How an Innocent Man Was Tortured Into Making False Confessions
Continued from previous page
After dealing with a few more ingenious but flawed claims by the government, it remained only for Judge Kollar-Kotelly to recap the whole sorry saga, and to deliver the final words to restore Fouad al-Rabiah’s liberty:
During the merits Hearing, the Government expressly relied on “Occam’s Razor,” a scientific and philosophic rule suggesting that the simplest of competing explanations is preferred to the more complex … The Government’s simple explanation for the evidence in this case is that al-Rabiah made confessions that the Court should accept as true. The simple response is that the Court does not accept confessions that even the Government’s own interrogators did not believe. The writ of habeas corpus shall issue.
Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling will, hopefully, be recalled in years to come as one of the most significant examples of a judge attempting to redress some of the most egregious injustices perpetrated in Guantánamo’s long, dark history. The shocking sub-text to this story is that al-Rabiah is not the only prisoner to have been brutalized into making false confessions, and then being required to repeat them. Ahmed al-Darbi, a Saudi put forward for a trial by Military Commission, made similar claims in a statement posted here, and, as I mentioned above, it is also clear that SERE-derived “enhanced interrogation techniques” were applied to at least 100 prisoners in Guantánamo between 2002 and 2004, above and beyond those like Mohammed al-Qahtani and Mohamedou Ould Slahi, whose stories are well-known. Many of these men -- all the Europeans, other Arabs who had the misfortune to speak good English or to have visited the United States -- have been released, their false confessions (like those made by the “Tipton Three” after months of abuse, before their lawyers proved one of them was working in a shop in England when he was supposedly videotaped at a training camp) filed away, used to justify their lifelong label as “enemy combatants,” but not leading, as with Fouad al-Rabiah, to a court appearance where the supposed evidence will ever be tested.
Al-Rabiah was fortunate to meet a judge with an inquiring and diligent mind, and an acute awareness of the many problems with the gathering and interpretation of information at Guantánamo, but others have not yet had an opportunity to do the same, and although further habeas petitions are forthcoming, and others are scheduled to face either trials by Military Commission or federal court trials, where similar patterns of false allegations followed by torture and false confessions may be detected, it troubles me that the 50 or so prisoners identified by officials last week as being candidates for indefinite detention -- described by the New York Times as those who “are a continuing danger to national security but who cannot be brought to trial for various reasons, like evidence tainted by harsh interrogations” -- may also have been caught up in a cynical cycle of false allegations, torture and false confessions.
As David Cynamon, one of Fouad al-Rabiah’s attorneys, explained to me in an email exchange:
To date, the debate about torture in the U.S. has been skewed by the fact that the admitted victims of torture are also admitted al-Qaeda leaders, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. This gives the Cheneys and Wall Street Journal types the argument that torture was justified to get valuable information from these hardened terrorists. I know this argument is wrong, but it's being made, with some effect. But what happens when you declare the Geneva Conventions “quaint,” and lift all limits, is that pretty quickly the abusive interrogation techniques are not being limited to the KSMs but are being applied to innocent prisoners like Fouad al-Rabiah, who have no valuable intelligence because they have no connection with al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Instead, they are tortured in support of a cynical and misguided dictum that there can be no innocent men in Guantánamo.