Four Britons who were held at Guantanamo Bay for more than two-and-a-half years sued the American Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials for $40m (£22m) yesterday – accusing them of organising, authorising and overseeing alleged torture and inhumane treatment at the US prison.
Lawyers for the four, the so-called Tipton Three and a fourth Briton from Manchester, filed the civil suit in Washington DC yesterday morning, demanding $10m each in compensation for physical and mental abuse from which the men are still recovering. All four men, Rhuhel Ahmed, 22, Asif Iqbal, 22, Safiq Rasul, 27, and the Mancunian Jamal al-Harith, 37, were released from Guantanamo Bay earlier this year having never been charged with any offence.
“This a case about preserving an American ideal – the rule of law,” said the men’s lawyer, Eric Lewis. “It is un-American to torture people. It is un-American to hold people indefinitely without access to counsel, courts or family. It is un-American to flout our international treaty obligations.”
Following their release the Tipton Three released a 115-page report in which they outlined the torture and abuse they allegedly witnessed at the camp. They said prisoners were subjected to sexual humiliation, forced to sodomise one another and taunted by naked female US guards. One of the Britons said he was interrogated for three hours with a gun to his head.
In a statement the three men said: “For nearly 900 days … we barely escaped death, then we endured grim captivity as if we were animals and suffered torture, isolation and daily humiliation … It was highly organised and was carried out by US personnel, civilian and military.”
The lawsuit, filed with the help of the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), named Mr Rumsfeld, General Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the former head of the camp, Major General Geoffrey Miller. It is alleged that they and others drew up guidelines of “coercive interrogation techniques” for dealing with suspected terrorists.
The Pentagon, which yesterday had no immediate comment, has repeatedly denied accusations of abuse at Guantanamo saying prisoners are treated in the spirit of the Geneva Conventions, even though the US has refused to grant inmates the rights afforded by that treaty. But accusations of abuse and torture have been widespread. According to a recent Congressional report there have been at least eight substantiated cases of abuse at the camp.
Four British citizens remain at the camp – Feroz Abbasi, Moazzam Begg, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar. Three British residents are also among the 600 prisoners.