Sunday, January 02, 2005

What else is going on in Guantanamo?

The strappado, according to one prisoner. Traditionally, this was done using a rope passed over a beam to suspend people by their arms, as pictured below:


Nowdays, though, people just use handcuffs and a well-placed iron bar or pipe. Either way, the effect is the same: intense pain and possible dislocation of the shoulders.

The allegation was made through the man's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, and much of the article focuses on the Kafkaesque conditions he must operate under:

Under the rules the United States military has imposed for defence lawyers who visit Guantanamo, Stafford Smith has not been allowed to keep his notes of meetings with prisoners, and will not be able to read them again until they have been examined and de-classified by a government censor.

He cannot disclose in public anything the men have told him until it too has been been de-classified, on pain of likely imprisonment in the US.

This is obviously crippling for his ability to mount an effective defence. But worse, much of the evidence is also classified - including statements by the prisoners themselves! One prisoner, Moazzam Begg, is apparently being held primarily on the basis of a statement he gave while being tortured in February 2003 - but as the statement is classified, he cannot see a copy, and therefore cannot dispute its contents. Stafford Smith rightly asks "What kind of civilised legal system does not allow the suspect to see his own statements?"

But the worst bit is the way these war criminals are using "national security" to cover up their own misdeeds:

Stafford Smith has drawn up a 30-page report on the tortures which Begg and Belmar say they have endured, and sent it as an annexe with a letter to the Prime Minister which Downing Street received shortly before Christmas. For the time being - possibly forever - the report cannot be published, because the Americans claim that the torture allegations amount to descriptions of classified interrogation methods.

How convenient.