The Associated Press
Nearly a dozen detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp contend they were wrongly imprisoned after repeated abuse by U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including beatings with chains, electric shock and sodomy, their lawyer said yesterday.
“These are classic stories of men who ended up in Guantanamo by mistake,” charged attorney Tom Wilner, who represents 11 Kuwaiti prisoners held in the detention center at the U.S. Navy base in eastern Cuba.
Most of his clients say they falsely confessed to belonging to Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban regime or the al-Qaida terror network as a way to stop the abuse, Wilner said. He said one is too angry over his treatment to discuss details of his case, but all argue their detentions are unjustified.
Human rights groups and defense lawyers have long charged that some information used as the basis for incarcerations at Guantanamo Bay resulted from abuse or torture. Many of the 545 prisoners there have been held for more than three years, most without charge. About 150 have been let go, but officials have not given explanations for their release.
The government has denied using torture, but multiple investigations into abuse at detention camps in Afghanistan and Guantanamo are under way. It is not clear whether some of the men’s statements could be dismissed if investigators confirm there was abuse during interrogations.
Maj. Michael Shavers, a Pentagon spokesman, said all “credible” abuse allegations are investigated, but he suggested the Kuwaitis’ claims were consistent with al-Qaida tactics to falsely allege abuse or mistreatment.
“That these detainees are now making allegations of abuse seems to fit the standard operating procedure in al-Qaida training manuals,” Shavers said in response to questions from The Associated Press about the Kuwaitis’ accusations.
Although most of the 11 Kuwaitis say physical abuse stopped once they arrived at Guantanamo, all complain of mistreatment, such as being locked in cells with scant reading materials and little information on the outside world, Wilner said in a conference call from Washington to discuss recently declassified notes on his meetings with the detainees.
“At Guantanamo, the physical abuse — at least for Kuwaitis — has stopped, but there has been a switch to mental torture,” he said.
Wilner and other lawyers representing the Kuwaitis were allowed to interview the prisoners for the first time in December and January, after the Supreme Court ruled in June that foreigners detained as enemy combatants at Guantanamo could challenge their imprisonment. Wilner last visited his clients Jan. 10 to 13.
Lawyers are required to surrender attorney-client notes before leaving the U.S. base. The notes are sealed and sent to a secure facility in Arlington, Va., where attorneys must request for them to be reviewed and unclassified. The lawyers must also get government permission to speak about their conversations with the detainees.