Bagram torture and prisoner abuse
In 2005, The New York Times obtained a 2,000-page United States Army investigatory report concerning the homicides of two unarmed civilian Afghan prisoners by U.S. military personnel in December 2002 at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility (also Bagram Collection Point or B.C.P.) in Bagram, Afghanistan and general treatment of prisoners. The two prisoners, Habibullah and Dilawar, were repeatedly chained to the ceiling and beaten, resulting in their deaths. Military coroners ruled that both the prisoners' deaths were homicides. Autopsies revealed severe trauma to both prisoners' legs, describing the trauma as comparable to being run over by a bus. Seven soldiers were charged in 2005.
The alleged torture and homicides took place at the military detention center known as the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, which had been built by the Soviets as an aircraft machine shop during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1980–1989). A concrete-and-sheet metal facility that was retrofitted with wire pens and wooden isolation cells, the center is part of Bagram Air Base in the ancient city of Bagram near Charikar in Parvan, Afghanistan.
In January 2010, the American military released the names of 645 detainees held at the main detention center at Bagram, modifying its long-held position against publicizing such information. This was to comply with a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in September 2009 by the American Civil Liberties Union, whose lawyers had also demanded detailed information about conditions, rules and regulations at the center.
Habibullah died on December 4, 2002. Several U.S. soldiers hit the chained man with so-called "peroneal strikes," or severe blows to the side of the leg above the knee. This incapacitates the leg by hitting the common peroneal nerve. According to The New York Times:
By Dec. 3, Mr. Habibullah's reputation for defiance seemed to make him an open target. [He had taken at least 9 peroneal strikes from two MPs for being "noncompliant and combative."]
... When Sgt. James P. Boland saw Mr. Habibullah on Dec. 3, he was in one of the isolation cells, tethered to the ceiling by two sets of handcuffs and a chain around his waist. His body was slumped forward, held up by the chains. Sergeant Boland ... had entered the cell with [Specialists Anthony M. Morden and Brian E. Cammack]...
...kneeing the prisoner sharply in the thigh, "maybe a couple" of times. Mr. Habibullah's limp body swayed back and forth in the chains.
When medics arrived, they found Habibullah dead.
Dilawar, who died on December 10, 2002, was a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver and farmer who weighed 122 pounds and was described by his interpreters as neither violent nor aggressive.
When beaten, he repeatedly cried "Allah!" The outcry appears to have amused U.S. military personnel. The act of striking him in order to provoke a scream of "Allah!" eventually "became a kind of running joke," according to one of the MPs. "People kept showing up to give this detainee a common peroneal strike just to hear him scream out 'Allah,'" he said. "It went on over a 24-hour period, and I would think that it was over 100 strikes."
The Times reported that:
On the day of his death, Dilawar had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.
A guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.
"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying. Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen.
It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.
In the documentary Taxi to the Dark Side (2007), directed by American filmmaker Alex Gibney, there was a claim that Dilawar was captured while driving through militia territory, not going past Bagram air base. The militia stopped him at a roadblock and transferred him to the U.S. Army for a monetary reward, claiming he was a terrorist.
Aafia Siddiqui/Prisoner 650
Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani citizen educated in the United States as a neuroscientist, was suspected of the attempted assault and killing of U.S. personnel in Afghanistan. She disappeared in 2003 with her three children. She was allegedly detained for five years at Bagram with her children; she was the only female prisoner. She was known to the male detainees as "Prisoner 650." The media dubbed her as the "Mata Hari of al-Qaida" or the "Grey Lady of Bagram." Yvonne Ridley says that Siddiqui is the "Grey Lady of Bagram" – a ghostly female detainee, who kept prisoners awake "with her haunting sobs and piercing screams". In 2005 male prisoners were so agitated by her plight, Ridley said, that they went on hunger strike for six days. Siddiqui's family maintains that she was abused at Bagram.
Mohamed immigrated to the U.K. from Ethiopia in 1994 and sought asylum. In 2001 he converted to Islam and travelled to Pakistan, followed by Afghanistan, to see if the Taliban-run Afghanistan was "a good Islamic country". U.S. authorities believed that he was a would-be bomber, who fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistani immigration officials arrested him at the airport in April 2002 before he returned to the U.K. Mohamed has said officials have used evidence gained through torture in sites in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan between 2002 and 2004 before he was "secretly rendered" to the U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention camp on Cuba. In October 2008, the U.S. dropped all charges against him. Mohamed was reported as being very ill as a result of a hunger strike in the weeks before his release. In February 2009 Mohamed was interviewed by Moazzam Begg, a fellow Bagram detainee and founder of CagePrisoners, an organization to help released detainees. Mohamad identified a photo of Aafia Siddiqui as the woman whom he and other male detainees had seen at Bagram, known as "Prisoner 650."
Mohammed Sulaymon Barre, a Somali refugee who worked for a funds transfer company, described his Bagram interrogation as "torture." Barre said he was picked up and thrown around the interrogation room when he wouldn't confess to a false allegation. He was put into an isolation chamber that was maintained at a piercingly cold temperature for several weeks and deprived of sufficient rations during this period. As a result of this treatment, his hands and feet swelled, causing him such excruciating pain that he could not stand up.
Zalmay Shah, a citizen of Afghanistan, alleges mistreatment during detention at Bagram air base. An article published in the May 2, 2007 issue of The New Republic contained excerpts from an interview with Zalmay Shah. He said he had originally cooperated closely with the Americans. He had worked with an American he knew only as "Tony" in the roundup of former members of the Taliban. According to the article:
While delivering one wanted man into U.S. custody, Shah was himself arrested, hooded, shackled, and stripped. Soldiers taped his mouth shut, refusing to let him spit out the snuff he was chewing. For three days, his jailers in Bagram denied him food. All the while, Shah pleaded his innocence and reminded the Americans of his friendship with 'Tony.'
Zalmay Shah was eventually released. He said that Americans continue to ask for his cooperation, but he now declines.
Others include Mohammed Salim and Moazzam Begg.
Investigation and prosecution
This article needs to be updated.(November 2010)
In October 2004, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command concluded that there was probable cause to charge 27 officers and enlisted personnel with criminal offenses in the Dilawar case, ranging from dereliction of duty to maiming and involuntary manslaughter. Fifteen of the same soldiers were also cited for probable criminal responsibility in the Habibullah case. Seven soldiers have been charged so far. According to an article published in the October 15, 2004 The New York Times 28 soldiers were under investigation. Some of the soldiers were reservists in the 377th Military Police Company under the command of Captain Christopher M. Beiring. The rest were in the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion under the command of Captain Carolyn A. Wood.
On October 14, 2004, the Criminal Investigation Command forwarded its report from its investigation to the commanders of 28 soldiers.
As of November 15, 2005, 15 soldiers have been charged.
|Sgt. James P. Boland||377th MP||
Charged in August 2004 with assault, maltreatment of a detainee, and dereliction of duty for alleged conduct in connection with treatment of a detainee on December 10, 2002, at Bagram. He was charged with a second specification of dereliction of duty in the death on December 3, 2002, of another detainee. All charges were dropped. He was given a letter of reprimand and eventually left the Army.
|Spc. Brian Cammack||377th MP||
Pled guilty on May 20, 2005, to charges of assault and two counts of making a false statement, and agreed to testify in related cases in exchange for a dismissal of the charge of maltreating detainees. Sentenced to three months in prison, reduction to the rank of private, and a bad-conduct discharge. Cammack claimed he hit Habibullah because Habibullah had spat on him.
|Pfc. Willie V. Brand||377th MP||
Charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, simple assault, maiming, maltreatment, and making a false sworn statement. Convicted in August 2005 of assault, maltreatment, making a false sworn statement, and maiming, charges involving Dilawar. Acquitted on charges involving Habibullah. Reduced to the rank of private.
|Sgt. Anthony Morden||377th MP||
Charged with assault, maltreatment and making a false official statement. pleaded guilty. Sentenced to 75 days of confinement, reduction to the rank of private, and a bad-conduct discharge.
|Sgt. Christopher W. Greatorex||377th MP||
Acquitted of charges of abuse, maltreatment and making a false official statement.
|Sgt. Darin M. Broady||377th MP||
Acquitted of charges of assault, maltreatment and making a false official statement.
|Capt. Christopher M. Beiring||377th MP|
|Staff Sgt. Brian L. Doyle||377th MP|
|Sgt. Duane M. Grubb||377th MP||
Accused of assault, maltreatment and making a false official statement. Prosecutors said Grubb repeatedly struck handicapped captive Zarif Khan with his knees. Grubb testified that he had never hit the prisoner. He was acquitted of all charges.
|Sgt. Alan J. Driver||377th MP|
|Spc. Nathan Adam Jones||377th MP||
|Spc. Glendale C. Walls||519th MI||
|Sgt. Selena M. Salcedo||519th MI||
Charged in May 2005 with assault, dereliction of duty, and lying to investigators. Suspected of stepping on Dilawar's bare foot, grabbing his beard, kicking him, and then ordering the detainee to remain chained to the ceiling. At trial Salcedo pleaded guilty and received a sentence of a one-grade reduction in rank, $1000 fine, and a written reprimand.
|Sgt. Joshua Claus||519th MI||
|Pfc. Damien M. Corsetti||519th MI||
Involved but uncharged
Some interrogators involved in this incident were sent to Iraq and were assigned to Abu Ghraib prison. PFC Corsetti was fined and demoted while assigned to Abu Ghraib for not having permission to conduct an interrogation.
Allegations of a widespread pattern of abuse
A May 2005 editorial of The New York Times noted parallels between military behavior at Bagram and the later abuse and torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq:
(W)hat happened at Abu Ghraib was no aberration, but part of a widespread pattern. It showed the tragic impact of the initial decision by Mr. Bush and his top advisers that they were not going to follow the Geneva Conventions, or indeed American law, for prisoners taken in antiterrorist operations. The investigative file on Bagram, obtained by The Times, showed that the mistreatment of prisoners was routine: shackling them to the ceilings of their cells, depriving them of sleep, kicking and hitting them, sexually humiliating them and threatening them with guard dogs -- the very same behavior later repeated in Iraq.
In November 2001, Col. Morgan Banks, chief psychologist of the SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) program, was sent to Afghanistan. He worked for four months at Bagram. In early 2003, Banks issued guidance for the "behavioral science consultants" who helped to devise Guantánamo's interrogation strategy. He has emphatically denied having advocated use of SERE counter-resistance techniques to break down detainees.
U.S. government response
The United States government through the Department of State makes periodic reports to the United Nations Committee Against Torture. In October 2005, the report focused on pretrial detention of suspects in the War on Terrorism, including those held at Guantanamo Bay detention camp and in Afghanistan. This particular report is significant as the first official response of the U.S. government to allegations of widespread abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay. The report denies the allegations.
The McCain amendment was an amendment to the United States Senate Department of Defense Authorization bill, commonly referred to as the Amendment on (1) the Army Field Manual and (2) Cruel, Inhumane, Degrading Treatment, amendment #1977 and also known as the McCain Amendment 1977. The amendment prohibited inhumane treatment of prisoners. The Amendment was introduced by Senator John McCain. On October 5, 2005, the United States Senate voted 90–9 to support the amendment, which was later signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Second secret prison
In May 2010, the BBC reported about nine prisoners who "told consistent stories of being held in isolation in cold cells where a light is on all day and night. The men said they had been deprived of sleep by US military personnel there." When the BBC sought information from the International Committee of the Red Cross about this, the ICRC revealed that it had been informed in August 2009 by US authorities that they maintained a second facility at Bagram, where detainees were held in isolation due to "military necessity." This was an exception to the principle of allowing guaranteed access for all prisoners to the International Red Cross.
The 2007 documentary Taxi to the Dark Side (2007), directed by American filmmaker Alex Gibney, focuses on the murder of Dilawar by US troops at Bagram.
- Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse
- Canadian Afghan detainee abuse scandal
- Command responsibility
- Criticism of the War on Terrorism
- Enhanced interrogation
- Iraq prison abuse scandals
- International public opinion on the war in Afghanistan
- Military abuse
- Opposition to the War in Afghanistan (2001–2021)
- Prisoner abuse
- Protests against the invasion of Afghanistan
- Qur'an desecration controversy of 2005
- The Salt Pit
- Torture and the United States
- Use of torture since 1948
- War in Afghanistan (2001–2021)
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