[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Sesame Street breaks Iraqi POWs
Prisoners await interrogation in Al-Dor city
'Culturally offensive' music is being used to break prisoners

Heavy metal music and popular American children's songs are being used by US interrogators to break the will of their captives in Iraq.

Uncooperative prisoners are being exposed for prolonged periods to tracks by rock group Metallica and music from children's TV programmes Sesame Street and Barney in the hope of making them talk.

The US's Psychological Operations Company (Psy Ops) said the aim was to break a prisoner's resistance through sleep deprivation and playing music that was culturally offensive to them.

However, human rights organisation, Amnesty International, said such tactics may constitute torture - and coalition forces could be in breach of the Geneva Convention.

Sergeant Mark Hadsell, of Psy Ops, told Newsweek magazine: "These people haven't heard heavy metal.

This is an issue that seriously concerns us. If there is a prolonged period of sleep deprivation, it could well be considered torture
Amnesty International spokesperson

"They can't take it. If you play it for 24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide, your train of thought slows down and your will is broken. That's when we come in and talk to them."

Sgt Hadsell's favourites are said to be 'Bodies' from the XXX film soundtrack and Metallica's 'Enter Sandman'.

The theme tune from the US children's programme Sesame Street and songs from the purple singing dinosaur Barney are also on their hit list.

"In training, they forced me to listen to the Barney "I Love You" song for 45 minutes. I never want to go through that again," one US operative told the magazine.

'No lasting effect'

Rick Hoffman, vice president of the Psy Ops Veterans Association, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that such a tactic would have no long-lasting effect on prisoners.

"The use of this kind of audio-technique is rather new in interrogation," he said.

"There have been other kinds of non-lethal, non-harmful techniques, such as sleep deprivation... which leave no long-lasting effects but do have the end result of breaking down the individual's will to resist questioning."

Muppets from Sesame Street
The TV theme tunes are repeated over long periods

Amnesty International told BBC News Online that at least one Iraqi captive - a civilian, later released - had reported being kept awake for up to four days by loud music.

"This is an issue that seriously concerns us. If there is a prolonged period of sleep deprivation, it could well be considered torture," said a spokeswoman.

"It is a very difficult line to draw between what constitutes discomfort and what constitutes torture - that line will vary for individuals and it would depend on each particular case," she added.

She said they were looking into whether the US and UK were abiding by their responsibilities under the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war.

The UK's Ministry of Defence has said all its prisoners are being held under the terms of the Geneva Convention and are visited by members of the International Red Cross.

Psy Ops Veterans Association's Rick Hoffman
"[It] breaks down their will to resist discussing who they are"

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific