Skip to main content

The Bush administration’s continuing reliance on secret CIA prisons violates basic human rights standards, Human Rights Watch said today.

The announcement that Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi was transferred to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility from CIA custody raises worrying questions about how long he has been detained by the CIA, where he was held, what kind of treatment he endured, and whether other prisoners still remain in CIA detention. The CIA has previously detained numerous detainees for months and even years.

“The CIA’s secret detention of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi is a blatant violation of international law,” said Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch. “This transfer shows that Congress will have to act to end the CIA’s illegal detention program.”

By holding people in unacknowledged, incommunicado detention, outside of the protection of the law, the Bush administration has violated the international legal prohibition on enforced disappearance. The CIA’s reliance on enforced disappearance also raises serious concerns about the likelihood of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Notably, numerous detainees previously transferred from CIA custody to Guantanamo have claimed that they were subjected to torture.

Human Rights Watch also criticized the administration for transferring new detainees to the Guantanamo facility. Just one month ago, the Department of Defense announced that it had transferred to Guantanamo a Kenyan citizen, Mohammad Abdul Malik, arrested in Mombassa.

Human Rights Watch today renewed its call to have suspected criminal detainees at Guantanamo transferred to federal courts and prosecuted under US federal criminal law.

“If al-Hadi and other detainees committed the crimes they’re accused of, they should be tried for acts of terrorism in federal court, under a fair and transparent system,” said Mariner.

On September 6, 2006, President George W. Bush publicly revealed the existence of the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program. Although he stated that, as of that moment, there were no prisoners in CIA custody, he did not promise that the program was closing permanently.

It is believed that more than one al-Qaeda suspect uses the alias of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi (or Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi), complicating the job of verifying the date of the present detainee’s arrest. A person with that name was reportedly arrested in January 2002; another person with that name is currently on the FBI’s “Rewards for Justice” list. The person on the FBI’s list, for whom there is a $1 million reward, matches the current detainee in certain particulars (both were born in Mosul, Iraq, and both were members of the Iraqi military).

US officials have told journalists that al-Hadi was arrested in late 2006, meaning that al-Hadi has been in secret CIA custody for at least five months.

As many as 38 other detainees who were believed to have once been held in CIA custody remain unaccounted for as of April 27, 2007 (see list below). Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to President Bush in February 2007, requesting information on the fate of these detainees, but has received no response to date.

It is possible that the president’s statement that the CIA’s prisons were empty in September 2006 was true only in a technical sense, and that in fact prisoners were being held in “proxy detention” – held in another country on behalf of the United States.

“We’re skeptical that President Bush was telling the whole story when he said the CIA prisons were empty,” Mariner said. “It’s quite possible that his claim was based on legal niceties: that while detainees were in the custody of other countries, the CIA had the power to determine their fate.”

Background and List of Detainees

Based on detainee testimony, media articles, and other sources, Human Rights Watch compiled a list of 38 people believed to have been held in CIA prisons and whose current whereabouts are unknown. This list was first published by Human Rights Watch in its February 2007 report, “Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention”.

The list below provides their names, nationalities, and place and date of arrest, where known:

1. Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (Libyan) (Pakistan, 11/01; Human Rights Watch has received unconfirmed reports that al-Libi was returned to Libya in early 2006)
2. Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi (presumably Iraqi) (1/02)
3. Anas al-Liby (Libyan) (Khartoum, Sudan, 2/02)
4. Retha al-Tunisi (Tunisian) (Karachi, Pakistan, early- to mid-2002)
5. Sheikh Ahmed Salim (aka Swedan) (Tanzanian) (Kharadar, Pakistan, 7/02)
6. Saif al Islam el Masry (Egyptian) (Pankisi Gorge, Georgia, 9/02)
7. Amin al-Yafia (Yemeni) (Iran, 2002)
8. [] al-Rubaia (Iraqi) (Iran, 2002)
9. Mohammed Omar Abdel-Rahman (aka Asadallah) (Egyptian, son of the “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel-Rahman) (Quetta, Pakistan, 2/03)
10. Yassir al-Jazeeri (Algerian) (Lahore, Pakistan, 3/03)
11. Suleiman Abdalla Salim (Kenyan) (Mogadishu, Somalia, 3/03)
12. Aafia Siddiqui (Pakistani) (Karachi, Pakistan, 3/03)
13. Marwan al-Adeni (Yemeni) (arrested in approximately 5/03)
14. Jawad al-Bashar (Egyptian) (Vindher, Balochistan, Pakistan, 5/03)
15. Safwan al-Hasham (aka Haffan al-Hasham) (Saudi) (Hyderabad, Pakistan, 5/03)
16. Abu Naseem (Tunisian) (Peshawar, Pakistan, 6/03)
17. Ali Abd al Rahman al Faqasi al Ghamdi (aka Abu Bakr al Azdi) (Saudi) (Medina, Saudi Arabia, 6/03)
18. Hassan Ghul (Pakistani) (northern Iraq, 1/04)
19. Ayoub al-Libi (Libyan) (Peshawar, Pakistan, 1/04)
20. Walid bin Azmi (unknown nationality) (Karachi, Pakistan, 1/04)
21. Ibad Al Yaquti al Sheikh al Sufiyan (Saudi) (Karachi, Pakistan, 1/04)
22. Amir Hussein Abdullah al-Misri (aka Fazal Mohammad Abdullah al-Misri) (Egyptian) (Karachi, Pakistan, 1/04)
23. Khalid al-Zawahiri (Egyptian) (South Waziristan, Pakistan, 2/04)
24. Mohammed al Afghani (Afghan born in Saudi Arabia) (Peshawar, Pakistan, 5/04)
25. Musaab Aruchi (aka al-Baluchi) (Pakistani) (Karachi, Pakistan, 6/04)
26. Abdul Basit (probably Saudi or Yemeni) (arrested before 6/04)
27. Adnan (arrested before 6/04)
28. Hudeifa (arrested before 6/04)
29. Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan (aka Abu Talaha) (Pakistani) (Lahore, Pakistan, 7/04)
30. Qari Saifullah Akhtar (Pakistani) (arrested in the UAE, 8/04)
31. Mustafa Mohamed Fadhil (Kenyan/Egyptian) (eastern Punjab, Pakistan, 8/04)
32. Sharif al-Masri (Egyptian) (Pakistan border, 8/04)
33. Osama Nazir (Pakistani) (Faisalabad, Pakistan, 11/04)
34. Osama bin Yousaf (Pakistani) (Faisalabad, Pakistan, 8/05)
35. Muhammad Setmarian Naser (Syrian/Spanish) (Quetta, Pakistan, 11/05)
36. Unnamed Somali (possibly Shoeab as-Somali)
37. Unnamed Somali (possibly Rethwan as-Somali)
38. Speen Ghul (from Africa) (Pakistan) (unknown capture date)

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Region / Country