Saturday, October 31, 2009

War Crime Commission Hearing: Statutory Declaration by Moazzam Begg

I, MOAZZAM BEGG (British Passport No. 464541423) of full age and a citizen of United Kingdom do hereby solemnly and sincerely declare as follows:

1. I am 41 years old. I am a director of human rights organisation called the Cage Prisoners which advocates for people detained without charge or trial in the war on terror.

2. I live in Birmingham, England.

3. The purpose of making this declaration is to put on record my torture in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

4. In mid 2001 I went to Afghanistan with my family to build a primary school for girls. When the United States of America invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, I and my family evacuated to Islamabad, Pakistan.

5. On 31 January 2002 I was abducted from my house in Islamabad. At midnight I had a knock on the door and a group of men stormed in and pointed guns at me and also had electric Taser guns. They were wearing civilian clothes and did not produce any ID. The pushed me on my knees and shackled my hands behind my back and put a hood over my head.

6. They then stormed into the rest of the rooms the house and took me to a waiting vehicle. In the back of the vehicle someone moved my hood and photographed me. These men were 2 men who were Caucasian and were American based on their accent. One of them produced a pair of handcuffs which he said was given to him by a wife of a 9/11 victim and he handcuffed me with it.

7. They took me to a room and there were cells outside the room. The Pakistani’s told me they were doing this at the request of the United States and that they did not want me for anything.

8. There were a series of interrogations in different location where I was interrogated by Americans who were in civilian clothes. They questioned my presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There were no specific allegations. On one occasion there was a British man present who also questioned me about my friends and my background.

9. Prior to my adduction, I had received a call from my friend informing me that British intelligence had met him and asked about me. I told him to give my telephone number to them. From his description this British intelligence officer was the same one who questioned me in Pakistani.

10. After being held for 3 weeks by the Pakistanis I was handed over to Unite States military custody in a military airbase in Islamabad. The moment I was handed over the American, I was shackled, hooded and choked and thrown to the floor. And then they raised my arms from behind my back ( this is called the strapaddo technique) and carried me by my arms into the plane while I was in excruciating pain and screaming.

11. I was thrown on to the floor of the plane and strapped down over the ankles and thighs. I was punched and kicked through out. A knife was put to my throat and threatened that my throat would be slit if I spoke. Photographs were taken because I could sense the flashes of camera through my hood.

12. I was then flown to Kandahar in Afghanistan and dragged out of the plane thrown into the mud and kicked, punched, choked with my hood and constantly sworn at. I was taken to the processing area and one soldier put a knee on the side of my head into the mud while another put his knee into my lower back. I felt a cold steel blade that was being used to rip off my clothes. All my clothes were removed.

13. They dragged me to a make shift hangar lit with flood lights. They took photographs of me and brought dogs that were barking very close to my face. I was kicked and punched and verbal abuse that was racial, ethnic and religious was hurled at me. My hair and beard was shaved and I was again photographed. I was shackled at my feet and hands tightly and my ankles begun to bleed.

14. They took me to a tent to be interrogated by 2 FBI interrogators who had FBI caps on. They asked me when was the last time I saw Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. I responded in English and said I don’t know anything about Mullah Omar or Osama bin Laden.

15. I was given clothes and kept in a cell made of coils of razor wire within the hangar. Process of removal from the cell for interrogation would have a soldier on over watch putting a round in his chamber and pointing it at me. While another would ask me to lie on the floor with my hands behind my back and 2 others would come in and shackle my feet and hands and place a hood over my head. Another stood outside pointing a handgun at me. And then I would be taken in a bowing down position. And on the way I would be punched and kicked and barking dogs were brought to my face. The interrogation would be done with me on my knees and hands tied behind my back.

16. These interrogations could last very short where they asked me to confirm my name or last for 24 hours. Once I was asked to write my whole life story and then they tore it up once I finished.

17. I remained in Kandahar for 6 weeks. During this time the British intelligence came to question me on 2 occasions. I was asked about the list of Imams in Britain and others. I felt I was profiled and discriminated based on your etnicity and religion.

18. I was then moved to Bagram airbase detention facility which was a airport warehouse. We were not allowed to talk, walk, stand and no movement was allowed. If anyone breached the rule the person would be tied at the top of the door in the cell and left suspended. I had been punished a few times like this.

19. I remained in Bagram for 11 months. I was intensely interrogated for a month in solitary confinement by the CIA, FBI and US military intelligence and also by British intelligence. My legs and arms were hog–tied. During this period I was threatened to be sent to Egypt. I was told that there was another man who was in my position who did not cooperate and was sent to Egypt. And I heard from other prisoners that this man was Ibn Al-Sheikh Al-Libi who was put in a box and sent to Egypt where he confessed.

20. An American soldier told me that this threat is not a joke and that this was done to another person who was sent to Syria. (I later discovered that this man being referred to was Maher Arar).

21. I had written some letters through the Red Cross to my wife and I did not receive any replies. And one day during this period they brought photographs of my wife and children. They asked me if I thought I was ever going to see them again, and what do I think happened to them the night I was abducted and whether they were safe. At the same time I heard horrific screams of a woman and soldiers screaming back profanities from the next room. They did not say it but insinuated it was my wife being tortured. The CIA wanted me to work with them and the FBI wanted me to be a witness for them about anything. I was willing to agree to their demands has I feared for my wife’s well being who I thought was being tortured in the next room.

22. I was in Bagram till February 2003. During this period I saw 2 persons that were severely beaten by American soldiers. Later it was confirmed to me by the Americans in Guantanamo Bay that these 2 persons had died from their beatings.

23. The conditions in Bagram were extremely poor. There was no fresh food and no warm food. Food and water was limited and no tea or fruits. Medical care was dependent upon the level of cooperation of the prisoners. Each cell was communal with about 10 prisoners and we shared a bucket as a toilet. The stench was disgusting and there was no water to wash with. We were taken for communal showers in a very humiliating way, where we were all chained together while some of the soldiers would put diapers on the head of prisoners and have women soldiers present during the showers.

24. In February 2003 I was taken to Guantanamo Bay. I believe the journey was about 20 hours or so. I was shackled in a ‘three piece suit’ of chains. A face mask was placed on my face, blackened goggles and ear muffs. All of these appendages were very tight fitting and caused pain. The journey was thus very painful and I had to plead for a sedative from the soldiers and which was given.

25. At Guantanamo Bay I was taken to camp Echo which was maximum security and placed in solitary confinement. I remained there for about 20 months.

26. The cell was 8 by 6 feet, there was no natural light, no windows and no contact with any other prisoners. Although physical abuse was lessened but the conditions were still very brutal. For example I developed some medical conditions and was taken to camp hospital where one hand and one leg were shackled to the bed for days at a time. The recreation time allotted initially was 15 minutes twice a week with a series of armed guards with military dogs and their handlers all around me. I was designated a high value detainee because they wanted to process me through the military commissions and because I had witnessed the beatings in Bagram.

27. The same interrogators who threatened to send me to Egypt came to Guantanamo Bay 2 days after I arrived there and asked the guards to leave the cell and produced a document for me to sign which was a confession that I was a member of al-Qaeda and that I was engaged in the war against the United States ( I have never been to the United States). I was threatened that if I did not sign this document I would either face a summary trial which could result in execution and that execution chambers had been built in Guantanamo Bay. Or that I would remain for decades in Guantanamo Bay without access to anyone and without any legal process.

28. I signed that document and thereafter I was treated a little better wherein I was interrogated less frequently and I was abused less by the guards. But I remained in solitary confinement.

29. My mental state was affected due to being placed in solitary confinement. Having had no contact with my family all these years other then sporadic letters that were heavily censored by the American authorities, I had been left in a state of constant anxiety and despair. I had experienced several anxiety attacks where I lost control of my senses. I would scream, kick and punch during these attacks- things that I would never do normally. And a female physiatrist once suggested to me a method of suicide, and asked if I have ever considered removing my trousers and thread it with the bed sheet and make a noose and tie it around my neck and tying the other end to the top corner of the cell.

30. Some drugs were prescribed to calm me down and get me to sleep. I do not know what these drugs were but I experienced hallucinations when I took these drugs.

31. In November 2004 I was removed from solitary confinement and placed in the blocks with other prisoners. And 2 months later I was released.

32. I never knew what was my crime to this day. I would never understand the brutality or its justification. Perhaps the worst thing was being in an environment where I had to prove my innocence but there was no opportunity to do this. I believe that it was by design to break my spirit by torturing other people in front of me, which was worse than being tortured myself. The absence of due process became worse then the physical torture.

And I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the provisions of the Statutory Declaration Act 1960.

Subscribed and solemnly declared by the above named MOAZZAM BEGG on __ October 2009 at ________.

No comments:

My Say