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User:George Swan/Tarek Dergoul

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Other contributors have my explicit permission to edit this draft. George Swan 12:29, 1 May 2013 (UTC)

Tarek Dergoul is a citizen of the United Kingdom of Moroccan origin who was held in extrajudicial detention in the United States Guantanamo Bay detention camps, in Cuba.[1] He spent six or seven months in US custody in Afghanistan, prior to his arrival at Guantanamo on May 5, 2002.[2] After he was repatriated to the United Kingdom on March 8, 2004, he asserted that conditions in US detention camps was brutal, and he was coerced to utter false confessions.[3]


Dergoul had held a variety of jobs in the UK, including being employed as a care worker at an old age home, and as a mini-cab driver, before traveling to Afghanistan, in 2001, where he was handed over to US forces, and ultimately transferred to Guantanamo.[4][5]

Dergoul described how he and some friends saw the war as an opportunity, and pooled their funds to become land speculators.[6] Property they purchased from other foreigners, fleeing the war, would be sold for a profit, when peace was restored. Unfortunately they were on one of those properties, when it was struck by an American bomb, killing his friends and seriously wounding Dergoul.

He was one of the first captives to be repatriated -- on March 9, 2004.

Dergoul said injuries from his time in US custody prevented him working, after his return to the UK.[7][8]

Dergoul sued the UK government, claiming its security organizations MI5 and MI6 had been complicit in the interrogations he underwent while in US custody, that violated both the USA's and the UK's obligations under international human rights agreement.[9][10]


Dergoul, and four other UK citizens, Jamal al Harith, Ruhal Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul were repatriated in March 2004.[5][11] After their repatriation, all five men were taken into UK custody, under its Prevention of Terrorism Acts.[12]

But all five men were released less than two days after their arrival, when UK authorities were satisfied there were no grounds for their detention. Four other UK citizens, and nine nationals of other nations, who had long term permission to reside in the UK, remained in US custody in Guantanamo.[13]

According to the Sydney Morning Herald the United States and the United Kingdom spent five months negotiating, before the five men were repatriated.[5]

Dergoul's first account of his experience in Guantanamo

On May 16, 2004, David Rose, writing in The Observer published an article based on Dergoul's account of life in Guantanamo.[14][15] Other former captives had offered accounts of how the camp's riot squads, the Guantanamo Emergency Reaction Force used brutality in an arbitrary and excessive manner. But Dergoul was the first to describe how every time the riot squad deployed a sixth member of the team stood back to record a video of the event.[16][17] Camp spokesmen confirmed Dergoul's account that all ERF deployments were filmed, for review by superior officers, and that they were all archived. Politicians in both the United Kingdom and the United States called for the recordings to be made available for review, to see if they did record unnecessary use of force. Rose quoted Senator Patrick Leahy of the Senate Judiciary Committee

If evidence exists that can establish whether there has been mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, it should be provided without delay. That must include any tapes or photos of the activities of the Extreme Reaction Force.

On May 15, 2004, CNN noted Dergoul's role when it reported General Jay Hood, the camp's commandant, brought DVDs of ERF squad incidents when he was called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.[18] After watching the videos camp authorities had selected to show the committee Leahy concluded that they did not appear to show abuses similar to those revealed by the trophy photos collected and distributed by guards at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

At a time when the Guantanamo captives were widely described as having been "captured on the battlefield" Dergoul told Rose he had been apprehended by members of an Afghan militia.[14] Dergoul said his Afghan captors traded him to US forces in return for a $5,000 bounty. Dergoul told Rose that half of the captives were, like him, traded to the US for a bounty.

Dergoul described how two Pakistani friends who had partnered with him as real estate speculation, and how this innocent enterprise lead to his wounding, capture, and ultimately, the amputation of his left arm and a big toe.[14] Dergoul's arm was damaged when a large recently abandoned house he and his partners were considering buying was targeted by a US bomb. His toes became frostbitten. According to Dergoul his formerly frostbitten toe was badly infected, but his US captors withheld anti-biotics from him, in order to pressure him into confessing to a role in terrorism. Dergoul claimed he did, ultimately, falsely confess to fighting and being captured at Osama bin Laden's mountain redoubt in Tora Bora, rather than in Jalalabad a major city fifty kilometers and a mountain range away.

Rose noted that former Guantanamo commandant Geoffrey Miller, who had introduced interrogations techniques to Iraq which triggered controversy there, because the USA acknowledged that Iraqi captives were protected by the Geneva Conventions.[14] Rose identified Dergoul as someone who reported being subjected to techniques the USA acknowledged would not be allowed on individuals protected by the Geneva Conventions. In particular Dergoul had described to Rose being subjected to "short shackling", and other long confinement in "stress positions", "extremes of heat and cold" and sleep deprivation.[19] He described watching other bound captives routinely being beaten into unconsciousness, when he was in US custody in Afghanistan. Dergoul described a technique where guards would deliver him to an interrogation room, where he would be shackled to a chair, or short schackled to a bolt in the floor -- and then left alone.[20] Dergoul would describe how the temperature in the interrogation room would be set to painfully cold. He described how the cold would be particularly painful on the stumps left from his amputations. Dergoul described how after being left alone, shackled, all day, he would feel a mounting pressure to void his bladder or move his bowels, and would eventually be forced to soil himself.

Comments on the first deaths in Guantanamo to be publicly reported

On June 10, 2006, camp authorities, less than a month after they published the first official list of the names of the Guantanamo captives, camp authorities announced three men had died, had committed suicide.[21] Historian Andy Worthington, author of the The Guantanamo Files, noted that Dergoul had gone on record that he had been held in cells adjacent to two of the three men, and simply could not believe they could have killed themselves.[22][23]

Dergoul sues the UK government over its complicity in his abuse

Dergoul had offered accounts of UK government complicity in his abuse from his first interview after his repatriation. On September 16, 2007 Dergoul was the first former captive to sue the UK government.[24] Dergoul claim was thirteen pages long, and focused on the cooperation and active involvement of two of the UK's security agencies -- MI5 and MI6 -- in his detention and interrogation.

2008 McClatchy interview

On June 15, 2008 the McClatchy News Service published a series of articles based on interviews with 66 former Guantanamo captives.[25] Tarek Dergoul was one of thee former captives who had an article profiling him.[26]

Tarek Dergoul acknowledged traveling to Afghanistan following the al Qaeda's attacks of September 11, 2001.[26] He said he regarded the flight of refugees as a business opportunity. He and some other associates thought they could buy property from fleeing refugees at bargain prices, and then re-sell them when order was restored. However, he said, his companions were killed, and he was injured, when a shell landed in a villa they were about to buy.

Tarek Dergoul told his McClatchy interviewer he was buried in the rubble, and woke in hospital, to find himself under an armed guard.[26] His left arm was amputated. After some time in Afghan custody he was sold to the Americans for a $5000 bounty, and transferred to the Bagram Theater internment facility.

Tarek Dergoul reported that when he arrived in Bagram medical treatment was withheld from him, and then, when a doctor oversaw the amputation of one of his toes, pain medication was withheld from him, so that he would still be able to feel pain, when he was next interrogated.[26]

He claimed that he was taken into a medical room where a medical trainee was being instructed in how to amputate his toe. He claimed that he wasn't given anesthesia for the operation. Instead, he said, he was given just enough painkiller to stop the pain from being overwhelming, but not so much that he couldn't answer interrogators when they started asking questions again.

Tarek Dergoul reports that he only became religious during his detention.[26]

Dergoul sentenced to community service

In August 2011 Dergoul and a friend were in a shop when they saw his car being given a traffic ticket for being illegally parked.[27] The parking official testified at Dergoul's trial that after the men told him they were searching for the change to recharge the parking meter he told them it was too late and the ticket had already been issued. He then testified he crossed the street to capture a picture of the car, only to see Dergoul and his friend charging him. He testified they struck him, pushed him to the ground, and rained kicks and blows upon him.

Dergoul interrupted the proceedings, yelling from the prisoner's dock.[27] He complained that the parking official had escalated the tension through taking photos, and that he feared the parking official was an undercover security official, and the pictures were part of a surveillance campaign.

Dergoul was given a one year conditional sentence that required him to undergo a mental health assessment, and included six months of community service.[27] He was also fined £30, which was to be paid in installment to the parking official.

Benjamin Wittes, a legal scholar who focuses on counter-terrorism issues, referred to the controversial issue of competing assessessment as to what percentage of former Guantanamo captives should be considered Guantanamo recidivists, when he asked whether Dergoul's conviction would make him a recidivist.[28]

Scholarly comments

Dergoul's description of abusive conditions at Guantanamo have been quoted, used as an example, by a number of legal and human rights scholars. In "American Methods: Torture And the Logic of Domination" Kristian Williams quoted Dergoul's account as an instance of an ERF squad being used to punish captives, rather than its mandated use to maintain order and protect the safety of staff and guards.[29]

Human Rights Watch quoted Dergoul four times in its report "The Road to Abu Ghraib":[19] They offered him as an example of a captive who reported being threatened with extraordinary rendition to a torture state, for torture; They offered him as an example of a captive who reported being shackled for so long he was forced to void his bladder or move his bowels; They offered him as an example of a captive who reported being left alone all day in a frigid interrogation room; They offered him as an example of a captive who reported being beaten and pepper sprayed when he objected to repetitive unnecessary cell searches.

Scholar Alexandra Campbell quoted from Dergoul when she compared the fictional demonization and extrajudicial abuse of muslims in the Hollywood film "The Seige" and the abuse that Dergoul described to David Rose in his first interview.[30]

Jeannine Bell, writing in the Indiana Law Journal, asserted Dergoul was lucky not to be beaten unconscious like nearby captive, while he was held in Bagram.[31]

Jody Anstee chose a quote from Dergoul to lead her PhD thesis.[32]

Anthony Lewis, writing in the New York Review of Books, cites Dergoul's description of being made to soil himself as an example of the USA violating the international "Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment".[33]


  1. List of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from January 2002 through May 15, 2006. United States Department of Defense. Retrieved on 2006-05-15. Template:Wikisource-inline
  2. Measurements of Heights and Weights of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (ordered and consolidated version). Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas, from DoD data. Retrieved on 2009-12-21. mirror
  3. OARDEC. Consolidate chronological listing of GTMO detainees released, transferred or deceased, Department of Defense, 2008-10-09. Retrieved on 2008-12-28.
  4. Profiles: Guantanamo Bay Britons, BBC News, 2010-11-16. “Tarek Dergoul, freed at the same time as Rhuhel Ahmed, says it took him five years to put his life back together in the UK.”
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 British police release Guantanamo returnee, Sydney Morning Herald, 2004-03-11. “One of four British Muslims being questioned by anti-terrorist police in London, a day after they were repatriated from the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, has been released without charge, British police said today. The freed man was named as Tarek Dergoul, 26, a former care worker from east London.”
  6. Andy Worthington (2007). The Guantanamo Files. Pluto Press. ISBN 978 0 7453 2664 1. Retrieved on 2013-04-22. “Speaking after his release, he said that, having decided, with two Pakistani friends, to invest in property in Afghanistan in the hope they could sell it for a profit after the war, the three men were close to securing a deal, and were spending the night in an empty villa in Jalalabad, when it was hit by an American bomb.” 
  7. Guantanamo 'torture' vicitm sues MI5 and MI6, Daily Mail, 2007-09-12. Retrieved on 2013-04-21. “Tarek Dergoul has filed the landmark action after alleging he suffered a series of assaults at the hands of his captors at the interrogation centre.”
  8. Oliver Shah. Former Guantanamo Bay inmate speaks out, Hackney Post, 2009-03-24. Retrieved on 2013-04-22. “Having lost most of his left arm in a bomb blast in Afghanistan shortly before he was captured, Tarek was unable to work. But he says he was refused benefits and had to wage a three year war to reclaim his passport, register for income support and get the housing benefits he needed. He has only recently won the full range of financial support the state offers to vulnerable people in his position.”
  9. Vikram Dodd. MI5 and MI6 to be sued for first time over torture, The Guardian, 2007-09-12. Retrieved on 2013-04-15. “A British man who was held in Guantánamo Bay has begun a civil action against MI5 and MI6 over the tactics that they use to gather intelligence.”
  10. Kerry Carrington, Matthew Ball, Erin O'Brien, Juan Tauri. Crime, Justice and Social Democracy: International Perspectives, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, p. 139. Retrieved on 2013-04-20. “British citizen Tarek Dergoul was also brutally tortured in both Afghanistan (where he had successive toe amputations -- once without anaesthetic -- after untreated infection) and Guantanamo, where he was also sexually humiliated . He was repeatedly interrogated by both MI5 and MI6 in both countries during the regime of torture.”
  11. Jack Straw. Statement on return of British detainees at Guantanamo Bay, 10 Downing Street, 2004-02-19. Retrieved on 2013-04-22.
  12. Sandra Laville, Nick Britten, Catriona Davies. Guantanamo four freed without charge after families protest, The Telegraph (UK), 2004-03-11. “The men had been held under the Terrorism Act at Paddington Green station in west London after they were flown to Britain on Tuesday by the RAF. They were freed after anti-terrorist police, working with MI5 and the Crown Prosecution Service, agreed that there were no grounds for their detention.”
  13. David Rennie. Guantanamo Four are too dangerous to free, says US, The Telegraph (UK), 2004-03-08. “The four Britons who will continue to be held at Guantanamo Bay are Feroz Abbasi, 23, from Croydon, south London; Moazzam Begg, 36, from Birmingham; Richard Belmar, 23, from London; and Martin Mubanga, 29, also from London. Five others are expected to be freed this week.”
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 David Rose. 'They tied me up like a beast and began kicking me', The Observer, 2004-05-16. “In Washington, Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, demanded that the videos be shown to Congress. 'If evidence exists that can establish whether there has been mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, it should be provided without delay,' he said. 'That must include any tapes or photos of the activities of the Extreme Reaction Force.'”
  15. David Rose, Gaby Hinsloff. US guards 'filmed beatings' at terror camp: Senator urges action as Briton reveals Guantanamo abuse, The Observer, 2004-05-16. “Dozens of videotapes of American guards allegedly engaged in brutal attacks on Guantanamo Bay detainees have been stored and catalogued at the camp, an investigation by The Observer has revealed. The disclosures, made in an interview with Tarek Dergoul, the fifth British prisoner freed last March, who has been too traumatised to speak until now, prompted demands last night by senior politicians on both sides of the Atlantic to make the videos available immediately.”
  16. Guantanamo Punishment Squad Filmed Prisoner Abuse, Talk Left, 2004-05-15. Retrieved on 2013-04-22. “If you read no other articles today, you must read these: A third recently released British detainee at Guantanamo has accused the prison camp of having a brutal punishment squad, called "The Extreme Reaction Force" and says the abuse was videotaped. The Pengtagon acknowledges that there is such a force and that everything it does is videotaped.”
  17. Shaun Waterman. Senate wants Gitmo 'torture' videos, too, United Press International, 2004-05-19. Retrieved on 2013-04-22. “"If the incidents described (by Dergoul and the others) really happened, it suggests that some of the same cruel and degrading treatment that we know about at Abu Ghraib also happened at Guantanamo," the aide said. "That would suggest that it was much more pervasive than the administration has acknowledged."”
  18. Key senators view Gitmo disturbance tapes, CNN, 2004-05-14. Retrieved on 2013-04-22. “In May, The Observer reported that dozens of videotapes existed in which American guards allegedly engaged in brutal attacks against Gitmo detainees. The paper said it learned of the material from Tarek Dergoul, a British prisoner at the facility who was freed in March.”
  19. 19.0 19.1 The Road to Abu Ghraib, Human Rights Watch, 2004-06-09, p. 11, 15, 16, 18. “Tarek Dergoul described being chained to a ring in the floor and left alone for up to eight hours each day for a month. He stated: "The air conditioning would really be blowing -- it was freezing, which was incredibly painful on my amputation stumps."”
  20. Guantanamo: America's "Black Hole", Human Rights Watch, 2004-06-04. “Describing his experience of being chained to the floor for long periods in an interrogation room without actually being interrogated, Briton Tarek Dergoul, who was released in March 2004, stated: “Eventually I’d need to urinate and in the end I would try to tilt my chair and go on the floor. They were watching through a one-way mirror. As soon as I wet myself, a woman MP [military police] would come in yelling, ‘Look what you’ve done! You’re disgusting.’””
  21. Tarek Dergoul. Tarek Dergoul: Another Guantanamo Whitewash?, Cageprisoners, 2006-06-13, pp. 4-5. Retrieved on 2013-04-22. “The very thought of three suicides in one go, so-called suicides in one go; it brings about suspicion that there was foul play definitely involved. This was the only way the Americans could cover up the reality, by claiming that it was suicide.”
  22. Andy Worthington. Guantánamo suicides: so who’s telling the truth?, 2007-10-24. Retrieved on 2013-04-22. “The circumstances of the men’s deaths have long been contentious. After the 2006 suicides, many former detainees who had known the men spoke of their shock and incredulity at the news. Tarek Dergoul, a British detainee released in 2004, spent three weeks in a cell beside al-Utaybi. He recalled “his indefatigable spirit and defiance,” and pointed out that he was “always on the forefront of trying to get our rights.” He had similar recollections of al-Zahrani, describing him as ”always optimistic” and “defiant,” and adding that he “was always there to stand up for his brothers when he saw injustices being carried out.””
  23. Andy Worthington. Murders at Guantánamo: The Cover-Up Continues, 2010-06-11. Retrieved on 2013-04-21. “Admittedly, the men’s outlook on life could have changed in the two years following Tarek Dergoul’s release from Guantánamo, but Omar Deghayes, who was still in Guantánamo at the time of their deaths, recently backed up his analysis, describing them as poets with beautiful voices whose spirits were unbroken at the time of their deaths, although he did acknowledge that they had been subjected to severe mistreatment.”
  24. Peter Waugh. My torture hell in Camp Delta cage, Evening Standard, 2007-09-16. “Tarek Dergoul, 26, revealed the full extent of his ordeal in the American prison camp in a sworn statement which lists a catalogue of abuses.”
  25. Tom Lasseter. Guantanamo Inmate Database: Page 1, Miami Herald, June 15, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-06-16. mirror
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 26.4 Tom Lasseter. Guantanamo Inmate Database: Tarek Dergoul, Miami Herald, June 15, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-06-16. mirror
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 Ex-Guantanamo detainee from East Ham attacked traffic warden: A one-armed former Guantanamo Bay detainee who attacked a traffic warden who he thought was spying on him has been spared imprisonment, London24, 2012-03-02. “Dergoul was sentenced to a 12-month community order, which includes a mental health requirement and supervision order, both for six months. He was ordered to pay the traffic warden compensation of £30, which will be deducted from his benefits at the rate of £10 a fortnight.”
  28. Benjamin Wittes. Does this Count as Guantanamo Recidivism?, Lawfare, 2012-03-05. Retrieved on 2013-04-21. “From London24, which bills itself as “London for Londoners,” we learn that “Ex-Guantanamo Detainee from East Ham Attacked Traffic Warden”:”
  29. Kristian Williams (2006). American Methods: Torture And the Logic of Domination. South End Press. ISBN 9780896087538. Retrieved on 2013-04-22. 
  30. Alexandra Campbell. Framing Crime: Cultural Criminology and the Image, Routledge, 2010, p. 107-108. Retrieved on 2013-04-22.
  31. Jeannine Bell. "Behind This Mortal Bone": The (In)Effectiveness of Torture, Indiana Law Journal, 2008, pp. 10-11.
  32. Jody Anstee. [ Constructivism, Contestation and the International Detention Regime: The Case of the Blair Government and Bush Administration 2001-2006], University of Exeter, 2009, p. 1. Retrieved on 2013-04-22.
  33. Anthony Lewis. Making Torture Legal, New York Review of Books, 2004-07-15. Retrieved on 2013-04-15. (in English) “The full name of the torture convention is the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Human Rights Watch report gives examples of treatment that was deliberately degrading. A British subject who was detained at Guantánamo, Tarek Dergoul, and who was released and sent home to Britain last March, said he was chained to the floor in an interrogation room for long periods, alone. Eventually he would have to urinate, on himself. "As soon as I wet myself, a woman MP would come in yelling, 'Look what you've done! You're disgusting.'"”

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