News / Middle East

    Rights Group Alleges More Waterboarding By US

    Protesters perform a simulation of the waterboarding torture technique on a man dressed as a prisoner during a protest, marking the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, in front of the White House in Washington, March 19, 2008.
    Protesters perform a simulation of the waterboarding torture technique on a man dressed as a prisoner during a protest, marking the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, in front of the White House in Washington, March 19, 2008.
    A human rights group says it has uncovered new evidence that U.S. personnel used torture, including waterboarding, while interrogating Libyan Islamists during the Bush administration.

    The report released Thursday by the New York-based Human Rights Watch features interviews with 14 Libyan dissidents captured and detained in foreign countries, including Afghanistan.  HRW located the Islamists after the rights group found abandoned documents about several detentions in the office of former Libyan intelligence chief Musa Kusa in September of last year.

    Laura Pittner, the author of the HRW report, told VOA by telephone that the Islamists were tortured before American agents handed them over to then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.  

    "The U.S. failed to distinguish between those Islamists who were at war with the U.S. and those who were at war with their own repressive regimes," Pitter said.

    Waterboarding allegations

    Two of the detainees featured in the report, "Delivered in Enemy Hands: US-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gadhafi's Libya," told the group they were either waterboarded or tortured by a technique similar to waterboarding, which caused them to feel like they were drowning.

    Alleged victim Mohammed al-Shoroeiya described the waterboarding he said he endured in an on-camera interview with Human Rights Watch.

    "It flips around and you get disoriented," al-Shoroeiya said.  "Your head is down.  Your feet are up. They start to pour water to the point that you feel you are suffocating."

    "It's like a mock execution," Pitter said.

    The Bush administration claimed that only three terror suspects in U.S. custody - accused al-Qaida members Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri - had been waterboarded. None of these are Libyan.

    Pitter's report casts doubt on these claims, but CIA spokesman John Tomczyk defended the agency's treatment of detainees during that time period.

    "Although we cannot comment on these specific allegations, the Department of Justice has exhaustively reviewed the treatment of more than 100 detainees in the post-9/11 period - including allegations involving unauthorized interrogation techniques - and it declined prosecution in every case,” he told VOA.

    The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has condemned waterboarding as torture and banned the technique's use in interrogations.

    US-Gadhafi cooperation

    Human Rights Watch also says that the "scores" of documents it uncovered in Libya show there was a "high level of cooperation" between the Gadhafi government in Libya and the United States and Britain in sending the Libyan dissidents back to Libya.

    Pitter said the need to "recognize where mistakes happened" and "make clear that it isn't going to happen again" is in the interest of U.S. national security.

    "You're not supposed to return people to places where there's a known risk of torture, and it was very clear at that time that Gadhafi's record on torture was horrific," she said, citing international law that requires hearings to determine the risk of torture before captives can be extradited.

    Tomczyk noted that the context during that time is "worth revisiting."  He said that by 2004, the U.S. government had convinced Gadhafi to renounce Libya's weapons of mass destruction programs and to help stop terrorists who were actively targeting Americans.

    “It can't come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats," he said.  "That is exactly what we are expected to do.”

    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her bylines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Korea, Japan and Egypt.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: PJW5552 from: Kentucky
    September 06, 2012 3:36 PM
    Water boarding is "torture". Just because some people think they can do whatever they like to other people doesn't change that fact. There is no "evidence" torture actually works or is more valuable than standard interrogation methods. The point is, torture is unnecessary, inhumane and illegal and those responsible should be prosecuted. It isn't about who they are, it is about who "we are".

    by: Briny from: USA
    September 06, 2012 12:31 PM
    How wise of the VOA to feature the virulent anti-American propaganda produced by the leftists of HRW. Nothing like open self-abasement to convince the world that we really believe the sensitivites of monsters must be protected at all times. No doubt it will garner their profound amusement.

    by: Joe Potosky from: NY
    September 06, 2012 12:11 PM
    Give me a breakl! Bush captured bad guys and used water boarding. Information given save lives and they lived with no physical injuries. Obama doesn't want captives and kills the bad guys and anyone in there vicinity using drones. If a bad guy, do I want the water board option or the drone option?
    In Response

    by: Ed Moore from: TX
    September 06, 2012 11:41 PM
    Great point.

    by: spiris333 from: 24343
    September 06, 2012 11:32 AM
    I fully support the use of water boarding when dealing with terrorists who wish to kill Americans. Bleeding heart liberals consistently jeopardize lives with their lack of common sense.
    In Response

    by: zengardener from: US
    September 06, 2012 11:33 PM
    Why stop at terrorists?

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