Spanish Investigation Reveals 'An Approved Systematic Plan of Torture' Under Bush

While Obama and the US Congress refuse to hold Bush-era torturers accountable, a Spanish judge fights for accountability and uncovers more US atrocities.

On Friday, I wrote a piece
for AlterNet on how the Obama administration is continuing to use a
notorious military police unit at Guantanamo that regularly brutalizes
unarmed prisoners, despite Obama's pledge to uphold the Geneva
Convention. This force officially known as the Immediate Reaction Force
(IRF) has been labelled the "Extreme Repression Force" by Gitmo
prisoners. Its members were also characterized as the "Black Shirts of
Guantanamo" by human rights lawyer Michael Ratner. The IRF force is "an
extrajudicial terror squad that has regularly brutalized prisoners
outside of the interrogation room, gang beating them, forcing their
heads into toilets, breaking bones, gouging their eyes, squeezing their
testicles, urinating on a prisoner's head, banging their heads on
concrete floors and hog-tying them - sometimes leaving prisoners tied
in excruciating positions for hours on end."

There has been very
little public attention focused on this force. But, as I noted in my
story, this unit could potentially be subjected to legal scrutiny, even
if the Congress and Justice Department refuse to do their jobs. That's
because one of the men brutalized by this force is a primary figure in
the (largely ignored by the US media) Spanish investigation-a British resident named Omar Deghayes. (See my article, "Little Known Military Thug Squad Still Brutalizing Prisoners at Gitmo Under Obama," for more on this story.)

torture, including under the IRF Teams at Guantanamo, was highlighted
in Spanish Judge Balthazar Garzon's criminal investigation into the US
torture program. A total of five Spanish citizens or residents were
held by the US at Guantanamo. Testimony of four of those men is cited
by the Spanish investigators. In addition to Deghayes, the men are:
Hamed Abderraman Ahmed, Lahcen Ikassrien and Jamiel Abdulatif Al Banna.
(An English translation of the Spanish writ was recently released by
the Center for Constitutional Rights and can be accessed here.)

of the victims cited in the Spanish investigation were moved to various
locations where they were allegedly tortured before ultimately being
transferred to Guantanamo where the torture continued and intensified.
The torture, according to the Spanish investigation, "all" occurred
"under the authority of American military personnel" and was sometimes
conducted in the presence of medical professionals.

The Spanish
writ does not name specific defendants or suspects in its
investigation, but rather seeks to investigate the role of those who
planned, coordinated and implemented the torture of its citizens and
residents. "This systematic plan may point to the existence of a
coordinated action for the commission of a multiplicity of torture
crimes... a plan that would seem to approximate an official level and
that, therefore, would give rise to criminal liability for the various
schemes of committing, ordering, designing, and authorizing this
systematic plan of torture." On April 29, Garzon gave the green light
to the investigation citing Spain's Universal Jurisdiction law.

Deghayes's case appears to include the most extreme case of torture
among the five cited by the Spanish investigation, the others contain
some pretty gut-wrenching stories. According to the Spanish

Hamed Abderraman Ahmed was captured in November
2001 in Pakistan and was handed over to the US military in Kandahar,
Afghanistan two months later and was then taken to Guantanamo in
January 2002. At Camp X-Ray, he was confined to a metal mesh "chicken
wire" cell that exposed him to the extreme heat of the Caribbean sun
and "left him little more than a half-meter by half-meter of space to
move in." Additionally, the cells were lit with electric lights around
the clock, which "produced vision and sleep disorders." For over a
year, he says he and other prisoners were allowed to leave their cells
for two 15-minute periods a week. Ahmed also says the US constantly
blared "American patriotic songs." Ahmed was released to Spanish
custody by the US in February 2004 and was acquitted by Spain's Supreme

Lhacen Ikassrien, who is a Moroccan citizen and a 13 year
resident of Spain was taken from Afghanistan to Guantanamo in February
2002. He claims US personnel "never explained to him why he had been
deprived of freedom." At Guantanamo, Ikassrien claims he "Received
blows to his testicles," according to the Spanish investigation. "He
relates that they inoculated him through injection with 'a disease for
dog cysts.'" Ikassrien and other former prisoners claim the US prison
authorities "introduced into the cell very cold air and chemical
substances that affected his breathing and joints." Ikassrien was
handed over to Spain in July 2005 and was also acquitted.

Palestinian citizen, Jamiel Abdelatif al Banna was taken by the US
military in Gambia in November 2002 and was ultimately transferred to
Guantanamo in January 2003 where he remained until December 2007.
Before arriving at Guantanamo, al Banna says US personnel took him to
Afghanistan for a brief period where he was kept "underground in total
darkness for three weeks with deprivation of food and sleep, and,
forced him to witness torture carried out on other prisoners in
Afghanistan," according to the Spanish investigation. He also "received
strong blows to the head with a loss of consciousness."

Once he
arrived at Guantanamo, al Banna was "under a regimen of total isolation
for one year, permanently bound with shackles." During his time at
Guantanamo, he was "subjected to some one thousand interrogations in
sessions lasting from 2-10 hours per day." He was also "held by
shackles on the hands and feet (wrists and ankles), in forced
positions, seated on the floor with his body doubled forward and with
pressure from the interrogators on his back to increase the pain until
it made him scream and rendered him unable to stand upright on his feet
for several hours afterwards." Al Banna was also "subjected to threats
of death by poisoning or by drowning in the sea." Like Ikassrien, al
Banna described chemicals placed in his environment that caused
"coughing fits and respiratory problems." His mesh wired cell allegedly
"produced asthenopia (eyestrain) in him and in other prisoners, to the
point of rendering him incapable of reading." Al Banna also describes
being attacked by the Immediate Reaction Force teams. "In one of these
attacks, Al Banna suffered injuries to the ring finger of his right
hand, left side of his forehead and the back part of his left knee,"
according to the investigation.

Judge Garzon says the treatment
of these men, combined with recently declassified US documents show "an
approved systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment on persons
deprived of their freedom without any charge and without the basic
rights of all detainees as set out and required by applicable
international treaties."

Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights has said
it "is conceivable that arrest warrants have already been issued or
will be soon. Indictments will almost surely follow. The torture team's
travel options are narrowing."

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