Bisher al-Rawi is, slowly but surely, slipping into madness. British officials have long been aware of Bisher’s treatment. To my knowledge, they have done nothing to intercede on his behalf. They have done nothing to end his torture and constant mistreatment. They have done nothing to address the constantly changing list of spurious, new allegations that the military is uses to justify continued imprisonment.

Among the latest new allegations: the military alleges that Bisher received terrorist training in Bosnia and Afghanistan. British officials know these charges are false beyond conjecture. Bisher has never been in Bosnia and has signed an affidavit to that effect. The only time Bisher has been in Afghanistan was when the CIA rendered Bisher and Jamil there aboard CIA Gulfstream V-N379P out of the Republic of the Gambia to Cairo, Egypt, where the aircraft refuelled, then went on to the notorious Dark Prison. The reports Bisher and Jamil have given us have matched exactly the flight logs of CIA flights we have obtained. In the Dark Prison, Bisher and Jamil spent weeks underground, encased in total darkness, chained to a wall and shackled in leg irons, starved, and assaulted 24 hours a day with cacophonously loud noise before being transferred to Bagram….

Until last March the British government adamantly refused to intercede on behalf of any of the British residents still interred at Guantánamo….That changed suddenly when the government asked for Bisher’s return on non-humanitarian grounds, belatedly conceding that Bisher had worked for MI5. Unfortunately for Bisher, this long-overdue admission, and the British government’s request for his immediate repatriation, coincided with Bisher being thrown into isolation. He remains there more than nine months later, with no end in sight.

Bisher’s world is a cell 6ft by 8ft in Camp V, where alleged “non-compliant” prisoners are incarcerated. After all these years and hundreds of interrogations, Bisher finally refused to be interrogated further. Despite the fact that Guantánamo officials have publicly proclaimed that prisoners are no longer required to participate in interrogations, Bisher is deemed to be non-compliant and hence is tortured daily….

Solitary confinement is but a single aspect of the torture that Bisher endures on a daily basis. While in isolation, Bisher has been constantly subjected to severe temperature extremes and other sensory torments, many of which are part of a sleep deprivation program that never abates. Frequently, Bisher’s cell is unbearably cold because the air conditioning is turned up to the maximum. Sometimes, his captors take his orange jumpsuit and sheet, leaving him only in his shorts. For a week at a time, Bisher constantly shivers and is unable to sleep because of the extreme cold. Once, when Bisher attempted to warm himself by covering himself with his prayer rug, one of the few “comfort items” permitted to him, his guards removed it for “misuse”. On other occasions, the heat is allowed to become so unbearable that breathing is difficult and labored. For a week at a time, all Bisher can do is lie completely still, sweat pouring off his body during the day when the Cuban heat can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the temperature inside Camp V is even higher.

Bisher is allowed no contact with fellow prisoners. Bright lights are kept on 24 hours a day. Bisher is given 15 sheets of toilet paper per day, but because he used his sheets to cover his eyes to help him to sleep, his toilet paper – considered another comfort item by his beneficent constabulary – has been removed for “misuse”. Accordingly, he is no longer receives his daily ration of 15 sheets of toilet paper. Imagine being in the position of having to make a choice between using your tiny allotment of toilet paper for the purpose for which it was intended or using it to sleep, and then having it removed altogether…

Changes of clothing take place at midnight when prisoners are given a single, thin cotton sheet. Prisoners are unable to sleep until close to 1am. They are awakened at 5am, when each is required to return his sheet. All of Bisher’s legal documents and family photographs were seized from him last June and have never been returned.

If Bisher spends four more months in the conditions I have described, the man I met in September 2004, who was healthy, articulate, thoughtful and humorous, will in all likelihood no longer exist. He will probably slip into a madness that is permanent. If that comes to pass, Britain must recognise and accept the grave culpability it bears…

The Bush Administration, of course, continues to deny that the United States uses torture, prating endlessly about the Administration’s humane treatment of the prisoners and its robust compliance with the Geneva Conventions. It long ago defined away torture in the now infamous “Torture Memo” commissioned by now Attorney General Alberto Gonsales. But thousands of pages of memoranda generated by FBI field agents at the prison camps in Guantánamo and released pursuant to Freedom of Information Act litigation belie the Administration’s hollow assertions and paint a grim and accurate picture…

These memoranda expose in detail only some of the “torture techniques” employed by the military. They document abuses that include “strangulation, beatings, [and] placement of lit cigarettes into the detainees ear openings” (document 4911 entitled Urgent Report). Mamdouh Habib, a former prisoner at Guantánamo who was rendered first to Egypt for unmentionable torture before being transferred to Guantánamo, arrived there without fingernails and bleeding from the ears and nose where cigarettes had repeatedly burned him. Habib, one of the few prisoners actually charged by the military, was summarily released to his home in Australia once the extent of his abuse was exposed. But before placing Habib on the aircraft that would eventually take him home, military officials could not resist one last gratuitous torture: they told him he was being transferred back to Egypt! Among the horrors I have been exposed to in this case, this particular story haunts still.

These FBI memoranda also document efforts by the military to cover-up the abuses. Document number 3977 is a memorandum entitled “Impersonating FBI at GTMO”. It informs FBI superiors in Washington, DC that military interrogators at Guantánamo are impersonating the FBI when torturing prisoners. It goes on to state: “These tactics have produced no intelligence of a threat neutralisation nature to date and [the Department of Defense, Criminal Investigation Task Force] believes that [the torture] techniques have destroyed any chance of prosecuting this detainee. If this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, DOD interrogators will not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done [by] the ‘FBI’ interrogators. The FBI will be left holding the bag before the public.”

If I alone were making these claims, I would expect at least some readers to doubt the reliability of my account. But FBI field agents wrote these documents. The FBI withheld them until a US court ordered their production. Notably, no one in the Bush Administration or the military has questioned the veracity of these FBI accounts. Thus, there is no debate regarding the authenticity or accuracy of the information contained in these documents.

But if corroboration is needed, the FBI accounts are confirmed by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which reports that the methods used at Guantánamo have, over time, become “more refined and repressive” than those witnessed by the Red Cross on previous visits. Red Cross officials are on record stating that military interrogators seek to make detainees dependent upon them through “humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions”. They confirm that prisoners are exposed to loud and incessant noise and music and were subjected to “some beatings”.

The Red Cross also reports that interrogators not only used psychological and physical coercion, but also enlisted the participation of medical personnel in what the report called “a flagrant violation of medical ethics”. Doctors and other medical personnel work directly with military officials at Guantánamo, conveying data about prisoners’ “mental health and vulnerabilities”. The Red Cross reports these medical professionals become part of the torture and interrogation machine. Their chief function is not the medical care of prisoners, but assisting interrogators in extracting information. As a result, prisoners no longer trust doctors and others to whom their treatment is entrusted.

It should come as a surprise to no one that the Red Cross concluded that “[t]he construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture.”

…Almost a hundred prisoners that we know of have died in US custody; 33 of these deaths are formally classified as homicides by the military. Not since the second world war, when the US imprisoned American citizens of Japanese descent, has this country experienced such a constitutional nadir. If the world is to fight this war on terror, morality must not be allowed to become collateral damage. The time is long past for the British government to demand Bisher’s and Jamil’s immediate return. Paradigms of innocent suffering, they will remain wraiths that hover above the political and moral landscape, constantly reminding us that the destinies of those who would wage just war and those against whom that war is waged are mingled.

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