Related BBC sites

Page last updated at 19:32 GMT, Monday, 13 July 2009 20:32 UK
Omar Deghayes speaks to Panorama

Interview with a former detainee

Omar Deghayes spoke to the BBC's Panorama about his claims of torture following his arrest in Pakistan in 2002.

Omar Deghayes, a British resident, was born in Libya. His father was assassinated in 1980, and in 1986 his family moved to the UK where they were granted refugee status.

In 2000, he travelled to Afghanistan where he married and had a son. After US air strikes began in October 2001, he travelled to Pakistan, and settled in Lahore.

In April 2002 he was arrested and imprisoned by the Pakistanis. He was held in Lahore and Islamabad until June 2002, and said he was interrogated by intelligence officials from both the United States and the UK.

He said his life was threatened, that he was subjected to systematic beatings, forced into stress positions for long periods, and had his head pushed under water until he thought he would drown.

In June, 2002 Deghayes was transported to the Bagram detention facility.

'Fear for sanity'

He told Panorama that he was kept in a large wire cage with approximately 20-25 other detainees, and said they were banned from moving, speaking or eating without permission from the guards. If he did talk or move he would be beaten, hooded, and forced to stand for long periods with his hands shackled above his head.

Deghayes describes being confined in a wooden box where it was difficult to breathe, deprived of food, and kept in a dark room with no access to light. He contracted malaria, and said by the end he started to fear for his sanity.

Guard at Guantanamo Bay
Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were subjected to harsh interrogations

In August 2002 he was transported to Guantanamo Bay.

He said the abuse continued there, including losing sight in one eye after a brutal assault by a prison guard.

His treatment included being kept in a cell with the lights on 24 hours a day, having air conditioning left on all the time to the point where he said he was so cold he could see his breath, having high pressure water sprayed up his nose until he thought he would suffocate, being forcibly shaved and spending nearly a year in and out of solitary confinement in Oscar block, where the isolation cells were made from sheet metal.

The US Combatant Status Review Body found Omar Deghayes to be an "enemy combatant". He was released from Guantanamo in December 2007.

Civil compensation case

Whilst he was on route to the UK, Spain issued a European arrest warrant for his extradition. He was arrested on arrival under the Terrorism Act, but no further action taken.

He was re-arrested under the Terrorism Act, but released on bail the following day

Deghayes, a British resident, now lives in Brighton where he works and campaigns to bring to light abuses at Bagram and Guantanamo Bay. He is trying to complete his legal qualifications.

Omar is one of seven former Guantanamo detainees bringing a civil compensation case against the UK government.

They have accused the British intelligence services, the Attorney General, the Foreign Office and the Home Office of complicity in their unlawful imprisonment, extraordinary rendition and torture.

The US Department of Defense has said that all credible allegations of abuse are thoroughly investigated and, if substantiated, individuals are held accountable for their actions.

It has said more than a dozen internal reviews and investigations since 2001 have not found any policy that ever condoned or tolerated abuse and that techniques based on a survival training programme for captured US service personnel known as SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) were never authorized, nor approved for use against detainees.

The SERE programme was designed to teach captured Americans to cope with extreme abuses and was, in part, based on torture techniques used against American PoWs by the Chinese in the Korean conflict in the early 1950s.

Licence to Torture
Friday, 10 July 2009, 15:52 GMT |  Panorama

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific