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Ameziane: IACHR Petition and Request for Precautionary Measures

Inter-American Commission for Human Rights
DJAMEL AMEZIANE vs. UNITED STATES
Petition and Request for Precautionary Measures

EXTRACT, pp. 21-29


C. Torture and other Inhumane Treatment

46. Mr. Ameziane has suffered torture and other inhumane treatment in the custody of the United States at Kandahar and Guantánamo, which he has recorded in letters to his attorneys. In one letter, Mr. Ameziane describes the brutality of his treatment at Kandahar, where he was transferred by U.S. authorities in January 2002 and held for more than a month.87 Upon his arrival, Mr. Ameziane describes how soldiers punched, kicked and pushed him to the ground, pinned him down with their knees in his back, and slammed his head against the ground.88 He and other prisoners were subjected to abusive searches each day and night, and soldiers would sometimes come armed with working dogs. When prisoners were moved to different sections of the camp, soldiers would take them outside and order them to kneel with their hands on their heads facing a barbed-wire fence, on the other side of which a dozen armed soldiers would stand with rifles aimed, yelling things like “kill him! kill him!” to the soldiers handling the prisoners. The soldiers would then push the prisoners flat on the ground on their stomachs and bring barking dogs close to their heads while they shackled the men’s hands and ankles. Mr. Ameziane remembers the dogs being so close that he could feel their breath on the side of his face. The prisoners would then be ordered to get up and walk for dozens of meters on bare feet and in shackles until they reached their destination.

47. From Kandahar, Mr. Ameziane was transferred to Guantánamo, arriving on or around February 11, 2002. For the duration of his 15-hour journey, Mr. Ameziane was hooded, shackled and chained to the floor of the plane, and forbidden from speaking. Upon his arrival at Guantánamo, he was put a bus and transported to Camp X-Ray, during which he was once again chained to the floor of the bus and forbidden from speaking or making the slightest movement. When his body swayed to the bus bumping along the road, soldiers struck him repeatedly on the back and head.

48. At Camp X-Ray, where Mr. Ameziane was detained for his first two and a half months at Guantánamo, from February to April 2002, he was held in a 6-feet-by-6-feet wire mesh cell, with a cement floor and a make-shift roof of metal sheets. In a letter to his attorneys, Mr. Ameziane described how guards would gratuitously yell obscenities and insults at him every time they walked by his cell or gave him an order, often for no reason other, for example, than to demand that he arrange his basic personal items in a certain order. Mr. Ameziane described the abusiveness and cruel absurdity of the situation:

I had to put the buckets, the tube of toothpaste, the toothbrush, the flask, the bar of soap, and the ‘flip-flop’ sandals on the side of the cage where the door is. A guard asks me to place these articles in a row in a certain order. A few minutes later, another guard comes by and yells at me to put the toothbrush to the right of the toothpaste, the flask to the left of the soap bar. Later, another guard yells again for me to place the toothbrush to the left of the toothpaste; the flask to the right of the soap bar and so on; several times per day and often waking me in the middle of the night to scream at me and tell me to move, for instance, the toothbrush to the left of the toothpaste. … things that I am not sure we should laugh or cry about.89

49. Prisoners who replied to the guards’ insults or defied their orders were visited by the “Immediate Reaction Force team” (“IRF team”) and punished.90 Mr. Ameziane witnessed these teams beat prisoners and chain them up in painful positions for several hours at a time, for example, with their hands and feet cuffed together behind their back in such a way that their legs remained flexed.91

50. Mr. Ameziane has been moved between different blocks and camps since Camp X-ray. Several times for stretches of up to one month, he was held in solitary confinement in Camp I, where he was put in a cold steel cell with a steel bed and a rusted floor, with no article of clothing or warmth other than a shirt, a pair of pants and flip flops, and where guards would prevent him from sleeping by making loud noise at night.92 For a period of about six months in 2006, for no infraction, Mr. Ameziane was transferred to the “Romeo” block of Camp 3 and the “Mike” block of Camp 2, which the military reserved for detainees who were perceived to be uncooperative. He was given only a thin mat on which to sleep, a pair of pants, a smock, and a pair of flip-flops, and a sheet that was handed to him at 10 p.m. and taken away at 5 a.m.93 At night, guards would wake him each quarter or half hour by kicking on the wall or the door of his cell and yelling, “Wake up!”94 When he was taken out of his cell shackled and chained each day to go to the “recreation yard,” he was forbidden from speaking with other prisoners or moving his eyes left and right as he was escorted to the yard. Sometimes, when his eyes would shift slightly to the side, his escort guards would brutally shove him against the wall, slamming his head against the wall with such force once that blood came out of his nose and mouth.95

51. In another violent incident, guards entered his cell and forced him to the floor, kneeing him in the back and ribs and slamming his head against the floor, turning it left and right. The bashing dislocated Mr. Ameziane’s jaw, from which he still suffers. In the same episode, guards sprayed cayenne pepper all over his body and then hosed him down with water to accentuate the effect of the pepper spray and make his skin burn. They then held his head back and placed a water hose between his nose and mouth, running it for several minutes over his face and suffocating him, an operation they repeated several times. Mr. Ameziane writes, “I had the impression that my head was sinking in water. I still have psychological injuries, up to this day. Simply thinking of it gives me the chills.”96 Following his waterboarding, he was taken to an interrogation room, where his feet were chained to a metal ring fixed to the floor and he was left writhing in pain and shivering under the cold air of the air conditioner, his clothes soaked and his body burning from the effect of the pepper spray.97

52. Mr. Ameziane has also been subjected to many harsh interrogations. He was once kept inside an interrogation room for over 25 hours and allowed out only once for half an hour. Another time, he was kept in an interrogation room for over 30 hours with loud techno music blasting, “enough to burst your eardrums.”98

53. Since the beginning of January 2008, Mr. Ameziane has had late night interrogation sessions with an interrogator he identifies as “Antonio,” who chain smokes for the duration of their two-hour sessions, blows smoke in Mr. Ameziane’s face, yells obscenities and taunts him, and has threatened him with the use of “other” harsher methods. Before these sessions begin, Mr. Ameziane sits bound to a chair waiting for up to an hour, with his feet shackled to the floor and his wrists cuffed so tightly that his hands are left swollen and discolored. He is left shackled and cuffed in the interrogation room for up to another hour after these sessions end waiting to be returned to his isolation cell, making these interrogations an abusive four-hour ordeal. While Mr. Ameziane’s attorneys made a formal complaint in February to the military about Antonio’s conduct, the sessions and the abuse have continued.

D. Camp VI Conditions

54. According to the most recent unclassified version of attorney-client meeting notes from visits to Mr. Ameziane at Guantánamo,99 Mr. Ameziane is being held in solitary confinement in Camp VI, one of the harshest facilities at the prison.100 He says his interrogators used to threaten him with being moved to Camp VI as punishment for refusing to speak to them. He was finally transferred there in March 2007.

55. Mr. Ameziane is detained in a windowless 6-feet-by-12-feet concrete and steel cell, with a solid steel door and no openings for natural light or air.101 The only openings are a metal food slot and three narrow “windows” that all face the interior of the prison and serve only to allow prison guards to look in and keep watch. The temperature inside his cell is extremely cold, so much so that he describes even the air as a “tool of torture.”

56. The only staple items Camp VI prisoners are permitted in their cells are a thin mat on which to sleep, a pair of pants, a shirt, and a pair of flip flops. All other items – things like a toothbrush, toothpaste, a Styrofoam cup, and a towel – are considered “comfort items” and can be taken away for any infraction. Mr. Ameziane writes, “I would even venture that if they could confiscate the air we breathe, it would be counted as a [Comfort Item].”

57. The only time Mr. Ameziane is allowed outside is for a two-hour break for “recreation,” but even then, he is surrounded by solid walls two stories high that block the sun and wire mesh stretched across the top that obstructs his view of the sky.102 The recreation area itself is partitioned by fencing into small 4-meters-by-3-meters areas, which Mr. Ameziane likens to a kennel. Until recently, each detainee spent his recreation time by himself in one of these “kennels,” although two prisoners are now allowed in the same area.

58. When Mr. Ameziane’s attorneys visited him in October 2007, they were allowed to meet with him outside in a large yard adjacent to the prison. He commented that the meeting was one of the few times in his then eight months at Camp VI that he had been in the yard and allowed an unobstructed view of the sky.

E. Denial of Adequate Medical Care

59. Because Mr. Ameziane spends nearly all of his time staring at the walls of his small cell in Camp VI, his vision is steadily deteriorating. He has made repeated requests for an eye exam and eyeglasses, which were ignored for almost a year. The glasses he did finally receive are the wrong prescription and he cannot wear them for more than half an hour without getting a headache. Because of the extremely cold temperatures in Camp VI, he also suffers from rheumatism in his legs, for which his requests for care have been denied as well.

60. Mr. Ameziane has also felt pain in an area on the side of his head for almost a year. After a doctor at the prison gave him a cursory examination and told him there was nothing the matter, Mr. Ameziane asked how he could be sure without conducting further tests. The doctor replied, “I am the test.” He told Mr. Ameziane that there was nothing further he could do and left the room.103

61. The medical treatment Mr. Ameziane has received at Guantánamo has not only been inadequate and negligent, but also abusive. On one occasion, Mr. Ameziane went into convulsions in his cell, where guards left him writhing on the floor for hours before taking him to the infirmary. The attending doctor inserted a serum in Mr. Ameziane’s arm, but asked one of the soldiers standing watch to assist him by inserting a syringe needle into Mr. Ameziane’s vein. With Mr. Ameziane lying prostrate and cuffed to the examination table, the guard stuck the needle into his forearm, which began spurting blood. The doctor and the guards laughed while Mr. Ameziane lay chained to the table.

62. Mr. Ameziane’s health care needs have also been used as a tool to coerce him into cooperating with interrogators. For months, Mr. Ameziane has been requesting a pair of socks from the infirmary to help with rheumatism he suffers in his feet and legs. Recently, when Mr. Ameziane asked the medical military staff once again for the socks, he was told, “‘the medical’ no longer supplies socks. You have to ask your interrogator for that.”

F. Religious Abuse

63. Mr. Ameziane has been subjected to various offensive and intentionally disruptive acts with respect to his Islamic beliefs and practices both at Guantánamo and Kandahar. He describes one occasion when during dawn prayer, a guard began howling like a dog in imitation of the ritual Muslim call to prayer. When Mr. Ameziane asked the guard why he was imitating the call, the guard came over to his cell and threw water in his face. A few minutes later, Mr. Ameziane was taken to solitary confinement, where he was held for five days. He was told it was punishment for throwing water at the guard.

64. During his time in the “Romeo” and “Mike” blocks in Camps 2 and 3, Mr. Ameziane suffered routine abuse and disruptions. Guards would yell insults and obscenities at him while he prayed and sometimes throw stones at the metal grill window of his cell.

65. Now in Camp VI, his conditions of isolation create a structural interference with his religious practice. Since he and his fellow prisoners can only pray in their separate, individual cells, they cannot see or hear their prayer leader well enough to pray communally as they would otherwise.

66. Mr. Ameziane has also witnessed acts of abuse against his fellow detainees. He has seen prisoners punished by having their eyelids and eyebrows, beards, mustaches, and hair completely shaved,104 or the shape of a cross or a soccer ball shaved on their heads. He has also described incidents where soldiers have desecrated prisoners’ Qur’ans, for example, by spraying water on them, trampling on them, or scrawling obscenities into them.

67. At Kandahar, Mr. Ameziane has told of similar desecration of the Qur’an during guards’ daily searches of prisoners’ cells, for example, by throwing the holy books on the ground, stepping on them, or ripping their pages and throwing them away. On one particular occasion, a soldier brandished a Qur’an in his hand for all the prisoners in the vicinity to see, and then plunged it into a tank full of excrement into which prisoners’ toilet buckets had been emptied. Following this incident, the prisoners decided to return their Qur’ans to the camp authorities so as to prevent further abuse, but the authorities refused to take them back.

Notes


87. Letter from Djamel Ameziane to Wells Dixon, Nov. 6, 2007 (unclassified). Letters from Mr. Ameziane to his attorneys are on file with the Center for Constitutional Rights and can be made available to the Commission on a confidential basis if necessary.

88. Id.

89. Letter from Djamel Ameziane to Pardiss Kebriaei, May 2008 (unclassified) (on file with CCR).

90. Comparable to a riot squad, the IRF functions as a disciplinary force within the camps. Military police rotate on and off IRF duty and carry Plexiglas shields and frequently use tear gas or pepper spray. Guantánamo prisoners are frequently “IRF’d” as punishment. See CCR, Report on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment of Prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, at 21 (July 2006).

91. Letter from Djamel Ameziane to Pardiss Kebriaei, May 2008 (unclassified).

92. Letter from Djamel Ameziane to Wells Dixon, Mar. 17, 2008 (unclassified) (on file with CCR).

93. Letter from Djamel Ameziane to Wells Dixon, Nov. 6, 2007 (unclassified).

94. Id.

95. Id.

96. Letter from Djamel Ameziane to Wells Dixon, Mar. 17, 2008 (unclassified).

97. Id.

98. Id.

99. The most recent meetings between Mr. Ameziane and his attorneys from which unclassified information is available took place on June 10-11, 2008 at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

100. See Human Rights Watch Report, supra note 3.

101. See id.

102. See id. at 12.

103. Letter from Djamel Ameziane to Wells Dixon, Apr. 4, 2008 (unclassified) (on file with CCR).

104. This level of shaving apparently no longer occurs, but Mr. Ameziane says detainees’ beards are sometimes still closely shaved, leaving only about one centimeter of hair.

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