April 8, 2008


"Why Jordan?" The question puzzled Abu Hamza al-Tabuki, a Saudi citizen who claims that US agents arrested him in Afghanistan in December 2001, interrogated him in Pakistan, and then flew him in a private jet to Jordan.  Because he was not Jordanian and had no past connection to Jordan, he did not understand why he was sent there.  "Why wasn't I sent to America since I was arrested by Americans?" al-Tabuki asked, in a narrative he sent to contacts in Jordan after he was released.

What al-Tabuki learned was that Jordan offered greater possibilities for abusive interrogations: it was a place for him to be questioned "more freely," as one US official put it.

According to al-Tabuki, the Jordanians' methods included "terror and fear, torture and beatings, insults and verbal abuse, and threats to expose my private parts and rape me."  Nor was al-Tabuki alone in facing this abuse.  Based on our investigations in Jordan and elsewhere, including interviews with several former detainees, Human Rights Watch has concluded that al-Tabuki was one of at least 14 prisoners that the United States sent to Jordan for interrogation and likely torture.

From 2001 until at least 2004, Jordan's General Intelligence Department (GID) served as a proxy jailer for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), holding prisoners that the CIA apparently wanted kept out of circulation, and later handing some of them back to the CIA.  More than just warehousing these men, the GID interrogated them using methods that were even more brutal than those in which the CIA has been implicated to date.  The prisoners were typically held for several months in GID custody-and in at least one case, for nearly two years.

While the exact number of transfers cannot be ascertained, Human Rights Watch has found that at least 14 non-Jordanian prisoners were sent from United States to Jordanian custody during this three-year period, and the actual figure may be much higher.  While a few other countries have received individuals rendered by the United States in recent years (that is, transferred without formal legal process), no country is known to have detained as many as Jordan.

Human Rights Watch has credible information indicating that the prisoners included at least five Yemenis, three Algerians,two Saudis, a Mauritanian, a Syrian, a Tunisian, and one or more Chechens.  They may also have included a Libyan, an Iraqi Kurd, a Kuwaiti, one or more Egyptians, and a national of the United Arab Emirates.

The majority of the men whom the US brought to Jordan were initially arrested in either of two places: in Pakistan, particularly the city of Karachi, and in Georgia, from the Pankisi Gorge. One reportedly said that he was held for three months at a US prison in Iraq before being moved to Jordan, while many others were later held in secret CIA detention in Kabul or at the US military base at Bagram, in Afghanistan.

These prisoners include five men currently held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba-Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Hassan bin Attash, Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi, Jamal Mar'i, and Mohamedou Ould Slahi-as well as one man believed to be in custody in Saudi Arabia.  Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, currently in custody in Libya, was probably also held in Jordan for a time.  The current whereabouts of a number of other former prisoners are unknown or unconfirmed, though some of them may have been returned to their countries of origin.

While in GID detention in late 2002, one of these prisoners, Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi, wrote a long note describing his ordeal.  The note, which al-Sharqawi marked with his thumb print, was smuggled out of the facility in 2003.  In it, al-Sharqawi describes being held as a secret prisoner and hidden in secret cells.  Consistent with what al-Sharqawi told two fellow prisoners at GID at the time, the note states that the GID interrogators "beat me in a way that does not know any limits."

"They threatened me with electricity," the note continues, "with snakes and dogs .... [They said] we'll make you see death .... They threatened to rape me."

Al-Sharqawi later told his lawyers at Guantanamo that GID interrogators had subjected him to a torture method known as falaqa, by which prisoners are given extended beatings on the bottoms of their feet.  He said that after the interrogators beat him, they would resume interrogating him, and would threaten to electrocute him if he did not provide information.  He also told his lawyers that when representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited the GID facility, he was hidden from them.

The same two prisoners who communicated with al-Sharqawi while he was held at GID also communicated with Hassan bin Attash.  They said that bin Attash arrived at the GID facility several months after al-Sharqawi, and suffered similarly abusive treatment. 

"Just about everyone at GID was beaten with sticks," one former GID prisoner told Human Rights Watch. "People were beaten on their feet.  They did it in the basement.  I was beaten twice, but al-Sharqawi, ba Attash and al-Jeddawi [a Saudi prisoner who was rendered to Jordan] were beaten much more than me."

According to another former detainee who claims that he was held in a neighboring cell, terrorist suspect Ramzi bin al-Shibh was among the prisoners that US agents transferred to GID custody.  The former detainee told Human Rights Watch that al-Shibh (who was arrested in Pakistan in September 2002) was held in GID custody in late 2002.  Al-Shibh reportedly said that he had been flown to Jordan via Qatar, and that he had been badly tortured in Jordanian custody.

Flight records that Human Rights Watch has obtained support these claims.  Civilian aircraft linked to the CIA, including Gulfstream jets and Boeing 737s that are known to have been used for prisoner transport, made dozens of trips to Jordan during the period of 2001 to 2004.  Some of these flights coincide exactly with the dates that detainees said they were transferred.

In a meeting with Human Rights Watch in Amman in late August 2007, senior GID officials categorically denied that the GID had held prisoners rendered by the United States.  They also denied that torture was practiced in GID detention.  Given the weight of credible evidence showing the opposite, their denials are unconvincing.

Human Rights Watch conducted research for this report from August 2007 to February 2008 in Jordan. We held in depth interviews with six Jordanian nationals who said that while they were detained at the GID detention facility in Amman, they communicated with prisoners who had been delivered to the GID from US custody.[1]  All of our informants were detained by the GID for varying periods of time between mid-2002 and 2005.  Human Rights Watch also spoke to a former Guantanamo detainee who said that while at Guantanamo he spoke to prisoners who had been rendered by the CIA to Jordan.  In addition, we received extremely useful information from lawyers representing detainees at Guantanamo, including detainees who were previously held for a time in Jordan.  Finally, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than a dozen Jordanians who claim that they were brutally tortured in GID custody during this same period, and who described the torture techniques that the GID employed.  We have sought, wherever possible, to corroborate information from interviews with prisoners' written accounts, flight logs, and other secondary materials.

[1]Human Rights Watch is withholding the names of our sources in order to protect them from any possible reprisals.  They were interviewed in Jordan in August 2007, October 2007, and February 2008.