The cruelty and illegality of the US government’s program of secret detentions can be illustrated by one man’s story. It is the story of a man who was never charged with any crime, but who was held in secret CIA custody for nearly three years, becoming the victim of enforced disappearance.
This man is 31-year-old Yemeni national Khaled Abdu Ahmed Saleh al-Maqtari, one of the men most recently released from the CIA’s secret detention program. In interviews with Amnesty International, he has given a full account of his ordeal since he was taken into custody by US forces in Iraq in January 2004.
Initially held in Abu Ghraib, Khaled al-Maqtari was transferred first to a CIA secret prison in Afghanistan, and then, in April 2004, to a second secret prison in an unidentified country – possibly in Eastern Europe. He was held there in complete isolation for a further 28 months, before being sent to Yemen and eventually released in May 2007.
His account contains numerous allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in detention. These include prolonged isolation, repeating beatings, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, exposure to extremes of hot and cold, as well as sensory deprivation and overload with bright lighting and loud music or repeated sound effects.
The effects of torture
Khaled al-Maqtari is now a free man, but he suffers the effects of psychological and physical torture and other ill-treatment.
The abuses that have affected him most, he said, were the years of endless isolation, his total uncertainty about his future, the constant monitoring by cameras and his segregation from the outside world, particularly the lack of contact with his family.
“At no point during his 32-month confinement was Khaled al-Maqtari told where he was or why. He did not have access to lawyers, relatives or any person other than his interrogators and the personnel involved in his detention and transfers. This clearly violates the USA’s international obligations. The US government has a case to answer”, said Anne FitzGerald, Senior Adviser at Amnesty International, who interviewed Khaled al-Maqtari.
Khaled al-Maqtari has not received any reparation from US authorities, who have yet to even acknowledge his detention.
Torture and enforced disappearance are both crimes under international law. They cannot be justified under any circumstances. Amnesty International has called on the US authorities to end these practices and bring those responsible for human rights violations to justice.