Saturday, February 05, 2005

And We Don't Mean Peppermint 

Martin Mubanga, one of the four Britons released from Guantanamo Bay last month, plans to sue the British government, claiming that MI6 "colluded with the Americans in effectively kidnapping him and taking him to Guantanamo." The beatings and humiliations he describes in an Observer interview are, for devotees of the genre, fairly routine stuff --
The seemingly interminable questioning had already lasted for hours. 'I needed the toilet,' Mubanga said, 'and I asked the interrogator to let me go. But he just said, "you'll go when I say so". I told him he had five minutes to get me to the toilet or I was going to go on the floor. He left the room. Finally, I squirmed across the floor and did it in the corner, trying to minimise the mess. I suppose he was watching through a one-way mirror or the CCTV camera. He comes back with a mop and dips it in the pool of urine. Then he starts covering me with my own waste, like he's using a big paintbrush, working methodically, beginning with my feet and ankles and working his way up my legs. All the while he's racially abusing me, cussing me: "Oh, the poor little negro, the poor little nigger." He seemed to think it was funny.'
-- but we found two aspects of his story quite striking. For one thing, it confirms our worst suspicions about the rubber-stamp nature of the tribunal review process: in October, Mubanga was branded an enemy combatant by a review tribunal that would not allow him to produce exculpatory testimony. (He claimed that his British passport had been stolen; it was, in fact, in the possession of another detainee who had been captured by the Americans two months earlier.) If not for the intervention of one American officer, Mubanga might be in Gitmo still:
James Crisfield Jnr, an American military lawyer, found this decision deeply flawed. His report, which has been obtained by The Observer, shows that Mubanga had asked for his sister, aunt and brother to testify in his defence. They could prove, he said, that he had not travelled to Zambia on false documents for a terrorist mission. The tribunal officers claimed that these defence witnesses were 'not reasonably available' and that their testimony would be irrelevant. Crisfield disagreed, stating: 'Under the circumstances, the detainee's reasons for travelling to various countries was relevant. If the detainee's motive for travelling was to do something other than join or support al-Qaeda, that evidence could have some tendency... to make it less likely that the detainee joined or supported al-Qaeda.' In Crisfield's opinion, the tribunal hearing was 'not sufficient', and he ordered that attempts be made to contact Mubanga's family.
We were also quite impressed by the Pentagon's response to the Observer interview, which for sheer hilarious chutzpah would be all but impossible to top. As reported by the BBC:
"The Department of Defense has no doubt that Mr Mubanga was properly detained as an enemy combatant under the laws of war.

"He was detained to prevent him from fighting against the US and our allies in the war on terror."

The department's statement added: "US policy condemns and prohibits torture. US personnel are required to follow this policy and applicable law.

"Torture is illegal, it's immoral and it doesn't work."

The statement also suggested that Mr Mubanga had a motive in making his claim. It said: "Al-Qaeda training manuals emphasise the tactic of making false abuse allegations.

"That this detainee is now making allegations of abuse at Guantanamo seems to fit the standard operating procedure in al-Qaeda training manuals."
We leave the last word to Mr. Mubanga, who hopes to record a CD entitled Detainee:
Dem labelled me a terrorist
Calling me a thug.
Dem labelled me a terrorist
Calling me a slug...
But I never did join bin Laden's crew anyway
And now me know to be a Muslim is a hard core ting...
And I got no love for the American government
Dey can go suck and I don't mean peppermint.

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