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ICRC: Analysis

1. Physical Abuse


(RC1) The International Committee of the Red Cross has charged in confidential reports to the United States government that the American military has intentionally used psychological and sometimes physical coercion “tantamount to torture” on prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The finding that the handling of prisoners detained and interrogated at Guantánamo amounted to torture came after a visit by a Red Cross inspection team that spent most of last June [2004] in Guantánamo (New York Times, November 30, 2004).

(RC2) It was the first time that the Red Cross, which has been conducting visits to Guantánamo since January 2002, asserted in such strong terms that the treatment of detainees, both physical and psychological, amounted to torture (New York Times, November 30, 2004).

See also RC9.

2. Sexual Abuse


(RC3) Some accounts of techniques at Guantánamo have been easy to dismiss because they seemed so implausible. The most striking of the accusations, which have come mainly from a group of detainees released to their native Britain, has been that the military used prostitutes who made coarse comments and come-ons to taunt some prisoners who are Muslims. But the Red Cross report hints strongly at an explanation of some of those accusations by stating that there were frequent complaints by prisoners in 2003 that some of the female interrogators baited their subjects with sexual overtures (New York Times, November 30, 2004).

3. Medical Abuse


(RC4) The team of humanitarian workers, which included experienced medical personnel, also asserted that some doctors and other medical workers at Guantánamo were participating in planning for interrogations, in what the report called “a flagrant violation of medical ethics.” Doctors and medical personnel conveyed information about prisoners’ mental health and vulnerabilities to interrogators, the report said, sometimes directly, but usually through a group called the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, or B.S.C.T. The team, known informally as Biscuit, is composed of psychologists and psychological workers who advise the interrogators, the report said (New York Times, November 30, 2004).

(RC5) [The report from the June 2004 visit] said the medical files of detainees were “literally open” to interrogators. The report said the Biscuit team met regularly with the medical staff to discuss the medical situations of detainees. At other times, interrogators sometimes went directly to members of the medical staff to learn about detainees’ conditions, it said. The report said that such “apparent integration of access to medical care within the system of coercion” meant that inmates were not cooperating with doctors. Inmates learn from their interrogators that they have knowledge of their medical histories and the result is that the prisoners no longer trust the doctors (New York Times, November 30, 2004).


4. Legal Abuse


(RC6) A senior official of the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday that the holding of more than 600 detainees here was unacceptable because they were being held for open-ended terms without proper legal process. Christophe Girod, the senior Red Cross official in Washington, said on Thursday in an interview at the United States Naval Base here, ‘‘One cannot keep these detainees in this pattern, this situation, indefinitely.’’ (New York Times, October 10, 2003).

See also RC7.

5. Psychological Abuse


(RC7) Mr. Girod [a senior official of the International Committee of the Red Cross] said, ‘‘The open-endedness of the situation and its impact on the mental health of the population has become a major problem.’’ In 18 months, 21 detainees have made 32 suicide attempts, and human rights groups have said the high incidence of such events, as well as the number of detainees being treated for clinical depression, was a direct result of the uncertainties of their situations. Mr. Girod said that in meetings with members of his inspection teams, detainees regularly asked about what was going to happen to them. ‘‘It’s always the No. 1 question,’’ he said. ‘‘They don’t know about the future.’’ (New York Times, October 10, 2003).

(RC8) The report said that another confidential report in January 2003, which has never been disclosed, raised questions of whether “psychological torture” was taking place (New York Times, November 30, 2004).

(RC9) The report of the June [2004] visit said investigators had found a system devised to break the will of the prisoners at Guantánamo, who now number about 550, and make them wholly dependent on their interrogators through “humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions.” Investigators said that the methods used were increasingly “more refined and repressive” than learned about on previous visits. “The construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture,” the report said. It said that in addition to the exposure to loud and persistent noise and music and to prolonged cold, detainees were subjected to “some beatings.” The report did not say how many of the detainees were subjected to such treatment (New York Times, November 30, 2004).

(RC10) The report from the June [2004] visit said the Red Cross team found a far greater incidence of mental illness produced by stress than did American medical authorities, much of it caused by prolonged solitary confinement. (New York Times, November 30, 2004).

See also RC1, RC2, RC4.

6. Age Abuse


N/A

7. Religious Abuse


See M4.

8. National/Ethnic


N/A

9. Verbal Abuse


See RC3.

10. Unspecified Abuse


N/A

11. Abuse en route to Guantanamo


N/A



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