U.S. Holds 27,000 ‘Ghost Prisoners’ Around Globe
Ghost Prisoners Will Haunt George W. Bush Legacy
By Mike Finch
An estimated 27,000 “ghost prisoners” are currently being held in secret prisons around the world, including ships that have been re-fitted as prison hulks, according to recent reports.
“When you look at Guantanamo Bay, 270 [prisoners], roughly . . . [are] in Guantanamo, but according to the most recent official figures, the United States is currently holding 27,000 secret prisoners around the world,” Clive Stafford Smith said to DemocracyNow! in a May 19 interview. “99 percent of these folk are not in Guantanamo Bay.”
Smith is a lawyer for 30 of the Guantanamo prisoners, and author of Eight O’clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Seeking Justice in Guantanamo Bay. He spoke before Congress on May 20 regarding the prisoners, and works for the UK charity known as Reprieve.
Several known prisons exist in Morocco, Afghanistan, Djibouti, and Iraq. Popular thought was that the prisons in Iraq were for Iraqi war prisoners, but Smith asserted that prisoners are being brought in from other nations so that “annoying people like you—I mean the media—and also annoying people like me—lawyers— away from the prisoners so they can’t get any sort of legal rights,” Smith said.
The Bush administration said they have not tortured suspected terrorists, but rather used “alternative” interrogation methods that are “tough but legal,” a 2006 CNN report said. Smith described one such alternative method: “All they have on him is evidence that they extracted from him after taking him to Morocco and torture[ing] him with a razor blade to his genitals.”
Smith said that his organization identified 32 prison ships, though the U.S. and Britain deny that ships converted into prisons are used in the Indian Ocean to hold people.
“We’ve got pictures of them in Lisbon Harbor,” Smith said, “And this is a huge concern, because the world focus is on Guantanamo Bay, which actually is a diversionary tactic in the whole war on terror or whatever you would like to call it.”
Bagram prison in Afghanistan, a prison that made the news in 2002 when two detainees were killed from wounds inflicted during torture, holds an estimated 680 prisoners.
May 17 the U.S. announced plans to build a 40-acre prison extension to the Bagram facility that will hold up to 1,100 prisoners. The bill for the new prison is estimated at $60 million.
Mike Finch is a reporter and intern for American Free Press. Mike has a Master’s Degree in journalism and is working on his PhD. in communications.
(Issue # 26, June 30, 2008)