Rumsfeld Linked to
NEW YORK - A leading
international human rights group is calling for the Bush administration to
appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the alleged involvement of
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials in
the torture of a prisoner at Guanatanamo Bay some three years ago.
Rumsfeld could be
criminally liable under federal or military law for the abuse and torture
of detainee Mohammad al-Qahtani in late 2002 and early 2003, the New
York-based Human Rights Watch said this week as some Democratic lawmakers
demanded that Rumsfeld step down as Pentagon chief.
The rights group's demand
comes in light of findings by a major Internet publication that indicate
Rumsfeld might have been fully aware of the abuses inflicted on al-Qahtani,
a prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay on terrorism charges.
Last week, a military
report obtained by Salon.com included a statement by Lt. Gen. Randall
Schmidt that raises serious questions about the conduct of the Pentagon
chief and other officials concerning al-Qahtani's interrogation. In the
report, Gen. Schmidt says Rumsfeld was "talking weekly" with Gen. Geoffrey
Miller, a senior commander at
in early 2003, about the al-Qahtani interrogation, and that he was
"personally involved in the interrogation of (this) one person."
Schmidt's statement also
signals that Rumsfeld maintained a high level of knowledge of and
supervision over al-Qahtani's treatment, although he did not specifically
order more abusive methods used in the interrogation.
Al-Qahtani, who is
suspected of being a "20th hijacker" in connection with the September 11
attacks, was denied entry to the United States in August 2001. He is seen
by the military as an "al-Qaeda terrorist," who provided a "treasure
trove" of information during his interrogation.
The Pentagon admits that
al-Qahtani's interrogation was systematic and well-planned. "(His)
interrogation was guided by a very detailed plan, conducted by trained
professionals in a controlled environment, and with active supervision and
oversight," Jeffery Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, told Salon.com in an
"Nothing was done
randomly," he said about al-Qahtani's interrogation.
Human Rights Watch says it
has obtained an unedited copy of al-Qahtani's interrogation log, which
suggests that the techniques used on him during the interrogation were "so
abusive that they amounted to torture."
The log reveals that al-Qahtani
was subjected to various methods of physical and mental mistreatment from
mid-November 2002 to early January 2003. For six weeks, he was deprived of
sleep, forced into painful physical positions, and subjected to forced
exercises, standing, and sexual humiliation.
Al-Qahtani was forced to
accept an intravenous drip for hydration and on several occasions was
refused trips to the latrine so that he urinated on himself at least
twice, according to the log, which also reveals that the prisoner was
forced to undergo an enema.
"A six-week regime of
sleep deprivation, forced exercises, stress positions, white noise, and
sexual humiliation amounts to acts that were specifically intended to
cause severe physical pain and suffering and mental pain," said Joanne
Mariner, HRW's director of terrorism and counter terrorism.
"That's the legal
definition of torture," she added.
Last year, the Judge
Advocate General of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps also made
similar observations on the al-Qahtani case. He told the Senate Committee
on Armed Services that the interrogation techniques used on al-Qahtani
violated the U.S. Army Field Manuel on Intelligence Interrogation.
For its part, the U.S.
State Department considers such techniques to be torture and has condemned
their use in other countries such as Iran and North Korea in its annual
Country Reports on Human Rights.
In a February report,
United Nations investigators on torture called on the U.S. government to
close down Guantanamo and "refrain from any practice amounting to torture,
or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."
In response, Washington
slammed the UN report, noting that the UN experts had declined an
invitation to visit Guantanamo because they would not be allowed to
Independent legal experts
say Rumsfeld could be liable under the doctrine of "command
responsibility," the legal principle that holds a superior responsible for
crimes committed by his subordinates when he knew or should have known
that they were being committed but failed to take responsible steps to
Human Rights Watch's
Mariner says a special prosecutor is needed because Attorney General
Alberto Gonzales was himself "deeply involved" in the policies leading to
the abuse of prisoners, a conflict of interest that is likely to prevent a
"The question at this
point is not whether Rumsfeld should resign," said Joanne Mariner, "it's
whether he should be indicted. A special prosecutor should look carefully
at what abuses Rumsfeld either knew of or condoned."
The Pentagon admits that
in December 2002, Rumsfeld approved 16 interrogation techniques for al-Qahtani
and other prisoners, including the use of forced nudity, stress positions,
and "using detainees' individual phobia (such as using dogs)."
However, the military has
refused to release the full version of Gen. Schmidt's report on abuses,
according to Mariner and others who note with dismay that in July last
year Gen. Bantz Craddock dismissed claims that the al-Qahtani
interrogation violated military laws. Posted by Bulatlat
© 2006 Bulatlat
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