Report Details U.S. Abuse of Gaddafi Opponents Under Bush
Startling new evidence of the torture, unlawful rendition, and other abuse of Libyan anti-Gaddafi rebels in U.S. detention facilities during the George W. Bush administration was revealed Wednesday by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The groundbreaking report, “Delivered into Enemy Hands: U.S.-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi’s Libya”, was made public one week after Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department’s decision to cease investigations of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials who may have been responsible for the deaths of two prisoners.
The investigation, which initially began with the examination of 101 prisoner cases, was reduced to that of only two already dead prisoners. Additionally, the investigation only encompassed the abuses which were unauthorised by Bush.
Thus, the investigations did not include alleged waterboarding and other forms of torture which were approved by the president, according to Laura Pitter, counter-terrorism advisor at HRW and author of the report.
Pitter told IPS, “The investigation needs to be reopened, it needs to be broadened, and the U.S. needs to make a full accounting of what went on at these sites.”
Pitter’s report unveiled, for the first time, secret service documents recovered from Tripoli, as well as many personal testimonies of former detainees who were released after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi a year ago. These documents and testimonies shed light on unlawful and unethical practices of detention programmes and CIA investigation tactics that had been kept in the dark for years following the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks.
Fourteen former detainees were interviewed, all of whom reported being transported back to Libya after their capture outside of the country, in what is known as rendition. Most of these detainees who had worked to overthrow Gaddafi were involved in the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group (LIFG).
All persons interviewed report having been returned to Libya by the U.S. or other collaborating countries at a time when it was clear they would be tortured by the Libyan government.
International law strictly forbids this sort of rendition, as well as all acts of torture and ill-treatment. Other countries in collaboration with Gaddafi’s regime and the renditions were the United Kingdom, Afghanistan, Chad, China and Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Sudan, and Thailand.
In addition to these reports of renditions, five detainees described various methods of torture and cruel treatment by the CIA secret prisons in Afghanistan prior to their transport. Two men described experiences of water torture tactics, and one accurately described what is known as waterboarding.
Pitter wrote, “The allegations cast serious doubts on prior assertions from U.S. government officials that only three people were waterboarded in U.S. custody. They also reflect just how little the public still knows about what went on in the U.S. secret detention program.”
Other reports of physical abuse include being forced into cramped spaces and denied the ability to bathe for nearly five months, being denied food and sleep, and being chained to walls naked. One man, Majid Mokhtar Sasy al-Maghrebi, described a time when he was chained and abused.
According to Pitter’s report, al-Maghrebi said, “I was there for 15 days, hanging from my arms, another chain from the ground. They put a diaper on me but it overflowed so there was every type of stool everywhere, the temperature was freezing.”
Pitter’s 154-page report brings to light never before seen evidence of what could be a very serious offence against International Law. The Tripoli Documents highlighted in the report show how the United States may have tried to side-step the law against rendition through extracted promises from Libya that the prisoners would not be ill-treated.
The Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions set down protections against unfair rendition and ill-treatment, and HRW claims that the United States “violated its international legal obligations”.
Pitter told IPS, “Failure to account for past abuses undermines the United States’ credibility when trying to argue for human rights in other places.”
“It’s in National Security’s interest, really, to acknowledge past mistakes so they can make clear this was a mistake and it’s never going to happen again.”