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On hooding

by Ethan Wells Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2002 at 9:59 AM

A few citations concerning the practice of hooding supposed terrorists, taken (with one exception) from John Conroy's excellent book _Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture_ (Berkeley: U of CA P, 2000). Rather than add further commentary, I have instead affixed a photograph of unknown origin -- and leave all commentary to the reader.

On hooding...
pow1.jpgwv2xqi.jpg, image/jpeg, 640x480

"Without warning or explanation, a hood was placed on Auld's head. He was handcuffed and then led to a helicopter. (. . .) "As soon as it landed I was kicked out and two arms grabbed me and I was trailing along, with the hood on, couldn't see where we were going at all, and they just ran me straight into a post. Straight into my head, flying full force into it, and I just went down."

- Jim Auld, one of the supposed "thugs and murderers" picked up at random in 1971 by British troops in Northern Ireland, and tortured, to use the term employed by the European Commission of Human Rights in its 1976 ruling.

"The hooding . . . reduces to the minimum the possibility that while [the prisoner] is in transit or with other detainees, he will be identified or will be able to identify persons or the locations to which he is moved. It thus provides security both for the detainee and for his guards. . . . We were told that in fact some complainants kept their hoods on when they could have removed them is they wished."

- Sir Edmund Compton in the 1971 Compton report commissioned by the British government to investigate the charges of torture.

"I didn't know what was going on, where I was, or who was doing what to me. And my hands up against the wall, after ten or fifteen minutes, they started getting numb, so I dropped them down to my side, and as soon as I lifted them off the wall, I got beaten with the batons, just beaten solid. (. . .) And very quickly you got the message that you weren't supposed to move your hands.

"After about four days they set me on the ground and lifted the hood up to my nose and they gave me a piece of bread and a cup of water. (. . .) And he [one of the torturers] lifted the bread up (. . .) and he stuck a bit of bread in my mouth. And then he held the cup up and gave me one drink of it and took the whole lot away and put the hood back up. (. . .) As one of them took the bread off, another couple of them threw me back up on the wall. And I remember one of them hit me with a kidney punch or a punch with a baton in my kidneys because I can remember it just knocked all of the wind out of me. And I just went straight down and they all seemed to be in a circle around me beating me.

"And I remember crying at that stage and saying, 'I just can't take this, mister, I am sorry, I just don't know what to do."

"After eight days I was taken off the wall. I was that frightened that it didn't enter my head to take the hood off."

- Jim Auld

"Mr Auld's complaint that he was refused permission to relieve himself was denied. It was not clear to us how a man in the requisite posture, hooded, and surrounded by a loud noise, was expected to indicate his need. We were told he would have to use gestures. Such gestures might initially be construed merely as an attempt to move from the required posture. If this were so, he would be put back in the posture in the manner described, at any rate to start with. We were however told that lavatory facilities were available and were regularly used under escort by all the interrogatees, with the exception of Mr. McClean....It was Mr. McClean's own fault that he did not use them."

- The Compton report

"Only prisoners who were likely to be violent or unco-operative are hooded and their hands are tied behind their backs with plastic restraint bands. Sometimes we would take the hoods off prisoners when they were travelling in our helicopters, at other times not.

"In Kandahar, in what we call their living areas, the prisoners are given cots with blankets and Adidas suits and runners, but they have no privacy. There are no sides to their living areas because we have to see them all the time. They have no privacy in the bathroom. Some of them masturbate when they are looking at the female guards. Our guards had no reaction to this. . .

"There was non- co-operation at the beginning. But they had a misconception that [th]ey were going to be treated the way they treated each other. When they're not tortured, I think this has a lot to do with changing their opinion."

- US Officer in Afghanistan, as reported by Robert Fisk in "With runners and whispers, al-Qua'ida outfoxes US forces," The Independent, 12/06/02 (<http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia_china/story.jsp?story=358926>)

"The hood is compulsory. It is always there so that he [the prisoner] cannot recognize somebody when he is set free. Also, the hood makes them live inside the dark all the time and makes them eventually lose reality."

- Hugo Garcia, a self-avowed former torturer for the Uruguayan military junta between 1976 - 1979.

"I think the important point to remember is that the actual processes of inducing marked anxiety, or extreme coercive pressures through the use of, for example, sensory deprivation techniques, are common, and the only difference between the techniques by, say, the people in North Korea and the hooding procedures [used by the British] is that the hooding procedures are much more severe . . . From the torturers point of view [the British methods] would be an advancement in the technique in that they can speed up the process..."

- Dr. Robert Daly, testifying as an expert witness on psychiatric effects of interrogation technique, before the European Human Rights Commission in 1973.

"In the moment you are nobody. You don't have any rights, you don't have any voice, you are neither alive nor dead, you are desaparecido"

- anonymous Argentinan torturer, as reported by Irena Martinez after she survived three years of imprisonment and torture in Argentina

(Unless otherwise noted, all citations are from John Conroy's _Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture_, [Berkeley: U of CA P, 2000])
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