The testimony of Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes: includes allegations of previously unreported murders in the US prison at Bagram airbase

27.8.07

Omar DeghayesSuch is the turnover of stories in the news that genuinely shocking claims –- such as those made by Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes in a dossier released by his family two weeks ago –- often become tomorrow’s fish and chip paper without anyone having really paid attention.

As part of an attempt to refute claims by parts of the US administration –- and in particular by Sandra Hodgkinson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs –- that the five British residents (including Deghayes), whose return to the UK was requested by the British government, were “still considered to be a significant threat,” Deghayes’ family was moved to issue a harrowing dossier of allegations made by Deghayes to one of his lawyers in Guantánamo.

In addition to previously reported claims –- that he was “left blinded in one eye after a soldier plunged his finger into it,” that he “had human excrement smeared on his face,” and that he was threatened with being returned to Libya, where Libyan intelligence agents (brought to Guantánamo by the CIA) told him he would be killed –- the dossier also contains previously unreported allegations, including claims that he was sexually abused –- although he added that he “can not bear to relive the details until he is released,” and explained, “It is very distressing and sad to go through and remember again” –- and allegations that he was subjected to electric shocks in Pakistani custody in Lahore, where, he said, “The more I scream they will laugh and do it again… my screams all in vain.”

After being transferred to the US-run prison at Bagram airbase, where he and others were transported “in a torture position,” Deghayes explained that he was chained in a cage with his hands stretched above his head, “causing suffocation,” that he went without food for 45 days, and that he was subjected to water torture: “They hold me naked in the night, freezing cold, and throw buckets of water and fill the bucket and throw [it] again. I shiver and shake badly and try to sit down to gain warmth. They kick and punch and say stand up until I fall to the ground in weakness.”

Following his transfer to Guantánamo, Deghayes said that he was “beaten on his first day,” relived his experiences of the Extreme Reaction Force (ERF) teams who blinded him and “repeatedly beat him up,” and explained that detainees were given “mystery injections.” He also said that an FBI interrogator –- who called himself Craig –- told him that he would face execution, and that he would not get a proper trial. “Many times,” he said, “one FBI interrogator by the name of Craig said, ‘Omar, it is nothing like the law you studied in the UK. There will never be a proper court and lawyers etc. It would be only a military tribunal to determine your future and your life. Your best choice is to cooperate with me.’”

Most shocking of all, however, are Deghayes’ claims that, in Bagram, he saw one prisoner who “was beaten until blood dripped on the cell floor and he was left ‘paralysed and mentally damaged,’” that he also “witnessed a prisoner shot dead after he had gone to the aid of an inmate who was being beaten and kicked by the guards” (“The American,” he explained, “said he tried to take the gun”), and that he was also nearby when another prisoner was beaten to death: “One by the name of Abdaulmalik, Moroccan and Italian, was beaten until I heard no sound of him after the screaming. There was afterwards panic in prison and the guards running about in fear saying to each other the Arab has died. I have not seen this young man again.”

Two murders in Bagram –- those of a man named Mullah Habibullah and a taxi driver named Dilawar –- are relatively well known and have received a respectable amount of media coverage (Dilawar’s story, for example, was the subject of a recent award-winning documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side, by Alex Gibney, whose previous film was “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”). These –- and an additional, unreported murder, mentioned by three other British detainees, Moazzam Begg, Richard Belmar and Jamal Kiyemba –- are covered in my book The Guantánamo Files, but the third murder described by Deghayes’ compatriots –- of a young Afghan who tried to escape –- do not correspond with those described by Deghayes.

Is the world, I wonder, so inured to murders in US custody in Afghanistan that two additional, and previously unreported murders –- of a prisoner who remains anonymous to this day, and of a Moroccan who was at least remembered by his first name –- are incapable of raising even a ripple of outrage?

Omar Deghayes with his father

Omar Deghayes as a child with his late father, Amer. It was the death of Amer, a prominent trade union activist killed by Colonel Gaddafi, that prompted Omar’s family to flee to Britain from Libya in the 1980s. (Photo from Cageprisoners).

For further information on Omar, visit the website of the Save Omar campaign, which has campaigned relentlessly for his release, and has made him a cause celèbre in his home town of Brighton.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published on American Torture.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the use of torture by the CIA, on “high-value detainees,” and in the secret prisons, see: Guantánamo’s tangled web: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Majid Khan, dubious US convictions, and a dying man (July 2007), Jane Mayer on the CIA’s “black sites,” condemnation by the Red Cross, and Guantánamo’s “high-value” detainees (including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) (August 2007), Waterboarding: two questions for Michael Hayden about three “high-value” detainees now in Guantánamo (February 2008), Six in Guantánamo Charged with 9/11 Murders: Why Now? And What About the Torture? (February 2008), The Insignificance and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Confirms FBI’s Doubts (April 2008), Guantánamo Trials: Another Torture Victim Charged (Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, July 2008), Secret Prison on Diego Garcia Confirmed: Six “High-Value” Guantánamo Prisoners Held, Plus “Ghost Prisoner” Mustafa Setmariam Nasar (August 2008), Will the Bush administration be held accountable for war crimes? (December 2008), The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part One) and The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part Two) (December 2008), Prosecuting the Bush Administration’s Torturers (March 2009), Abu Zubaydah: The Futility Of Torture and A Trail of Broken Lives (March 2009), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part Two), 9/11 Commission Director Philip Zelikow Condemns Bush Torture Program, Who Authorized The Torture of Abu Zubaydah?, CIA Torture Began In Afghanistan 8 Months before DoJ Approval, Even In Cheney’s Bleak World, The Al-Qaeda-Iraq Torture Story Is A New Low (all April 2009), Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi Has Died In A Libyan Prison, Dick Cheney And The Death Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, The “Suicide” Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi: Why The Media Silence?, Two Experts Cast Doubt On Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi’s “Suicide”, Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney On Use Of Torture To Invade Iraq, In the Guardian: Death in Libya, betrayal by the West (in the Guardian here) (all May 2009), Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney’s Iraq Lies Again (And Rumsfeld And The CIA), and WORLD EXCLUSIVE: New Revelations About The Torture Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (June 2009). Also see the extensive archive of articles about the Military Commissions.

For other stories discussing the use of torture in secret prisons, see: An unreported story from Guantánamo: the tale of Sanad al-Kazimi (August 2007), Rendered to Egypt for torture, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni is released from Guantánamo (September 2008), A History of Music Torture in the “War on Terror” (December 2008), Seven Years of Torture: Binyam Mohamed Tells His Story (March 2009), and also see the extensive Binyam Mohamed archive. And for other stories discussing torture at Guantánamo and/or in “conventional” US prisons in Afghanistan, see: Guantánamo Transcripts: “Ghost” Prisoners Speak After Five And A Half Years, And “9/11 hijacker” Recants His Tortured Confession (September 2007), The Trials of Omar Khadr, Guantánamo’s “child soldier” (November 2007), Former US interrogator Damien Corsetti recalls the torture of prisoners in Bagram and Abu Ghraib (December 2007), Guantánamo’s shambolic trials (February 2008), Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008), Sami al-Haj: the banned torture pictures of a journalist in Guantánamo (April 2008), Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns “Chaotic” Trials in Case of Teenage Torture Victim (Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld on Mohamed Jawad, January 2009), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (Mohammed El-Gharani, January 2009), Bush Era Ends With Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession (Susan Crawford on Mohammed al-Qahtani, January 2009), Forgotten in Guantánamo: British Resident Shaker Aamer (March 2009), and the extensive archive of articles about the Military Commissions.

17 Responses

  1. the Shackle Report » Blog Archive » tortured policy says...

    [...] discussing torture at Guantánamo and/or in “conventional” US prisons in Afghanistan, see: The testimony of Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes: includes allegations of previously unreported m… (August 2007), Guantánamo Transcripts: “Ghost” Prisoners Speak After Five And A Half Years, [...]

  2. “America’s Disappeared” : Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi Has Died In A Libyan Prison « Muslim in Suffer says...

    [...] discussing torture at Guantánamo and/or in “conventional” US prisons in Afghanistan, see: The testimony of Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes: includes allegations of previously unreported m… (August 2007), Guantánamo Transcripts: “Ghost” Prisoners Speak After Five And A Half Years, [...]

  3. Andy Worthington: Release Of The “Holy Grail” Of Torture Reports Delayed Again | Second Reagan Revolution says...

    [...] on passages in my book The Guantánamo Files, but also on testimony by former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, and researcher John Sifton, and which, I believe, exposes three murders at the US prison at Bagram [...]

  4. When Torture Kills: Ten Murders In US Prisons In Afghanistan by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] I explained in an article at the time, these two murders were clearly not the same as that reported by Moazzam Begg, Richard Belmar and [...]

  5. Release of the ‘Holy Grail’ of Torture Reports Delayed Again « roger hollander says...

    [...] on passages in my book The Guantánamo Files, but also on testimony by former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, and researcher John Sifton, and which, I believe, exposes three murders at the US prison at Bagram [...]

  6. Spanish judge resumes torture case against six senior Bush lawyers by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] party) — and three former Guantánamo prisoners (the British residents Jamil El-Banna and Omar Deghayes, and Sami El-Laithi, an Egyptian freed in 2005, who was paralyzed during an incident involving [...]

  7. Film Launch: Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] — Shaker Aamer (who is still held), Binyam Mohamed (who was released in February 2009) and Omar Deghayes — “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” provides a powerful rebuke to those who believe [...]

  8. On Democracy Now! Andy Worthington Discusses the Forthcoming 9/11 Trials and “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] — Shaker Aamer (who is still held), Binyam Mohamed (who was released in February 2009) and Omar Deghayes — “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” provides a powerful rebuke to those who believe [...]

  9. Andy Worthington on The Peter B Collins Show « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] about the three men whose stories are the focus of the film — Shaker Aamer (who is still held), Omar Deghayes (released in December 2007), and Binyam Mohamed (released in February 2009) — and the stories of [...]

  10. Andy Worthington on Antiwar Radio and ABC: Gitmo, Torture, Trials and his new film « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] ABC News chose to show a particularly poignant clip from the documentary featuring former prisoner Omar Deghayes talking about how he was told that he and other prisoners would not leave Guantánamo until they [...]

  11. Truthout Video: The Human Cost of Guantánamo by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] — Shaker Aamer, who is still held), Binyam Mohamed (who was released in February 2009) and Omar Deghayes (released in December 2007) — “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” provides a powerful [...]

  12. Torture in Afghanistan: UK Court Orders Release of Evidence « freedetainees.org says...

    [...] Married to a British citizen, and with four children (the youngest of whom he has never seen), Shaker Aamer, who was born in Saudi Arabia, had traveled to Afghanistan in the summer of 2001 with his family and with his friend Moazzam Begg and his family to establish a girls’ school and to oversee a number of well-digging projects, as Begg explained in the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories From Guantánamo” (directed by Polly Nash and myself, and featured in a recent Truthout video), which focuses on Aamer’s story, as well as those of Binyam Mohamed and another released prisoner, Omar Deghayes. [...]

  13. Redemption from ‘Gift from Christ’ given to Guantanamo detainee while being tortured « freedetainees.org says...

    [...] — Shaker Aamer (who is still held), Binyam Mohamed (who was released in February 2009) and Omar Deghayes — “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” provides a powerful rebuke to those who believe [...]

  14. Abu Zubaydah’s Torture Diary « freedetainees.org says...

    [...] discussing torture at Guantánamo and/or in “conventional” US prisons in Afghanistan, see: The testimony of Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes: includes allegations of previously unreported m… (August 2007), Guantánamo Transcripts: “Ghost” Prisoners Speak After Five And A Half Years, [...]

  15. Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo – Andy Worthington’s US tour dates, November 2009 « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] — Shaker Aamer (who is still held), Binyam Mohamed (who was released in February 2009) and Omar Deghayes — “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” provides a powerful rebuke to those who believe [...]

  16. 2009-10-08 Arrest Bush, Saskatoon: letter to RCMP and Chief of Police » The Battles says...

    […] party) — and three former Guantánamo prisoners (the British residents Jamil El-Banna and Omar Deghayes, and Sami El-Laithi, an Egyptian freed in 2005, who was paralyzed during an incident involving […]

  17. 2009-10-08 Arrest Bush: Letters to RCMP and Chief of Police. COMPREHENSIVE argument. » The Battles says...

    […] party) — and three former Guantánamo prisoners (the British residents Jamil El-Banna and Omar Deghayes, and Sami El-Laithi, an Egyptian freed in 2005, who was paralyzed during an incident involving […]

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