, 
if warranted, recommend criminal investigations "at all levels of the 
civilian and military command."

"We cannot sweep this dark chapter in our nation's history under the 
rug by simply closing the Guantanamo prison camp," said Eric Stover, 
director of UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center. "The new 
administration must investigate what went wrong and who should be 
held accountable."

Other co-authors are Laurel Fletcher, director of UC Berkeley's 
International Human Rights Law Clinic, and Vincent Warren, executive 
director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a nonprofit legal 
group representing some Guantanamo inmates.

President-elect Barack Obama has said he plans to close Guantanamo. 
During the campaign, he criticized the military commissions that 
President Bush established to try a small number of prisoners at the 
base and said he preferred regular civilian or military courts, where 
defendants have more rights. But Obama has not yet announced his 
plans for the trials or for the majority of inmates who are being 
held without charges.

Asked for comment on the report, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, the 
government's spokesman on Guantanamo, said, "Our policy is, and 
always has been, to treat detainees humanely."

A few former inmates, their lawyers and interrogators have given 
personal accounts of Guantanamo and other prisons in memoirs and 
court affidavits. The 136-page UC Berkeley report is the first to 
examine the fate of large numbers of released prisoners.

The report acknowledged that the inmates' narratives often lack 
independent confirmation. But it said they can be considered credible 
because they're consistent with other accounts - by other former 
prisoners, and by 50 past and present U.S. officials, lawyers and 
others with firsthand knowledge of Guantanamo who were interviewed 
for the survey.

The 62 men in the study spent an average of three years at 
Guantanamo. Most were classified as enemy combatants before being 
released without charges, like two-thirds of the 775 men who have 
been held at the naval base. Of the 255 remaining prisoners, 23 have 
been charged with war crimes.

More than one-third of the 62 said they had been turned over to U.S. 
authorities in Pakistan for a bounty; one man described standing 
outside an airplane with other detainees, hooded and shackled, and 
hearing an American voice tell the Pakistanis, "Each person is $5,000."

Others said they had been arrested on flimsy grounds - for carrying 
guns that they used for personal protection, for possessing 
binoculars that one man used for hunting birds, or for failing to pay 
bribes to local officials.

According to the men's accounts, their most brutal treatment occurred 
at a U.S. air base in Bagram, Afghanistan, where half of them were 
held before being flown to Guantanamo. The men said American guards 
regularly beat them, left them in freezing temperatures with thin 
blankets, used dogs to terrorize them, and, in the cases of six men, 
hung them from ceilings by chains for hours.

At Guantanamo, 24 of the 55 men who were willing to discuss their 
interrogations reported no problems, and a few described their 
questioners as "very nice." But others said they had been shackled in 
contorted positions and subjected to extreme heat or cold, both 
during interrogation and afterward.

Chained and cold

Eight men said their worst ordeal was being chained to the floor in a 
refrigerated isolation room, unable to move without being cut by the 
shackles. The report quoted a former U.S. military guard as saying 
prisoners were sometimes kept in such rooms in cramped positions for 
more than 10 hours.

Other men described sexual humiliation and barrages of loud music and 
strobe lights for extensive periods.

The cumulative effect of such treatment over time, combined with the 
prospect of indefinite confinement, would "in some cases clearly rise 
to the level of torture," the report said.

Warren, the Center for Constitutional Rights director and attorney, 
said the nation owes the men an apology, compensation and a chance to 
clear their names.

Read the report

To read "Guantanamo and its Aftermath," go to:


E-mail Bob Egelko at <mailto:begelko at sfchronicle.com>begelko at sfchronicle.com.


This article appeared on page A - 4 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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