Two new cases of detainee abuse have surfaced at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, including one in which a U.S. military commander failed to properly investigate a prison guard who threw cleaning solvent on a terror suspect.
The guard threw the solvent on the prisoner in January and was demoted and reassigned in June, a month after Navy Inspector General Vice Adm. Albert T. Church visited the remote outpost to investigate claims of abuse. The guard’s commanding officer also was reprimanded, military officials said.
Another incident involved a guard who hit a detainee in October after the man allegedly spat on the guard and tried to bite him. The guard was demoted and reassigned the same month.
“We have a process in place to review all allegation reports. Each report that alleges mistreatment at Guantanamo is taken seriously,” said Army Lt. Col. Leon Sumpter, a spokesman.
The commander who mishandled the solvent incident was an Army captain and the highest known ranking officer to be disciplined in an abuse case at the outpost in eastern Cuba, Sumpter said. The company commander generally is in charge of more than 130 soldiers.
After the scandal at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq — where American soldiers were photographed abusing detainees — military officials at the U.S. Southern Command in Miami told The Associated Press there were three substantiated abuse cases at Guantanamo.
The military last week provided details of eight substantiated cases of abuse by personnel from prison guards to a barber. The information came nearly two months after the AP asked for details of cases described in an August report by James R. Schlesinger, who headed a U.S. congressional committee to investigate abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo.
Despite the previous request, the two new cases only surfaced Thursday.
Information dribbling out
“This problem won’t be solved by dribbling out bits of information over a period of months. The U.S. government needs to stop hiding behind closed doors and create an independent commission to look into all charges of abuse,” said Jumana Musa of Amnesty International, one of four observers who came to Guantanamo to observe motions hearings ahead of military commissions, or trials.
Other abuse allegations have been reported by detainees appearing before review tribunals evaluating their status as enemy combatants. An Afghan man testified Wednesday the Taliban killed members of his family and imprisoned members continued attacks in Guantanamo by beating him, spitting on him and throwing urine on him.
Abuse allegations are a core complaint in a habeas corpus petition filed Monday by attorneys for Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi of Sudan, an alleged paymaster for al-Qaida and accused associate of Osama bin Laden who is one of four people charged with conspiracy.
He alleges Guantanamo interrogators wrapped prisoners in an Israeli flag, showed them pornographic photos and forced them to be present while others had sex. Al Qosi’s lawyers did not say in which cases their client witnessed the abuse, who had sex in detainees’ presence or how many incidents were reported.
Allegation: 'Hell room'
Al Qosi’s petition in U.S. District Court in Washington is one of several challenges that could halt his trial, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 8.
Al Qosi’s lawyers said in their petition — one of more than 60 pending cases — that interrogations often occurred in an area detainees called the “Hell Room,” where pornographic pictures were displayed.
They said methods included “taunting detainees in sexually humiliating ways, including having sex in detainees’ presence or having female interrogators rub their bodies suggestively against detainees.”
Cases in the congressional report included a female interrogator who climbed onto a detainee’s lap and ran her fingers through his hair, and another detainee whose knees were bruised from being forced to kneel repeatedly.
The report followed Church’s visit in May, when he said he found conditions to be professional and humane but acknowledged that his visit was too short to investigate whether more abuses had occurred.
Church cited eight “minor infractions.” Four involved prison guards, three involved interrogators and one involved a barber, who it was later revealed gave detainees two reverse Mohawk-style haircuts. The perpetrators were demoted, reprimanded or sent for more training.