“Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.”
Those are the words ending the seventh of seven paragraphs declassified yesterday by a judge in the United Kingdom describing the treatment of Binyam Mohammed, an Ethiopian national and British resident who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002.
He was held in secret prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan before being moved to Guantanamo Bay in September 2004 where he stayed until February of last year when he was released without ever being charged.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Mohammed in a lawsuit looking to hold people accountable for his rendition, while in custody, Mohammed:
“was fed meals of raw rice, beans and bread sparingly and irregularly. He was kept in almost complete darkness for 23 hours a day and made to stay awake for days at a time by loud music and other frightening and irritating recordings, including the sounds of “ghost laughter,” thunder, aircraft taking off and the screams of women and children.”
After being released, Mohammed sought whatever information the British had about his treatment. It boiled down to a battle over a seven paragraph summary of his treatment.
Even after British courts ruled the paragraphs must be released, the United States warned Britain not to do it, saying they would curb the exchange of information between the two countries if the information was released.
What’s sort of — but I guess shouldn’t be — astounding is that the United States tried to keep the seven paragraphs suppressed even after much about Mohammed’s treatment was detailed in court papers.
As the British court wrote in paragraph 55 of their decision:
“There is no secret about the treatment to which Mr. Mohammed was subjected while in the control of the US. Authorities. We are no longer dealing with the allegations of torture and ill-treatment; they have been established in the judgment of the court, publicly revealed by the judicial process within the USA itself.
So, now that the details of Mr. Mohammed’s treatment were detailed in the US Courts and reaffirmed by the British Courts, what was the reaction of the United States to the release of the seven paragraphs?
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair released a statement saying the British decision was “not helpful” and “creates additional challenges” but the two countries will persevere.
Not a word about Mohammed and how he was treated but at least our priorities are in order.
As for the seven paragraphs, here they are:
“It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2002 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer.
v) It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.
vi) It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and “disappearing” were played upon.
vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews
viii) It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the interviews were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.
ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provide to the SyS [security services] made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.
x) The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.”