May 202005

Newsweek’s blunder with the Quran-abuse story doesn’t debunk the greater mess of allegations about detainee mistreatment — religious coercion included — at Gitmo. Despite that numerous conservative pundits, and the Bush White House, are eager to claim that it does. Today, Human Rights First has more: Detainees held at the U.S. military base in Cuba told their U.S. lawyers about the use of tactics intended to degrade their religious beliefs in a series of interviews beginning in October 2004; the depositions were recently declassified by the Pentagon, and were published today on the watchdog group’s Web site. The charges are consistent with other allegations by detainees at U.S.-run detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with Defense Department reports that have already been made public.

According to the report, one of the detainees alleges that an interrogator told him "a holy war was occurring, between the Cross and the Star of David on the one hand, and the Crescent on the other." Guards allegedly interfered with detainees’ prayers. In another incident, a guard allegedly placed a detainee’s shoes on his Koran. And one detainee charges that "copies of the Koran were sometimes thrown on the floor."

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