I’ve written about David Hicks before: he’s an Australian man, captured in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11, who recently became the first Guantanamo detainee to be charged with a crime in the Bush Administration’s system of military tribunals.
Hicks’ mother is English, and Hicks has been applying for British citizenship because the British government does more than the Australian on behalf of citizens detained by the United States. As part of his application, Hicks filed a document that detailed his treatment at the hands of his American captors. Among Hicks’ claims, which cannot be substantiated:
– The bulk of the abuse occurred before Hicks was deposited at Guantanamo, during a several month period when he was held in Afghanistan or being shuttled between naval ships and unknown buildings.
– When Hicks was interrogated, it was sometimes by as many as five men at a time, who slapped him in the head after every response and told him he was lying.
– At one point, Hicks was made to sit on a window ledge where he could see several American soldiers standing outside pointing their weapons at him.
– Hicks was fed only a handful of rice or fruit three times a day.
– Hicks was forced to kneel for ten hours at a time.
– Hicks was hit by a rifle butt in the back of the head hard enough to make him fall over, “slapped in the back of the head, kicked, stepped on, and spat on.”
– While in Kandahar, Hicks and other detainees were forced to lie face down in the mud while solders walked across their backs.
– Hicks was stripped naked, his body hair shaved, and a piece of plastic forcibly inserted into his rectum.
– Hicks was shown pictures of other prisoners who had been beaten black and blue, and promised the same fate if he did not cooperate.
– At Guantanamo, Hicks witnessed other detainees being mistreated. A one-legged detainee was attacked by dogs in his cell, and was later dragged out with blood dripping down his face and across the floor. Hicks says the episode “put me in such fear that I just knew I would ‘cooperate’ in any way with the U.S.”
If all this is true, it seems Hicks suffered the sort of wanton and unguided abuse that we saw in Abu Ghraib. Prison guards and low-level interrogators, drunk with power, uninformed on proper interrogation practices, and either untrained or unsupervised (or both), did whatever they pleased with the helpless people in their command. It doesn’t appear that Hicks got the organized forms of torture (waterboarding, etc.) that were the subject of DoJ memos (Al Gonzales’ previous scandal) and were generally reserved for high-level captures like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.