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"They wouldn’t stop until they got some sort of answer from me," he told HRW.
Al-Sharif described a similar technique. Instead of being strapped to a board, he was put on a plastic sheet with guards holding up the edges, while freezing water was poured over him, including onto his hooded face directly over his mouth and nose.
"I felt as if I were suffocating," he told HRW. "I spent three months getting interrogated heavily ... and they gave me a different kind of torture every day. Sometimes they used water, sometimes not."
Others of the 14 former detainees, including three held in the same U.S.-led prisons in Afghanistan, described similar treatment as al-Shoroeiya and al-Sharif, though not simulated drowning.
One of them, Majid Mokhtar Sasy al-Maghrebi, said he nearly went insane in isolation after months being shackled naked in dark, freezing cells with music blaring, pounding his head against the wall and screaming, "I want to die, why don’t you just kill me?"
Another, detained in Mauritania, said that during interrogations by a foreigner he believed was American, his wife was brought to the detention center; his captors showed him his wife through a peephole and threatened to rape her if he did not cooperate.
Human Rights Watch said the U.S. failed in its post-9/11 campaign to distinguish between Islamists targeting the United States and those who "may simply have been engaged in armed opposition against their own repressive regimes.
"This failure risked aligning the United States with brutal dictators," the report said.
Eight of those interviewed were handed over to Libya in 2004 — the same year then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a public rapprochement with Gadhafi and Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell signed a major exploration deal off the Libyan coast, the HRW report noted. The remaining six were transferred to Libya over the two following years.
All were jailed by Gadhafi’s regime, most freed only after his fall. Most said they were not physically tortured — perhaps a result of Gadhafi’s attempts to mend fences with the West — but were kept in solitary confinement for long periods. Several, however, told HRW they were beaten and tortured, including being given electrical shocks.
The report also calls into question Libyan claims that one figure handed over by the Americans, Ibn el-Sheikh al-Libi, committed suicide in a Libyan prison. Al-Libi was held in U.S. secret prisons for years and gave information under torture by the Egyptians that the Bush administration used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq but was later discredited.
After his handover, Libyan authorities said he hanged himself in his cell. But HRW researchers said they were shown photos of his body that showed signs of torture.
Messages to Libya from the CIA and British intelligence among the Tripoli Documents published by HRW indicated the United States and Britain were eager to help Libya obtain several senior LIFG figures, including its co-founders, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi.
Belhaj and his then-pregnant wife were detained by Malaysia in 2004 with the help of British intelligence and then handed over to the CIA in Thailand, where he told HRW he was stripped and beaten. They were then taken to Libya, where Belhaj was imprisoned.
After Belhaj arrived in Libya, a message believed to be from the then-head of counterterrorism at British intelligence congratulates the Libyan intelligence chief. Britain’s help "was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built," he wrote.
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