On the 14th March 2008 Amnesty International published a 45 page report "USA: A case to answer. From Abu Ghraib to secret CIA custody: the case of Khaled al-Maqtari " Khaled Abdu Ahmed Saleh al-Maqtari, is one of the men most recently released from the CIA’s secret detention program. In interviews with Anne FitzGerald, Senior Advisor at Amnesty International, he has given a full account of his truly frightening ordeal since he was taken into custody by US forces in Iraq in January 2004.
A Gulfstream V jet – nicknamed the 'torture taxi' – used in the 'rendition' of a Khaled, was refuelled at Shannon Airport the day before it was used to move him from Baghdad to Kabul.
On 6 September 2006, US President George W Bush announced the transfer of 14 men from secret Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) custody to military detention at the US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.
Khaled Abdu Ahmed Saleh al-Maqtari is one of those most recently released. He was held in CIA “black sites” in Afghanistan and in an unknown country until days before President Bush’s 6 September 2006 announcement, when the CIA network of secret jails appears to have been at least temporarily cleared. Khaled al-Maqtari has been held both at the notorious hard site at Abu Ghraib4 – where he has described a regime of beatings, sleep deprivation, suspension upside down in stressful positions, intimidation by dogs, induced hypothermia and other forms of torture – and in
CIA “black sites” in Afghanistan and an unidentified third country, where he spent nearly three years in complete isolation, the victim of an enforced disappearance.
Khaled al-Maqtari is now 31 years old, but appears older, a stocky, solemn looking man, with short black hair and beard. He was born in Tabuk in Saudi Arabia, but has lived most of his life in Hodeidah, a small city on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. He was returned to Yemen after 32 months of CIA detention in September of 2006, and held by the Yemeni authorities in Sana’a and Hodeidah until May 2007, when he was unconditionally released. At no stage during this 40-month period was his
detention ever reviewed by a judicial authority, and he was never charged with any criminal offence.
It appears he was arrested on 13th January 2004 operation in Fallujah in a US Army operation called “Operation Market Sweep” aimed at arms dealers operating out of a notorious city centre market where he worked in an internet cafe. In the course of the raid, “the soldiers confiscated more than 100 rifles, two heavy machine guns, 6,500 round of ammunition, 18 rockets, 244 grenades, 150 mortars and various explosive devices, including 17 pre-manufactured improvised explosive devices. During the operation more than 60 people were captured.”(Justin A Carmack, ‘Op Market Sweep’ captures Fallujah arms dealers, Army News Service, 13 January 2004)
Taken by helicopter to Abu Ghraib he was interrogated by unidentifiable Americans, either from US Army’s 205th Military Intelligence (MI) Brigade, which was then operating there, or by the CACI contractors working with them, rather than by CIA officials and contractors on site.
At one stage he was taken out at night by a United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) group to identify (but failed) a house he had stayed at in Baghdad.
Former Special Air Service (SAS) trooper Ben Griffin, who was stationed in Baghdad in early 2005, told Amnesty International that an SAS squadron had been working in a joint US-UK special forces group in Baghdad, carrying out surveillance and intelligence operations against insurgents and foreign Arab fighters, since the beginning of the occupation.17 The group shared information, he said, and it would not have been out of the ordinary for an SAS team to take a prisoner directly from US custody on the kind of search mission Khaled al-Maqtari has described.
The SAS did not have a holding facility, and if the detainee was felt to have further intelligence value, he would be turned over to US custody.
As a rule, the SAS troopers did not participate in interrogations; Griffin said that these were carried out “behind closed doors”. However, they were aware of the methods likely to be employed against those who were sent to Abu Ghraib for further questioning.
Former contract interrogator Eric Fair, who was in Abu Ghraib in January of 2004, (he was one of two civilian interrogators and is an Arab linguist , assigned to the division interrogation facility (DIF) of the 82nd Airborne Division ) has reviewed Khaled al-Maqtari’s account of his treatment there. Although he did not corroborate all of the details provided by Khaled al-Maqtari – he has noted, for instance, that he never saw any detainee being suspended upside down by his feet – Eric Fair told Amnesty International: “I’ve pored over this report, hoping to find major inconsistencies and gross exaggerations. It is to this nation’s shame that I cannot. My time at Abu Ghraib and Fallujah offers no concrete evidence to refute many of the things Khaled has said.”
At no time during his detention in Abu Ghraib was Khaled al- Maqtari registered, documented or charged with any crime.18 He did not see anyone from the ICRC,nor was he ever allowed to contact a lawyer or his family.
......they told me to expect the CIA. After sixor four hours, the ninjas came for me.”
In a procedure which has also been described to Amnesty International by other detainees transported by the CIA, a three- or four-person removal team, dressed completely in black, with black gloves and facemasks, came to prepare Khaled al-Maqtari for his departure. They put him in a diaper, socks, short trousers, and a shirt without buttons, then covered his eyes and stuffed his ears with cotton, taped firmly into place, before hooding him and topping it off with noise-reducing headphones. “They do not talk, said Khaled al-Maqtari, “not even a word, the same as the ninjas in the secret prisons.”19 “It is clear”, he said, “that they have a lot of experience. They know what they are doing, and each of them had a specific role. I mean if I wanted to get dressed myself, I wouldn't be able to do it so fast.”
His subsequent treatment is best read in his words and over many, many pages.. it is not for the squeamish.
At the time of Khaled al-Maqtari’s detention, US forces in Iraq were bound by the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Geneva Convention), article 49 of which prohibits the transfer of protected persons, including insurgents who are not part of the military, from the occupied territory.Unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement, as well as torture and other inhuman treatment, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, are war crimes,and prosecutable as such under US and international law.22 In addition, international human rights law applies, even in time of war.
This is a frightening tale, it is unbelievable that our fellow human being cabn behave in this way.. one that every citizen of the Coalition of the Unwilling should be made to read.
The frightening postscript is ...
On 20 July 2007, President Bush issued an executive order giving his authorization to the continuation of the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program, referred to as the “High Value Terrorist Detainee Program”. In the order, the president asserted that the CIA program: “fully complies with the obligations of the United States under Common Article 3” (of the four Geneva Conventions), provided that “the conditions of confinement and interrogation practices of the program” remain within the limits set out in the executive order. The US authorities, including the President, have repeatedly emphasised that the CIA program and the techniques used in it have been cleared as lawful by administration lawyers. Clearly, then, the USA is interpreting its international obligations in a way that renders them meaningless and perpetuates an absence of accountability for a program in which the international crimes of torture and enforced disappearance have been committed.