More War Crimes: Gitmo video tapes

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1217973,00.html

Dozens of videotapes of American guards allegedly engaged in brutal attacks on Guantanamo Bay detainees have been stored and catalogued at the camp, an investigation by The Observer has revealed.

The disclosures, made in an interview with Tarek Dergoul, the fifth British prisoner freed last March, who has been too traumatised to speak until now, prompted demands last night by senior politicians on both sides of the Atlantic to make the videos available immediately.

They say that if the contents are as shocking as Dergoul claims, they will provide final proof that brutality against detainees has become an institutionalised feature of America’s war on terror.

In the wake of the furore over the abuses photographed at Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has continued to insist they were the work of a few rogue soldiers, and not a systemic problem.

How come the American press is mostly sitting on it’s ass, doing nothing?

British military police made four arrests over allegations that British troops abused Iraqi prisoners. All four men were later released without charge, pending fur ther interviews. It is the case of Dergoul, however, that is likely to be the most damaging. The 26-year-old, from Mile End in east London, spent 22 months at Guantanamo Bay from May 2002. Today he tells The Observer of repeated assaults by Camp Delta’s punishment squad, known as the Extreme Reaction Force or ERF.

Rasul said they led to a new verb being coined by detainees: ‘to be ERFed’. That, he said, meant being slammed against a floor by a soldier wielding a riot shield, pinned to the ground and beaten up by five armed men.

However, it is Dergoul who now reveals that every time the ERFs were deployed, a sixth team member recorded on digital video everything that happened.

Lieutenant Colonel Leon Sumpter, the Guantanamo Joint Task Force spokesman, confirmed this last night, saying all ERF actions were filmed so they could be ‘reviewed’ by senior officers. All the tapes are kept in an archive there, he said. He refused to say how many times the ERF squads had been used and would not discuss their training or rules of engagement, saying: ‘We do not discuss operational aspects of the Joint Task Force mission.’

I’m about ready to throw my medals over the wall.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but it sure sounds like this is just some variation of a standard prison CERT team rather than a bunch of off-the-ranch deviants torturing inmates and taking snapshots for their scrapbooks.

And that, of course, makes it A-OK?

Is ‘yes’ the answer you’re looking for?

Hehe, another one goes on the “Barbarian” list.

I think it depends on what provoked the ERF response. If it was prisoners attacking eachother or their guards I have trouble seeing how this damns anybody. Wow, Gitmo has a riot response force in case of riots. Huge story, great journalism… Hell, we have those on the mainland and use them against US citizens!!!

Their attacks, he says, would be prompted by minor disciplinary infractions, such as refusing to agree to the third cell search in a day - which he describes as an act of deliberate provocation.

Dergoul tells of one assault by a five-man ERF in shocking terms: 'They pepper-sprayed me in the face, and I started vomiting. They pinned me down and attacked me, poking their fingers in my eyes, and forced my head into the toilet pan and flushed.

No, it wasn’t in response to the prisoners attacking someone. It was a psychological tactic.

refusing to agree to the third cell search in a day

“Refusing to agree” sounds kind of vague and euphemistic to me. Again, we’ll see what comes of this. At this point all we have is a story told by an ex-inmate and confirmation that, yes, like many prisons, Gitmo has a CERT team that, among other things, is used to extract non-compliant prisoners from their cells.

It should be noted that the Guantanamo Bay detainees are, in fact, innocent, based on that oft forgotten human right of being innocent until proven guilty. Many of the guys being held were just rounded up randomly, or maliciously, by Northern Alliance forces, which is the reason that so many have since been released, after being held for months, even years, without charge. If the abuse of Iraqi prisoners does turn out to be the acts of rogue groups, rather than being systemic, then the blind eye people have turned to the treatment of Guantanamo detainees will likely be part of the dehumanising process that allowed people to behave in this way. Once you start seeing inhumane treatment as acceptible, because it is conducted against “terrorists”, it becomes a lot easier to accept even greater inhumanity.