Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Sunday's Observer reported that a prisoner at Guantanamo has told a British lawyer that he was tortured by means of the "strappado" --

a technique common in Latin American dictatorships in which a prisoner is left suspended from a bar with handcuffs until they cut deeply into his wrists.

The reason, the prisoner says, was that he was caught reciting the Koran at a time when talking was banned.

Lovely. Now savor the Kafkaesque treatment of the lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, after his Guantanamo clients told him stories of torture (at both Gitmo and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan):

Under the rules the United States military has imposed for defence lawyers who visit Guantanamo, Stafford Smith has not been allowed to keep his notes of meetings with prisoners, and will not be able to read them again until they have been examined and de-classified by a government censor.

He cannot disclose in public anything the men have told him until it too has been been de-classified, on pain of likely imprisonment in the US.

Stafford Smith has drawn up a 30-page report on the tortures which [clients Moazzam] Begg and [Richard] Belmar say they have endured, and sent it as an annexe with a letter to the Prime Minister which Downing Street received shortly before Christmas. For the time being - possibly forever - the report cannot be published, because the Americans claim that the torture allegations amount to descriptions of classified interrogation methods.

Amazing. (Stafford Smith's letter to Tony Blair has been declassified, however.)

More Kafka:

Stafford Smith says in his letter to [the Foreign Office minister] Baroness Symons that Begg made a false written confession after being tortured in February 2003, when two agents who had abused him at Bagram - where Begg witnessed the deaths of two prisoners officially classed as homicide - came to Guantanamo. But neither he nor Stafford Smith have been allowed to see this statement, which apparently forms the main grounds for his continued incarceration. Stafford Smith asks the Foreign Office for help in obtaining a copy, and asks: 'What kind of civilised legal system does not allow the suspect to see his own statements? How can the prisoner's statement be said to be classified information when, if it were true, the prisoner would already know it?'

I don't know. Maybe Alberto Gonzales can explain.

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