Profile: Asif Iqbal
Asif Iqbal was a participant or observer in the following events:
The “Tipton Three.” From left: Shafiq Rasul, Rhuhel Ahmed, and Asif Iqbal. [Source: Martin Cleaver / Associated Press]Three young men from Tipton in the English West Midlands, all British citizens, find themselves detained in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance. [Guardian, 8/4/2004] Shafiq Rasul, of Pakistani descent, and a temporary employee with Currys, flew to Pakistan in October 2001 [Guardian, 3/10/2004] in order, he claims, “to visit relatives…, explore his culture, and continue his computer studies.” While in Pakistan, he was seized “after leaving a visit with his aunt.” Asif Iqbal, a factory worker, traveled to Pakistan with the intention “to marry a woman from his father’s small village.” [Petitioners' Brief on the Merits. Shafiq Rasul, et al., v. George W. Bush, et al., 3/3/2004 ] Shortly before the marriage was to take place, Iqbal told his father he wanted to visit a friend in Karachi. [Petitioners' Brief on the Merits. Shafiq Rasul, et al., v. George W. Bush, et al., 3/3/2004 ] While still in Pakistan, he too was captured. [Petitioners' Brief on the Merits. Shafiq Rasul, et al., v. George W. Bush, et al., 3/3/2004 ] The third man from Tipton, Rhuhel Ahmed, is a friend of Iqbal, also a factory worker and is the same age. Ahmed flew to Pakistan shortly after his friend. [Guardian, 3/10/2004] In 2007, Ahmed will confess that he visited an Islamist training camp and also handled weapons and learned how to use an AK47. [Observer, 6/3/2007] The three narrowly escape death when they are loaded along with almost 200 others into containers for transport to Sheberghan prison. The journey takes almost eighteen hours, during which almost all die due to lack of oxygen and shot wounds caused by Northern Alliance troops who at one point riddle the containers with bullets. Asif is shot in the arm. The three are among the only 20 prisoners who survive. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ]
According to Asif Iqbal, he and his fellow inmates are being beaten regularly during their detention in Afghanistan. In once instance, he is beaten to the floor and then kicked in his back and stomach during interrogation at Kandahar in December 2001 or January 2002. [Guardian, 8/4/2004]
Rhuhel Ahmed. [Source: The Phoenix]Sometime in December, [Petitioners' Brief on the Merits. Shafiq Rasul, et al., v. George W. Bush, et al., 3/3/2004 ] Rhuhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal, and Shafiq Rasul are handed over to US forces. The “Tipton three,” as they will be known, are taken by Northern Alliance troops to a US military base, together with 200 other prisoners. The journey by means of containers is allegedly so exhausting, that the three are among only 20 who survive. They suffer from “cold, dehydration, hunger, and uncertainty.” As they are handed over, US soldiers allegedly kick and beat them. According to Iqbal, “They kept calling us ‘motherf_ckers,’ and I think over three or four hours… I must have been punched, kicked, slapped or struck with a rifle butt at least 30 or 40 times.” One of the soldiers says, according to Iqbal, “You killed my family in the towers [of the World Trade Center], and now it’s time to get you back.” [Guardian, 8/4/2004] The three Britons are temporarily detained at the US military base at Kandahar. Allegedly they are systematically deprived of sleep and kept on a special diet designed to weaken them. In the meanwhile they are interrogated. In one instance, according to Iqbal, US soldiers hold a gun to his head during questioning. “An American shouted at me, telling me I was al-Qaeda. I said I was not involved in al-Qaeda and did not support them. At this he started to punch me violently and then when he knocked me to the floor started to kick me around my back and in my stomach.” [Guardian, 8/4/2004]
Shafiq Rasul. [Source: Public domain]Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed (the “Tipton Three”), held at Sheberghan prison, are among thirty to fifty other foreign prisoners whose custody is taken over by US Special Forces from the troops of the Northern Alliance. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] Abdul Razaq, a Pakistani teacher of English, says he is singled out for no other reason than that he speaks English. [Guardian, 12/3/2003] Taken to the main gate, US Special Forces personnel surround them pointing their guns at them. One by one they are stripped of all their clothes, despite the freezing temperature, and photographed. After five minutes they are allowed to put their clothes back on. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] One by one, they are taken to a shed. With their hands and feet tied with plastic cuffs, each of them is questioned by US soldiers in uniform. As one American starts the interrogation, another soldier, Rasul says, keeps a machine gun aimed at him. The interrogator, according to Rasul, says, “if you move, that guy over there will shoot you.” When it is Iqbal’s turn, a soldier, he says, is “holding a black 9mm automatic pistol to my temple. The barrel of the pistol was actually touching my temple.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] Razaq’s interview takes only three or four minutes with only two questions asked: “What is your name, and why have you come to Afghanistan?” [Guardian, 12/3/2003] Immediately after the interrogations, the non-Afghan prisoners have a sandbag put over their heads. For three or four hours, they have to wait in the cold for all detainees to complete the interrogations. “I think we were all suffering from the cold, dehydration, hunger, the uncertainty as well as the pain caused by the plastic ties,” Ahmed recalls. “Added to this, periodically Special Forces soldiers would walk along a line of sitting detainees and kick us or beat us at will.” Iqbal remembers that “one of them said ‘you killed my family in the towers and now it’s time to get you back.’ They kept calling us motherf_ckers and I think over the three or four hours that I was sitting there, I must have been punched, kicked, slapped or struck with a rifle butt at least 30 or 40 times. It came to a point that I was simply too numb from the cold and from exhaustion to respond to the pain.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] In the end, the prisoners are dragged, tied up and hooded, the skin scraping off their feet, to the backs of a number of trucks that take them to an airstrip. Loaded onto freezing cold cargo planes, they are forced to sit on the floor, still hooded, with their tied-up feet straight in front of them and their hands tied behind their backs. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] Rasul testifies, “Given that I was extremely weak and that I was suffering from dysentery, dehydration, hunger, and exhaustion it was impossible to maintain this position for more than a few minutes at a time. If however I leant back or tried to move, I would be struck with a rifle butt. These blows were not designed to prevent us from falling back or to adjust our position, they were meant to hurt and punish us.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] They eventually land at a US air base at Kandahar. According to Razaq prisoners arriving at Kandahar are offloaded in a particularly violent manner. “They haul you from your neck and drop you off the plane.” Relating his experience at Kandahar, Mohammed Saghir, a grey-bearded sawmill owner, says: “They would just pick us up and throw us out. Some people were hurt, some quite badly.” And Pakistani detainee Shah Mohammed, who arrives at Kandahar from a prison near Mazar-i-Sharif, says: “They kicked us out of the plane and threw us on the ground.” [Guardian, 12/3/2003] At Kandahar, probably on the evening of December 28, the newly arrived prisoners are forced to walk in a circle which is “unbearably painful” because their cuffs cut into their skin. US soldiers force their foreheads into the stony ground, hit, kick, and punch them and occasionally strike them with a rifle butt. They cut off their clothes and carry out “humiliating” cavity searches. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ]
Asif Iqbal. [Source: Public domain]The Tipton Three are still in a detention center in Kandahar. Shafiq Rasul is interrogated by a British soldier, who says he is a member of the SAS. Two US soldiers are present, one of whom puts an arm around Rasul’s neck and says: “Wait until you get back to the tent you will see what we are going to do to you.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] Also this month, Rasul has the “very painful” experience of something being inserted into his anus. In other parts of the detention center, he hears soldiers intimidate prisoners with dogs. [Guardian, 8/4/2004] When Rhuhel Ahmed is questioned by the SAS man, one of the US soldiers holds a gun to his head, telling him he will be shot if he moves. When Ahmed is taken out of the tent, US soldiers force his head down and throw him on the floor, forcing his head into the broken glass and stones on the ground and pulling his arms behind him. The next day, Asif Iqbal receives the same treatment after refusing to confess to the SAS officer. All three are also threatened with being put into one of Britain’s high security prisons. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ]
Camp X-Ray. The prisoners are housed in cages pictured. [Source: PBS]The first prisoners who arrived at Guantanamo Bay (see January 11, 2002) are accommodated in a location known as “Camp X-Ray.” This camp consists of small cages, measuring eight-by-eight feet, with open-air, chain-link walls, a concrete floor and a roof made of wood and metal. [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] Inside, detainees are provided with a mattress, a blanket, a sheet, two towels, a toothbrush, shampoo, soap, flip-flops, two buckets, and plastic water bottles. [Guardian, 12/3/2003] One of the buckets is for water to wash with; the other to urinate in. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] The cages have no plumbing and thus guards have to escort detainees to portable toilets. [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] The cells at Camp X-Ray are described by released British prisoners as being without privacy and open to the elements as well as to “rats, snakes, and scorpions.” [Mirror, 3/12/2004] During the first weeks until about the middle of February, the prisoners, according to Asif Iqbal, are “not allowed any exercise at all.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] And later, Amnesty International confirms that prisoners are kept inside their cages “sometimes up to 24 hours a day with little exercise time out of their cells.” [Amnesty International, 10/27/2004] Only after some months, according to the Tipton Three, are prisoners allowed, “once a week, to walk in a small recreation yard for about 5 minutes.” [Mirror, 3/12/2004] Jamal Udeen recalls: “Recreation meant your legs were untied and you walked up and down a strip of gravel. In Camp X-Ray you only got five minutes.” [Mirror, 3/12/2004] At first, prisoners are allegedly allowed a shower—a cold two-minute one—only once a week, and never in solitary confinement. Later the number of showers is increased to three a week. [Mirror, 3/12/2004] Eating has to be done in 10 minutes and the amount of food is very little. [Guardian, 12/3/2003] Speaking to each other is strictly prohibited. [Guardian, 12/3/2003] Five days later, however, he will be allowed to speak to neighboring detainees. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] But apparently worse than the accommodations is the uncertainty the prisoners are facing. “When we first got there, the level [of fear] was sky-high,” Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed, and Shafiq Rasul, who were among the first to arrive, recall: “We were terrified we might be killed at any minute. The guards would say, ‘Nobody knows you’re here, all they know is that you’re missing and we could kill you and no one would know.’” [Guardian, 8/4/2004] The prison operations at Guantanamo are at first handled by two Joint Task Forces: JTF-160 and JTF-170. JTF-160, first under the command of Brig. Gen. Michael R. Lehnert, is responsible both for guarding the prisoners, and for dealing with migrants seeking asylum. JTF-170, under command of Major-General Michael E. Dunlavey, is tasked with handling interrogation operations for the Department of Defense and ensuring coordination among government agencies involved in the interrogation of the suspected terrorists. [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] It consists of personnel from the DIA, the CIA, and the FBI. [Guardian, 10/16/2002] Sccording to later statements by several officers who served at Guantanamo, aggressive methods of interrogation are introduced in early 2002. Prisoners are derived of sleep, forced into “stress positions,” and put into extra cold, air-conditioned rooms. [New York Times, 5/13/2004]
In Kandahar, American soldiers call out a number of prisoners including Shafiq Rasul (see November 28, 2001). He has a sack placed over his head and his wrists and ankles are shackled. Someone, “for no reason,” hits him on the back of his head with a handgun. During the night, he stays with about 20 other detainees in a tent with a wet floor, and “no bed or mattress or anything.” The next morning, Asif Iqbal and Rasul, both recall, have their clothes cut off and their beards and heads shaven. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] Taken outside, naked, shackled, and hooded, Rasul hears dogs nearby and soldiers shouting, “Get ‘em boy.” In another tent, something is painfully forced into his anus. He and the others are then given orange uniforms, and new handcuffs are attached to a chain around their waists and cuffs around their ankles. The cuffs, according to Rasul, are “extremely tight and cut into my wrists and ankles.” Next, they are donned with mittens, ear-muffs, blacked-out goggles, and a sort of surgical mask. Rasul is then made to sit down outside in the freezing cold on the ground “for hours and hours, perhaps nine or ten altogether,” not allowed to move. At last Rasul, Iqbal, and about 40 other prisoners are led aboard a cargo plane, and chained on benches with no back. Any movement is responded to with a kick. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] Later on, the passengers’ hands will be tied to hand rests and their bodies held attached by a belt to the back of a chair. [Guardian, 12/3/2003] Their destination is unknown to them. During the flight, according to Iqbal, they receive an unusual luxury: “peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and orange slices.” At some point during the journey, more than halfway, the plane lands and the prisoners are transferred to another plane. As to where this is, the two Britons have no clue, but it is “obviously somewhere very hot.” Ahmed, who will come to Guantanamo one month later, makes a similar landing during the journey and is told by soldiers they have landed in Turkey. During the switch, a soldier stamps on the chain between Iqbal’s ankles, which is “extremely painful.” Two-and-a-half years later Rasul will still have scarring on his left arm from the tightness of the shackles during the flight. He also loses the feeling in his right hand for a long time because of it. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] Around January 13, Iqbal and Rasul arrive at Guantanamo (see January 13, 2002).
The second batch of prisoners from Afghanistan arrives at Guantanamo. It includes Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul (see January 12 or 13, 2002), and about 40 others. Rasul is told: “You are now the property of the US Marine Corps.” According to Rasul, the heat is “boiling,” but “for about six or seven hours” the prisoners are forced to take a squatting position outside in the sun, still shackled, and still wearing mittens, ear muffs, goggles, and masks. They are not given water, although occasionally someone will come by and wet their lips. When Rasul asks for water, a soldier starts kicking him in the back. Dogs are barking “very close” to him. After a few hours, Iqbal goes into a fit, is removed on a stretcher and has an IV put into his arm. He is then stripped, given a brief shower and rectally examined. Apparently all prisoners are given this treatment, and Rasul believes there can have been no purpose to the cavity search other than to humiliate them, since the same had been done before leaving Kandahar. Rasul is questioned by a woman while naked. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ]
Six days after the first detainees have arrived from Afghanistan, representatives from the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) visit Guantanamo. They meet with the prison commanders on January 21 and recommend a number of improvements. [Washington Post, 6/13/2004] The ICRC has noticed some restrictions on religious expression it objects to. During the first week of the prison’s operation, praying according to Islamic custom is not allowed or is at least prevented. When someone calls out the call to prayers, or Azzan, according to detainee Asif Iqbal, guards respond “by either silencing the person who was doing it, or, more frequently, play loud rock music to drown them out.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] Notwithstanding the intercession by the ICRC, religious freedoms apparently continue to be restricted, as Mohammed Saghir, a grey-bearded sawmill owner, will later recall. “In the first one-and-a-half months they wouldn’t let us speak to anyone, wouldn’t let us call for prayers or pray in the room,” Saghir says. “I tried to pray and four or five commandos came and they beat me up. If someone would try to make a call for prayer they would beat him up and gag him.” [Guardian, 12/3/2003]
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller assumes command of the new Joint Task Force (JTF) GTMO, which is the product of the merger of the military intelligence and military police units at Guantanamo (see October 9, 2002). [Amnesty International, 10/27/2004] Although he is reported not to have had any formal training in the operation of prisons or in intelligence, Miller comes to be seen at the Pentagon as largely successful in extracting information from the prisoners. “[H]e oversaw,” according to the Washington Post, “a transformation of the… detention center at Guantanamo Bay from a disorganized bundle of tents into an efficient prison that routinely produced what officials have called ‘moderately valuable’ intelligence for the war on terrorism.” [Washington Post, 5/16/2004] The “Tipton Three,”—Rhuhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal, and Shafiq Rasul—also notice the difference. “We had the impression,” Rasul recalls, “that at the beginning things were not carefully planned but a point came at which you could notice things changing. That appeared to be after [the arrival of] Gen. Miller around the end of 2002.” Thus, according to the Tipton Three, it is under Miller that the practice of so called “short-shackling” begins, which is the chaining of prisoners into squatting or fetal positions. Miller’s arrival also heralds, according to the three Britons, the start of sexual humiliation, “loud music playing in interrogation, shaving beards and hair,… taking away people’s ‘comfort’ items, the introduction of levels, moving some people every two hours depriving them of sleep, [and] the use of A/C air.” Also, isolation periods are stepped up considerably. “Before, when people would be put into blocks for isolation, they would seem to stay for not more than a month. After he came, people would be kept there for months and months and months,” the three allege. “Isolation was always there.” Additionally, the occasional call for prayers is ended under Miller. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ]
A further refinement of the rewards and punishments system is noticed by the Tipton Three. Under Gen. Geoffrey Miller, according to Shafiq Rasul, detainees are placed on four different levels depending on their degree of cooperation. Rasul is placed on Level 2 at the beginning, which means he may keep all his comfort items, including toothpaste, soap, and cups. At Level 1, the prisoner is also provided with a bottle of water. Level 4, the lowest tier, means, according to Asif Iqbal, “that you had all your comfort items removed, i.e. you had no soap, toothpaste, cup, towels, or blanket. You only had your clothes and had to sleep on the bare metal. You had to drink water with your hands.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] Ten months later, on a visit to Iraq, Miller will say to his local counterpart, “At Guantanamo Bay we learned that the prisoners have to earn every single thing that they have.” [BBC, 6/15/2004]
Jamil al-Banna. [Source: Public domain]On December 8, 2002, British residents Bisher Al-Rawi and Jamil al-Banna are secretly flown from Gambia to the US military base in Bagram, Afghanistan. They had been held in Gambia by the CIA after the British intelligence agency MI5 gave the CIA false information suggesting the two of them were Islamist militants. In fact, they had worked until recently as informants for MI5. In Gambia, they were pressured to resume their informant work (see November 8, 2002-December 7, 2002). Once in Bagram, they are again pressured to be informants. The CIA asks if they will inform for them, instead of MI5. Al-Banna in particular is offered increasing sums of money and a US passport if he works for the CIA, but he refuses. [Washington Post, 4/2/2006] They are initially taken to the “dark prison” near Kabul and kept in the cold in complete darkness for two weeks. Loudspeakers blare music at them 24 hours a day. Al-Rawi will later recall: “For three days or so I just sat in the corner, shivering. The only time there was light was when a guard came to check on me with a very dim torch—as soon as he’d detect movement, he would leave. I tried to do a few push-ups and jogged on the spot to keep warm. There was no toilet paper, but I tore off my nappies and tried to use them to clean myself.” After about two weeks, they are taken to the nearby Bagram prison. They are heavily abused there too, starting by beating beaten up as they arrive. The two of them had worked as go-betweens between MI5 and the radical imam Abu Qatada, and in Bagram they are heavily pressured to incriminate Abu Qatada. By this time, Abu Qatada is imprisoned in Britain and fighting deportation. [Observer, 7/29/2007] Al-Banna will later tell a detainee in Guantanamo, Asif Iqbal, that Bagram was “rough” and “that he had been forced to walk around naked, coming and going from the showers, having to parade past American soldiers or guards including women who would laugh at everyone who was put in the same position.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] At no time during their detention are they permitted to see a lawyer, despite the fact that a habeas corpus petition has been filed on their behalf and is pending before British courts. In March 2003, they are sent to Guantanamo (see March 2003-November 18, 2007). [Amnesty International, 8/19/2003; Petition for writ of habeas corpus for Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil el-Banna and Martin Mubanga. Jamil el-Banna, et al. v. George Bush, et al., 7/8/2004 ]
Bisher al-Rawi. [Source: Craig Hibbert]In February 2003, British residents Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil al-Banna are transferred from Bagram in Afghanistan to the Guantanamo prison. They spend their first month in isolation. Al-Rawi’s head and beard are shaved off as has allegedly already happened to al-Banna during his detention at Bagram. Al-Banna is put in a cell next to detainee Asif Iqbal. “[S]oon after,” Iqbal will later recall, al-Banna “began to deteriorate.” At Guantanamo, according to Iqbal, “al-Banna was in constant pain from his joints because he suffered from rheumatism and he was diabetic.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] Al-Rawi and al-Banna had served as informants for the British intelligence agency MI5, helping MI5 communicate with radical imam Abu Qatada, who also was an MI5 informant (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002 and Summer-Early November 2002). First in Gambia and then in Bagram, they were pressured to resume being informants, but they refused (see November 8, 2002-December 7, 2002 and December 8, 2002-March 2003). After about six months in Guantanamo, an MI5 officer visits al-Rawi and again asks him if he wants to resume being an informer. Later, one of his previous MI5 handlers comes to visit him. He will recall: “I suppose he was nice enough. He asked if I wanted anything. I asked for a book on base jumping. He never came back, and I never got the book.” Eventually, two other previous handlers visit him and try to recruit him yet again. “They said, “You know, Bisher, if you agree to work for us when you get back to Britain, we’ll get you out.” They promised to return, but never did.” When al-Rawi faces a tribunal in September 2004 to determine if his detention is justified, he asks for his previous MI5 handlers to corroborate that he had been an informant. The British government refuses to help in any way, and the tribunal decides that he should continue to be imprisoned. The two of them grow increasingly bored and depressed, and face harsh conditions. For instance, after three detainees commit suicide in June 2006, the jailers retaliate by keeping the air conditioning turned to maximum for months. “We were freezing the whole time. Other times they made it scorching hot,” al-Rawi says. Al-Banna is not even allowed to phone his sick mother just before she dies. [Washington Post, 4/2/2006; Observer, 7/29/2007] Al-Rawi will finally be freed and flown back to Britain on April 3, 2007. Al-Banna will be freed and returned to Britain on November 18, 2007.
A female senior official from Washington comes to Guantanamo to interrogate British national Shafiq Rasul and shows him a videotape recording of a meeting in January 2000 in Afghanistan between Osama bin Laden and Mohamed Atta, the operational leader of the 9/11 attacks. The video allegedly also shows Rasul being present. Rasul recalls saying: “Are you blind? That doesn’t look anything like me.” His questioners are adamant. “[L]oads of people had told them that this guy in a beard standing behind bin Laden was me. I told them that in 2000 I didn’t leave the country, that I was working at the Wednesbury branch of Currys, who would have my employment records. They told me I could have falsified those records—that I could have had someone working with me at Currys who could have altered the data the company held, and traveled on a false passport.” Then Rasul decides to confess. “I’d got to the point where I just couldn’t take any more. ‘Do what you have to do,’ I told them.” He recalls: “My heart is beating, beating, I’m saying it’s not me, it’s not me, but I’m thinking ‘I’m going to be screwed. I’m on an island in the middle of nowhere, there’s nothing I can do.’” [Guardian, 10/3/2004] His two friends, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed, are also forced to make confessions. But the British intelligence service MI5, later demonstrates that the Tipton Three were all in Britain at that time, [Observer, 3/14/2004] and Rasul was indeed working in a Currys store in the West Midlands at the time of the alleged meeting attended by bin Laden and Mohamed Atta. [Guardian, 8/4/2004]
At Guantanamo, shortly before their release, Jamal Udeen, Tarek Dergoul, and the Tipton Three are asked to sign a document confessing to having links with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Iqbal remembers: “It was along the lines that I was a member of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, however I have since changed. In other words I had changed my mind since I was detained at Guantanamo Bay. It went on to say that if I was suspected of anything at any time by the United States, I could be picked up and returned to Guantanamo Bay.” He is told that signing the document is a precondition for going back to Britain. “I didn’t really believe him,” Iqbal later says, and so he refused to sign. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] Jamal Udeen also has a confession statement presented to him by a British official. “This was given to me first by the Americans and then by a British diplomat who asked if I agreed to sign it. I just said ‘No.’ I would rather have stayed in Guantanamo than sign that paper.” [Mirror, 3/12/2004]
Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal allege in an open letter to President Bush, that the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo resembles that of detainees at Abu Ghraib. “From the moment of our arrival at Guantanamo Bay (and indeed from long before) we were deliberately humiliated and degraded,” they write. Women would “inappropriately provoke and indeed molest them. It was completely clear to all the detainees that this was happening to particularly vulnerable prisoners, especially those who had come from the strictest of Islamic backgrounds.”
David Hicks. [Source: Associated Press]In the case of Rasul v. Bush, involving Guantanamo detainees Shafiq Rasul, Mamdouh Habib, David Hicks, and Asif Iqbal, the Supreme Court holds in a 6-3 ruling that the US exercises “complete jurisdiction and control” over Guantanamo Bay, and thus, that the Guantanamo prisoners have the right to challenge their detentions before a judge. Under the habeas corpus statute, Justice John Paul Stevens writes for the majority that “aliens held at the base, no less than American citizens, are entitled to invoke the federal courts’ authority.” [Supreme Court opinion on writ of certiorari. Shafiq Rasul, et al. v. George W. Bush, et al., 6/28/2004] It is unclear whether the court’s ruling is intended to extend to detainees held in other parts of the world, but given the court’s reasoning, it appears that decision applies to detainees both in Guantanamo and elsewhere. [New York Times, 6/29/2004]
Conservative Dissent - The three dissenting justices are conservatives William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. Scalia says the decision is “an irresponsible overturning of settled law in a matter of extreme importance to our forces currently in the field.” He acknowledges that the location of Guantanamo has in fact been intended to keep detainees outside of the reach of the judiciary. “Today, the court springs a trap on the executive, subjecting Guantanamo Bay to the oversight of federal courts even though it has never before been thought to be within their jurisdiction, and thus making it a foolish place to have housed alien wartime detainees,” Scalia writes. Stevens writes that it does not matter what status the Guantanamo inmates have regarding the question of whether they should have access to a US court. “What is presently at stake is only whether the federal courts have jurisdiction to determine the legality of the executive’s potentially indefinite detention of individuals who claim to be wholly innocent of wrongdoing.” And this, he writes, they do. The case is subsequently sent back to a lower court to consider the prisoners’ claims. [Guardian, 6/28/2004]
Side-Stepping the Ruling - The media characterizes the decision as a rebuke for the Bush administration, which had argued that the courts have no right to interfere in the commander in chief’s decisions involving wartime policies. However, the decision says nothing about what rights the detainees might have once they get inside a courtroom, and therefore actually places little real restraint on the government. White House officials will decide that the detainees have no rights in the courtroom whatsoever—although the Court has ruled that they can file lawsuits, those lawsuits must be dismissed out of hand because the detainees have no right to actually present a case. The Republican-led Congress will later pass a law stripping courts of jurisdiction over Guantanamo lawsuits. [Savage, 2007, pp. 192]
Former detainees Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, and Rhuhel Ahmed release a “composite statement” describing in detail their experiences as detainees in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] Mark Jacobson, a former Defense Department official who worked on detainee issues in the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as part of the Detainee Policy Group, will call the report “a wonderful piece of propaganda” that mixes some truth with lies and misinterpretations. [Boston Globe, 8/5/2004]
Sherman Carroll, spokesman for the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, says that he believes the claims (see July 26, 2004) made by the “Tipton Three”about having been abused in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo are true. He says, “If [the detainees] had used the word torture, I would agree with that. This is more than ‘torture-lite’ [stress and duress techniques]. Guantanamo Bay should be closed down.”
In response to allegations (see July 26, 2004) made by the “Tipton Three”, Florian Westphal, spokesman of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), says: “Some of the abuses alleged by the detainees would indeed constitute inhuman treatment.… Inhuman treatment constitutes a grave breach of the Third Geneva Convention and these are often also described as war crimes.”
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