My Hell In Camp X-Ray

London Mirror | March 12 2004

A BRITISH captive freed from Guantanamo Bay today tells the world of its full horror - and reveals how prostitutes were taken into the camp to degrade Muslim inmates.

Jamal al-Harith, 37, who arrived home three days ago after two years of confinement, is the first detainee to lift the lid on the US regime in Cuba's Camp X-Ray and Camp Delta.

The father-of-three, from Manchester, told how he was assaulted with fists, feet and batons after refusing a mystery injection.

He said detainees were shackled for up to 15 hours at a time in hand and leg cuffs with metal links which cut into the skin.

Their "cells" were wire cages with concrete floors and open to the elements - giving no privacy or protection from the rats, snakes and scorpions loose around the American base.

He claims punishment beatings were handed out by guards known as the Extreme Reaction Force. They waded into inmates in full riot-gear, raining blows on them.

Prisoners faced psychological torture and mind-games in attempts to make them confess to acts they had never committed. Even petty breaches of rules brought severe punishment.

Medical treatment was sparse and brutal and amputations of limbs were more drastic than required, claimed Jamal.

A diet of foul water and food up to 10 years out-of-date left inmates malnourished.

But Jamal's most shocking disclosure centred on the use of vice girls to torment the most religiously devout detainees.

Prisoners who had never seen an "unveiled" woman before would be forced to watch as the hookers touched their own naked bodies.

The men would return distraught. One said an American girl had smeared menstrual blood across his face in an act of humiliation.

Jamal said: "I knew of this happening about 10 times. It always seemed to be those who were very young or known to be particularly religious who would be taken away.

"I would joke with the other British lads, 'Bring them to us - we'll have them'. It made us laugh. But the Americans obviously knew we wouldn't be shocked by seeing Western women, so they didn't bother.

"It was a profoundly disturbing experience for these men. They would refuse to speak about what had happened. It would take perhaps four weeks for them to tell a friend - and we would shout it out around the whole block."

Jamal added: "The whole point of Guantanamo was to get to you psychologically. The beatings were not as nearly as bad as the psychological torture - bruises heal after a week - but the other stuff stays with you."

HE was talking from a secret location after being reunited with his family. The website designer, a convert to Islam, had gone to Pakistan in October 2001, a few weeks after September 11, to study Muslim culture.

He accidentally strayed into Afghanistan - believing he was being driven to Turkey - and was arrested as a spy, perhaps because of his British passport. He was held in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and fell into US hands.

Now Jamal bears the scars of Guantanamo. He stoops into a hunch as he walks because the shackles that bound him were too short.

As a punishment, inmates would be confined so tightly they would be forced to lie in a ball for hours. During lengthy interrogation, they would be tethered to a metal ring on the floor.

Jamal said: "Sometimes you would be chained up on the floor with your hands and feet actually bound together. One of my friends told me he was kept like that for 15 hours once.

"Recreation meant your legs were untied and you walked up and down a strip of gravel. In Camp X-Ray you only got five minutes but in Delta you walked for around 15 minutes."

Jamal said victims of the Extreme Reaction Force were paraded in front of cells. "It was a horrible sight and it was a frequent sight."

He said one unit used force-feeding to end a hunger strike by 70 per cent of the 600 inmates. The strike started after a guard deliberately kicked a copy of the Koran.

Rice and beans was the usual diet and the water was "filthy". Jamal added: "In Camp X-Ray it was yellow and in Delta it was black - the colour of Coca-Cola.

"We had it piped through with a tap in each 'cage' but they would often turn the water off as punishment.

"They would shut off the water before prayers so we couldn't wash ourselves according to our religion.

"The food was terrible as well, up to 10 years out-of-date. They would open a hatch and shove it through a section at a time.

"We had porridge and something they called 'like-milk', which was disgusting and 'like-tea' and a piece of fruit. The fruit had been frozen and pounded with chemicals. An apple might look red but there was waxy white stuff all over it and inside it would be black and brown.

"They would play tricks on people by denying them things - you might be the only person on your block who didn't get any bread. I prided myself on never asking them for anything. I would not beg." Jamal said they were told they had no rights. "They actually said that - 'You have no rights here'. After a while, we stopped asking for human rights - we wanted animal rights. In Camp X-Ray my cage was right next to a kennel housing an Alsatian dog.

"He had a wooden house with air conditioning and green grass to exercise on. I said to the guards, 'I want his rights' and they replied, 'That dog is member of the US army'.

"You would be punished for anything - for having six packets of salt in your cell rather than five, for hanging your towel through the cage if it wasn't wet, even for having your spoon and things lined up in the wrong order."

Being forced to use a bucket as a toilet in view of other inmates and guards was particularly embarrassing. Jamal said: "I never got used to it - we would all put our towels and clothes around us.

"But the Military Police up in the tower would see us and would shout to each other.

"We were only allowed a shower once a week at the beginning and none at all in solitary confinement.

"This was very tough because you are supposed to be clean when you pray.

"Gradually the number of showers rose to three a week. They were always cold.

"You would be chained by two MPs while you were still in the cage before being taken off for what they called 'rec and shower'.

"You could sometimes see the guards tampering with the shower heads to make water squirt all over the inmate's clothes if he had put them up to protect his privacy."

Inmates were issued with "comfort items" - known as CIs - like shampoo, towels, a washcloth and boxer shorts. CIs would be removed as a punishment.

Jamal defiantly refused "treats", such as watching a James Bond film in a room dubbed The Love Shack by inmates.

He added: "Some people were given pizzas, ice-cream and McDonald's, but they didn't offer them to me. I guess they knew bribery would work with some and not with others."

To pass the time, inmates would chat to each other, pray, read the Koran and sing Islamic songs. In Camp X-Ray, they were given Mills and Boon-style romance novels in Arabic, which they refused to read.

Describing medical treatment, Jamal said he knew of 11 men who had legs amputated and two who lost toes and fingers. He was told that the Americans had removed far more tissue than was necessary.

HE added: "The man in the cell next to me had frostbite in two fingers and two toes. He also had it in his big toe, but they didn't treat that for a year by which time they had to cut off much more than was needed.

"All the men who had lost limbs complained they would chop them off high up and not bother to try to save as much as possible."

Jamal added that he didn't have close friends in Guantanamo, saying: "When I did meet the other Brits, we would reminisce about home - particularly the food.

"We were all obsessed with Scottish Highland Shortbread - we wanted some so much.

"One of the Brits told me he was asked why he was a Muslim, because he ought to be praying to the Queen."

Jamal, who is divorced with daughters aged three and eight and a son of five, is convinced his refusal to succumb to mind-games gave him the will to come through.

He said: "It was very, very hard at times, but I tried to think about nothing but survival.

"I kept my thoughts from home as much as possible because it would drive me crazy.

"About a year into my time, I had a dream. A voice said, 'You will here for two years'.

"In my dream I said, 'Two years! You're joking'. But when I woke up, I was calmer because at least that meant I would be getting out one day.

"I was sent to Guantanamo on February 11, 2002 and left on March 9, 2004, so I was there for just over two years, just like the voice in the dream said."

 
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