Rob Taylor / The Washington Post & The Age – 2007-02-01 23:00:11
Guantanamo Inmates Shown Saddam Hanging Photos
Rob Taylor / The Washington Post
CANBERRA (February 1, 2007) — Guantanamo Bay prison inmates were shown photographs of former
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein hanging from a rope following his execution, lawyers for Australia’s only Guantanamo inmate said on Thursday.
In an attempt to intimidate inmates, the lead American lawyer for Australian detainee David Hicks said, pictures of Saddam’s trial were also shown to detainees, along with articles about executions carried out by extremists.
“Displaying photos of condemned men to those who may be facing capital charges can only be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate and compel submission under a threat of death and mentally torture an already abused detainee population,” Joshua Dratel said in a statement to media in Australia.
A spokesman for Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he was unaware of whether the accusations were accurate, as they were not raised with an Australian official visiting the prison this week.
“This is the first we’ve heard of it. Mr Hicks did not take the issue up with the consul-general when he had the opportunity, nor has the legal team made an approach to us to follow it up with the Americans,” the spokesman said.
“It’s very hard to attempt to verify some of these claims if Mr Hicks himself doesn’t feel the need to raise it with us directly.”
Dratel said photos of Saddam’s 2006 trial were on an exercise yard poster, which also read: “Because Saddam chose not to co-operate and not tell the truth, because he thought by lying he would get released, for that reason he was executed.”
Speaking after visiting Hicks at Guantanamo Bay ahead of charges to be laid against the Australian before a late-February deadline demanded by Canberra, Dratel said the photos and articles breached Geneva Conventions protecting prisoners of war.
One of the articles centered on the accidental decapitation of a prisoner while being hanged — possibly Saddam’s half-brother Barzan Ibrahim who was executed in Baghdad last month.
“This display is another vivid example of the coercive and dehumanizing environment that exists at (Guantanamo),” Dratel and Hicks’s Australian lawyer Michael Griffin said.
“Unfortunately it demonstrates that the lessons of Abu Ghraib and the humane treatment of detainees have not been learned.”
Hicks, 31, was arrested in Afghanistan in late 2001 and accused of fighting for al Qaeda. He is among around 395 suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters being held in the U.S. enclave, and is tipped to be one of the first to face trial.
Charges against Hicks of conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy were dropped when the U.S. Supreme Court last June rejected the tribunal system set up by President George W. Bush to try foreign terrorism suspects.
Hicks, a convert to Islam, had previously pleaded not guilty.
On Wednesday Hicks released a statement though his lawyers claiming abuse and intimidation by his American military jailers, while his legal team called for an independent medical assessment of his mental condition.
His case is straining Canberra’s staunch support for the U.S.-led war on terror, as conservative Prime Minister John Howard faces re-election later this year against polls showing 62 percent of Australians oppose the way the Iraq war has been handled.
© 2007 Reuters
Prisoner Shown Saddam Execution Pictures as ‘Intellectual Stimulation’
AUSTRALIA (February 2, 2007) — The US military says photos and articles of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s execution were shown to David Hicks and other Guantanamo Bay inmates as “intellectual stimulation”.
Hicks’s legal team was outraged during this week’s visit to the US prison camp to learn Hicks had viewed photos of Saddam’s execution and trial.
US Commander Robert Durand, director of public affairs at Guantanamo Bay, today described the articles and photos available to the inmates as “neither graphic nor sensational”.
Com Durand said the photos and articles were from mainstream news organisations such as Britain’s BBC, The New York Times and the Washington Post and were available to Guantanamo inmates as part of the the prison’s library and literacy program.
Hicks’s lawyers had said the Adelaide detainee had viewed a photo of Saddam hanging from a noose, but Com Durand rejected the suggestion.
He said a photo of Saddam prior to his hanging accompanied a BBC news report.
“Our primary mission is safe and humane care and custody of the detainees,” Com Durand said today. “In addition to our library and literacy programs, detainees are provided with a weekly collection of news articles.
“The news articles, intended to provide intellectual stimulation for the detainees, are taken from mainstream news sources such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, al Jazeera, the Gulf News, and wire services such as AP, Reuters and AFP.
“Articles chosen are not always pro-US. Our news program provides current news from worldwide media sources every week. The news photos that appear in the stories are neither graphic nor sensational. The news articles are in English, printed from the web.
“A BBC news article describing Saddam Hussein’s execution, with a photo of him prior to his hanging, was included in the camp news.”
Hicks’s lawyers were also upset a poster containing photos of Saddam at his trial were also displayed for Guantanamo inmates to view.
The poster has been taken down.
“Posters in Arabic are also used to bring news in the camp,” Com Durand explained. “A recent poster showed Saddam Hussein’s capture, court appearances and sentencing. It did not show his execution.
“The intent of this poster was to show that the Iraqi people are making progress and have delivered justice. We regret that the language of this poster appeared insensitive. The poster has been removed and replaced with more current news.”
Hicks’s lead American defence lawyer, Joshua Dratel, who was at Guantanamo this week with Hicks’s US military lawyer Major Michael Mori, and Australian lawyers, David McLeod and Michael Griffin, were outraged when they discovered the poster and news articles about Saddam’s execution.
“Displaying photos of condemned men to those who may be facing capital charges can only interpreted as an attempt to intimidate and compel submission under a threat of death and mentally torture an already abused detainee population,” Dratel said.
Hicks has been in US custody since late 2001 when he was captured in Afghanistan. The US expects to charge him this month.
In Canberra, Greens leader Bob Brown said the showing of the pictures was “premeditated torture”.
“The Hicks saga goes from bad to worse,” Senator Brown said in a statement. “The Guantanamo Bay horror is based on unlawful behaviour and sadistic practice by the jailers.”
Canberra’s federal Labor MPs have sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Party speaker of the US Congress, asking for help in bringing home accused Australian terrorist David Hicks.
“As members of the Australian Parliament, we ask that members of the US Congress take steps to bring about to the return to Australia of Australian citizen David Hicks, – a detainee held at Guantanamo Bay for more than five years – for prosecution here,” the letter says. “We believe that the denial of justice in David Hicks’ case erodes values and principals shared by Australia and the US.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.