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Fresh Horrors at Guantánamo
Inter Press Service, January 10, 2005
by William Fisher
NEW YORK - A leading civil rights group says that government records pertaining to an investigation of prisoner abuses at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba are still being withheld, and those it has received under a court order are so heavily censored that they "raise more questions than they answer".
Still, correspondence handed over to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recounts what one observer calls "treatment that was not only aggressive, but personally very upsetting", including leaving prisoners shackled in the fetal position and covered in urine and feces.
Under pressure from Congress, the Defense Department announced late last week that it would open its own probe into all reports of abuse contained in documents newly released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Army Brigadier General John T. Furlow will lead the investigation, which could begin this week.
Guantanamo’s commanding general, Jay Hood, said a military team independent of the Guantanamo mission was needed to find and interview people who had left the post and were no longer under his command.
Meanwhile, the ACLU says it "will return to court both to challenge the adequacy of the agencies' searches and to challenge particular redactions."
"Why did the FBI narrow its investigation? Did the FBI ever conduct follow-up interviews? Did the FBI provide a formal summary of its findings to the Defense Department?" asked ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer. "If so, why hasn’t the FBI released a copy of this report?"
The release of the documents followed a federal court order that directed the Defense Department and other government agencies to comply with a year-old request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filed by advocacy groups including the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace.
Among the FBI documents turned over to the ACLU is an email dated Dec. 9, 2002 referring to the "military’s interview plan" along with the comment, "You won't believe it!"
Other papers obtained by the ACLU include a heavily edited document referring to an investigation captioned "Corruption Federal Public Official - Executive Branch," which appears to have been referred to the FBI because of a "conflict of interest".
Accompanying this document is an FBI summary of "potentially relevant criminal statutes". The statutes pertain to war crimes, torture, aggravated sexual abuse, and sexual abuse of a minor or ward.
The new documents also reveal that many of the FBI’s earlier descriptions of abuses came in response to an email from Steve McCraw, the assistant director of the FBI’s Office for Intelligence, to more than 500 agents who had been stationed at Guantanamo, asking them to report whether they had observed "aggressive treatment, interrogations or interview techniques" that violated FBI guidelines.
According to subsequent e-mails noting the status of the "special inquiry", 478 responded and 26 reported observations of detainee mistreatment by personnel of other agencies. The 26 summaries were reviewed by FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni, who determined 17 to pertain to "approved DOD techniques". As a result, says Jaffer, "some 17 reports of abuse were not investigated."
For unknown reasons, the ACLU says, Caproni declined further investigation of the abuses she considered to follow approved DOD interrogation techniques. The ACLU says "she focused only on those abuses that were not approved by even the DOD’s permissive rules. As a result, only nine reported incidents were tagged for follow-up investigation."
The ACLU’s review of the documents also shows that other critical records have not been released. For instance, the FBI has withheld a copy of a May 30, 2003 "electronic communication" in which the FBI formally complained to the Defense Department about the treatment of detainees.
These most recent FBI documents were released on the eve of the confirmation hearings of Attorney General-nominee Alberto Gonzales, who is widely thought to be responsible for a memorandum to President George W. Bush providing legal justifications for the use of torture.
Thousands of pages of other FBI documents were received by the ACLU as the result of an earlier request, and a federal court recently ordered the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to turn over all documents relating to its internal investigation of prisoner abuse.
The new documents obtained by the ACLU indicate that prisoner abuse at Guantanamo went beyond anything the government acknowledged.
For example, in one e-mail, dated Jul. 16, 2004, an FBI agent, whose name is deleted, reports seeing a detainee at Guantanamo "sitting on the floor of the interview room with an Israeli flag draped around him, loud music being played and a strobe light flashing."
In another, dated Aug. 2, 2004, an unidentified FBI agent reports "on a couple of occasions" entering interview rooms at Guantanamo and finding one of the detainees "chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. When I asked the MPs (military police) what was going on, I was told that interrogators from the day prior had ordered this treatment."
Another document reports that a female U.S. military interrogator stroked and applied lotion to a shackled male prisoner, yanked his thumbs back, causing him .to grimace in pain, and then "grabbed his genitals".
A broad review of U.S. military interrogation practices conducted by Navy Inspector-General Vice Adm. Albert Church is now in its final stages, and the FBI has prepared a 300-page response to follow-up questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee about Mueller’s earlier testimony.
But that response has been "under review" at the Justice Department since last October. Neither it, nor the Church report, is likely to be released publicly soon.
Meanwhile, a British soldier accused of mistreating Iraqi civilian detainees near Basra faces a court martial in Germany today. Three other soldiers from the same regiment who allegedly mistreated prisoners are also expected to face trial later this week.
According to Britain's attorney general, some of the abuse "apparently involves making the victims engage in sexual activity between themselves". Charges against the four soldiers include assault and indecent assault.
Copyright © 2005 IPS - Inter Press Service
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Further Detainee Abuse Alleged: Guantánamo Prison Cited in FBI Memos
By Carol D. Leonnig
December 26, 2004
At least 10 current and former detainees at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have lodged allegations of abuse similar to the incidents described by FBI agents in newly released documents, claims that were denied by the government but gained credibility with the reports from the agents, their attorneys say.
In public statements after their release and in documents filed with federal courts, the detainees have said they were beaten before and during interrogations, "short-shackled" to the floor and otherwise mistreated as part of the effort to get them to confess to being members of al Qaeda or the Taliban.
Even some of the detainees' attorneys acknowledged that they were initially skeptical, mainly because there has been little evidence that captors at Guantanamo Bay engaged in the kind of abuse discovered at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. But last Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union released FBI memos, which it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, in which agents described witnessing or learning of serious mistreatment of detainees.
"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water," an unidentified agent wrote on Aug. 2, 2004, for example. "Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more."
Brent Mickum, a Washington attorney for one of the detainees, said that "now there's no question these guys have been tortured. When we first got involved in this case, I wondered whether this could all be true. But every allegation that I've heard has now come to pass and been confirmed by the government's own papers."
A Pentagon spokesman has said the military has an ongoing investigation of torture claims and takes credible allegations seriously. Pentagon officials and lawyers say the military has been careful not to abuse detainees and has complied with treaties on the handling of enemy prisoners "to the extent possible" in the middle of a war.
The detainees who made public claims of torture at Guantanamo Bay describe a prison camp in which abuse is employed as a coordinated tool to aid interrogators and as punishment for minor offenses that irked prison guards. They say military personnel beat and kicked them while they had hoods on their heads and tight shackles on their legs, left them in freezing temperatures and stifling heat, subjected them to repeated, prolonged rectal exams and paraded them naked around the prison as military police snapped pictures.
In some allegations, the detainees say they have been threatened with sexual abuse. British detainee Martin Mubanga, one of Mickum's clients, wrote his sister that the American military police were treating him like a "rent boy," British slang for a male prostitute.
A group of released British detainees said that several young prisoners told them they were raped and sexually violated after guards took them to isolated sections of the prison. They said an Algerian man was "forced to watch a video supposedly showing two detainees dressed in orange, one sodomizing the other, and was told that it would happen to him if he didn't cooperate."
Another detainee, Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi of Sudan, an alleged paymaster for al Qaeda, has claimed in court documents that Guantanamo Bay interrogators wrapped prisoners in an Israeli flag. In an Aug. 16 e-mail, an FBI agent reported observing a detainee sitting in an interview room "with an Israeli flag draped around him, loud music being played and a strobe light flashing."
Many of the claims were filed in federal courts as a result of a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June that gave the Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment in court. More than 60 of the 550 men who are detained have filed claims. Some have been held at the U.S. Navy base for nearly three years.
Moazzam Begg, a British detainee first imprisoned in Egypt and kept since February 2003 in solitary confinement in Guantanamo Bay, said in a recently declassified letter to the court that he has been repeatedly beaten and has heard "the terrifying screams of fellow detainees facing similar methods." He said he witnessed two detainees die after U.S. military personnel had beaten them.
Feroz Abbasi, a British man captured in Afghanistan, has been kept in solitary confinement for more than a year. He said that on the same day U.S. officials say he "confessed" to training as a suicide bomber for al Qaeda, his captors tortured him so badly that he had to be treated for injuries at the prison hospital.
Government officials say they do not know what detainees Begg was referring to. A military tribunal concluded that Abbasi's medical treatment was not related to his confession.
In other cases, the U.S. military has declined to declassify detailed allegations of abuse, so it is not possible to know what the detainees claim happened. In recent months, the government has said Begg, Abbasi and hundreds of other detainees confessed to being Taliban and al Qaeda fighters to interrogators, but their lawyers say the statements were coerced.
Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, Abbasi's lawyer and one of the first attorneys to receive clearance to visit Guantanamo Bay, said she was convinced he and others were in grave danger in the U.S. military's hands as soon as she saw them.
"I left my first visit with them thinking the longer they are in Guantanamo, the more psychological and physical damage they are going to suffer at that place," she said.
The first public claims of U.S. torture at Guantanamo Bay were made by three Britons from Tipton, England. Shafiq Rasul, 27, and Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed, both 22, were released without charge in March under pressure from the British government. In August, they and their lawyers presented a 115-page report on their treatment, likening it to the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The Britons said they were beaten, shackled in painful positions, left in extreme temperatures and forcibly injected with unknown drugs while held for more than two years. At that time, the U.S. military denied the Tipton men's allegations.
"The claim that detainees have been physically abused, beaten or tortured is simply not true," said Army Col. David McWilliams, spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, which is in charge of the prison. "From the beginning, we have taken extra steps to treat prisoners not only humanely but extra cautiously. We do not use any kind of coercive or physically harmful techniques."
Some detainees who have retained lawyers have refused to participate in military reviews of their cases at Guantanamo Bay, and have instead asked the International Committee of the Red Cross to investigate their claims of abuse.
That's the case for Mamdouh Habib, an Australian at Guantanamo Bay. Lawyers familiar with his case, and British detainees, said Habib was in "catastrophic shape" when he arrived in Cuba. Most of his fingernails were missing, and while sleeping at the prison he regularly bled from his nose, mouth and ears, but U.S. officials there denied him treatment, released British detainees said in a report. Fellow detainees said Habib asked medics for help, but they said "if you cooperate with your interrogators, then we can do something."
Habib's lawyer, Joseph Margulies, said he cannot elaborate because the records are classified. He said he will press Habib's claims in court.
"Now it's not just my allegations of torture, not just my client's -- but now it's the FBI's," Margulies said. "President Bush should make a public statement: It now appears torture is going on at Guantanamo and we won't rely on these coerced confessions."
Researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
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Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo
The New York Times
by Neil A. Lewis
November 30, 2004
WASHINGTON - The International Committee of the Red Cross has charged in confidential reports to the United States government that the American military has intentionally used psychological and sometimes physical coercion "tantamount to torture" on prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The finding that the handling of prisoners detained and interrogated at Guantánamo amounted to torture came after a visit by a Red Cross inspection team that spent most of last June in Guantánamo.
The team of humanitarian workers, which included experienced medical personnel, also asserted that some doctors and other medical workers at Guantánamo were participating in planning for interrogations, in what the report called "a flagrant violation of medical ethics."
Doctors and medical personnel conveyed information about prisoners' mental health and vulnerabilities to interrogators, the report said, sometimes directly, but usually through a group called the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, or B.S.C.T. The team, known informally as Biscuit, is composed of psychologists and psychological workers who advise the interrogators, the report said.
The United States government, which received the report in July, sharply rejected its charges, administration and military officials said.
The report was distributed to lawyers at the White House, Pentagon and State Department and to the commander of the detention facility at Guantánamo, Gen. Jay W. Hood. The New York Times recently obtained a memorandum, based on the report, that quotes from it in detail and lists its major findings.
It was the first time that the Red Cross, which has been conducting visits to Guantánamo since January 2002, asserted in such strong terms that the treatment of detainees, both physical and psychological, amounted to torture. The report said that another confidential report in January 2003, which has never been disclosed, raised questions of whether "psychological torture" was taking place.
The Red Cross said publicly 13 months ago that the system of keeping detainees indefinitely without allowing them to know their fates was unacceptable and would lead to mental health problems.
The report of the June visit said investigators had found a system devised to break the will of the prisoners at Guantánamo, who now number about 550, and make them wholly dependent on their interrogators through "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions." Investigators said that the methods used were increasingly "more refined and repressive" than learned about on previous visits.
"The construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture," the report said. It said that in addition to the exposure to loud and persistent noise and music and to prolonged cold, detainees were subjected to "some beatings." The report did not say how many of the detainees were subjected to such treatment.
Asked about the accusations in the report, a Pentagon spokesman provided a statement saying, "The United States operates a safe, humane and professional detention operation at Guantánamo that is providing valuable information in the war on terrorism."
It continued that personnel assigned to Guantánamo "go through extensive professional and sensitivity training to ensure they understand the procedures for protecting the rights and dignity of detainees."
The conclusions by the inspection team, especially the findings involving alleged complicity in mistreatment by medical professionals, have provoked a stormy debate within the Red Cross committee. Some officials have argued that it should make its concerns public or at least aggressively confront the Bush administration.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is based in Geneva and is separate from the American Red Cross, was founded in 1863 as an independent, neutral organization intended to provide humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war.
Its officials are able to visit prisoners at Guantánamo under the kind of arrangement the committee has made with governments for decades. In exchange for exclusive access to the prison camp and meetings with detainees, the committee has agreed to keep its findings confidential. The findings are shared only with the government that is detaining people.
Beatricé Mégevand-Roggo, a senior Red Cross official, said in an interview that she could not say anything about information relayed to the United States government because "we do not comment in any way on the substance of the reports we submit to the authorities."
Ms. Mégevand-Roggo, the committee's delegate-general for Europe and the Americas, acknowledged that the issue of confidentiality was a chronic and vexing one for the organization. "Many people do not understand why we have these bilateral agreements about confidentiality," she said. "People are led to believe that we are a fig leaf or worse, that we are complicit with the detaining authorities."
She added, "It's a daily dilemma for us to put in the balance the positive effects our visits have for detainees against the confidentiality."
Antonella Notari, a veteran Red Cross official and spokeswoman, said that the organization frequently complained to the Pentagon and other arms of the American government when government officials cite the Red Cross visits to suggest that there is no abuse at Guantánamo. Most statements from the Pentagon in response to queries about mistreatment at Guantánamo do, in fact, include mention of the visits.
In a recent interview with reporters, General Hood, the commander of the detention and interrogation facility at Guantánamo, also cited the committee's visits in response to questions about treatment of detainees. "We take everything the Red Cross gives us and study it very carefully to look for ways to do our job better," he said in his Guantánamo headquarters, adding that he agrees "with some things and not others."
"I'm satisfied that the detainees here have not been abused, they've not been mistreated, they've not been tortured in any way," he said.
Scott Horton, a New York lawyer, who is familiar with some of the Red Cross's views, said the issue of medical ethics at Guantánamo had produced "a tremendous controversy in the committee." He said that some Red Cross officials believed it was important to maintain confidentiality while others believed the United States government was misrepresenting the inspections and using them to counter criticisms.
Mr. Horton, who heads the human rights committee of the Bar Association of the City of New York, said the Red Cross committee was considering whether to bring more senior officials to Washington and whether to make public its criticisms.
The report from the June visit said the Red Cross team found a far greater incidence of mental illness produced by stress than did American medical authorities, much of it caused by prolonged solitary confinement. It said the medical files of detainees were "literally open" to interrogators.
The report said the Biscuit team met regularly with the medical staff to discuss the medical situations of detainees. At other times, interrogators sometimes went directly to members of the medical staff to learn about detainees' conditions, it said.
The report said that such "apparent integration of access to medical care within the system of coercion" meant that inmates were not cooperating with doctors. Inmates learn from their interrogators that they have knowledge of their medical histories and the result is that the prisoners no longer trust the doctors.
Asked for a response, the Pentagon issued a statement saying, "The allegation that detainee medical files were used to harm detainees is false." The statement said that the detainees were "enemy combatants who were fighting against U.S. and coalition forces."
"It's important to understand that when enemy combatants were first detained on the battlefield, they did not have any medical records in their possession," the statement continued. "The detainees had a wide range of pre-existing health issues including battlefield injuries."
The Pentagon also said the medical care given detainees was first-rate. Although the Red Cross criticized the lack of confidentiality, it agreed in the report that the medical care was of high quality.
Leonard S. Rubenstein, the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, was asked to comment on the account of the Red Cross report, and said, "The use of medical personnel to facilitate abusive interrogations places them in an untenable position and violates international ethical standards."
Mr. Rubenstein added, "We need to know more about these practices, including whether health professionals engaged in calibrating levels of pain inflicted on detainees."
The issue of whether torture at Guantánamo was condoned or encouraged has been a problem before for the Bush administration.
In February 2002, President Bush ordered that the prisoners at Guantánamo be treated "humanely and, to the extent appropriate with military necessity, in a manner consistent with" the Geneva Conventions. That statement masked a roiling legal discussion within the administration as government lawyers wrote a series of memorandums, many of which seemed to justify harsh and coercive treatment.
A month after Mr. Bush's public statement, a team of administration lawyers accepted a view first advocated by the Justice Department that the president had wide powers in authorizing coercive treatment of detainees. The legal team in a memorandum concluded that Mr. Bush was not bound by either the international Convention Against Torture or a federal antitorture statute because he had the authority to protect the nation from terrorism.
That document provides tightly constructed definitions of torture. For example, if an interrogator "knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith," it said. "Instead, a defendant is guilty of torture only if he acts with the express purpose of inflicting severe pain or suffering on a person within his control."
When some administration memorandums about coercive treatment or torture were disclosed, the White House said they were only advisory.
Last month, military guards, intelligence agents and others described in interviews with The Times a range of procedures that they said were highly abusive occurring over a long period, as well as rewards for prisoners who cooperated with interrogators. The people who worked at Camp Delta, the main prison facility, said that one regular procedure was making uncooperative prisoners strip to their underwear, having them sit in a chair while shackled hand and foot to a bolt in the floor, and forcing them to endure strobe lights and loud rock and rap music played through two close loudspeakers, while the air-conditioning was turned up to maximum levels.
Some accounts of techniques at Guantánamo have been easy to dismiss because they seemed so implausible. The most striking of the accusations, which have come mainly from a group of detainees released to their native Britain, has been that the military used prostitutes who made coarse comments and come-ons to taunt some prisoners who are Muslims.
But the Red Cross report hints strongly at an explanation of some of those accusations by stating that there were frequent complaints by prisoners in 2003 that some of the female interrogators baited their subjects with sexual overtures.
Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who commanded the detention and intelligence operation at Guantánamo until April, when he took over prison operations in Iraq, said in an interview early this year about general interrogation procedures that the female interrogators had proved to be among the most effective. General Miller's observation matches common wisdom among experienced intelligence officers that women may be effective as interrogators when seen by their subjects as mothers or sisters. Sexual taunting does not, however, comport with what is often referred to as the "mother-sister syndrome."
But the Red Cross report said that complaints about the practice of sexual taunting stopped in the last year. Guantánamo officials have acknowledged that they have improved their techniques and that some earlier methods they tried proved to be ineffective, raising the possibility that the sexual taunting was an experiment that was abandoned.
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Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom
Nightmare Without Hope or Logic
The New York Times
August 27, 2004
ON an anxious night, in a paranoid time in your life, you have probably had a dream that goes something like this. You are arrested by uniformed officers for a crime that is never specified but that you know you did not commit. There is no logic, no rationality at all that you can perceive, in the questions you are asked in the interrogations that follow. Which means there is no way to answer your persecutors in your defense. Which means there is no way out.
Such a scenario was immortalized by Franz Kafka in The Trial in the early 20th century, and it has since been the basis for countless cold-sweat action movies and films noirs. It is also the real-life situation described by Jamal al-Harith, Bisher al-Rawi, Moazzam Begg and Ruhel Ahmed. Their stories are told with a bafflement that shades into gut-level despair in "Guantánamo: `Honor Bound to Defend Freedom,' " the deeply moving documentary play that opened last night in a Culture Project production at the 45 Bleecker Street Theater.
First produced in London by the Tricycle Theater, which specializes in topical theater assembled from transcripts and interviews, this calmly condemning drama considers the plight of some of the British detainees at the prison established for suspected terrorists at the United States naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. There is no question that "Guantánamo" is a partisan work, unlikely to lure delegates from the Republic National Convention. But it exerts an icy visceral charge that is never achieved by flashier agitprop satire like Tim Robbins's Bush-bashing "Embedded."
"Guantánamo," created "from spoken evidence" by Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo, arrives in New York just as the war crimes trials for the detainees in Guantánamo Bay are beginning, nearly three years after many of them were first sent there. Hence daily news accounts are available to reflect the obscuring cloud that still hovers over the lives of men whose exact status, under established international and military law, has never been made clear.
A sense of a shadowy world of shifting boundaries and rules appropriately pervades the first half of the play, which is largely devoted to accounts of how three of the men initially came to be arrested. One of them, Mr. al-Harith (Andrew Stewart-Jones) — a young man from Manchester who embarked on a religious pilgrimage to Pakistan and wound up, by his description, being disastrously in the wrong place at the wrong time — tells his own story directly.
Other histories are related by family members of the detainees. Wahab al-Rawi (Ramsey Faragallah) describes his and his brother's arrest in Gambia, where they went to set up a business. Wahab was released, while his brother, Bisher (Waleed Zuatier), was eventually sent to Guantánamo. As played with a winning combination of sardonic warmth and cold rage by Mr. Faragallah, Wahab finds a grim, grotesque humor in the illogic of his captors and interrogators. The tone of Mr. Begg (Harsh Nayyar) — the father of Moazzam (Aasif Mandvi), a young man taken prisoner in Afghanistan, where he was setting up a water distribution system — is simply sad, aggrieved and uncomprehending.
Letters home from Guantánamo are read in counterpoint to statements from politicians like Jack Straw (Joris Stuyck), the British foreign secretary, and Donald Rumsfeld (Robert Langdon Lloyd), the American Secretary of Defense, who is heard answering reporters with an obscuring, logic-twisting bravado worthy of the short-tempered Duchess in "Alice in Wonderland." Lawyers for the detainees (played by Kathleen Chalfant, Steven Crossley and Mr. Zuaiter) try to provide a sense of legal context for what is happening to their clients.
The monologues by these attorneys, and by Mr. Langdon Lloyd as Lord Justice Steyn, sometimes have a formal, exhortative eloquence clearly meant to rouse anger and indignation. It is here that "Guantánamo" feels more like a sermon for the converted than a drama. What pulls hardest at the emotions are the detailed epistolary accounts of life in prison and the letters' change in tone from willed optimism to abjectness to, in one harrowing case, something approaching madness.
Most of the creative team that staged "Guantánamo" in London, where it transferred from the Tricycle to the New Ambassadors Theater in the West End, is on board here as well. These include the directors, Nicolas Kent and Sacha Wares, and the set and costume designer, Miriam Buether. The cast is new. If the performers have not yet found the rhythmic assurance of their counterparts in London, where I saw the show last month, they are clearly well on their way to achieving it.
The magnetic Mr. Stewart-Jones finds a genuine, hope-inspiring heroism in his character, offset by Mr. Zuaiter's Bisher, who convincingly charts a descent into hopelessness. Ms. Buether's simple set is framed by cagelike prison units where men in the now familiar regulation orange jumpsuits can be seen as you enter the theater. Throughout the performance they stir in their tiny cells, occasionally exercising or praying.
Mostly, however, they have the leaden immobility of people for whom waiting has become an existential condition. When the performance ends, you may so share their claustrophobia that you wind up gratefully gulping down air as soon as you hit the sidewalk.
'Honor Bound to Defend Freedom'
By Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo, from spoken evidence.
Directed by Nicolas Kent and Sacha Wares
Sets and costumes by Miriam Buether
Lighting by Johanna Town
Sound by Bill Grady
Production stage manager, Bonnie Brady
Presented by the Culture Project
Part of the Imagine Festival of Arts, Issues and Ideas
At the 45 Bleecker Street Theater, at Lafayette Street, East Village.
WITH: Robert Langdon Lloyd (Lord Steyn and Donald Rumsfeld), Harsh Nayyar (Mr. Begg), Ramsey Faragallah (Wahab al-Rawi), Andrew Stewart-Jones (Jamal al-Harith), Kathleen Chalfant (Gareth Peirce), Steven Crossley (Mark Jennings and Greg Powell), Waleed Zuaiter (Bisher al-Rawi and Major Dan Mori), Aasif Mandvi (Moazzam Begg and Mr. Ahmed), Jeffrey Brick (Tom Clarke), Maulik Pancholy (Ruhel Ahmed) and Joris Stuyck (Clive Stafford Smith and Jack Straw, M.P.).
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Cuba Libre! Freed Detainees Tell Their Stories of Guantánamo
By Ernio Hernandez
August 20, 2004
Angels in America star Kathleen Chalfant heads the Off-Broadway cast of the London stageshow Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom starting Aug. 20 at the 45 Bleecker Street Theatre.Allan Buchman and The Culture Project follow up their presentation of wrongful imprisonment drama The Exonerated with the new documentary drama at the same downtown Manhattan venue with an official opening Aug. 26.
Similar to the theatre's former tenant The Exonerated, the drama Guantánamo is based on actual testimony of detainees (as well as lawyers and public officials). Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo assembled the work from interviews (conducted in March and April 2004) of five British detainees at the titular Cuban locale who were released from imprisonment in late February.
Nicolas Kent and Sacha Wares direct the work which was commissioned (from an idea by Kent) by the Tricycle Theatre in January 2004. The show opened at the northern London Tricycle in May to sold out crowds and recently moved to the West End.
Joining Chalfant in the cast are Jeffrey Brick, Steven Crossley, Ramsey Faragallah, Andrew Stewart-Jones, Robert Langdon Lloyd, Aasif H. Mandvi, Harsh Nayyar, Maulik Pancholy (Aunt Dan and Lemon), Joris Stuyck and Waleed F. Zuaiter (Sixteen Wounded).
The design team include Miriam Buether (set and costume) and Johanna Town (lighting).
Chalfant, who was in the original casts of Wit, Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and Angels in America: Perestroika, has also appeared on Broadway in M. Butterfly and Racing Demon. The actress has been quite busy Off-Broadway in recent years having performed in The Last Letter, Savannah Bay and Talking Heads — the latter two, at times in the same evening.
For tickets to Guantánamo at 45 Bleecker Street Theatre, call (212) 253-9983. For more information on The Culture Project, visit www.45bleecker.com
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Gitmo Trials 'Designed to Convict'
Antiwar.com - Sunnyvale, CA, USA
August 25, 2004
by Eli Clifton
Pre-trial hearings that began Tuesday at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of prisoners taken in the U.S. "war on terrorism" are "designed to convict," says one expert.
The lack of attorney-client confidentiality, absence of an appeals process, classified testimony and the two and a half years that many detainees have been held without access to lawyers has produced a legal system tilted against the defendants, says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).
The four suspects arraigned Tuesday include an accountant accused of working for the al-Qaeda terrorist group, a poet accused of writing terrorist propaganda, a man alleged to have been the chauffeur for al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and an Australian who fought with the former ruling regime in Afghanistan, the Taliban, against U.S. forces.
The Australian, David Hicks, faces the broadest set of charges – conspiracy to commit war crimes, aiding the enemy and attempted murder for firing on coalition forces in Afghanistan.
International human rights groups and legal scholars have labeled the hearings "unfair," saying they violate fair process guidelines of both civilian courts and military court-martials.
To read more visit www.antiwar.com.ips.clifton
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Kathleen Chalfant Defends Freedom of British Detainees in Guantánamo, Aug. 20
Angels in America star Kathleen Chalfant heads the Off-Broadway cast of the London hit Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom set to play at the 45 Bleecker Street Theatre, starting Aug. 20.
For more information please visit www.playbill.com/news/article/87606.html
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Guantánamo Lawyer Wants Access for Clients
03:28 AM EST - June 12, 2004
The Associated Press
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico
A lawyer for two Guantánamo Bay terror suspects who have asked the Supreme Court to give them access to U.S. courts says it would be disastrous for America if the high court refuses.
Michael Ratner, who represents two Australian detainees in the Supreme Court case, says he is coming out with the book to explain what he calls the gross wrongs at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
"For me, Guantánamo stands for everything America is doing wrong in the war on terrorism," Ratner said in a telephone interview Friday from New York. "It's the most important legal issue I've ever faced."
The book, Guantánamo: What the World Should Know, is based on interviews with Ratner by writer Ellen Ray. It offers a harsh review of the detention operation, the legal precedent it sets and allegations of abuse.
Ratner calls it an outrage that President Bush has denied prisoner of war status to some 600 men held on suspicion of ties to al-Qaida or Afghanistan's fallen Taliban.
"The president and the Pentagon have decided that they will define the crimes, prosecute people, adjudicate guilt, and dispense punishment," Ratner says in the 93-page book, an advance copy of which was provided to The Associated Press.
Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, says if the Supreme Court refuses to allow appeals in U.S. courts, "it would be a disaster for a country that claims to adhere to the rule of law."
A ruling is expected by late June, and the book is due out by early July.
The government classifies the prisoners as "enemy combatants" and says those charged will have fair hearings before military tribunals. Critics argue the tribunals offer no checks and balances.
Despite several requests, Ratner hasn't been allowed to visit detainees at Guantánamo. Drawing on accounts from released prisoners, he reviews allegations of beatings and interrogations in which shackled men are forced to stand or sit for hours.
The military denies any major abuse at Guantánamo, though it has confirmed that after detainee complaints two guards were demoted and a third was acquitted in a court martial.
"We do not treat anyone here inhumanely," said Lt. Col. Leon Sumpter, a Guantánamo spokesman. As for the abuse scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, he said, "We don't do anything like that here."
The book also includes abuse allegations in Afghanistan, where some detainees recounted being transported by the Northern Alliance in shipping containers "so tightly packed that they had to ball themselves up."
Many didn't survive in the sweltering heat, and some were killed when Northern Alliance troops fired into containers trying to open up air holes, Ratner says.
He says two freed Britons - Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal - told him many Guantánamo detainees were picked up in Pakistan by police and turned over for bribes or favors. He also says they revealed U.S. interrogators unsuccessfully tried to recruit them to be undercover agents.
Military officials decline to discuss specifics of interrogations.
Ratner, 60, began his activism opposing the Vietnam War in the 1960s and has since spoken out against torture and atrocities in places from Haiti to Central America.
He traveled to Guantánamo in the early 1990s to advocate for the rights of Haitian boat people who were being held there. He hasn't been back since.
By IAN JAMES Associated Press Writer
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A Pattern of Abuse in Bush Administration?
June 10, 2004, NPR, The Tavis Smiley Show
Did the Bush administration approve the systematic torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan? Many civil rights groups are asking that question this week after the release of two memos prepared by Bush administration lawyers suggesting the president is not obliged to adhere to federal and international standards on the use of torture. NPR's Tavis Smiley talks to Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz and Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, about whether torture is ever justified.
To hear the audio of the interview, please click here.
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