Previous PageTable Of Contents


Persons detained on immigration charges or on material witness warrants are not accused of criminal conduct, much less convicted of it. Nevertheless, detainees held in connection with the September 11 investigation have been treated as though they were convicted terrorists. They have been forced to spend weeks and even months enduring harsh detention conditions. Some have been held in solitary confinement, allowed out of their cells infrequently, subjected to extraordinary security measures, and often prevented communicating with the outside world, including with family and attorneys. Some have been victims of verbal and physical abuse, denied adequate medical attention, and housed with suspected or convicted criminals. Non-English-speaking detainees have been unable to communicate with officials due to lack of translators and bilingual jail staff. Finally, Muslim and Jewish detainees have had considerable difficulty meeting their religious obligations, including praying practices and special diets. 

Such conditions are inconsistent with basic human rights protected by international standards. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) establishes that "all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person."267 The ICCPR also prohibits any "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."268 The numerous allegations of abuse and inadequate detention conditions have prompted the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General to launch an investigation of the treatment of "special interest " detainees held at Passaic County Jail and the Metropolitan Detention Center.269 Its report is scheduled to be released by October 2002.270

Some forms of mistreatment that many "special interest" detainees have endured are no different from those faced by other immigration detainees. A 1998 Human Rights Watch report concluded that many jails used by the INS to hold immigration detainees did not provide adequate detention conditions.271 The report documented, among other findings, that INS detainees were held with and under the same punitive conditions as convicted criminals. Living quarters were often overcrowded; access to exercise was inadequate; food and clothing were sometimes limited; and medical and dental care was substandard. In addition, access to legal representatives, family, and friends was severely curtailed by strict jail rules that were inappropriate for administrative detainees. The report also documented the INS's failure to oversee appropriately the conditions under which the detainees lived. 

One of the reasons for these inadequacies was the lack of national guidelines and standards for the treatment of immigration detainees. In part as a result of criticism by Human Rights Watch and other groups, the INS developed Detention Standards to be implemented in all facilities that house INS detainees to ensure minimum guarantees in their treatment. The precise timetable for the implementation of the Detention Standards is a mystery.272 Our ongoing monitoring of the conditions under which INS detainees are confined indicates, however, that they continue to be held under inadequate conditions that fail to meet the Detention Standards. In addition, 54 percent of immigration detainees continue to be incarcerated in jails that are intended for accused or convicted criminal inmates, and often hold immigration detainees with those populations.273

Administrative Segregation

Scores of non-citizens detained in connection with the investigation of the September 11 attacks and charged with administrative violations, minor crimes, or held as material witnesses have been incarcerated for weeks and even months in segregated housing units designed for inmates with records of extremely dangerous or high security risk behavior. Some facilities kept the detainees isolated in their cells twenty-four hours a day, with only brief breaks for exercise outside of the cells a few times a week. They had restricted or no access to telephones, limited visitation rights, and were denied access to libraries, radio, and television. In some cases, the lights were kept on in their cells twenty-four hours a day. 

Such harsh and punitive conditions are typically used to punish jail or prison inmates for violating disciplinary rules or to segregate inmates with a history of dangerous conduct or who might be at risk from other inmates ("administrative segregation"). They are completely unjustified for persons detained on material witness warrants because they may have information useful to a criminal investigation and who have not violated jail rules while incarcerated. They are equally unjustified for persons detained on immigration charges. According to the INS's Detention Standards, administrative segregation should be a "non-punitive form of separation from the general population" under which detainees should "receive the same general privileges as detainees in the general population, consistent with available resources and security considerations." These privileges include interaction with other detainees, visitation and access to recreation, television, board games, the law library, and reading materials, and telephone access similar to that of detainees not held in segregation.274

In November and December 2001, fifty-four to fifty-six men, the majority or all of whom were "special interest" cases, were incarcerated in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) of the Metropolitan Detention Center in New York. Some were doubled-up in one-person cells while others were held alone, according to the Legal Aid Society of New York.275 Lights were kept on twenty-four hours a day at the SHU and the windows in some cells were covered so no sunlight filtered through.276 Attorneys said that their clients complained that they were woken up every day in the middle of the night for head counts. They also said that detainees were only allowed one hour of outdoor exercise per day. Since the exercise period was scheduled for 6:00 a.m. and the detainees were not given winter clothes, many declined to leave their cells. Detainees were shackled, cavity-searched, and videotaped whenever they were moved outside their cells, and they were videotaped even when they were talking to their attorneys. Lawyers told Human Rights Watch that they did not know for sure if the cameras recorded sound but their confidential conversations with their clients could certainly be lip-read. Attorneys have also alleged that some detainees held at the SHU were physically and verbally abused,277 denied medical care,278 allowed only very restricted access to telephones,279 and deliberately prevented from observing certain mandatory religious practices.280

Detainees held in administrative segregation at other facilities endured similarly stringent conditions of detention. For instance, Uzi Bohadana said he was held seventeen days in solitary confinement at Concordia Jail in Ferriday, Louisiana, during which he could not make any phone calls or receive any visits. He said he was not allowed outside of his cell at all during this time. He said a nurse came to his cell regularly to treat the injuries he had received after being beaten by inmates at another facility. Bohadana said that sometimes correctional officers did not take him to the showers for a week. He had no radio, television, and no reading materials. When he protested the conditions of his detention, correctional officers said the FBI had ordered it.281

An undisclosed number of "special interest" cases were held in isolation at Denton County Jail in Texas. One of them was Ghassam Dahduli, a forty-one-year-old Palestinian man born in Saudi Arabia. Dahduli, who had lived in the United States since 1978, had been charged with an immigration violation before September 11 for taking a part-time job in network engineering when his visa allowed him to engage only in religious work. 

Dahduli was free on bond while the case made its way through immigration courts. On September 22, 2001, fifteen to twenty FBI, police, and INS agents came to his house "with full media accompaniment," Dahduli said. The INS revoked his bail, arguing he was a flight risk and a danger to the community. Dahduli said that the officials told the media he had contacts with bin Laden, which he adamantly denied. 

Dahduli was handcuffed, placed in belly chains and shackles, and transported to Denton County Jail, Texas, where he remained for sixty-six days in solitary confinement. He was held in a seven-by-ten-foot cell that had a shower and a toilet although it was "freezing." Dahduli was not given an additional blanket. He did not have access to television, radio, or newspapers; he received a Quran only two weeks before he was deported. Dahduli said he was only allowed out of his cell three times a week for an hour, when he was taken to an outdoor area where he stayed alone. He stated that he was usually let out at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m., when it was "freezing cold." He only had a short-sleeved shirt and was not permitted to take a blanket. When it was raining or had rained and the floor was wet he was not allowed outside.282

Dahduli was deported on November 26, 2001. He was escorted to Jordan by an INS deportation and removal officer and by a Department of Justice investigator assigned to his case. Dahduli said that an FBI agent was waiting for him at the airport with Jordanian authorities. He was detained and placed in isolation in Jordan for fifteen days during which he was interrogated four times, but he said he was treated well while in custody. Dahduli has been released and he said he has not had any further contact with Jordanian or U.S. authorities.283

Some detainees from the Middle East, South Asia, or North Africa, who were in the custody of the INS before September 11 were moved to segregation after the terrorist attacks. For example, Mahtabuddin Ahmed, a citizen of Bangladesh, was placed in solitary confinement at the Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange, Virginia, shortly after September 11 and only removed thirty-three days later in response to his lawyers' complaints. Ahmed said he had no hot water for a week and was not given access to cleaning products or a brush even though the toilets in his cell wing flooded repeatedly and the sewage stagnated in his cell. He was handcuffed and shackled when he was taken from his cell, one hour per day; the shackles were kept during his indoor recreational time and in the shower. He was not allowed outdoors at all. Ahmed said that he was told by the jail official in charge of inmate classification that he had placed him in administrative segregation for his own protection because of his last name. Ahmed said that there were other Muslims in the general population who were not placed in solitary confinement.284

The criteria used to assign a detainee to administrative segregation are unclear. Many detainees were never told why they were subjected to such extreme conditions of detention.285 When asked, some jail officials reportedly told detainees that they were kept in isolation for their own protection. While Human Rights Watch recognizes that some detainees may have needed protection from other inmates, such protection could be provided without depriving the detainees of access to phones, visits, reading material, radios, and the ability to interact with other non-criminal detainees. 

The apparently arbitrary placement of some "special interest" detainees in segregated confinement is evidenced by the treatment of three pairs of "special interest" detainees at three different jails. In each case, the detainees were nationals of the same countries and were charged with the same immigration violations, but were nonetheless held under different detention conditions: One detainee kept in isolation and the other one held with the general prison population. One of the cases involves Osama Elfar, an Egyptian citizen, who was being held in solitary confinement for a week at Jennings Jail in Missouri, while another Egyptian citizen, Ibrahim Bayoumi, was not.286 Both were charged with overstaying their visas. Elfar said that when he asked a correctional officer why he was held in isolation, he told him that the INS had ordered it for his own safety. However, this did not spare him from being harassed and verbally abused by inmates and correctional officers, who called him a terrorist and a member of Osama bin Laden's organization. Elfar was not allowed to take a shower for five days or leave his cell at all for several days. Even though he was told that visits were permitted two days a week, jail officials apparently told his father and some friends who had come to see him that the INS had ordered that Elfar not receive any visits.287

It appears that some "special interest" detainees were held in segregation not for their own protection or because there was any evidence that they were a danger to themselves or to others, but solely because they were under investigation in connection with the September 11 attacks. When Ali Alikhan protested being kept in isolation, a correctional officer reportedly told him, "they want to check if you are a bad person or not."288 Alikhan's attorney said that he believed his client was placed in segregation for coercion and punishment.289

Extreme conditions of detention have taken their toll on detainees. A man interviewed by Human Rights Watch after being kept in solitary confinement for more than three months appeared to have memory problems, said he could not sleep for the first two months, and that he was depressed.290 Another detainee said he was going "crazy" while in isolation.291 These reactions to prolonged isolation are not uncommon. Psychiatrists say that some detainees who are held in solitary confinement for long periods may suffer from memory loss, severe anxiety, hallucinations, and delusions.292

Physical and Verbal Abuse

Several non-citizens detained in connection with the investigation of the September 11 attacks have alleged that law enforcement officials or correctional staff physically and verbally abused them while in custody. It is impossible to know, however, how prevalent the mistreatment of detainees has been due to lack of access to them and the secrecy that has shrouded the investigation. Human Rights Watch has documented two cases of physical abuse by public officials and three cases by criminal inmates where authorities failed to prevent the aggression or act to stop it. Three other detainees have alleged in two pending lawsuits filed against the U.S. government that officials beat them.293 In addition, a third of the detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that they had suffered verbal abuse from correctional officers and/or criminal inmates.

Cases of alleged physical abuse committed by law enforcement agents or jail staff include the following:

· Tony Oulai, the citizen of the Ivory Coast, whose case is described above, told Human Rights Watch that interrogators beat him while he was detained in Baker County Detention Center, Florida. Oulai was alone in an unlit cell that had a bed but no sheets or blankets after midnight on September 17, 2001, when two men wearing jeans and t-shirts, and no identification or badges opened his cell. They put handcuffs and shackles on him, and took him to another cell for interrogation. They asked him if he was a Muslim and if he was from an Islamic country. He replied "no" to each question. Oulai said that one of the interrogators hit him from behind. He fell on the floor and curled up to protect himself. One of the men put a foot on Oulai's neck, while the other one hit him on the back and in the face repeatedly. "I was begging for my life," said Oulai. He estimated that the beating took less than an hour. 

Bleeding from his nose, mouth, and ears, Oulai was then taken by the two men to a cell where there was an Egyptian detainee. Oulai said he could not talk and he fell asleep. In the morning he gave his sister's name to the Egyptian man and asked him to call her. He complained to jail officers but said they told him, "They are going to take care of you where you're going." Oulai was then transferred to Bradenton Federal Detention Center in Manatee County.294

· A lawsuit against the government described instances of abuse Asif-ur-Rehman Saffi, a Pakistan-born French citizen, claimed he suffered at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in New York:

At MDC, Mr. Saffi was dragged roughly from the van into the building. On the way, his face was slammed into several walls ... [Correctional officers] bent back his thumbs, stepped on his bare feet with their shoes, and pushed him into a wall so hard that he fainted. After Mr. Saffi fell to the floor, they kicked him in the face. The lieutenant in charge ...called Mr. Saffi a terrorist, boasting that Mr. Saffi would be treated harshly because of his involvement in the September 11th terrorist attacks and threatening to punish him if he ever smiled ... [Correctional officers] swore at him, belittled and insulted his religion, and degraded him. They called him a religious fanatic and a terrorist.295
· Another plaintiff in the same lawsuit, Syed Amjad Ali Jaffri, a citizen of Pakistan, also claimed he was physically and verbally abused by correctional officers at the Metropolitan Detention Center:
One [correctional officer], in the presence of [other officers], told [Jaffri]: "Whether you [participated in the September 11th terrorist attacks] or not, if the FBI arrested you, that's good enough for me. I'm going to do to you what you did." The [correctional officer] then slammed Mr. Jaffri's head into a wall, severely loosening his lower front teeth and causing him extreme pain. Mr. Jaffri felt pain and discomfort from that injury throughout his stay at MDC. He was never, however, allowed to see a dentist.296
· Osama Awadallah, a lawful permanent resident of the United States and a citizen of Jordan, maintained that he was mistreated at various detention facilities while he was being held as a material witness.297 His allegations are included in a statement his attorney filed with the court on his behalf:
The guards [at the San Bernardino County jail, California] forced [Awadallah] to strip naked before a female officer. At one point, an officer twisted his arm, forced him to bow and pushed his face to the floor.... The government transferred Awadallah to a federal facility in Oklahoma City on September 28.... While in Oklahoma, a guard threw shoes at his head and face, cursed at him and made insulting remarks about his religion... 

On October 1, 2001, Awadallah was shackled in leg irons and flown to New York City.... At the New York airport, the United States marshals threatened to get his brother and cursed "the Arabs".... The marshals then transported him to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York ("New York MCC") where he was placed in a room so cold that his body turned blue.... Awadallah was then taken to a doctor. After being examined, a guard caused his hand to bleed by pushing him into a door and a wall while he was handcuffed.... The same guard also kicked his leg shackles and pulled him by the hair to force him to face an American flag....

The next day, October 2, 2001, the marshals transported Awadallah to [the] Court. With his hands cuffed behind his back and bound to his feet, the transporting marshals pinched his upper arms so hard that they were bruised... In the elevator, the marshals made his left foot bleed by kicking it and the supervising marshal threatened to kill him...298 The U.S. government stated in an affidavit filed in court that "there is no dispute that Awadallah had bruises on his upper arms as of October 4, 2001."299 A report by a Special Investigative Agent found that Awadallah had "multiple [bruises] on arms, right shoulder, [and] both ankles, a cut on his left hand, and an unspecified mark near his left eye."300

Marvin Lee Owen, an attorney for the Metropolitan Correctional Center, testified at a hearing that he had seen photos of Awadallah's bruises and they were "consistent with being gripped firmly while being moved in and out of court," according to a press report.301

Detainees have also claimed they were verbally harassed and physically abused by jail inmates held on criminal charges. At least three have said they were beaten by inmates and that correctional officers failed to prevent the attacks or to act in a timely manner to stop them. Two of the detainees were held in Mississippi jails where immigration detainees were commingled with accused or convicted criminals.302 In both cases, inmates somehow learned that the targeted detainees had been arrested in connection with the terrorist investigation. The Civil Rights Division of the FBI opened investigations in these two cases but decided not to prosecute any of the alleged aggressors. Local law enforcement has also taken no action. A third man, Qaiser Rafiq, who was held on criminal charges in Connecticut, allegedly asked jail officials for protection after a local newspaper published a story linking him to terrorism. Jail staff took no measures to protect him. He said inmates beat him repeatedly. He was transferred out of the facility only after the third assault. 

Cases of alleged physical abuse committed against September 11 INS detainees by inmates include:

· Uzi Bohadana, a twenty-four-year-old Jewish Israeli, was arrested on September 14, 2001, on immigration charges. He was held at the Madison County Jail in Canton, Mississippi. He told Human Rights Watch that he did not have any problems in jail for two days until someone-Bohadana suspects it was jail staff-spread the word he was a terrorist. At around 6:30 p.m. on September 16, he was sleeping on the floor when six inmates kicked him in the face and punched him. He said he passed out and then woke up hearing an inmate saying, "Come on, stop, leave him alone." Someone also said, "let's finish him," and he was beaten again. During the beating he was called a "fucking terrorist." Bohadana said he shouted for help and kicked the cell door. Prior to the attack, a correctional officer had always been stationed at a post about two feet away from the cell, but there was nobody there during the beating. At 9:15 p.m., more than two and a half hours after the beating, Bohadana said that correctional officers came in and took him out of the cell. His injuries required stitches on his right eye and lip, and surgery to treat his broken jaw. 

The next day, INS and FBI agents questioned Bohadana about the incident. Bohadana said that he identified the six men who attacked him from pictures that the officials showed him.303 On December 27, 2001, he received a letter from the Civil Rights Division of the FBI stating: "We can take no action at this time because there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the identity of the person or persons responsible for this crime."304

· Hasnain Javed, a twenty-year-old Pakistani, was arrested on September 19, 2001 for overstaying his visa and taken to the Stone County Correctional Facility in Wiggins, Mississippi. He was placed in a cell with five other INS detainees and about five accused or convicted criminals. Javed said that as he was making a phone call, a criminal inmate attacked him. According to Javed, "He gave an extremely powerful punch on my face and continued punching me so ferociously that he broke my front tooth. A second man then joined him, and they beat me up together for over five minutes." He rang an intercom bell and asked for help from a woman who answered. He was crying and pleaded, "Please come and save me." A third man also beat him. The attackers were shouting and calling him a terrorist, saying he was not from the United States. An inmate told him, "hey, bin Laden, this is the first round. There are gonna be ten rounds." "I have nothing to do with this man," Javed replied. "Too bad, you're Pakistani, you're too close," the inmate said. "They kept banging my head fiercely against the bars of the cell, and my left ear began to bleed," Javed said.305 "I thought I was going to die. I was crying and praying for an officer to show up," he told Human Rights Watch. Javed said he went to his bunk, but the attackers would not leave him alone. They took his clothes off and beat him again. Everyone was cheering and laughing, and they shouted, "Kill him!" A man held him down naked while another one smacked him with a shoe. After being beaten for twenty or twenty-five minutes, correctional officers arrived at the cell. Javed had a tooth broken, bruised ribs, a split lip, a punctured eardrum, and a lacerated, swollen tongue. According to his lawyer, who saw him two days later, he could hardly speak. She said that Javed had to undergo therapy to deal with the emotional trauma stemming from the attack.

Javed did not know how the inmates knew his nationality since, he told Human Rights Watch, he is "very fair-skinned" and speaks perfect American English. In statements to the press, Stone County Sheriff Mike Ballard said that Javed taunted other detainees by saying, "Fuck the United States. I'm glad they hit the World Trade Center," an allegation that Javed denies. Ballard further asserted that Javed had attacked other inmates with a broom handle, so they reacted in self-defense. The sheriff did not explain why Javed would assault others naked. Ballard said the correctional officers were watching the assault on video and got to the cell in two or three minutes.306

Two days after the assault, once Javed was released on bond, his attorney took him to the New Orleans office of the FBI, where officials took pictures of his injuries, and to the local hospital. The FBI opened an investigation on the incident but it did not ask Javed to identify the attackers and it did not conduct any follow-up interview with him. His lawyer said that she offered the medical records but the FBI did not ask for them. She also informed the FBI, the INS district director, and law enforcement officials in Mississippi in an October 3 letter that several immigration detainees witnessed the assault.307 When Human Rights Watch talked to the FBI agent in charge of the investigation at the end of November, he asked us if we knew the identities of those witnesses.308 Javed's attorney told Human Rights Watch that to her knowledge, the FBI never contacted or interviewed these individuals. 

She said that an FBI agent told her that the agency believed that no federal law had been broken and, thus, they would not take any action. By June 14, 2002, eight months after the assault, she had not received an official notification of this decision.309 Local authorities have taken no action on the case.310

· Qaiser Rafiq, a national of Pakistan and a legal permanent resident charged with larceny, claimed he was beaten three times by inmates while in detention and that officials did nothing to prevent the attacks despite his complaints.311 He was arrested in Colchester, Connecticut, on October 16, 2001, and spent three months at the Walker Reception Center without having any incident with any detainee. However, on January 7, 2002, a local newspaper story reported law enforcement agents' suspicions that Rafiq was linked to the September 11 attacks.312 Rafiq told Human Rights Watch that fellow inmates read the article and he was then harassed and called a terrorist. He said he told the captain who managed the C1 block where he was confined that he felt threatened. The official replied that the process for a transfer to another facility was very long. 

Rafiq told Human Rights Watch that he was first assaulted on January 18, when in the outdoors recreation area four men punched him nine or ten times in the neck, stomach, and chest. He said that a correctional officer was nearby but "looked the other way." Rafiq stated that he complained to the captain and asked to see a judge, but the captain told him, "I can't call the court if you're not bleeding." 

Rafiq was beaten again four days later. He was in the day room when two men hit him multiple times in his neck, stomach, and back for three or four minutes. He complained to the captain who apparently did nothing. 

Rafiq said he was beaten for a third time on February 5. He was in his cell after lunch when three men beat him on the back of the head and on the face and tried to choke him. One of them said, "We've read in the newspaper that you are a terrorist, and we are going to kill you." Rafiq said that the attack occurred in front of two correctional officers but they did not help him. He said that he had bruises on the eye and that his lip was cut and bled copiously. He was taken to the medical office where they took pictures of him, but he claimed that he did not receive any medical treatment. He insisted on filing an incident report with state police despite being told that he would probably be targeted by the inmates that he accused of attacking him if he did so. 

Rafiq was transferred the same day to the Raymond L. Corrigan Correctional Institute in Uncansville, Connecticut. Upon arrival there he was kept four hours in isolation. He described his treatment in a letter he sent to President Parvaiz Musharraf of Pakistan:

During these four hours almost every correction officer felt his job to harass, curse and threaten me, they threatened to kill me, they made abusive racist comments about myself, Pakistan, Pakistanis and Islam. I was told by one of the officers that I am the only Pakistani Terrorist in their hands and I have to pay for Daniel Pearl [an American journalist who was murdered in Pakistan]. They also showed me the Hartford Courant article and told me that they are going to pass this to all C.O.'s [correctional officers] and inmates and they are sure that someone will take the revenge of Daniel Pearl and kill you.313
Additionally, several of the detainees have claimed they were harassed by correctional officers and/or criminal inmates. Six detainees told Human Rights Watch that they had been harassed by law enforcement agents, and five by inmates. Non-citizens arrested in connection with the September 11 investigation were called terrorists, "Osama bin Laden," and told to go back to their countries. When harassment came from inmates, sometimes the detainees complained to correctional officers but the detainees claimed that officials failed to investigate their complaints, to punish or warn the inmates, or to take precautionary measures to protect the detainees from possible aggression by inmates. 

Inadequate Health Care 

In 1998, Human Rights Watch documented inadequate health care for INS detainees held in local jails. The INS subsequently specified minimum health care to be afforded to INS detainees as part of its Detention Standards.314 Nevertheless, many "special interest" detainees have complained about inadequate health care while in detention. 

International standards require that people in custody receive adequate health care. The U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners ("Minimum Rules"), which apply to all people in detention, provide that detainees be examined upon their arrival to a detention facility and thereafter as necessary and be transferred to hospitals if they require specialist treatment at any point during their detention.315 The Minimum Rules also assert: "The medical officer shall have the care of the physical and mental health of the prisoners and should daily see all sick prisoners, all who complain of illness, and any prisoner to whom his attention is specially directed."316 The U.N. Body of Principles for the Protection of all Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment declares that all detainees are entitled to medical care and treatment free of charge.317

The most striking example of denial of health care involved Muhammed Butt who was detained at Hudson County Correctional Center in New Jersey. Butt, a fifty-five-year-old Pakistani national held on immigration charges, died at the facility on October 23, 2001. According to press reports, a preliminary autopsy determined that he died from unspecified "heart problems." Press reports also stated that he was treated for a gum infection with antibiotics from October 1 to October 6. No other pre-existing ailments were reported. 

Mohammed Munir Gondal, Butt's cellmate, told Human Rights Watch that since Butt did not speak English, he and other detainees helped Butt fill out five or six request forms to see medical personnel beginning about ten days before his death. Butt would file one and after a couple of days, when he received no answer, he would submit another one. Gondal states that Butt never saw a doctor pursuant to these requests. 

On October 23, Gondal and Butt had breakfast at 4:00 a.m. and then went back to sleep. Gondal slept above Butt's bunk. At about 6:00 a.m., Butt said he felt "pain." According to Gondal, Butt knocked on the cell door for five or ten minutes in an unsuccessful attempt to get an officer's attention. Butt then went back to sleep. After 9:00 a.m., Gondal woke up and called Butt, but he did not answer. Gondal shook him, but there was no response. Gondal alerted the correctional officers, and they took Butt away.318

Six days after Butt's death, Human Rights Watch wrote to the INS, the FBI, and the Hudson County prosecutor's office, requesting the release of information regarding Butt's health, and the circumstances and cause of his death. The FBI did not provide any clarification about the death but told Human Rights Watch that it would consider opening an investigation into the death. No findings stemming from such an inquiry have been released, however. In a response in early December, the INS stated that it could not release any information on the case "due to laws relating to privacy" unless Human Rights Watch had Butt's "written consent" and "written signature" authorizing the disclosure of his file.319

In a subsequent letter, the INS acknowledged its mistake in requesting the signature of a dead man, but still insisted on withholding all information unless it received consent by "an authorized party representing Mr. Butt's interests."320 Butt did not have an attorney when he died and all close family members live in Pakistan. Human Rights Watch has been unable to locate his family to obtain their consent. The organization filed a FOIA request for the release of government documents concerning Butt on February 28, 2002, which is still pending.

Human Rights Watch understands that there is a legitimate privacy concern not to disclose personal medical records of detainees without their consent or the consent of someone representing their interests. However, international standards are clear that an inquiry should be conducted whenever an individual dies in custody and its findings should be released.321 Such an investigation is particularly needed in Butt's case because he was not an average INS detainee. As a "special interest" case he was part of a group of individuals about whom there have been many reports of mistreatment and abuse. In Butt's case, all that the U.S. government has said to date is that he died of undefined "heart problems," a blatantly insufficient explanation in light of possible inadequate medical care. 

Mohammed Munir Gondal himself also reported serious medical problems in detention that were not properly attended to. On November 30, 2001, after the 4:00 a.m. breakfast, Gondal felt pain in his heart and he began sweating. He called the correctional officers and was taken to the medical office. A nurse there instructed him to come back at 8:00 a.m. because the doctor was not in yet. The doctor examined him later that morning, told him he had not had a heart attack, and gave him an ointment for muscle pain. Gondal stated that his pain worsened, and later that Friday afternoon he went to the medical office again. The same nurse told him to come back on Monday because the doctor had already left the facility and there would be no doctor available on the weekend. He refused and insisted on seeing a doctor. Another nurse examined him and he was taken to a medical center in Jersey City, New Jersey, arriving there that evening. He was informed that he had indeed suffered a heart attack and spent a week in the hospital. On December 27 he felt pain again. This time he was promptly sent to the hospital. He had angioplastic surgery at Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey.322

Other INS detainees have reported inadequate medical care. For instance, Bah Isselou told Human Rights Watch he had complained about a long-standing kidney problem while at Wallen County Jail, Kentucky, and was given an aspirin. He said he did not see a doctor and was not provided clean water.323 Some detainees have also complained that even after succeeding in seeing medical staff, the medical care that they receive is inadequate. Mohammed Tariq, a forty-nine-year-old Pakistani citizen, told Human Rights Watch that he informed medical personnel at Passaic County Jail, New Jersey, that he had a liver problem because he was infected with hepatitis B, which had been treated previously at a Bronx hospital. He was not given the special diet that he required nor given any medication for his condition.324 Some also complained that jail officials refused to arrange for the specialized medical treatment they required. For example, Ebrahim Ali Nesiredin, a citizen of Ethiopia, has requested specialized medical care for injuries in his eye and foot since February 2002. According to a complaint he filed at the Krome Service Processing Center, Florida, and a letter from his attorney, the injuries were X-rayed at the facility but not treated.325 He was just given painkillers. He has since been moved to the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center, New Jersey, but as of this writing has still not been examined by specialist doctors.326

Some detainees have told Human Rights Watch that they received incomplete medical examinations upon arrival at their detention facilities. In Human Rights Watch's February 2002 tour of Hudson County Correctional Center, medical personnel told us that each detainee is screened by a nurse who asks them about allergies, conducts a head-to-toe body examination, a dental examination, performs a tuberculosis test, and listens to his or her heart. However, several detainees, including Gondal, who later had a heart attack, said that medical staff did not listen to their hearts during this initial health screening. A detainee held at Passaic County Jail said that a nurse conducted the health exam and administered the tuberculosis test upon his arrival there. However, he was placed with the general population the same day, without waiting the forty-eight to seventy-two hours necessary to know the results of the test.327 Half an hour after the nurse's injection, the man was taken to a cell with thirty-two INS detainees and criminal inmates. The INS's standard procedure is to keep detainees in segregation until the results are known. The rates of tuberculosis among U.S. prisoners range from three to eleven times higher than those of the general population.328 Sharing overcrowded living spaces, the conditions under which detainees said that they were held at Passaic County Jail, facilitates the transmission of the disease.

In one medical case, the detainee was kept in a hospital bed in restraints for fifteen days. Osama Salem was arrested in mid October 2001 in Jersey City, New Jersey for entering the country with a false passport. He was taken to the Hudson County Correctional Center, where he went through a health screening at which he was administered a tuberculosis test. He was placed in a room alone for thirty-two hours pending the results of the test, during which he was allowed outside for only one hour. "I had never been in jail, I started crying," he told Human Rights Watch. "I was crying; I was anxious; I felt so bad," he added. He said that doctors later told him that he had experienced "an attack of nerves." Salem told Human Rights Watch that he had had problems like that before but never as severely.

Salem was taken to a medical center in Jersey City on October 20, 2001, where he was treated for a nervous breakdown. Salem said that he spent fifteen days there lying in bed with his hands cuffed in the front and his feet shackled to the bed. He said he was only allowed out of bed to go to the bathroom. He was guarded by two police officers twenty-four hours a day. When he talked to Human Rights Watch on February 6, 2002, his right wrist had a scar that he said was produced by the continued use of handcuffs. A few weeks later he was charged with a rarely-prosecuted crime: misuse of entry documents. His attorney told reporters that the Department of Justice might be punishing him for speaking to human rights groups about the conditions of detention.329

Inability to Satisfy Religious 


None of the Muslim and Jewish post-September 11 detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch were able to comply fully with their religious obligations while in custody. Detention facilities did not provide meals that met their religious food restrictions and conditions made it difficult for some Muslim detainees to fulfill their daily prayer requirements.330

Muslims cannot eat pork and their meat has to be halal, i.e. prepared in accordance with certain religious requirements much like kosher food in Judaism. The vast majority of the 1,200-plus men detained in the investigation of the September 11 attacks were Muslim, but the facilities that held most of them for months-Passaic County, Hudson County, and Middlesex County jails in New Jersey, and the Metropolitan Correctional Center and the Metropolitan Detention Center in New York-did not offer halal meat on a regular basis. 

Muslim detainees at the Hudson County Correctional Center were served pork without their knowledge at the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, a particularly serious violation of their religious obligations, according to Sohail Mohammed, an attorney and community leader who toured the jail in December 2001. He told Human Rights Watch that when the detainees were told what they had eaten, they self-induced vomiting.331 Unsure of the contents of the food being served, Muslim detainees stopped eating any meat. Muslim and Jewish detainees held in other facilities also said that they were given pork despite their complaints. For instance, four Muslim detainees from Mauritania did not eat for several days while being held at Wallen County Jail, Kentucky, because they were served pork, according to one of them.332 Orin Behr and ten other Israelis did not eat any meat at Medina County Jail, Ohio, because they could not tell if the meat was pork.333 Behr said that they were not given any extra vegetables and they went hungry every day during their two-to-three-week stay there. The Cleveland Jewish community offered to provide food for these detainees but officials turned down the offer. 

During Human Rights Watch's tour of the Hudson County Correctional Center on February 6, 2001, jail officials said that they only served halal meat on certain religious holidays, while kosher food was available on a regular basis. Yet, on the same day, Abdul Karim, a forty-two-year-old Pakistani citizen who had been held there since his arrest on November 14, 2001, told Human Rights Watch that Muslim detainees were served neither kosher nor halal food.334 Karim said that he had complained to the jail's social worker about the diet. He and about ten other detainees sent a letter of complaint to the director of the facility in early January, but had received no response a month later.

Detainees held at Passaic County Jail told Human Rights Watch that they went hungry during Ramadan when trying to observe their religious obligations. Officials reportedly told them that they would receive an extra tray of food at dinner if they chose to fast during the day, as their religion prescribes. The detainees told Human Rights Watch that they were only given half a cup of peanut butter, jelly, and chips as the extra meal.335 Pakistani detainee Asif-Ur-Rehman Saffi alleged that jail staff refused to tell him the date while he was being held in isolation at the Metropolitan Detention Center, so he did not know when Ramadan began.336

Another common complaint by Muslim detainees was the difficulty in praying five times a day, a fundamental requirement of their faith.337 Some Muslim detainees held at various facilities were not able to have watches; therefore, they had to ask correctional officers for the time so they would know when to pray. Several detainees told Human Rights Watch that some officers became upset about being asked the time so frequently and swore at the detainees or refused to tell them the time.338 Some Muslim immigration detainees could only pray in the same spaces where other detainees or criminal inmates watched television, played games, or slept. This provoked frictions and some detainees reported being harassed and laughed at when trying to pray. Other detainees also complained that they had to pray in cells with open toilets and that they had to expose themselves to other detainees when they went to the bathroom, actions prohibited by their religion.339 Sohail Mohammed told Human Rights Watch that Muslim detainees held at Hudson County Correctional Center were not allowed to pray in congregation on the day celebrating the end of Ramadan, one of the two most important feasts in Islam.340

Commingling INS Detainees with Criminal Inmates

INS detainees often share living quarters with persons accused or convicted of criminal offenses, even though international standards require that people detained for civil or administrative reasons be kept separately from people imprisoned for criminal offenses.341 "Special interest" cases have been no exception. The INS placed many of them in county and local jails where they are commingled with accused or convicted criminals, and a few have suffered assaults as a result, as detailed above. In those jails, "special interest" cases have been treated as criminals and bound by strict jail rules inappropriate for their administrative status as unaccused, non-criminal detainees. 

Other Problems at Detention 


Barriers to Communication with Families

The U.S. government has failed to meet international standards that grant detainees the right to notify family members promptly of the place of detention, receive visits from family members, and have an "adequate opportunity to communicate with the outside world."342 Immigration detainees in general should be granted generous visitation and phone privileges that reflect their non-accused, non-criminal status. 

Those held in incommunicado solitary confinement have suffered the greatest restrictions, but even detainees incarcerated with the general population have encountered difficulties in contacting their families and in accessing phones. Some people were denied access to phones upon their arrest and, thus, were unable to tell their loved ones where they were for many hours and, in some cases, days. For instance, Tahir Iqbal, a Pakistani national, said he was only allowed to telephone his family thirty hours after his arrest, despite his repeated requests.343

Some of the detainees' families lived abroad. The detainees were not able to communicate with them because the phones in some jails only allow domestic collect calls. For instance, when Human Rights Watch spoke with Afzal Kham, a detainee at Passaic County Jail, he had not spoken to his family in Pakistan once during his 142 days in detention because he was not allowed to make international calls.344 Besides Human Rights Watch staff, the only person outside the jail that he had spoken to was a nephew who lived in the United States, whom he called collect once. He did not have an attorney. 

These difficulties in communicating with the outside have caused anguish for detainees and their families. "From where they are coming from, if you don't hear from someone after they go to jail, it means they're dead," Sohail Mohammed, a community leader and immigration attorney, told Human Rights Watch.345

Some detainees and their family members also complained that their visitation rights were not observed. For instance, Leoncied Ouayouro drove from her home in Virginia to Batavia, New York, to see her brother Tony Oulai, who was being held on immigration charges at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center. She had called the facility in advance and officials told her that her brother had to put her name on his visitation list. Ouayouro said that Oulai told her over the telephone that he had done so. However, when she arrived at the facility on October 3, officials told her she was not on Oulai's list. The next day, Oulai's attorney called the facility to obtain permission for Ouayouro to visit her brother, to no avail. She returned to Virginia without seeing him.346

Jail Handbooks

International standards require that detainees be informed of the disciplinary rules at detention facilities and be allowed to make requests or complaints regarding treatment or detention conditions.347 The INS Detention Standards provide that all detainees must be given a handbook that explains their rights and obligations at each facility where they are held.348 The Department of Justice has claimed that it has complied with this regulation in the cases of those detained in connection with the September 11 investigation. Viet D. Dinh, assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Policy, said in a hearing before the Senate: "Once taken into custody, aliens are given a copy of the `Detainee Handbook,' which details their rights and responsibilities, including their living conditions, clothing, visitation, and access to legal materials."349

During Human Rights Watch's tour of the Hudson County Correctional Center on February 6, 2002, jail officials said that all detainees were given a copy of the jail handbook, available in English and Spanish, upon their arrival. Yet the detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch at various facilities for this report, including Hudson County jail, said that they had not received such a handbook. One detainee held at Passaic County Jail said that he had found one handbook in the dormitory-like cell where he was held.350 The INS failed to produce copies of the handbooks that are supposedly distributed at the Passaic and Hudson County jails despite several requests by Human Rights Watch.351

The INS and jail officials' failure to distribute jail handbooks to detainees is no small matter. The handbooks not only advise detainees about items or treatment to which they are entitled, but also inform them of the rules governing the facility. Detainees who do not know those rules are no less responsible for following them. As a result, those who lack language skills and those who are not informed of the rules are more likely to disobey them unintentionally, and then to be subjected to disciplinary punishment. For instance, Ossama Abdelall was speaking to his wife on the phone when the lights were switched off, which meant that the detainees were to finish their conversations.352 He did not know this rule and continued talking. He was placed in solitary confinement for most of the day for breaking jail regulations. According to his attorney, Abdelall was not informed of the jail regulations beforehand. The failure to distribute jail handbooks also makes it unlikely that detainees will be able to resort to grievance procedures or file complaints.353


The U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners establishes that prisoners should be allowed at least one hour of outdoor exercise daily if the weather permits.354 As administrative detainees, immigration detainees should enjoy more generous recreational rights. The INS Detention Standards, however, do not meet even the minimal international standard: "If outdoor recreation is available at the facility, each detainee shall have access for at least one hour daily, at a reasonable time of day, five days a week, weather permitting."355

Some of those held in solitary confinement have not been allowed out of their cells for days or even weeks.356 Even those who were held with the general population had restricted access to recreational activities. While jail officials at Passaic County Jail said that detainees had access to a "day room" with games and to the roof gym daily, detainees told Human Rights Watch that they were kept in the same cell all of the time except for a couple of hours a week when they were allowed to go to the roof gym. Some detainees held at this and other facilities complained that they were allowed outside only early in the morning or late in the evening, not "at a reasonable time of day," as the INS Detention Standards require. Some also said they were not provided with jackets to wear during cold weather. 

Language Barriers

Officials at facilities holding INS detainees are often unable to communicate with detainees because jail staff lack relevant language skills. Even though the INS only detains non-citizens, it does not require that personnel at facilities that hold INS detainees speak the detainees' languages. At some jails and detention centers, there are staff members who speak a language other than English and may serve as ad-hoc translators, but they may not be available to detainees when they need their help. For instance, at the Hudson County Correctional Center jail officials said that there are "three or four" correctional officers who spoke Arabic, but no Urdu speakers. (The largest group of "special interest" detainees is from Pakistan and they speak Urdu). Hudson County jail officials said that they had a "translation phone" but that they rarely used it because "it was not needed." At Passaic County Jail, officials said they had Urdu speaking correctional officers, but detainees held there who spoke only Urdu told Human Rights Watch that no correctional officer spoke their language.




This report was written by Cesar Muñoz Acebes, a Bloomberg fellow, based on research by Muñoz Acebes and Allyson Collins, associate director for the U.S. Program at Human Rights Watch. Jamie Fellner, U.S. program director edited the report. James Ross, senior legal advisor, provided legal review. Jonathan Horowitz and Alison Hughes provided research and production support. 

We are grateful to the many individuals and their lawyers who were willing to speak with us as part of our research. We also wish to thank the Open Society Institute and the Atlantic Philanthropies for the funding that supported the research and production of this report and Michael Bloomberg for underwriting the Bloomberg Fellowship.


Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world.

We stand with victims and activists to bring offenders to justice, to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom and to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime.

We investigate and expose human rights violations and hold abusers accountable.

We challenge governments and those holding power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights law. 

We enlist the public and the international community to support the cause of human rights for all.

The staff includes Kenneth Roth, executive director; Michele Alexander, development director; Rory Mungoven, advocacy director; Carroll Bogert, communications director; John T. Green, operations director, Barbara Guglielmo, finance director; Lotte Leicht, Brussels office director; Steve Crawshaw, London office director; Patrick Minges, publications director; Maria Pignataro Nielsen, human resources director; Joe Saunders, acting program director; Wilder Tayler, legal and policy director; and Joanna Weschler, United Nations representative. Jonathan Fanton is the chair of the board. Robert L. Bernstein is the founding chair.

Web Site Address:

Listserv address: To subscribe to the list, send an e-mail message to

with "subscribe hrw-news" in the body of the message (leave the subject line blank)

267 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 10.

268 Ibid., Art 7. The Human Rights Committee, in general comment no. 20, states that "prolonged solitary confinement" of the detained or imprisoned person may amount to acts of torture or cruel inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of article 7 of the ICCPR. This is especially true when it is accompanied by aggravating circumstances, such as lengthy duration, incommunicado, small cell, or little light. See Manfred Nowak, U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: CCPR Commentary, 1993, p. 187. In the case of Campos v. Peru (HRC, 577/94, para. 8.7), the Human Rights Committee found that three years of continued solitary confinement was a breach of article 7. See also, Marais v. Madagascar (49/79); and El-Megreisi v. Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (440/90).

269 "DOJ Initiates Detainee Civil Rights Review," Announcement by the Department of Justice, April 2, 2002.

270 Human Rights Watch met on April 25, 2002 with staff from the Office of the Inspector General to discuss the treatment of September 11 detainees and some of the findings of this report. Their timeline for the release of the report is included in "Report to Congress on Implementation of Section 1001 of the USA PATRIOT Act," U.S. Department of Justice-Office of the Inspector General, July 15, 2002.

271 Human Rights Watch, "Locked Away: Immigration detainees in jails in the United States," A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 10, no. 1(G), September 1998. Most non-citizen detainees are confined in local jails because of a shortage of space in federal facilities.

272 The INS's website states that implementation of the Detention Standards will take place in two phases over a period of two years. The first phase will cover INS Service Processing Centers (SPCs), Contract Detention Facilities (CDFs), and the nine largest state and local government facilities (IGSA facilities) and the second phase will cover the remaining IGSA facilities. All phase-one and phase-two facilities must be in compliance with all INS Detention Standards, by December 31, 2002. (See However, in our February 6, 2002 visit to the Hudson County Correctional Center in New Jersey, one of the nine largest IGSA's, jail officials said that they only had to be in compliance with the Detention Standards by the end of the year. Human Rights Watch repeatedly asked the INS through phone calls and in writing, individually and through a coalition of NGO's, during a three-month period in early 2002, when specific facilities must be in compliance with the Detention Standards, but it received no clear answer. 

273 INS Detention Standards Presentation to various NGOs by the INS's Detention and Removal Office, June 7, 2001. The reason the INS holds individuals in its custody in local jails is its lack of adequate space in federal facilities to house the exponentially-growing population of immigration detainees. In 2001, the INS had 22,000 people in custody on an average day, compared to 6,700 per day in 1995. 

274 See Special Management Unit (Administrative Segregation) Detention Standard at

275 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Brian Lonegan, Legal Aid Society, New York, New York, April 15, 2002.

The number of "special interest" cases kept at the SHU decreased to eighteen by the end of March 2002, fourteen by mid-May, and seven a month later, after some detainees who had been held there were deported, moved with the general population, or transferred to other facilities. Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with attorney Bill Goodman, New York, New York, March 25, 2002; with attorney Lawrence Feitell, New York, New York, May 14, 2002; and with Adem Carroll, Islamic Circle of North America, New York, New York, June 13, 2002.

276 Covering windows so that no natural light enters the cells is a violation of international standards. Rule 11 of the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states: "In all places where prisoners are required to live or work, the windows shall be large enough to enable the prisoners to read or work by natural light." "Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners," adopted Aug. 30, 1955, by the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, U.N. Doc. A/CONF/611, Annex I, E.S.C. Res. 663C, 24 U.N. ESCOR Supp. (No. 1) at 11, U.N. Doc. E/3048 (1957), amended E.S.C. Res. 2076, 62 U.N. ESCOR Supp. (No. 1) at 35, U.N. Doc. E/5988 (1977). 

The Human Rights Committee has determined that a cell constantly illuminated by artificial light contributed to conditions of detention that were considered inhuman under article 10 of the ICCPR. See, e.g. Massiotti and Baritussio v. Uruguay, Communication No. R.6/25/1978; Larrosa v. Uruguay, Communication No. 88/1981.

277 Two plaintiffs in a class actions suit against the U.S. government-Asif-ur-Rehman Saffi and Syed Amjad Ali Jaffri-maintain they were physically abused by correctional officers at the MDC. Ibrahim Tukmen v. John Ashcroft, "Class Action Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial," April 17, 2002. See also the section, Physical and Verbal Abuse, in this report.

The Legal Aid Society of New York said that they talked to two detainees who said they had been roughed up, spat on, pushed against the walls, and cursed by the correctional officers. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Lonegan.

278 Shakir Baloch was constipated for six to eight weeks and was not given any medication while being held at the SHU, according to his attorney. The attorney said that another of his clients incarcerated at the SHU was beaten by correctional officers and had his teeth chipped but received no dental care. Human Rights Watch interview with Goodman.

279 See chapter, Denial of Access to Counsel, in this report.

280 See section, Inability to Satisfy Religious Obligations, in this report.

281 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Uzi Bohadana, Hollywood, Florida, November 13, 2001. Bohadana had been arrested on September 14, 2001 for working while on a tourist visa. He was released on bond on October 5.

282 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ghassam Dahduli, Ammam, Jordan, December 19, 2001 and January 17, 2002.

283 Dahduli also faced special restrictions on telephone use as a result of being in solitary confinement. He was allowed to make a phone call the day he was arrested but could not call for three days after that. Even though he had the right to three hours of phone use per day, he said that the correctional officers never brought the phone on time, and it had to be shared by ten detainees. Dahduli said that in reality he could only make a phone call once a day for about fifteen minutes. 

Dahduli's case was shrouded in secrecy. He said he was never informed of his right to contact the Jordanian embassy. Proceedings were closed to the public and to his family. Hearings were conducted through videoconference so Dahduli did not leave the jail. 

According to press reports, Dahduli's name appeared in an address book of an al-Qaeda member. Dahduli's attorney reportedly said that her client and the man belonged to the same mosque in the 1980s and had a brief encounter in 1998. Amy Bach, "Deported...Disappeared?" The Nation, December 24, 2001; Mary McKee, "Peers say arrest of Richardson man is a shock," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 26, 2001.

Dahduli also told Human Rights Watch that he had been confronted by two FBI agents in 2000. The agents allegedly threatened to take him away from his family, to deport him, and to call the Jordanian government and say that he was an informant unless he cooperated with them. His attorney at the time believed that they did not want any information but rather they wanted him to serve as their mole indefinitely. Dahduli did not agree to the FBI's demands.

"If I was a suspect, why wasn't I ever interrogated? I never saw an INS or an FBI officer while I was in jail," Dahduli told Human Rights Watch. His attorney said that Dahduli had not been interrogated since she was retained in January 2001. 

Dahduli dropped the four applications he said he had with the INS to regularize his immigration status because he was told he would have to stay in jail during the process, which could take a year or more. He was deported to Jordan because he held a valid Jordanian passport, even though Dahduli was born in Saudi Arabia of Palestinian refugees. His Saudi Arabian travel documents expired when he was unable to travel there during the Gulf War, and he could not renew them after their expiration. Human Rights Watch telephones interview with Dahduli; and with attorney Karen Pennington, Dallas, Texas, January 15, 2002.

284 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Mahtabuddin Ahmed, Hanover, Virginia, on December 11, 2001; and letter from Mahtabuddin Ahmed's attorneys Thomas Elliot and Fabienne Chatain to INS Deportation Officer Sherryl Crenshaw, October 29, 2001. Ahmed, who is twenty-seven-years-old, came to the United States when he was four years old. He was convicted of drug possession with intention to distribute and served his sentence in 1998-99. On October 22, 1999, he was picked up by the INS, which initiated removal procedures against him, and moved him to Piedmond Regional Jail in Farmville, Virginia. Ahmed said he was ordered deported in November 2000, but he is still in detention because the INS is waiting for travel documents from the consulate of Bangladesh. 

285 The INS's Detention Standards state that a copy of the Administrative Segregation Order, which details the reasons for placing a detainee under such a detention regime, shall be given to the detainee within twenty-four hours of placement in administrative segregation. Reviews shall be conducted seventy-two hours after the detainee was segregated, every week for the first month, and at least thirty days thereafter. The Detention Standards further state that a copy of the decision and justification for each review shall be given to the detainee. These procedures were not followed in the cases of the detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch, none of whom received the detailed written communications the Detention Standards prescribe.

286 Another case involves Elyes Glaissia and his roommate, both from Tunisia, who were incarcerated at the Seattle, Washington, INS Detention Center on charges of overstaying their visas. Glaissia was held in solitary confinement for ten days, while his roommate was held with the general population. Glaissia's cell had the lights on twenty-four hours a day and he was not allowed to go outdoors at all, according to his attorney. Glaissia reportedly was never told why he was kept under this regime. The men were arrested when another roommate accused Glaissia of making threatening comments against the United States, comments that Glaissia denied ever uttering. Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with attorney Vicky Dobrin, who represented the two men, Seattle, Washington, November 20, 2001 and January 31, 2002. 

Similarly, two Saudi Arabian brothers were arrested at the Denver International Airport in Colorado and charged with immigration violations. They were held at the INS Detention Center in Denver, where the older brother was placed in solitary confinement for eight or nine days without being told why while the younger one was held with the general population, according to their attorney. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Donna Lipinski, who represented the two brothers, Englewood, Colorado, October 23, 2001.

287 Elfar was transferred to another jail only after his attorney complained about the conditions of his detention. An immigration judge granted Elfar voluntary departure with safeguards-meaning that he would leave the country straight from the detention facility-and gave an October 23 deadline to the INS for Elfar's removal. Elfar was only allowed to leave the country on December 4, 2001 after his attorney petitioned for an habeas corpus writ. He was arrested by Egyptian authorities upon his arrival to the North African country, and spent four or five days in their custody. Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Osama Elfar, November 21, and 26, 2001, with his attorneys, Dorothy Harper, October 22, and October 24, and Justin Meehan, October 22, 23, 24, 2001, and February 25, 2002. 

288 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ali Alikhan, Vail, Colorado, March 11, 2002.

289 Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Jim Salvator, Colorado, March 15, 2002.

290 Human Rights Watch interview with Eyad Mustafa Alrababah, Alexandria City Jail, Virginia, February 5, 2002. 

291 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Alikhan.

292 A Human Rights Watch report on conditions at super-maximum security prisons concluded that prisoners subjected to prolonged isolation may experience depression, despair, anxiety, rage, claustrophobia, hallucinations, problems with impulse control, and/or an impaired ability to think, concentrate, or remember. The report also asserted that some inmates held in isolation develop clinical symptoms usually associated with psychosis or severe affective disorders. Human Rights Watch, "Out of Sight: Maximum Security Confinement in the United States," A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 12, no. 1(G), February 2000, p. 2. See also, Human Rights Watch, Cold Storage: Super-Maximum Security Confinement in Indiana, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1997), pp. 62-74.

For reports on this issue from other sources, see, for instance, Angie Hougas, "Psychological Death Row: Supermaximum Security Prisons, Sensory Deprivation and Effects of Solitary Confinement," October 2001, found at Amnesty International Chapter 139's website at; "Profile: Dispute over the effects of solitary confinement in Supermax prisons on inmates," NPR's Weekly Edition, January 8, 2000; James Patterson, "The Effects of Physical Isolation," Indianapolis News, January 16, 1999; and "Trend Toward Solitary Confinement Worries Experts," CNN, January 9, 1998.

293 The U.S. press reported allegations of verbal and physical abuse in some other cases.See, for instance, the case of Mohammed Maddy, who sustained a bruise on his upper right arm allegedly inflicted by correctional officers at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. Graham Rayman, "Kennedy Ticket Agent Arrested,", October 5, 2001; and Al-Badr Al-Hazmi, who claimed he was kicked on his back by a correctional officer at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, as reported by Deborah Sontag, "Who is This Kafka That People Keep Mentioning?" New York Times Magazine, October 21, 2001. See also, Anne-Marie Cusac, "Ill-Treatment on Our Shores," The Progressive, March 2002; and Richard A. Serrano, "Many Held in Terror Probe Report Rights Being Abused," Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2001.

294 Human Rights Watch interview with Tony Oulai, Alexandria City Jail, Virginia, February 9, 2002. Oulai was arrested on September 14, 2001 and charged with overstaying his visa. Instead of being deported as an immigration judge had ordered, he was then held as a material witness, and when the material witness warrant was dismissed, he was charged with lying to federal agents the day of his arrest about whether he was living legally in the United States. 

295 Tukmen v. Ashcroft, pp. 23-24. The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights as a class action suit on April 17, 2002 on behalf of Ibrahim Turkmen, Asif-ur-Rehman Saffi, and Syed Amjad Ali Jaffri, and other unnamed "special interest" detainees. Saffi was arrested on September 30, 2001 and charged with working without authorization. He was deported on March 5, 2002.

296 Ibid, p. 28. Jaffri was arrested on September 17, 2001 and charged with working without authorization. He was deported on April 1, 2002.

297 Awadallah was held as a material witness for twenty days and then charged with perjury for saying that he knew the name of one of the alleged hijackers but not of another one. He was released on bond eighty-three days after his September 20, 2001 arrest. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with attorney Jesse Berman, New York, New York, November 6, 2001.

298 Cited in United States of America v. Osama Awadallah, 202 F. Supp. 2d 17, (S.D.N.Y. 2002).

299 Government memorandum cited in First Opinion and Order, United States of America v. Awadallah, p. 11. The court where this government affidavit was filed reached no findings of fact regarding Awadallah's alleged mistreatment.

300 Ibid. 

301 Patricia Hurtado, "Feds Testify in Jordanian's Hearing," Newsday, February 18, 2002.

302 More than 50 percent of all immigration detainees are held in local jails where they often share living spaces with accused or convicted criminals.

303 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Bohadana; and with attorney Patricia Ice, Jackson, Mississippi, November 5, 2001.

304 Letter from Albert N. Moskowitz, chief of the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the FBI, to Uzi Bohadana, December 27, 2001. 

305 Ibid.

306 For the sheriff's statements, see Josh Tyrangiel, "A beating on the way back home," Time, December 10, 2001; and Cusac, "Ill-Treatment on Our Shores."

307 Letter to Christine Davis, INS district director, Louisiana, from Mary Howell, Esq., October 3, 2001.

308 Human Rights Watch telephone call to FBI agent Berry Kowalski, Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section, November 23, 2001.

309 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Hasnain Javed, Texas, November 6, 2001; and with attorney Mary Howell, New Orleans, Louisiana, October 31, November 29, 2001, and June 14, 2002. Javed was released on bond on September 21, 2001, granted voluntary departure, and left the United States in early 2002.

310 In a January 16 letter to Hasnain Javed's attorney, the local U.S. attorney's office said that it would communicate to her any charging decisions on the case, but that at that moment the FBI had not yet concluded its investigation. Letter to Mary Howell from Christopher L. Schmidt, assistant district attorney, Second Circuit Court District of Mississippi, January 16, 2002. 

311 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Qaiser Rafiq, Uncasville, Connecticut, March 14, 15, and 18, 2002. See also, Dave Altimari, "Enigmatic Suspect Raises Brows: Intriguing Clues Attract Investigators in Terrorism Probe," Hartford Courant, January 7, 2002; and Carole Bass, "Bloody Good Reading," New Haven Advocate, March 14, 2002. 

312 Altimari, "Enigmatic Suspect Raises Brows...." See also, Bass, "Bloody Good Reading." 

313 Letter to General Parvaiz Musharraf, president of Pakistan, from Qaiser Rafiq, February 9, 2002

314 The INS's Detention Standards grant all detainees the right to have access to medical services that "promote detainee health and general well being." To be in compliance with the Detention Standards, facilities holding INS detainees must provide initial medical screening, primary medical care, and emergency careand employ, at a minimum, a medical staff large enough to perform basic exams and treatments for all detainees. The Detention Standards further state: "The OIC [Officer-in-Charge] will ...arrange for specialized health care, mental heath care, and hospitalization within the local community." 

315 U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, rules 24 and 22.

316 U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, Rule 25.

317 U.N. Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, Principle 24.

318 Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammed Munir Gondal, INS's Elizabeth Detention Center, January 27, 2002.

Before Butt was taken to the Hudson County Correctional Center, he spent at least one night at the offices of the INS in New York City on September 19, 2001, according to Mohammed Sid Ahmid, a Sudanese man, who told Human Rights Watch that he was held in a cell across from Butt's there. Ahmid said that Butt's seven-by-thirteen-feet (two-by-four-meter) cell did not have a bed and he slept on the floor. Ahmid also said that Butt could not speak English and only ate bread. Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammed Sid Ahmid, Hudson County Correctional Center, New Jersey, February 6, 2002.

Gondal told Human Rights Watch that on October 15, 2001, he and Butt had a hearing and they were both granted voluntary departure. 

319 Letter from David Venturella, assistant deputy executive associate commissioner, Office of Detention and Removal Operations, INS, to Human Rights Watch, December 6, 2001.

320 Letter from Venturella to Human Rights Watch, January 17, 2002.

321 Principle 34 of the U.N. Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons Under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment states: 

Whenever the death or disappearance of a detained or imprisoned person occurs during his detention or imprisonment, an inquiry into the cause of death or disappearance shall be held by a judicial or other authority, either on its own motion or at the instance of a member of the family of such a person or any person who has knowledge of the case. When circumstances so warrant, such an inquiry shall be held on the same procedural basis whenever the death or disappearance occurs shortly after the termination of the detention or imprisonment. The findings of such inquiry or a report thereon shall be made available upon request, unless doing so would jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation. (Emphasis added.)
322 Human Rights Watch interview with Gondal.

323 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Isselou; and attorney Dennis Clare, Louisville, Kentucky, October 23 and 31, 2001.

324 Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammed Tariq, Passaic County Jail, New Jersey, December 20, 2001.

325 Medical Grievance Form filed by Ebrahim Nesiredin Ali with the Krome Service Processing Center, Florida, February 6, 2002, and Letter to Supervisor Mike Meade, Krome Service Processing Center, from Rhonda Gelfman, Esq., January 31, 2002.

326 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Ebrahim Nesiredin Ali, Krome Service Center, Florida, February 8, 2002 and Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center, New Jersey, June 3, 2002. On June 6, 2002, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to New Jersey INS District Director Andrea Quarantillo urging her to arrange for the specialized care that Ali requires and is entitled to receive. In her June 18, 2002 response, Quarantillo said that she would "look into this matter" but she was unable "to release any information ...regarding the matters you have written about" because the Privacy Act precludes her from doing so. We do not know if the detainee has received specialized health care.

327 Human Rights Watch interview with Palestinian civil engineer, Paterson, New Jersey, December 20, 2001. The detainee's name has been withheld upon request.

328 "Tuberculosis in Prisons," Tuberculosis Epi Update, vol. 2, no. 1, March 2001.

329 From the medical center in Jersey City, Salem was taken to a South Carolina psychiatric hospital, where he spent two months and where he said he was treated well. He was then transferred back to Hudson County Correctional Center, where he was being held in a psychiatric unit when Human Rights Watch interviewed him. He was ordered deported on January 18, 2002 and was allegedly waiting for "clearance" to leave the country. He told Human Rights Watch he just wanted to go home. Human Rights Watch interview with Osama Salem, February 6, 2002. See also, Kareem Fahim, "Endgame," Village Voice, March 6-12, 2002.

330 The INS Detention Standards provide guidance to what is required of facilities holding immigration detainees to accommodate their religious needs. Regarding religious practices, the Detention Standards state: "Detainees shall have the opportunity to engage in practices of their religious faith that are deemed essential by the faith's judicatory, consistent with the safety, security, and the orderly operation of the facility. No one may disparage the religious beliefs of a detainee." Concerning dietary needs, the INS Detention Standards state: "When a detainee's religion requires special food services, either daily or during particular periods that involve fasting, restricted diets, etc., staff will make all reasonable efforts to accommodate them. This will require, among other things, modifying menus to exclude certain foods or food combinations, providing meals at unusual hours, etc." 

331 Human Rights Watch interviews with attorney Sohail Mohammed, Clifton, New Jersey, November 5 and December 19, 2001.

332 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Isselou. The detainees were Bah Isselou, Sidi Mohammed Ould Bah, Sidi Mohammed Ould Abdou, and Cheikh Melainine Ould Belal.

333 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Orin Behr, Maryland, December 12, and attorney David Leopold, Cleveland, Ohio, December 10, 2001. 

334 Human Rights Watch interview with Abdul Karim, Hudson County Correctional Center, Kearny, New Jersey, February 6, 2002. Some of the same restrictions apply to the preparation of kosher and halal foods; thus, many Muslim detainees would prefer to eat a kosher diet to a regular diet if halal food were not available.

335 Passaic County Jail officials did not talk about food during our tour of the facility on February 6, 2002, and they finished the visit without giving us the opportunity to ask them. Detainees held there said that they were not being given halal food. They also said that jail officials told them that the facility did not serve pork. 

336 Tukmen v. Ashcroft

337 The five daily ritual prayers, called salah, are one of the five "pillars" or basic requirements of Islam. The other pillars are: shahadah, the affirmation that "there is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God"; zakat, the giving of alms; sawm, the dawn-to-sunset fast during the lunar month of Ramadan; and hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2000.

338 Such problems apparently occurred at Denton County Jail in Texas, where Ghassam Dahduli and Mustafa Abu-Jdai were held. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Dahduli; and with Pennington. At the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, correctional officers covered the windows of some of the cells in the Special Housing Unit, and detainees did not know the time when they should pray. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Goodman. A correctional officer harassed detainees when they prayed at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, New York, according to a man held there. Human Rights Watch interviews with Alrababah.

339 A Palestinian civil engineer said that he was held in a cell with an open toilet at the facility at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan, New York. He complained to correctional officers but had to spend the night there. Human Rights Watch interview with Palestinian civil engineer. Ali Al-Maqtari said that he was incarcerated for more than a month in a cell with an open toilet at West Tennessee Detention Facility in Mason, Tennessee, and he was allowedout only one hour per day. He told Human Rights Watch: "I covered the toilet with his towel and asked Allah for forgiveness." Al-Maqtari said that he was also kept in a cell with an open toilet at the jail in Franklin, Tennessee, for a week but there he was allowed outside to pray when he complained to the correctional officers. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ali Al-Maqtari, New Haven, Connecticut, November 29, 2001. 

340 Human Rights Watch interviews with Mohammed. The feast marking the end of Ramadan is called Id al-Fitr. The other crucial celebration in Islam is the Eid, which commemorates the end of the hajj, the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca. Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2000.

341 See rule 8(c) of the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Although the ICCPR does not specifically address commingling of administrative detainees, art. 10(2)(a) provides for the segregation, except in exceptional circumstances, of accused persons from convicted ones.

342 Principle 19 of the U.N. Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.

343 Iqbal was arrested on October 26, 2001 at a gas station in Long Island, New York where he had worked "seven days a week," he said, for the past ten years. When he was arrested he asked to call his wife, but one of the four INS and FBI agents who detained him said, "No, we'll bring you back in an hour." He was still in detention on February 6, 2002, when Human Rights Watch spoke to him. Human Rights Watch interview with Tahir Iqbal, Passaic County Jail, New Jersey, February 6, 2002.

344 Human Rights Watch interview with Afzal Kham, Passaic County Jail, New Jersey, February 6, 2002.

345 Human Rights Watch interviews with Mohammed.

346 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Leoncied Ouayouro, Fairfax, Virginia, February 1, 2002, and March 25, 2002.

347 Principle 30 of the U.N. Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment states that all detainees are entitled to the right to be informed of disciplinary rules prevailing in a given detention center, and to appeal any disciplinary action, and the right to make a request or complaint regarding treatment or detention conditions.

348 The INS Detention Standards provide: 

Every OIC will develop a site-specific detainee handbook to serve as an overview of, and guide to, the detention policies, rules, and procedures in effect at the facility. The handbook will also describe the services, programs, and opportunities available through various sources, including the facility, INS, private organizations, etc. Every detainee will receive a copy of this handbook upon admission to the facility. 

Detainees are expected to behave in accordance with the rules set down in the handbook, and will be held accountable for violations.

349 Testimony of Viet D. Dinh, assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Policy, before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing on "DOJ Oversight: Preserving Our Freedoms While Defending Against Terrorism," December 4, 2001.

350 The detainee who found the handbook told Human Rights Watch that after reading it he realized that he should have been given certain items, including sheets, a spoon, and a second clean towel. Human Rights Watch interview with Palestinian civil engineer.

351 Human Rights Watch requested the handbooks during tours of the facilities and INS officials said it would provide them to us. We followed up with telephone calls and a fax sent on February 12, 2002 but never received the handbooks. 

352 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with attorney Audrey Carr, Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 30, 2001.

353 For instance, two detainees who independently described to Human Rights Watch an alleged physical assault of a fellow detainee by staff that they witnessed in their Passaic County Jail cell (cell 3G1) did not know they could file a complaint. They both said that they had not received the jail handbook. The men said that their cell held about sixty people, with a mix of accused or convicted criminals and immigration detainees. According to the two witnesses, a group of correctional officers came to the cell to conduct a search with dogs at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. at the end of December 2001. The detainees were told to get up and stand against the wall. One detainee did not understand English and was slow to comply. An officer pushed the detainee's head against a wall. Another officer then twisted the detainee's arm and pushed his face onto a table. One of the witnesses claimed the officers also hit the detainee repeatedly with a food tray. After the incident, the man had a chipped tooth and complained of headaches. Before the correctional officers left, the detainee who suffered the attack asked for medical treatment through another detainee who translated for him. A correctional officer said there was no need for medical attention, and the detainee never saw a doctor. The detainees did not file a complaint. "Who would we complain to?" one of the witnesses told Human Rights Watch, "the guards? We didn't want more trouble." The detainee who was mistreated was deported twenty days after the incident occurred. The witnesses did not know his name. Human Rights Watch interview with Ali Saber, January 27, 2002 and February 6, 2002; and Mohammed Zaman, Passaic County Jail, New Jersey, January 27, 2002.

354 U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, Rule 21(1).

355 See Recreation Detention Standard at

356 For more details see chapter, Conditions of Detention, in this report.

Previous PageTable Of Contents