‘I was waterboarded by British special forces’
Published by The Mail on Sunday (14th December, 2014)
A Pakistani man suing the Government for damages has detailed a horrific catalogue of abuse and torture he claims to have suffered at the hands of British troops before they handed him over to US interrogators.
Yunus Rahmatullah, released without charge by the United States in May after ten years in captivity, says his British captors beat him, dragged him along the ground behind a vehicle and threw him in a pen containing dogs that attacked him.
His shocking 62-page witness statement, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, also reveals allegations that British Special Forces waterboarded Mr Rahmatullah, sprinkled cigarette ash on his food and locked him in a ‘coffin-like’ container with cold water dripping on his head.
Last month the High Court dismissed Government attempts to throw out his case by claiming it could damage British relations with the US – a defence undermined by the Senate’s devastating torture report.
His allegations are some of the most serious made against British troops in recent years.
Lawyers expect the Supreme Court to determine if they can be heard in open court alongside its anticipated decision on the case of Libyan dissident Abdul-Hakim Belhadj. In addition to his claim for damages, Mr Rahmatullah is demanding an independent investigation into his allegations of abuse and British complicity with rendition and torture – something being strongly resisted by the Government.
According to the statement, Mr Rahmatullah, who grew up in Qatar, went to Iraq in early 2004 to start a rice importation business. Ten days later troops burst into his apartment while he was asleep and beat him with rifles until he became unconscious.
When he awoke he was bound, drenched in blood, hooded and lying ‘on what he believed to be dead bodies in plastic bags’ on the floor of a vehicle.
After a subsequent helicopter flight during which he was beaten again, he awoke when water was thrown in his face on a military base. ‘The soldiers on the military base wore beige sand-coloured uniforms with the British flag on the right arm,’ the statement says. ‘The claimant recognised the British flag from his school geography lessons.’
He claims he was then asked a barrage of questions by interrogators who threatened to kill him and said they had ‘shot and killed’ his flatmates, later showing photographs of their bodies.
Mr Rahmatullah alleges his bound hands were then tied by rope to a vehicle, which accelerated quickly and dragged him along the ground. ‘His left arm, left shoulder and the left side of his face were badly scraped and bled significantly,’ says the statement.
The document also claims he was thrown in a pen containing ‘a number of large dogs’ wearing muzzles, which clawed and scratched him.
The captive was then put in a room only 3ft wide by 3ft long. Soldiers in the same beige uniforms cut off his clothes, drenched him in cold water and turned up the air conditioning so that he froze.
The next day he was waterboarded repeatedly until he lost consciousness. Over the following 36 hours, Mr Rahmatullah says he was given just one glass of water and a jam biscuit. Then he was handed a tiny portion of rice and chicken.
‘The person who brought the food to the claimant spread the ashes of his cigarette on top of the food and said, “This is the seasoning for your food.’’ ’
Mr Rahmatullah says he was then forced to lie on his back in ‘an enclosed chamber that was approximately 40cm high… the claimant felt like he was in a coffin. The lid of this chamber had holes in the top and very cold water was poured in slowly through the holes, which then dripped slowly on to the top of the claimant’s head.’
Finally, the soldiers told him since he was not co-operating, he would be handed over to the Americans and sent to Abu Ghraib, the Baghdad prison from which photographs emerged of US troops mistreating prisoners.
The alleged abuse continued in two US detention centres, at least one of which was thought to be Abu Ghraib. This included threats of sexual assault, beatings with rubber flex, urine poured on his head, and being suspended upside down and dunked in water.
At one stage a female soldier entered his cell and ‘forcefully tied a rope’ around his neck. ‘The woman pulled the rope tight until it dug into the claimant’s flesh, choking him. She untied the claimant’s hands from the wall and dragged him along the floor by the rope.’
On another occasion he claims to have been thrown on top of six naked detainees piled on top of each other and kept in the cell for two or three days. ‘He is currently too traumatised to provide further details about that period of detention,’ records the statement.
Finally, he was transferred to Bagram, the US airbase and detention centre in Afghanistan, where he was put in solitary confinement. He had no contact with family until 2010, enduring force-feeding after hunger strikes and mysterious ‘paralysing injections’.
Kat Craig, legal director at campaign group Reprieve and his lawyer, said: ‘During this decade, Mr Rahmatullah was tortured not just by American but also British personnel. Last week’s CIA torture report from the US demonstrates that it’s time for Britain too to come clean about its part in this shameful chapter.’