Araweelo News Network

cia_torture_2It’s public knowledge that following the 9-11 attacks on the United States, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) detained and tortured terrorism suspects in secret sites around the world. But new Human Rights Watch research provides disturbing details about CIA torture techniques that have not been previously disclosed. In some instances, the torture eclipsed in brutality what was revealed in the Summary of the Senate Report on the CIA detention program released in December 2014. Ridha al-Najjar and Lofti El Gherissi, both Tunisian nationals, were arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and were among the first to be sent to a notorious CIA “black site” known as Cobalt in Afghanistan. Laura Pitter, senior US national security counsel at Human Rights Watch, interviewed the two men in Tunisia and talked to Stephanie Hancock about their ordeal.

The world already knows about the CIA torture program. Why are these new accounts so significant?

These two men were some of the earliest detainees in the CIA program – until now we’ve not heard directly from anyone detained at “Cobalt” during that time. And what their accounts show is that our understanding of the torture methods described in the Senate Summary is very limited, and that there were more brutal methods being used that the public didn’t even know about – and perhaps still further forms of torture that have yet to be uncovered.

How so?

Well, the Senate Summary said that al-Najjar was left hanging, chained from a bar over his head, for 22 hours each day for two consecutive days. But al-Najjar told me this “hanging,” as he described it, went on for nearly three months. He was only taken down from the bar about once every 24-hours, for interrogation or other forms of torture. Then he was hung right back up again. And for this entire time he and others were in pitch-black darkness, naked except for diapers, with loud music blaring around the clock.

You also uncovered new forms of torture, didn’t you?

Yes, both men said they were threatened with an electric chair, although it was never used on them. We’ve never heard about an electric chair being used or threatened at CIA detention facilities. El Gherissi was also shown a coffin and told he’d be put in it. And they revealed new types of water torture. In addition to waterboarding or water dousing on a board, they were dunked in barrels, and al-Najjar said he was strapped to a board with his entire body inserted, face down, into a large tub of ice-cold water. He told me they did this until: “I couldn’t handle it anymore and was on the verge of completely falling apart.”
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