Sunday, February 06, 2005

A detainee's story

Martin Mubanga is a British Muslim who spent 33 months in Guantanamo bay essentially for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was released last week after American authorities finally admitted to serious doubts about the "evidence" against him. In an interview in today's Observer, he describes his time in Guantanamo, and details racism, abuse and mistreatment by US interrogators. On one occassion, an interrogator made him piss in a corner, then daubed him with his own urine while calling him a "poor little nigger". On another, they tried more traditional (or as US Atorney-General Alberto Gonzales would call them, "quaint") methods:

After several hours of questioning, Mubanga felt severely dehydrated and begged for a bottle of water. Once again he was lying on the floor: the interrogation booth chair had been removed. As he tried to drink and cool himself by spraying a little water around his face and hair, Mubanga said, the interrogator turned violent: 'The guy started kneeling on me, and I was wriggling backwards to get away from him, trying to get in the line of sight of the CCTV camera so someone might see what was going on. Of course, he didn't want to let me do that, so he stood on my hair. It was painful, but I tried to keep moving. Then he stood on the leg chain, so my shackles dug in really deeply, cutting into my legs. But I just took the pain. I'm looking at him, the pain's getting worse but I wouldn't scream out. I just kept looking at him. From that day on, I refused to talk to any interrogator. I said nothing at all for the next seven months.'

The US response to this is as predictable as it is laughable:

"Al-Qaeda training manuals emphasise the tactic of making false abuse allegations.

"That this detainee is now making allegations of abuse at Guantanamo seems to fit the standard operating procedure in al-Qaeda training manuals."

I guess those FBI agents whose documented concerns about abuse were uncovered by the ACLU are all really working for Al Qaeda, and those CCTV videos of the Guantanamo IRF team beating the shit out of inamtes are Al Qaeda videos then...

Mubanga is now planning to sue the British government for their involvement in his original detention. I wish him luck. Mistakes have clearly been made in some of these detentions, and it is only by holding power to account, either through the courts or at the ballot box, that they will be reduced in the future.