Little Known Military Thug Squad Still Brutalizing Prisoners at Gitmo Under Obama
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"This was just one typical incident, and Baker was recognizable as an American," says Horton. "But it gives a good flavor of what the Gitmo detainees went through, which was generally worse."
IRF-ing Continues Under Obama
On Jan. 7, 2009, a prisoner named Yasin Ismael threw a shoe in frustration at the inside of a cage to which he had been confined. The guards accused Ismael of attacking them and called in an IRF team.
According to his attorneys, "The team shackled him, and he put up no resistance. They then beat him. They blocked his nose and mouth until he felt that he would suffocate and hit him repeatedly in the ribs and head. They then took him back to his cell. As he was being taken back, a guard urinated on his head. Mr. Ismael was badly injured, and his ear started to bleed, leaving a large stain on his pillow."
Less than two weeks later, on Jan. 22, newly inaugurated President Obama issued an executive order requiring the closure of Guantánamo within a year and also ordered a review of the status of the prisoners held there, requiring "humane standards of confinement" in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
But one month later, the Center for Constitutional Rights released a report titled "Conditions of Confinement at Guantánamo: Still In Violation of the Law," which found that abuses continued. In fact, one Guantanamo lawyer, Ahmed Ghappour, said that his clients were reporting "a ramping up in abuse" since Obama was elected, including "beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-force feeding detainees who are on hunger strike," according to Reuters.
"Certainly in my experience there have been many, many more reported incidents of abuse since the inauguration," Ghappour said.
While the dominant media coverage of the U.S. torture apparatus has portrayed these tactics as part of a "Bush era" system that Obama has now ended, when it comes to the IRF teams, that is simply not true. "[D]etainees live in constant fear of physical violence. Frequent attacks by IRF teams heighten this anxiety and reinforce that violence can be inflicted by the guards at any moment for any perceived infraction, or sometimes without provocation or explanation," according to CCR.
In early February 2009, at least 16 men were on hunger strike at Guantanamo's Camp 6 and refused to leave their cells for "force feeding." IRF teams violently extracted them from their cells with the "men being dragged, beaten and stepped on, and their arms and fingers twisted painfully." Tubes were then forced down their noses, which one prisoner described as "torture, torture, torture."
In April, Mohammad al-Qurani, a 21-year-old Guantánamo prisoner from Chad managed to call Al-Jazeera and described a recent beating: "This treatment started about 20 days before Obama came into power, and since then I've been subjected to it almost every day," he said. "Since Obama took charge, he has not shown us that anything will change."
Describing a specific incident, which took place after change in the U.S. administration, al-Qurani said he had refused to leave his cell because they were "not granting me my rights," such as being able to walk around, interact with other inmates and have "normal food."
A group of six soldiers wearing protective gear and helmets entered his cell, accompanied by one soldier carrying a camera and one with tear gas, he said.
"They had a thick rubber or plastic baton they beat me with. They emptied out about two canisters of tear gas on me," he told Al-Jazeera.
"After I stopped talking, and tears were flowing from my eyes, I could hardly see or breathe.
"They then beat me again to the ground, one of them held my head and beat it against the ground. I started screaming to his senior 'see what he's doing, see what he's doing' [but] his senior started laughing and said 'he's doing his job.'"
In another incident after Obama's inauguration, prisoner Khan Tumani began smearing excrement on the walls of his cell to protest his treatment. According to his lawyer, when he "did not clean up the excrement, a large IRF team of 10 guards was ordered to his cell and beat him severely. The guards sprayed so much tear gas or other noxious substance after the beating that it made at least one of the guards vomit. Mr. Khan Tumani's skin was still red and burning from the gas days later."