THE Pentagon has admitted interrogating detainees at a string of black site prisons in Yemen’s occupied south but denied involvement in torture.
The Associated Press revealed that US military personnel are in Yemen interrogating suspected al-Qaida members in an investigative report published yesterday.
Families and lawyers say nearly 2,000 men have been rounded up and held in the 18 secret jails run by United Arab Emirates (UAE) forces — part of the Saudi-led invasion coalition — and its local proxies. There are regular protests for their release.
The report said torture methods included the "grill" — where prisoners are tied to a vertical spit and turned in a ring of fire.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White denied US forces took part in torture, claiming "we would not turn a blind eye" to abuses.
The prisons are inside military bases, ports, an airport, private villas and even a nightclub. Others were interrogated on ships at sea.
Some detainees have been flown to an Emirati base across the Red Sea in Eritrea, according to some including Hussein Arab, the interior minister in former president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s Saudi-based government.
But the UAE government claimed: "There are no secret detention centres and no torture of prisoners is done during interrogations."
At one main detention complex at Riyan airport in the southern city of Mukalla, former inmates described being crammed into shipping containers smeared with faeces and blindfolded for weeks on end.
They said they were beaten, turned on the "grill" and sexually assaulted.
A member of the Hadramawt Elite, a security force set up by the UAE, said US forces were at times only yards away.
A Yemeni officer who said he was deployed for a time on a ship off the coast alleged he saw at least two detainees brought to the vessel for questioning.
They were taken to the lower decks — to which the officer did not have access — where he was told US "polygraph experts" and "psychological experts" conducted interrogations.
Two senior Yemeni officials, one in Mr Hadi’s interior ministry and another in the 1st Military District, based in Hadramawt where Mukalla is located, also said the US military were conducting interrogations at sea, as did a former senior security official in Hadramawt.
CIA spokesman Jonathan Liu refused to comment "on these specific claims."
The big black blots in the US’s torture history:
ALLEGATIONS that US personnel have been involved in interrogations which saw detainees tortured are nothing new.
During the cold war the CIA co-ordinated the Phoenix Programme which oversaw the kidnapping and killing of tens of thousands of Vietnamese revolutionaries and the US also supported Operation Condor, under which South American dictatorships had dissidents tortured, disappeared and murdered.
After the start of the war on terror the US carried out an extraordinary rendition programme which saw suspects kidnapped and removed beyond the reach of law, either to concentration camps like Guantanamo Bay, where British resident Shaker Aamer was among those tortured for years, or to repressive regimes where US — and British — intelligence officials participated in interrogations that involved beatings, force-feedings, confinement in small spaces and other torture techniques.
The Obama presidency outlawed certain forms of torture such as waterboarding, but President Donald Trump vowed to bring it back, saying: "Does torture work? Yes. Absolutely."
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