Two Tunisian men have told a leading human rights watchdog of the torture they received at the hands of the US’ Central Intelligence Agency.
The two men told Human Rights Watch, (HRW) of the extensive torture they received while being held in CIA custody for over a year in Afghanistan, including being beaten with metal batons while being suspended by their arms, having their heads immersed in barrels of water, being threatened with being placed in a makeshift electric chair and one of being repeatedly penetrated anally by an unknown object.
The two men, Ridha al-Najjar, 51 and Lotfi al-Arabi El Gherissi, 52 were arrested separately in 2002 and taken to a black ops site in north-eastern Kabul code-named, Cobalt. According to declassified US documents, El Gherissi spent more than a year in CIA custody and al-Najjar spent nearly two before both men were transferred to military custody.
Both al-Najjar and El Gherissi were repatriated to Tunisia on June 15, 2015, after 13 years in custody without charges or trial. According to HRW, neither man has been provided with compensation or support since their release. Similarly, neither has received any help with coping with the physical and mental symptoms both claim to still suffer as a consequence of the torture they received.
“These terrifying accounts of previously unreported CIA torture methods show how little the public still knows about the US torture program,” Laura Pitter, senior US national security counsel at Human Rights Watch was quoted as saying. “The release of these two men without the US providing any assistance or redress for their torture and suffering also shows how much the US still needs to do to put the CIA torture program behind it.”
The torture methods described by al-Najjar and El Gherissa go further than those outlined in the Torture Report, partially released by the US in December of 2014, which mentions the two men by name but omits much of the events described to HRW.
Al-Najjer, who was believed by the CIA to have been a bodyguard of Osama Bin Laden, was a key detainee. However, senior figures involved in the investigation of CIA torture have cast doubt over the value of the intelligence extracted from Al-Najjer. The UK’s Guardian newspaper, who HRW shared details of al-Najjar and El Gherissa’s accounts with prior to publication, quoted Daniel Jones, the former Senate staffer who led its torture investigation as saying,“In May 2011, al-Najjar was one of the detainees the CIA cited as having been subjected to the CIA’s EITs, (enhanced interrogation techniques) and then providing information on Abu Ahmad, the UBL assistant who led to UBL,” Jones said, using an acronym for Bin Laden.
“However, the Senate found that the information al-Najjar provided was acquired not only prior to the CIA’s use of EITs against al-Najjar, but also prior to al-Najjar being transferred to CIA custody.”
A spokesman for the CIA, Ryan Trapani, told Human Rights Watch the agency had “reviewed its records and found nothing to support these new claims”.