A human rights group says it has uncovered new evidence that U.S. personnel used torture, including waterboarding, while interrogating Libyan Islamists during the Bush administration.
The report released Thursday by the New York-based Human Rights Watch features interviews with 14 Libyan dissidents captured and detained in foreign countries, including Afghanistan.
Human Rights Watch says the Islamists were tortured before American agents handed them over “on a silver platter” to then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. And Laura Pitter, the author of the Human Rights Watch report, tells VOA two of the detainees say they were either waterboarded or tortured by a technique similar to waterboarding, which causes them to feel like they are drowning.
“Water's being poured into your lungs, essentially. So it's a form of suffocation, but they stop it before you die. It's like a mock execution.”
The Bush administration claimed that only three terror suspects in U.S. custody — none of them Libyan — had been waterboarded. The Obama administration has condemned waterboarding as torture and banned the technique's use in interrogations.
CIA spokesman John Tomczyk would not comment on the new allegations but said the agency “has been on the record that there are three substantiated cases” of waterboarding. He told VOA that the Justice Department decided not to prosecute agents after reviewing cases of more than 100 detainees in the period following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Human Rights Watch says that “scores” of documents it uncovered in Libya show there was a “high level of cooperation” between the Gadhafi government in Libya and the United States and Britain in sending the Libyan dissidents back to Libya.
“The U.S. failed to distinguish between those Islamists who were at war with the U.S. and those who were at war with their own repressive regimes.”
The CIA spokesman defended the agency's treatment of detainees during that time period, noting that the context during that time period is “worth revisiting.” Tomczyk said that by 2004, the U.S. government had convinced Gadhafi to renounce Libya's weapons of mass destruction programs and to help stop terrorists who were actively targeting Americans.
He also said it was not a “surprise” that the CIA works with other governments to help protect the U.S. from terrorism and other deadly threats because that is “exactly” what the agency is “expected to do.”