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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

 
Consensus

by digby

The Red Cross dropped a bombshell yesterday:

The US airbase at Bagram in Afghanistan contains a facility for detainees that is distinct from its main prison, the Red Cross has confirmed to the BBC.

Nine former prisoners have told the BBC that they were held in a separate building, and subjected to abuse.

The US military says the main prison, now called the Detention Facility in Parwan, is the only detention facility on the base.

However, it has said it will look into the abuse allegations made to the BBC.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that since August 2009 US authorities have been notifying it of names of detained people in a separate structure at Bagram.

"The ICRC is being notified by the US authorities of detained people within 14 days of their arrest," a Red Cross spokesman said.

"This has been routine practice since August 2009 and is a development welcomed by the ICRC."

The spokesman was responding to a question from the BBC about the existence of the facility, referred to by many former prisoners as the Tor Jail, which translates as "black jail".


There have been reports of abuses in this separate prison and the military has subsequently denied the prison's existence. The military lied.

Jeffrey Kaye reports on the background to this story, here:
Last month, BBC reported on conditions at the main Parwan facility. The scenes as described were right out of the iconography of Guantanamo. Prisoners in handcuffs and leg shackles, "moved around in wheelchairs" with blackout goggles and headphones "to block out all sound." This was the treatment for a prison population that even the U.S. military admits is far and away not made up of serious terrorists. Meanwhile, the number held at Bagram has swelled to approximately 800 prisoners.

But we don’t know how many are in the other, "the Black Hole." We don’t know because the U.S. still insists that no second prison exists. Prisoners held at Tor, according to investigations by BBC, are tossed into cold concrete cells, where the light is kept on 24 hours. Noise machines fill their cells with constant sound, and prisoners are sleep deprived as a matter of policy, with each cell monitored by a camera, so the authorities will know when someone is falling asleep and come to wake them.

Prisoners are beaten and abused. According to BBC’s article last month, one prisoner was "made to dance to music by American soldiers every time he wanted to use the toilet."

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times reported late last year on conditions at the black-site prison, believed to be run by U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Each of these reports noted that prisoners were subjected to abuse. One prisoner, a 42-year-old farmer named Hamidullah told the New York Times about his stay in the Tor prison, June through October 2009:

I can’t remember the number of days I spent there because it’s hard to tell days from nights in the black jail, but I think every day they came twice to ask questions.

They took me to their own room to ask the questions. They beat up other people in the black jail, but not me. But the problem was that they didn’t let me sleep. There was shouting noise so you couldn’t sleep….

The black jail was the most dangerous and fearful place. It is a place where everybody is afraid. In the black jail, they can do anything to detainees.

Together with the BBC investigation and the ICRC confirmation, we can see that the military is lying through their teeth when they claim there is no second Bagram facility, or that no abuse takes place at Bagram. (For more on Bagram and the issue of indefinite detention, see this recent diary by Jim White.)

The United States is still torturing. Oh sure, they probably aren't waterboarding. But then, waterboarding was never the only form of torture that was used.

I've held off on this issue because of the unequivocal denial by the military that the prison existed and I was willing to give the new administration the benefit of the doubt. Now that the Red Cross has confirmed that the prison does exist, we know for sure that the military was lying --- and the benefit of the doubt goes to the former prisoners.
I should have known better. Any administration which declares that it has the right to unilaterally order American citizens to be assassinated obviously isn't going to be squeamish about a little torture, is it?



*For those who may not have followed the torture saga fully, the Red Cross being made aware does not mean there was no torture. In order to keep its access to the prisons, the Red Cross keeps all its visits confidential, even when it requires that they keep abuse and torture secret.



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