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Context of 'December 4-22, 2003: Detainee Al-Rawi Taken to Abu Ghraib and Subjected to a Variety of Abuses'

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On the fourth day of Saddam Salah al-Rawi’s detention, he is again handcuffed and hooded, and then driven to an unknown location. As he is being registered, all his personal belongings are confiscated, including his “identification, some documents, $350 US and 1,940,000 Iraqi Dinars, giving [him] no receipt.” Taken to a cell with a bed frame and two blankets, he is given prison clothes, a Koran, water, and cigarettes. For two days he is left alone. He is fed twice a day, and allowed to use the lavatory once a day, “which wasn’t enough, so I had to pee in my empty water bottles,” he later recalls. (CPTnet 5/12/2004)

Saddam Salah al-Rawi is taken to Abu Ghraib and registered under number 200144. (McCarthy 5/13/2004) For the first 18 days of his detention at Abu Ghraib, he will be subjected to a series of techniques. Interrogations follow only after this period. The first MP Al-Rawi encounters puts a hood over his head, cuffs his hands, and leads him away, “intentionally smashing [his] face against several doors along the way.” (CPTnet 5/12/2004) “He locked his arm under mine and holding the back of my head he beat my head against the doors of the cells,” Al-Rawi will later recall. (McCarthy 5/13/2004) In another testimony, Al-Rawi repeats the same allegation: “Wherever he saw a wall, he would hit me against it. Wherever there’s a door, he would push me and hit me against it.” (ABC News 8/8/2004) He is left in a cell, still hooded and cuffed, with three or four other prisoners, who are also tied up but have no hoods on. He asks one of them, whom he later names as Thamir Issawi, to lift up his hood to allow him to breathe more easily. “When he opened my hood I could see his back. He was naked. All of them around me were naked.” (McCarthy 5/13/2004) It was, according to Al-Rawi, “something I have never seen in my life. A man’s buttocks were facing me.” (ABC News 8/8/2004) “I was so shocked and disgraced that I asked the man to put my hood back on, which he did.” (CPTnet 5/12/2004) An hour later, soldiers take him into the hall, and order him to strip. “I refused to because it is forbidden for Muslims.” Al-Rawi faces the inevitable. “They forced off my clothes and beat me,” he says. (CPTnet 5/12/2004) “I was completely naked with two bags on my head.” (ABC News 8/8/2004) The soldiers then force him to stand on a box with his hands on his head. “I stood like this for an hour, or an hour and a quarter. Then some American soldiers came and they were laughing and some were beating me. They were beating me on my back and my legs. They were beating and laughing.” (McCarthy 5/13/2004) His next experience is an example of the “stress positions” tactic. “Next, they made me hold a plastic chair over my head for a long time. All along, I could hear them laughing and snapping photographs.” (CPTnet 5/12/2004) Elsewhere, he reportedly says, “I remember them taking pictures. I remember there were these prisoners standing beside me. I was hooded but I remember a flash from the camera and the sound of a click when they took the picture.” (McCarthy 5/13/2004) At one point, he cannot take it any longer. “I became so exhausted that I fell down and hit my head on the wall.” (CPTnet 5/12/2004) At that moment, “I lost consciousness.” (McCarthy 5/13/2004) The soldiers then remove his hood, (ABC News 8/8/2004) and when he regains consciousness, Al-Rawi comes face to face with his attackers. “I saw Sgt. Joyner, an Egyptian translator who wore fatigues, named Abu Hamed, two male soldiers, one with glasses, and one female soldier.… Then a soldier from another group came and peed on me.” (CPTnet 5/12/2004) [In a May 30, 2005 email to the Center for Cooperative Research, Sgt. Joyner denied abusing detainees] Next, Al-Rawi later recounts, “they started to drop cold water on me.” (McCarthy 5/13/2004) “Other soldiers then dragged me along the floor in the hall and did other similar things to keep me awake all night.” (CPTnet 5/12/2004) In the morning he is put in cell 42 in Tier 1-A, and allowed a few moments alone. His cell has a water tap, a loo, and a metal bunk bed, but no sheets, blanket, or mattress. (CPTnet 5/12/2004; McCarthy 5/13/2004) “I was still naked and very tired. I sat against the wall, shivering and trying to sleep. I could see through some small openings in the wall that the sun was rising.” Somewhat later that morning, Al-Rawi meets with Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick and a female sergeant who take him to another room. “I was still unhooded and untied. They gave me some cloth to cover myself. Sergeant Ivan threatened me, saying that if I didn’t give up any information, he would have other soldiers rape me. (Abu Hamed was translating.) I was so stunned that I couldn’t reply.” (CPTnet 5/12/2004) Al-Rawi is often left in his cell with his hands and feet bound; sometimes in a way designed to be highly uncomfortable. One such “stress position” leaves him with his hands and feet stuck through the metal bars of his cell door and tied together at the outside. A civilian American with a goatee beard, whom Al-Rawi identifies as “Steven,” possibly private contractor Steven Stephanowicz, forces him to adopt the so-called “scorpion” position. “They tied my hands to my feet behind my back,” explains Al-Rawi. “My left hand to my right foot and my right hand to my left foot. I was lying face down and they were beating me like this.” (McCarthy 5/13/2004) During his first 18 days at Abu Ghraib, Al-Rawi says he is almost constantly tortured, “for 23 hours per day.” During this time, there are no interrogations, no investigations, and no medical treatment. He encounters the whole range of techniques, starting with the familiar nudity. “They left me naked the entire time.” (CPTnet 5/12/2004) He is also subjected to sleep deprivation. “There was a stereo inside the cell and it played music with a sound so loud I couldn’t sleep. I stayed like that for 23 hours.” (McCarthy 5/13/2004) Al-Rawi is beaten repeatedly. “One time they knocked out two of my teeth [lower left molars].” He is also threatened with dogs. “Whenever they took me out of my cell, they used dogs to threaten me.” (CPTnet 5/12/2004) On one occasion a naked Al-Rawi is pushed from behind by a guard towards another guard holding a dog on a leash. At some point the experience becomes too much to bear. “In my cell I was shouting,” said Al-Rawi, “‘Please come and take me. Please kill me. I am Osama bin Laden, I was in the plane that hit the World Trade Centre.’ I wished for death at that time,” he says. “I wanted to be dead 1,000 times. I asked my God to take my soul.” (McCarthy 5/13/2004) After these 18 days, his preparation for interrogation has finished. He has his clothes returned and is finally questioned. Having lost all defenses he gives any answer his interrogators want. “I just didn’t care anymore.” (CPTnet 5/12/2004) “Whatever they asked me, I said yes. They told me I was from Ansar al-Islam [a militant Iraqi group] and I said yes. I told them the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad [another Iraqi militant group] was my cousin. They asked me about Zarqawi [a Jordanian militant thought to be in Iraq] and al-Qaeda and I said yes even though I don’t know who they are.” (McCarthy 5/13/2004) He even declared being Osama bin Laden himself. “I did the explosions on September 11,” he said. “The interrogators just said, ‘Bullsh_t!’ to all of my answers and beat me.” (CPTnet 5/12/2004)

Saddam Salah al-Rawi has spent three months in room 42 of Tier 1A at the Hard Site of Abu Ghraib. He is given one meal every 12 hours. When his health deteriorates he is moved to camp 7, tent 2. “I was weak at that time, and I had many health problems.” (CPTnet 5/12/2004)

Four months after his arrest, Saddam Salah al-Rawi is finally informed of his charges. “Some soldiers gave me a paper in Arabic with my charges: ‘suspected member of a terrorist group.’ The paper said some other things about the Geneva Conventions. They told me to sign it. I wrote on it that I just wanted to know my charges so I could defend myself. Then I signed it.” (CPTnet 5/12/2004)

Saddam Salah al-Rawi is released. An apology is made, some clothes given, and $10 paid. The money that was taken from him (see December 2-3, 2003), is never returned. (CPTnet 5/12/2004) Then one of the soldiers steps up to him with a warning, saying, “You were inside the prison and you saw some good things and some bad things. Forget the bad things and remember only the good.” (McCarthy 5/13/2004)


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