LONDON (Reuters) – Relatives and supporters of Britons held at Guantanamo Bay are demanding answers to charges by two former detainees who said they were tortured by U.S. interrogators using shackles, dogs and loud music.
Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal, who were held in the U.S prison in Cuba for Taliban and terror suspects, wrote an open letter on Thursday to President George W. Bush detailing a series of abuses they say they suffered at the hands of U.S. captors.
“From the moment of our arrival in Guantanamo Bay (and indeed from long before) we were deliberately humiliated and degraded by the use of methods that we now read U.S. officials denying,” the two wrote in an open letter to Bush and members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The men said they were forced to squat with their hands shackled to the floor for hours during questioning, while dogs, strobe lights, loud music and freezing air were also used to intimidate them and heighten their discomfort.
Guards handed out beatings, they said, while sometimes detainees were left naked in interrogation rooms and women were brought in to “provoke and indeed molest them”.
“It appeared to them that this was the routine and the method of extracting information from people there,” their lawyer Barbara Olshansky told BBC radio on Friday, adding the pair said they were photographed and videoed during their detention.
Olshansky said she would demand U.S. authorities make public all material relating to their captivity, with a view to possible legal action.
The U.S. military, whose interrogation techniques have come under fire amid revelations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad, has denied allegations of abuse at Guantanamo, where more than 600 people have been held without charge or access to lawyers, some for more than two years.
Rasul and Iqbal and three other Britons were freed in March, while four others said by Washington to be more dangerous — Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Richard Belmar and Martin Mubanga — remain captive.
Campaigners said the United States should now allow independent inspections of the camp.
“Whilst the world’s attention has been focused on Abu Ghraib prison we can lose sight of the fact these two prisons separated by thousands of miles are two of a kind. They are experimenting in interrogation with the use of torture,” actor Corin Redgrave, founder of the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission, told Reuters.
Begg’s father Azmat has long expressed fears his son might have been tortured in the way Iqbal and Rasul described.
“It could be worse to my son because he’s in a higher category of captivity,” he told Reuters.
The British government said they had not been told about the latest allegations, adding U.K. officials regularly visited the prison to check on the Britons there.
“None of the detainees have alleged to us they were beaten or subjected to systematic abuse,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.
However, human rights campaigner Terry Waite, who was held captive for almost five years by Islamic militants in Lebanon, said the situation at Guantanamo was tantamount to “state-inspired hostage taking”.
“I draw a parallel with what happened to myself — namely retained on suspicion, hooded, blindfolded and shackled, and kept without due process and without any access to my family,” he told Reuters. “What’s the difference between that process and the process these men are undergoing?”