Last updated: 6 September, 2012

US waterboarded Libyan Islamists

The United States waterboarded Libyan Islamists opposed to Moamer Kadhafi and handed them over to his regime for further torture during the Bush administration, a rights group said Thursday.

A new report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch said a former detainee claimed to have been waterboarded and another described a form of water torture, indicating wider use of the method than is officially claimed.

“Not only did the US deliver Kadhafi his enemies on a silver platter, but it seems the CIA tortured many of them first,” said Laura Pitter, the author of the report.

“The scope of Bush administration abuse appears far broader than previously acknowledged and underscores the importance of opening up a full-scale inquiry into what happened.”

The report said a number of members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) — a movement with alleged links to Al-Qaeda which joined the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that overthrew Kadhafi — were rounded up in several countries in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and held without charge.

At least five described suffering “serious abuses” at two US-run detention facilities in Afghanistan believed to have been operated by the CIA, including “waterboarding and other water torture,” it said.

Other abuses included being chained to walls for weeks or months, being beaten and slammed into walls and being kept awake for long periods with loud Western music.

The LIGF fought with NATO-backed rebels in last year’s uprising and many members now hold key positions in the emerging government and armed forces.

Human Rights Watch said one of the detainees, Khalid al-Sharif, is now head of the Libyan National Guard.

The rights group said its report was based on documents found in the office of Kadhafi’s intelligence chief Musa Kusa after the rebels seized Tripoli last year, as well as interviews with detainees who were released after the fall of Kadhafi’s 40-year regime.

The administration of former president George W. Bush admitted to using water-boarding — a form of simulated drowning — on three high-value detainees following the September 11 attacks.

Barack Obama ended the practice when he became president in 2009, calling it torture.

The Bush administration had defended waterboarding as necessary for obtaining intelligence to prevent future attacks.