Red Cross: Abuse of British Detainees Could Be War Crimes

The International Red Cross issued a strong statement yesterday about the abuse allegations made by released British detainees at Guantanamo against their American captors: The Americans may have committed war crimes.

The organisation, which maintains a rigidly neutral stance in public, took the unusual step of voicing its concerns in uncompromising language after the former detainees, known as the Tipton Three, revealed that they had been beaten, shackled, photographed naked and in one incident questioned at gunpoint while in US custody.

Their vivid account of the harrowing conditions at the camp, as told to their lawyers and published for the first time in yesterday's Guardian, has reignited the debate about the treatment of prisoners and the British government's role in their questioning and detention. Last night the Red Cross was joined by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which argued that if the allegations were true they indicated systematic abuse, amounting to torture.

If you missed the original report of the Tipton 3's charges, you can read it in yesterday's Guardian. They were captured in Afghanistan, shipped to Guantanamo where they were held for 2 years, and finally released in March with no charges ever being brought against them.

Sherman Carroll, spokesman for the Medical Foundation, said the report rang true in light of revelations about techniques of interrogation and torture elsewhere. He added: "If [the detainees] had used the word torture, I would agree with that. This is more than 'torture-lite' [stress and duress techniques] ... Guantánamo Bay should be closed down."

Among the charges, in addition to repeated beatings and humiliation:

In an echo of the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad which shamed Washington, the three Britons, held as illegal enemy combatants by the US, say they were photographed naked and subjected to anal searches unnecessarily, after being shackled for hours.

Here's another:

Rhuhel Ahmed, one of the "Tipton Three", claims in the 115-page dossier that shortly after his capture in November 2001 he was interviewed in Afghanistan by a British interrogator who said he was from the SAS. Mr Ahmed alleges he was taken by US guards to be interrogated by the British officer in a tent. "One of the US soldiers had a gun to his head and he was told if he moved they would shoot him," the report says. The SAS officer pressed him to admit he had gone to Afghanistan to fight a holy war.

The report says the British Government was complicit in the abuse.

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