Torture at Abu Ghraib: The full sworn testimony of Ali Shalal
The following text is the testimony given by Professor Ali Shalal, who was tortured at Abu Ghraib Prison. This statement was presented to the War Crimes Commission set up under the helm of former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, as evidence in the procedure launched in Kuala Lumpur directed against US President George W. Bush, Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard.
Ali Shalal, known to the World as the “man behind the hood”, is a man of tremendous courage and determination. I heard his testimony, I had the opportunity of speaking to him on several occasions in the course of the war crimes Conference. We established bonds of friendship and solidarity. We shared our determination to bring the war criminals in high office to justice.
Ali Shalal is a professor of theology. He is a tremendous source of inspiration. It is important to understand that what Ali Shalal experienced is part of a routine process of torture, applied systematically to those arrested. Many of his companions in Abu Ghraib died as a result of torture or were executed upon their release so that they would not reveal the gruesome horrors and atrocities committed on the orders of the Bush administration. Also of significance, as confirmed by his testimony, was the fact that Israeli ”civilians” were involved in assisting the US prison interrogators.
Ali Shalal survived and provided testimony in the name of all those who were tortured to death. Ali Salal’s words will go down in history.
The war criminals in high office will be brought to justice. It is also our determination that they will be given a fair trial.
Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 19 February 2007
Ali Shalal and Michel Chossudovsky in Kuala Lumpur, 7 February 2007
I, Ali Sh. Abbas (alias Ali Shalal) of full age and an Iraqi citizen do hereby solemnly and sincerely declare as follows:
- I am 45 years old
- I now live in Amman, Jordan.
- I was an Islamic education lecturer in the city of Al-Alamiya, Iraq
- The purpose of making this statutory declaration is to put on record my torture experience in the Abu Ghraib prison.
- On the 13th October, 2003 while I was going to prayer in the mosque in Al-Amraya, the American troops arrested me. They tied my hands to the back of my body and put a bag over my head. They took me to a small prison in a U.S. military camp in Al-Amraya.
- The Commander of this military camp, one Captain Philips told me that he had received an order from his superior to arrest him and he did not know the reasons for my arrest. I was left alone in the prison.
- After two days, they transferred me to the Abu Ghraib prison. The first thing they did to me was to make a physical examination of my body and abused me. Together with other detainees, we were made to sit on the floor and were dragged to the interrogation room. This so called room is in fact a toilet (approximately 2m by 2m) and was flooded with water and human waste up to my ankle level. I was asked to sit in the filthy water while the American interrogator stood outside the door, with the translator.
- After the interrogation, I would be removed from the toilet, and before the next detainee is put into the toilet, the guards would urinate into the filthy water in front of the other detainees.
- The first question they asked me was, “Are you a Sunni or Shiia?” I answered that this is the first time I have been asked this question in my life. I was surprised by this question, as in Iraq there is no such distinction or difference. The American interrogator replied that I must answer directly the questions and not to reply outside the question. He then said that in Iraq there are Sunnis, Shiias and Kurds.
- The interrogators wore civilian clothes and the translator, an Afro-American wore American army uniform.
- When I answered that I am an Iraqi Muslim, the interrogator refused to accept my answer and charged me for the following offence:
- The interrogator accused me that I had injured my hand while attacking the American soldiers.
- The interrogator informed me that they knew that I was an important person in the community and therefore could help them. As an inducement for my cooperation, the interrogator offered medical help for my injured hand.
- When I did not cooperate, the interrogator asked me whether I considered the American army as “liberator” or “occupier”. When I replied that they were occupiers, he lost his temper and threatened me. He told me that I would be sent to Guantanamo Bay where even animals would not be able to survive.
- They took me to another room and took record of my thumb print, a photo of my eye and a sample of my saliva for DNA analysis. After this procedure, they tagged me by putting a band round my wrist with the following particulars: my name, a number, my religious status and whether I had previous arrest.
- They then beat me repeatedly and put me in a truck to transfer me to another part of the Abu Ghraib prison.
- This part of the prison, was in an open space and consisted of five sectors, surrounded by walls and barb wires and was called “Fiji Land”. Each sector had five tents and surrounded by barb wires. When I was removed from the truck, the soldiers marked my forehead with the words “Big Fish” in red. All the detainees in this camp are considered “Big Fish”. I was located in camp “B”.
- The living conditions in the camp were very bad. Each tent would have 45 to 50 detainees and the space for each detainee measured only 30cm by 30cm. We had to wait for 2 to 3 hours just to go to the toilets. There was very little water. Each tent was given only 60 litres of water daily to be shared by the detainees. This water was used for drinking and washing and cleaning the wounds after the torture sessions. They would also make us to stand for long hours.
- Sometimes, as a punishment, no food is given to us. When food is given, breakfast is at 5.00 am, lunch is at 8.00 am and dinner at 1.00 pm. During Ramadhan, they bring food twice daily, first at 12.00 midnight and the second is given during fasting time to make the detainees break the religious duty of fasting.
- During my captivity in the camp, I was interrogated and tortured twice. Each time I was threatened that I would be sent to Guantanamo Bay prison. During this period, I heard from my fellow detainees that they were tortured by cigarette burns, injected with hallucinating chemicals and had their rectum inserted with various types of instruments, such as wooden sticks and pipes. They would return to the camp, bleeding profusely. Some had their bones broken.
- In my camp, I saw detainees brought over from a secret prison which I came to know later as being housed in the “Arabian Oil Institute” building, situated in the north of Baghdad. These detainees were badly injured.
- After one month and just before sunset my number was called and they put a bag over my head and my hands were tied behind my back. My legs were also tied. They then transferred me to a cell.
- When I was brought to the cell, they asked me in Arabic to strip but when I refused, they tore my clothes and tied me up again. They then dragged me up a flight of stairs and when I could not move, they beat me repeatedly. When I reached the top of the stairs, they tied me to some steel bars. They then threw at me human waste and urinated on me.
- Next, they put a gun to my head and said that they would execute me there. Another soldier would use a megaphone to shout at me using abusive words and to humiliate me. During this time, I could hear the screams of other detainees being tortured. This went on till the next morning.
- In the morning, an Israeli stood in front of me and took the bag from my head and told me in Arabic that he was an Israeli had interrogated and tortured detainees in Palestine. He told me that when detainees would not cooperate, they would be killed. He asked me repeatedly for names of resistance fighters. I told him that I do not know any resistance fighters but he would not believe me, and continued to beat me.
- This Israeli dressed in civilian clothes tortured me by inserting in turn first with a jagged wooden stick into my rectum and then with the barrel of a rifle. I was cut inside and bled profusely. During this time, when any guard walked past me, they would beat me. I had no food for 36 hours.
- The next morning, the Israeli interrogator came to my cell and tied me to the grill of the cell and he then played the pop song, “By the Rivers of Babylon” by Pop Group Boney M, continuously until the next morning. The effect on me was that I lost my hearing, and I lost my mind. It was very painful and I lost consciousness. I only woke up when the Israeli guard poured water on my head and face. When I regain consciousness, he started beating me again and demanded that I tell him of the names of resistance fighters and what activities that I did against the American soldiers. When I told him that I did not know any resistance fighters, he kicked me many times.
- I was kept in the cell without clothes for two weeks. During this time, an American guard by the name of “Grainer” accompanied by a Moroccan Jew called Idel Palm ( also known as Abu Hamid) came to my cell and asked me about my bandaged hand which was injured before I was arrested. I told him that I had an operation. He then pulled the bandage which stained with blood from my hand and in doing so, tore the skin and flesh from my hands. I was in great pain and when I asked him for some pain killers, he stepped on my hands and said “this is American pain killer” and laughed at me.
- On the 15th day of detention, I was given a blanket. I was relieved that some comfort was given to me. As I had no clothes, I made a hole in the centre of the blanket by rubbing the blanket against the wall, and I was able to cover my body. This is how all the prisoners cover their bodies when they were given a blanket.
- One day, a prisoner walked past my cell and told me that the interrogators want to speed up their investigation and would use more brutal methods of torture to get answers that they want from the prisoners. I was brought to the investigation room, after they put a bag over my head. When I entered the investigation room, they remove the bag from my head to let me see the electrical wires which was attached to an electrical wall socket.
- Present in the room was the Moroccan Jew, Idel Palm, the Israeli interrogator, two Americans one known as “Davies” and the other “Federick” and two others. They all wore civilian clothes, except the Americans who wore army uniforms. Idel Palm told me in Arabic that unless I cooperated, this would be my last chance to stay alive. I told him that I do not know anything about the resistance. The bag was then placed over my head again, and left alone for a long time. During this time, I heard several screams and cries from detainees who were being tortured.
- The interrogators returned and forcefully placed me on top of a carton box containing can food. They then connected the wires to my fingers and ordered me to stretch my hand out horizontally, and switched on the electric power. As the electric current entered my whole body, I felt as if my eyes were being forced out and sparks flying out. My teeth were clattering violently and my legs shaking violently as well. My whole body was shaking all over.
- I was electrocuted on three separate sessions. On the first two sessions, I was electrocuted twice, each time lasting few minutes. On the last session, as I was being electrocuted, I accidentally bit my tongue and was bleeding from the mouth. They stop the electrocution and a doctor was called to attend to me. I was lying down on the floor. The doctor poured some water into my mouth and used his feet to force open my mouth. He then remarked, “There is nothing serious, continue!” Then he left the room. However, the guard stopped the electrocution as I was bleeding profusely from my mouth and blood was all over my blanket and body. But they continued to beat me. After some time, they stopped beating me and took me back to my cell.
- Throughout the time of my torture, the interrogators would take photographs.
- I was then left alone in my cell for 49 days. During this period of detention, they stopped torturing me. At the end of the 49th day, I was transferred back to the camp, in tent C and remained there for another 45 days. I was informed by a prisoner that he over heard some guards saying that I was wrongly arrested and that I would be released.
- I was released in the beginning of March 2004. I was put into a truck and taken to a highway and then thrown out. A passing car stopped and took me home.
- As a result of this experience, I decided to establish an association to assist all torture victims, with the help of twelve other tortured victims.
- I feel very sad that I have to remember and relive this horrible experience again and again, and I hope that the Malaysian people will answer our call for help. God willing.
(a) That I am anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic.
(b) I supported the resistance
(c) I instigated the people to oppose the occupation
(d) That I knew the location of Osama bin Ladin
I protested and said that Muslims and Jews descended from the same historical family. I said that I could not be in the resistance because I am a disabled person and have an injured hand.
And I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the provisions of the Statutory Declarations Act 1960.
Subscribed and solemnly declared by the
above named Ali Sh. Abbas alias Ali Shalal on February 2007 at Kuala Lumpur through the interpretation of ABBAS Z. ABID (Iraqi Passport No. S379532) with the said ABBAS Z. ABID having been first affirmed that he had truly, distinctly, and audibly translated the contents of this Statutory Declaration to the deponent Ali Sh. Abbas alias Ali Shalal and that he would truly and faithfully interpret the affirmation about to be administered unto him the said Ali Sh. Abbas alias Ali Shalal.
Name: ABBAS Z. ABID
(Iraqi Passport No. S379532)
Commissioner of Oaths,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Significantly, Ali Shalal chose to speak from a text sworn under Malaysia’s Statutory Declaration Act 1960, before a Commissioner for Oaths in Kuala Lumpur.
Ali’s statutory declaration was endorsed by Abbas Z. Abid, a survivor of the Fallujah Massacre, who interpreted his Arabic text into English.
The audience that filled Dewan Merdeka to the brinks held their breath listening to Ali Shalal, who gave a live testimony of torture as a direct-hit victim while he was custody in the infamous Aby Ghraib prison, in the US-occupied Iraq.
His statutory declaration will be deposited with the War Crimes Commission as one of the petitions from War Crime Victims. Subsequently, Ali Shalal’s petition is expected to be forwarded for deliberation by the War Crimes Tribunal, which will begin its preliminary deliberation later in the afternoon.
When the War Crimes Commission sits for the preliminary proceedings at 9.00am this morning , War Crimes victims will present their petitions and give their witnesses’ accounts.
They include war crimes victims from the war in Afghanistan aka The Global War on Terror; war in Iraq including the Fallujah Massacre; war in Lebanon, and war in Palestine.
New York Times retracted story
March 11 last year, The New York Times ran a dramatic front-page story that matched the infamous photo: the chilling shot of an Abu Ghraib prisoner, hooded, standing on a box, electrical wires attached to his outstretched arms.
The “Prisoner in the Hood” was identified by the NY Times as Ali Shalal Qaissi.
However, the story was challenged by online magazine Salon. On March 18, the NY Times acknowledged that its story was flat wrong, and the paper admitted that the prisoner in the photograph was not Qaissi, who has reportedly admitted to the falsehood.
In an editor’s note, the NY Times said “the Times did not adequately research Mr. Qaissi’s insistence that he was the man in the photograph” and “should have been more persistent in seeking comment from the military.
And the story died instantly in America’s media.
The matter was raised at the pre-Conference press briefing on Sunday, to which Dr Mahathir, chairman of PGPO, answered: “The US military will naturally deny everything because you would not know who is behind the hood. But we believe that Ali Shalal is the man behind the hood that you saw in the picture.”
When Ali Shalal took the podium yesterday, he displayed several video clips of the tortures in Abu Ghraib, laid with soundtracks of Iraqi music. In the dark, I could figure out he was wearing an academic’s suit, but complete with a songkok that’s typically Malaysian. The session’s moderator, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, later confirmed what I had guessed. It was indeed a songkok.
Then he began to speak, albeit in a monotonous, emotionless tone. What can you expect from a person who went through hell several times, only to tell the world his first-hand account of war crimes.
I could understand his first sentence in Arabic. “Ana ALI SH. ABBAS”. He was saying he is Ali Sh. Abbas alias Ali Shalal, 45, who is now residing in Amman, Jordan.
Despite Ali’s monotone articulated through his native language, and the time-lapse the slipped while I tried to catch what he meant, I felt chills up my spine. It was human torture of the sadistic kind.
These are some images I took as I sat on the floor listening to him by reading the English translation of his testimony, which was actually his Statutory Declaration. Quote:
In the morning, an Israeli stood in front of me and took the bag from my head and told me in Arabic that he was an Israeli (who) had interrogated and tortured detainees in Palestine.
Worse was to come. Ali was later electrocuted on three separate occasions. On the first two sessions, he was electrocuted twice, each time lasting a few minutes. And on the last session, as he was being electrocuted, he accidentally bit his tongue and was bleeding from the mouth.
There wasn’t mercy, even from doctors. Quote:
The doctor just poured some water u=into my mouth and used his feet to force open my mouth. He then remarked: “There is nothing serious, continue!” Then he left the room. However, theguard stopped the electrocution as I was bleeding profusely from my mouth and blood was all over my blanket and body. But they continue to beat me. After some time, they stopped beating me and put me back to my cell.
Throughout the time of my torture, the interrogators would take photographs.
After that incident, Ali was left alone in his cell for 49 days, and the interrogators stopped torturing him. Quote:
I was released in the beginning of March 2004. I was put into a truck and taken to a highway and then thrown out. A passing car stopped and took me home.
All these, because Ali was arrested by the American troops on October 13, 2003 while he was going to a prayer in the mosque of Al-Amraya, and later transferred to Abu Ghraib prison.
All these, because Ali had refused to confess to his captor’s question whether he was a Sunni or Shia Muslim.
All that Ali was willing to answer was that he was an Iraqi Muslim, an answer that his captors refused to accept. He was instead charged for the following “offence”, as contained in paragraph 11 of the Statutory Declaration:
a ) That Ali was anti-Zionist and Anti-Semitic
b ) He supported the resistance
c ) He instigated the people to oppose the occupation
d ) that he knew the location of Osama bin Laden
The captors refused to considered his plea that he was a disabled person and had an injured hand. Instead, the interrogators accused him of injuring his hand while attacking the American soldiers.
At the point of his capture by the American troops, Ali was a lecturer in Islamic education in the city of Al-Alamiya, Iraq.
Now that Ali has reclaimed his life, he vowed to do something good for his countrymen who went through the same fate. He has decided to to establish an association to assist all torture victims, with the help of 12 other tortured victims.
At the end of his presentation, Ali told this to the audience who were still enthralled by his gory, gripping account:
I feel very sad that I have to remember and relive this horrible experience again and again, and I hope that the Malaysian people will answer our call for help. God willing.
Fortunately, I could still grasp some Arabic words which I learned during my trip to Tunisia in 2005. Ali ended his presentation with ‘Shukran Malaysia’ (Thank you, Malaysia).
It was a standing ovation… amidst revelation by Tun Hasmah that it wasn’t really an easy task getting Ali into Malaysia to speak.
In a way, Ali Shalal is a lucky war victim. His torture and misery were made enduring the world over only because of media snafu in the USA. There are a lot more silent, but no less inhuman, war crimes stories unheard and unspoken of elsewhere, which will be unending so long as warmongers and war criminals remain roaming free on this earth.
The job cut out for the War Crimes Tribunal has just begun.
All LensaPress, photos by Jeff Ooi