Detainee tells rights panel
of abuse at Guantanamo

Jocelyn Gecker
16 December 2004

Jamal al-Harith
Are you getting the picture?

Paris: A Briton released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay told Europe's top human rights body Friday he had been beaten, shackled, kept in a cramped cage and fed rotten food as part of "systematic abuse" in American custody.

Jamal al-Harith's testimony before a Council of Europe panel came as part of an inquiry by the body into alleged human rights abuses at the U.S. detention facility to be made public in a report due out early next year.

Detained in Afghanistan in October 2001, al-Harith maintains he had traveled to the region to attend a religious retreat in Pakistan. The 37-year-old Web site designer and father of three lives in Manchester, England.

Reading from a 10-page statement, he described his two-year detention at Guantanamo Bay as a period of continual mistreatment that ranged from humiliation and 15-hour interrogations to physical abuse that he says left scars.

At one point, al-Harith said, he refused to take an unidentified injection and was chained up and attacked by five men wearing helmets, body armor and shields.

"They jumped on my legs and back, and they kicked and punched me," he said. "Then, I was put in isolation for a month."

Al-Harith said he had been kept mostly in a wire cage and given food marked "10 to 12 years beyond their usable date" as well as "black and rotten" fruit. Sometimes, unmuzzled dogs were brought to the cage and encouraged to bark, he said.

He and three other Britons -- none of whom was charged with any offenses -- were released in March and have filed a lawsuit in a U.S. court seeking $10 million each in damages. They maintain they were innocents caught up in the American war on terrorism. They were denied access to lawyers, as are most prisoners in Guantanamo. When al-Harith and the others filed their lawsuits in October, the Pentagon denied the abuse allegations.

Robert Lizar, al-Harith's attorney, urged the panel to use strong language in its report and to condemn U.S. behavior at Guantanamo that he called "totally shocking and unacceptable from international norms."

Reprinted from the San Francisco Chronicle 16 December 2004.

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