Abuse and Torture at Guantánamo Bay: What Little We Know

April 23, 2010

As a nation we have found it rather difficult to deny that our country has committed serious human rights violations at Guantanamo Bay.  But most of us have little idea what has really happened there, and most of us would be astounded to know the things the government is trying so hard to hide from us.

On April 15th, Amnesty International’s MSU chapter hosted a dinner at the Hannah Community Center focused around the human rights issues of Guantanamo Bay.  The main speaker, Joshua Denbeaux, is a lawyer who has been working on behalf of two detainees, and, along with his father, he leads the legal world in defending the rights of the detainees.  In 2006, they wrote five studies regarding the treatment of Guantanamo detainees based on extensive research.

The dinner opened with an introduction from Reuben Metreger, the State Legislative Coordinator for Amnesty International in Michigan.  While condemning the violations at Guantanamo and discussing Amnesty International’s unwavering support for human rights, he offered comic relief, cracking jokes about a quote from Dick Cheney that urged the U.S. to go over to the dark side.  A 30-minute video on torture at Guanatanamo, Torture on Trial, was subsequently screened to lead into Mr. Denbeaux.

Mr. Denbeaux, with his years of research, offered some of the most interesting information about Guantanamo I had ever heard.  He noted, for example, that the vast majority of detainees are innocent and many are known by the government to be innocent.  He also pointed out that the majority of detainees were “ given” to the U.S. for a bounty – if you were Afghani, you could sell any person you don’t like for $5000.

But some things were incredibly shocking.  Outside of Camp America, the military base in Guantánamo Bay, is a building dubbed “Camp No” (see map).  The purposes of this building are kept so secret that the government does not even acknowledge its existence.  But former Sergeant Joseph Hickman has reported wrenching screams coming from the building.  Mr. Denbeaux quoted somebody as saying “This is our Auschwitz” – a harsh accusation that nonetheless  captures the implications of this building, if it is truly used in the way it appears that it is being used.  And remember those three suicides at Guantánamo      in 2006?  The government’s story does not add up, and there is mounting evidence that “Camp No” had a part in their death.  (Mr. Denbeaux referred us to this article for more information: ”The Guantánamo ‘Suicides’: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle”).

(Satellite map courtesy of Harper’s Magazine).

Mr. Denbeaux also has personal experience of the government trying to keep information quiet.  When he, his father, and Sergeant Hickman took this story to CBS’ 60 Minutes, and subsequently ABC, the story was embraced with open arms by the respective producers.  Even after filming hours of interviews, the story was rejected by both networks.  Somebody, it seems, has prevented it from running.  Meanwhile, Mr. Denbeaux told us, Sergeant Hickman’s life has been destroyed.

Joshua Denbeaux was a powerful speaker, and I can guarantee that all of us who attended this dinner learned so much more than we already knew.  I highly recommend you look for the Denbeaux studies and learn what the Denbeaux’s research has found.  You will find scores of damning accusations and evidence against the practices at Guantánamo Bay – and all of it is only what we know.  More than likely, there is so much more that we don’t.

-Adam Zeidan, MPT intern



  1. I would like to know the research method employed by Joshua Denbeaux. If the majority of the research is interviews with detainees and former detainees, I can assure you that lies would be the order of the day. al Qaeda are trained in how to resist in captivity. We know this because we have captured, read, and studied the manuals they use to learn how to resist, disrupt, and disrupt detention operations. Lying is at the top of the list, especially if they get a sympathetic outside ear. I served at Gitmo from February to June 2002 at the ranking Army Medical Department officer. I just wrote a book on the real story of detention and medical operations at Gitmo called “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior.” There are always three sides to every story, yours, mine, and the truth. http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/SavingGraceAtGuantanamoBay.html Sincerely, Montgomery J. Granger, Major, Medical Service, USAR (Ret.)

    • Thanks for your comment.

      I personally don’t know the research method employed by the Denbeaux family. What I do know is that, unfortunately, he has to work from the little information that he can obtain. Though I haven’t gone through his publications, chances are that they detail their method in an introduction or appendix.

      I have no doubt that al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups train their militants how to resist and disrupt, but your statement assumes that all interviewees are associated with al-Qaeda. Actually, there are a significant number of Guantánamo detainees whose association with terrorist groups remains entirely unproven, and, as is well known to the public, few detainees have ever received a fair trial. “Innocent until proven guilty” has been reversed at Guantánamo Bay to become “guilty until proven innocent,” despite that no substantial evidence can be shed against many of them. I understand that such a policy can be defended as important to national security, but at the same time I find it naïve to deny that the chances are extremely high that a significant number of the detainees were turned in by bounty hunters with no knowledge of whether or not these people were ever involved in any terrorist activity. It’s easy to understand: “I can get rich and abandon my rags by telling this country that this man who harms/humiliates me and my family is a terrorist? Hmm.”

      Like you said, I can take your word, his word, or the truth. Unfortunately, the truth is unavailable to you, him, or me, and all that any of us can do is speculate based on our own observations. But everyone has their intentions. We have you as an eye witness to the “justice” at Guantánamo, but Mr. Denbeaux also has eye witnesses from the military to the horrors at Guantánamo. I don’t believe any of you actually know what is going on, but I can say that like every human being, you know what you have seen and you have interests you would like to obtain and/or protect.

      At the end of the day, I, like so many others (and a conservative-leaning moderate at that), have come to the conclusion that something wrong is happening at Guantánamo Bay. It could be something as minimal as denial of habeas corpus, or something as large as widespread torture of innocent victims. But in the end, they are both wrong, and the claim that endangered national security makes any of it necessary — the ultimate scapegoat for an aspiring oppressive and tyrannical government — does not fly with me.

      Nonetheless, we appreciate both your comment and your service, and we definitely encourage our blog readers to read everything with a critical eye. All the best to you.

  2. It is said to hear about all the injustices that occur in Guantanamo Bay, especially those that go unrecorded, or result in death. I think it is important for more education to be provided to the public. Hopefully there are some networks out there that would be willing to publicize Mr. Denbeaux’s story, as well as the stories of others.

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