Torture At Guantanamo

Torture at Guantanamo has been well documented. As Susan Crawford, the Bush Administration’s top official for reviewing practices at Guantanamo, said in January of 2009, “We tortured [Mohammed al-] Qahtani… His treatment met the legal definition of torture.” The military's own document show that he was "was forced to wear a woman's bra and had a thong placed on his head during the course of his interrogation" and "was told that his mother and sister were whores." With a leash tied to his chains, he was led around the room "and forced to perform a series of dog tricks…”

But the torture and abuse go well beyond the case of Mohammed al-Qahtani. The types of torture at Guantanamo documented include:

  • Waterboarding
  • Beatings
  • Stress positions (forcing prisoners to stand or crouch for hours)
  • Sexual abuse (female interrogators pretending to rub menstrual blood on a chained prisoner’s face, e.g.)
  • Torture by music (ear‐splitting music for hours on end, which has been proven to induce states of psychosis in prisoners after just a few hours)
  • Sleep Deprivation (sometimes for weeks on end, another tactic known to induce psychosis in prisoners)
  • Temperature extremes
  • Forcible beard shaving (a form of religious humiliation that was also used on religious Jews by Nazi soldiers)
  • Prolonged isolation
  • Threats of rendition, and threats against prisoners’ families.


Journalist Sami al-HajTake the case of Sami al-Haj. Al-Haj was working as a cameraman for al-Jazeera news when he was seized by Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border on December 15, 2001. Never tried for any crime, he was later released in May of 2008. He has since co-founded, with other survivors, the Guantanamo Justice Centre to help released detainees return to normal life. In July of 2008, he spoke with journalist Silvia Cattori about his time at Guantanamo Bay:


    “All kinds of physical and psychological torture…They beat us up. They taunted us with racist insults. They locked us in cold rooms, below zero, with one cold meal a day. They hung us up by our hands. They deprived us of sleep, and when we started to fall asleep, they beat us on the head. They showed us films of the most horrendous torture sessions. They showed us photographs of torture victims — dead, swollen, covered in blood. They kept us under constant threat of being moved elsewhere to be tortured even more. They doused us with cold water. They forced us to do the military salute to the American national anthem. They forced us to wear women’s clothes. They forced us to look at pornographic images. They threatened us with rape. They would strip us naked and make us walk like donkeys, ordering us around. They made us sit down and stand up five hundred times in a row. They humiliated the detainees by wrapping them up in the Israeli and American flags, which was their way of telling us that we were imprisoned because of a religious war.

    “I was interrogated and tortured more than two hundred times. Ninety-five percent of the questions were about al-Jazeera. They wanted me to work as a spy within al-Jazeera. In exchange, they offered American citizenship for myself and my family, and payment based on results. I refused. I told them repeatedly that my job is a journalist, not a spy, and that it was my duty to make the truth known and to work for the respect of human rights.”

Mohammed el-Gharani

Or Mohammed el-Gharani, who was just 14 years old when he was seized by Pakistani forces in October 2001. As British author and journalist Andy Worthington has reported, el-Gharani is one of 22 confirmed juveniles who have been held at Guantanamo Bay. And, despite his age, he faced appalling brutality:





    After being tortured in Pakistani custody, he was sold to US forces, who flew him to a prison at Kandahar airport, where, he said, one particular soldier “would hold my penis, with scissors, and say he’d cut it off.” His treatment did not improve in Guantánamo. Subjected relentlessly to racist abuse, because of the color of his skin, he was hung from his wrists on numerous occasions, and was also subjected to a regime of “enhanced” techniques to prepare him for interrogation — including prolonged sleep deprivation, prolonged isolation and the use of painful stress positions — that clearly constitute torture.

As a result of this treatment, el-Gharani tried to commit suicide on several occasions. But in June of 2009, after nearly eight years in custody, el-Gharani was finally released and has returned to Chad.

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