Russia and US accused of abusing men freed from Guantanamo Bay

Andrew Osborn

The Kremlin and the United States have been accused of flouting international law in areport which tells the little-known story of seven Russian men freed from Guantanamo Bay.

According to the report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the men, who were released from the US detention centre in Cuba without charge, returned to Russia to face a life of torture, harassment and unfair trials.

All seven were arrested by US forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan during 2002 and only released from Guantanamo in 2004 on the promise that they would receive “humane treatment” on their return to Russia.

Of the seven, all of whom are ethnically non-Russian and come from predominantly Muslim areas, three are in prison, three are in hiding, and the seventh refuses to talk about his experience.

The New York-based rights organisation said Washington knew that the men would face torture at the hands of the Russian authorities but accepted the flimsy diplomatic assurances offered by Moscow.

“The US government knew that these men would likely be tortured, and sent them back to Russia anyway,” the report said.

“The Russian experience shows why diplomatic assurances simply donÕt work.” Human Rights Watch said the UK government also accepted ‘diplomatic assurances’ to render terrorism suspects to countries where they were likely to face torture.

Of the seven Russian nationals sent back from Guantanamo the case of Rasul Kudaev, a resident of the southern Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, is the most shocking.

Kudaev was initially given his liberty by the authorities but in October 2005 he was accused of taking part in an armed uprising in the city of Nalchik, an allegation he fiercely denies.

Although he has not been charged, he remains in custody to this day; according to Human Rights Watch there is compelling evidence that he has been tortured. When his lawyer visited him in custody she noted that he had to be carried because he couldnÕt walk and that “his eye was full of blood, his head was a strange shape and size, his right leg was broken and he had open wounds on his hands.” Two of the other Guantanamo Seven were convicted of blowing up a gas pipeline in Tatarstan, a charge they deny.

According to Human Rights Watch confessions were beaten out of them by depriving one of them of sleep for one week and using a gas mask to asphyxiate him until he was ready to sign anything.