Rights Watch: Evidence of wider U.S. waterboarding

By Sarah El Deeb

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 6 2012 11:41 a.m. MDT

The accounts of simulated drowning came from Mohammed al-Shoroeiya and Khaled al-Sharif, who also described a gamut of abuses they went through — all reflecting the methods known to have been authorized by the CIA. The two were seized in Pakistan in April 2003 and taken to U.S.-run prisons in Afghanistan, where al-Shoroeiya was held for 16 months and al-Sharif for two years before they were handed over to Libya.

In Afghanistan, they were shackled in cells for months in variety of positions, often naked in almost total darkness with music blaring continuously, left to defecate and urinate on themselves. For example, al-Sharif spent three weeks seated on the ground with his ankles and wrists chained to a ring in the cell's wall, forcing him to keep his arms and legs elevated. He said he was taken out of his shackles once a day for a half-hour to eat.

For the first three months, they were not allowed to bathe. "We looked like monsters," al-Shoroeiya said.

Al-Shoroeiya described being locked naked for a day and a half in a tall, tight, half-meter-wide (1 ½-foot-wide) chamber with his hands chained above his head, with no food as Western music blasted loudly from speakers next to his ears the entire time.

At another point, he was stuffed into a box resembling a footlocker, about 1 meter by 1 meter (3 feet by 3 feet), and kept there for more than an hour as interrogators prodded him with long, thin objects through holes in the side of the box.

Both he and Sharif said they were repeatedly taken to a room where they were slammed against a wooden wall and punched in the abdomen.

Al-Shoroeiya said one female American interrogator told him, "Now you are under the custody of the United States of America. In this place there will be no human rights. Since September 11, we have forgotten about something called human rights," according to the report.

Al-Shoroeiya described being waterboarded, though he did not use the term. He said he was put in a hood and strapped upside down on a wooden board. Freezing water was poured over his nose and mouth until he felt he was suffocating. During several half-hour interrogation sessions, they would waterboard him multiple times, asking him questions in between while a doctor monitored his body temperature.

"They wouldn't stop until they got some sort of answer from me," he told HRW.

Al-Sharif described a similar technique. Instead of being strapped to a board, he was put on a plastic sheet with guards holding up the edges, while freezing water was poured over him, including onto his hooded face directly over his mouth and nose.

"I felt as if I were suffocating," he told HRW. "I spent three months getting interrogated heavily ... and they gave me a different kind of torture every day. Sometimes they used water, sometimes not."

Others of the 14 former detainees, including three held in the same U.S.-led prisons in Afghanistan, described similar treatment as al-Shoroeiya and al-Sharif, though not simulated drowning.

One of them, Majid Mokhtar Sasy al-Maghrebi, said he nearly went insane in isolation after months being shackled naked in dark, freezing cells with music blaring, pounding his head against the wall and screaming, "I want to die, why don't you just kill me?"

Another, detained in Mauritania, said that during interrogations by a foreigner he believed was American, his wife was brought to the detention center; his captors showed him his wife through a peephole and threatened to rape her if he did not cooperate.

Human Rights Watch said the U.S. failed in its post-9/11 campaign to distinguish between Islamists targeting the United States and those who "may simply have been engaged in armed opposition against their own repressive regimes.

"This failure risked aligning the United States with brutal dictators," the report said.

Eight of those interviewed were handed over to Libya in 2004 — the same year then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a public rapprochement with Gadhafi and Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell signed a major exploration deal off the Libyan coast, the HRW report noted. The remaining six were transferred to Libya over the two following years.

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