Reality TV meets U.S. foreign policy in "The Guantanamo Guidebook," a British program that inflicts on volunteers some of the techniques to which detainees in Guantanamo and elsewhere are being subjected in the "war on terror." -- But some activists working against torture oppose broadcasting the show, AP's Thomas Wagner reports. -- Broadcast dates have not been set, but the Britain's Channel 4 plans to show the program in the U.K. in mid-March. -- The participants were "seven men -- three Muslims and four white Britons -- [who] were locked up in a makeshift detention center at a warehouse in east London," South Africa's News 24 reports. -- Not all of the men oppose the use of such techniques before they agreed to participation, but a Radio Free Europe report suggests these supporters of coercive interrogation techniques changed their minds after their experiences on the show. -- (News 24 reported that two of the seven dropped out before the end of the 48-hour period; AP reported that three dropped out early. -- BBC's report said that one man had dropped out after only seven hours.) -- Adam Pasick of Reuters noted that Channel 4 was also the creator of the controversial "Big Brother" reality-TV shows, and that "the techniques [in "Guantanamo Guidebook"] are based on information from declassified U.S. government documents," and are "carried out by expert interrogators from the United States." -- The Scotsman (UK) described some of the other programs planned in Channel 4's series on torture. -- Radio Free Europe's piece on the program is the longest, and says that a spokesman for the production company that prepared the program "denies any commercial motive. No prizes were awarded and no winners or losers declared on the program. . . . '[I]t is not there for titillation, nor is it an exploitative thing. It is really there to raise questions.'" -- RFE noted that no one has yet seen the finished program, and reports that while the Danish-based International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, a respected anti-torture advocacy group, opposes the program as itself a violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the director of the London office of Human Rights Watch supports the showing of the program....
TV RECORDS EFFECTS OF PURPORTED U.S. ABUSE
By Thomas Wagner
February 10, 2005
LONDON -- Two people vomited, two wet their pants, another suffered signs of hypothermia -- all for the cameras -- after volunteering to spend 48 hours locked up in cages and subjected to sexual humiliation, forced nudity and sleep deprivation allegedly like prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
A British television station plans to air "The Guantanamo Guidebook," a program that re-creates some alleged techniques used at the U.S. prison camp for terrorist suspects.
Channel 4 says it wants to make the public aware of such abuses, but a human-rights group said Wednesday that the program violates United Nations conventions banning torture and shouldn't be shown.
"Your program may have undesirable effects of acclimatizing the audience to the use of torture. The real issue is, how do we make an end to impunity for torturers," said Brita Sydhoff of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims in Denmark. The group represents 200 rehabilitation centers for torture victims.
The show's producers say they have re-created some of the milder forms of alleged abuse used at the Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The methods used on seven volunteers included religious and sexual humiliation, forced nudity, sleep deprivation and extreme temperatures, Tim Carter, the show's producer and director, said Wednesday.
The volunteers were locked in a warehouse with cages, interrogation rooms and surveillance equipment for 48 hours. In the end, after getting sick or suffering symptoms of hypothermia, three of the seven volunteers quit before the 48 hours were over, Carter said.
"We made the program to show viewers how devastating even the milder techniques such as sleep deprivation and playing on personal phobias can be," said Carter, who made the program for the Twenty Twenty Television production company in London.
The Bush administration has denied using torture at the Guantanamo prison, where more than 500 detainees are held. Some detainees have said they were wrongly imprisoned and allege mistreatment, including beatings, forced nudity and sexual humiliation.
Tom Wilner, a lawyer for 11 Kuwaiti prisoners, recently said that most of his clients falsely confessed to belonging to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime or Al Qaeda as a way to stop alleged abuse.
Carter said many forms of purported abuse at Guantanamo have been publicly described by alleged victims, their lawyers and in memos and other documents released under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.
A broadcast date for "The Guantanamo Guidebook" has not been announced, but Yad Luthra, a spokesman for Channel 4 in London, said it is one of four programs dealing with torture planned for a one-week period in the next month.
Carter said television stations in other countries have expressed interest in the show, but none has bought the rights.
The other programs include a documentary by Clive Stafford Smith, a lawyer for Guantanamo detainees, that explores the issue of whether torture ever works when used on terrorism suspects.
REALITY TV TURNS TO TORTURE
News 24 (South Africa)
February 9, 2005
LONDON -- A group of volunteers have been locked up in cages and sexually humiliated in a British reality show that seeks to explore the use of torture by recreating conditions inside the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
The four-part series on Channel 4 asks whether torture methods applied at the notorious United States navy base in Cuba and other prisons in places such as Iraq and the U.S. can be justified in efforts to combat terrorism, a spokesperson for the station said.
"The information gained through torture has been justified as the center of the war against terrorism," said the spokesperson, who asked to remain anonymous.
"We want the viewers to watch techniques that we know are used at Guantanamo and really to raise questions about whether torture is justified and if it works and what does it say about our values as a western society."
For "The Guantanamo Guidebook," part of a series due to be broadcast from the end of February, seven men -- three Muslims and four white Britons -- were locked up in a makeshift detention center at a warehouse in east London.
Two of the seven failed to last the course.
Over a period of 48 hours, U.S. interrogation experts subjected them to a range of torture techniques known to be used at the notorious Cuba prison.
Two of the seven failed to last the course, with one choosing to pull out and the other being forced to quit due to hypothermia, the spokesperson said.
Before embarking on the ordeal, the seven offered their opinions on torture and its justification, with some openly supporting the U.S. methods used at Guantanamo, where over 500 detainees have been held for two-and-a-half years.
The show is designed to "examine if torture is justified to combat the threat faced from terrorists such as Al-Qaeda," the Channel 4 spokesperson said.
"At the end of it, we see what the volunteers now think about torture and the use of torture," he added.
On Monday, a Washington-based lawyer said that several Kuwaitis being held at Guantanamo Bay on suspicion of terrorist activities were tortured into making false confessions.
TV 'RECREATES GUANTANAMO TORTURE' BBC News
February 8, 2005
Producers of a reality TV show claim to have recreated torture techniques used at U.S. detention camp Guantanamo Bay.
"The Guantanamo Guidebook" was made by Channel 4 using declassified documents about the U.S. camp, producers said.
The methods used on seven volunteers in the show included religious and sexual humiliation, forced nudity, sleep deprivation and extreme temperatures.
The U.S. government has denied using torture at the camp in Cuba, where many detainees are held without charge.
The show's volunteers -- who were told what they would go through -- were locked in a warehouse with cages, interrogation rooms and surveillance equipment for 48 hours.
One left after seven hours because of the onset of hypothermia and another two vomited during their "detentions."
Channel 4's head of news and current affairs, Dorothy Byrne, said: "The use of torture or of information gained through torture has been justified as essential in the war against terror.
"This season of programs challenges viewers to watch torture techniques we know are used in Guantanamo."
The show will be broadcast later this month.
A documentary by Clive Stafford Smith, the first British lawyer allowed into Guantanamo, will be among three films shown about torture on Channel 4.
CHANNEL 4 TO SHOW GUANTANAMO TV
By Adam Pasick
February 9, 2005
LONDON -- Channel 4 is preparing "Guantanamo Guidebook," a show that will test the effectiveness of interrogation techniques like sleep deprivation which freed inmates say were used by the U.S. military at its camp in Cuba.
Channel Four, which brought the world reality TV hit "Big Brother," will film seven volunteers as they are subjected to extreme temperatures and mild physical contact while being kept awake for long periods.
The techniques are based on information from declassified U.S. government documents, and will be carried out by expert interrogators from the United States, a Channel Four spokesman said on Wednesday, declining to provide additional details.
He said the volunteers were rigorously screened prior to their participation and received intensive medical and psychological attention during and after the taping of the show.
One man was forced by doctors to withdraw after he contracted hypothermia.
The program, due to air in mid-March, will examine the effects of the interrogation techniques over 48 hours in a London warehouse. It is part of a four-part series on torture hosted by news presenter Jon Snow.
It could be a useful way of showing viewers that seemingly innocuous techniques like sleep deprivation can have a devastating effect, said Steve Crawshaw, director of Human Rights Watch's London office.
His group consulted with Channel Four on parts of its torture series.
"The U.S. administration has defined torture very narrowly and avoided the other key phrase, which is 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,'" he said.
"Without having seen it, my understanding of the Channel Four program is that it shows clearly that even a very small amount of these treatments can be seriously damaging."
The publicly owned Channel Four is known for courting controversy with edgy programming. It drew fire from the Russian government last week for airing an interview with the Chechen rebel leader who masterminded the deadly Beslan school siege.
It is also the home of contentious reality TV shows "Big Brother" and its spinoff "Celebrity Big Brother".
Feminist author Germaine Greer, who took part in the latter series, levelled her own accusations of torture against its makers earlier this year, saying she was subjected to bullying and sensory deprivation.
The United Nations criticized the United States last week for holding Guantanamo detainees for nearly three years without legal advice or information about how long they were likely to remain incarcerated.
Human rights groups have also criticized conditions at the camp, where Washington has excluded detainees from the terms of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war.
The last four Britons detained at Guantanamo Bay were released last month.
GUANTANAMO-STYLE CAMP PROGRAM EXAMINES 'TORTURE LITE'
By Sherna Noah
February 8, 2005
Channel 4 recreated a Guantanamo Bay style camp where volunteers endured sexual humiliation for a TV show which seeks to examine whether torture is justified to combat the threat from al Qaida.
The Guantanamo Guidebook was filmed in an east London warehouse which was decked out with cages, interrogation rooms and surveillance equipment.
Seven volunteers, three of them Muslim, agreed to be subjected to some of the conditions and methods used at the notorious camp.
The men, some of whom supported the techniques used in the U.S. naval base when they signed up for the show, were subjected to religious and sexual humiliation, and forced nudity.
Two of them vomited, another soiled himself, and one had to drop out after seven hours due to the onset of hypothermia.
The volunteers were detained for 48 hours by a team of former U.S. military interrogators.
They were subjected to prolonged and painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, exposure to temperature extremes, and non-injurious physical contact.
Presented by Jon Snow, "The Guantanamo Guidebook" examines how they stand up to torture-lite.
Channel 4 said the techniques used in the show were based on original documentation and declassified documents.
It said: The Bush administration argues that these methods are essential to protect democracy.
Human rights lawyers say they are torture. Now viewers can decide if they are justified in the war on terror.
"The Guantanamo Guidebook" is part of a season of four programs, examining the use of torture in the war against terror, which are set to be broadcast on a late-night slot at the end of the month.
Journalist Andrew Gilligan examines the secret worldwide network of torture used to extort information from alleged al Qaida suspects while Clive Stafford Smith, the first British lawyer allowed into Guantanamo, looks at whether torture works.
The program comes after four men still held at Guantanamo were freed last month.
Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4s head of news and current affairs, said: The use of torture or of information gained through torture has been justified as essential in the war against terror.
This season of programmes challenges viewers to watch torture techniques we know are used in Guantanamo.
We also show photographs of men tortured to death in countries which supply information to the US and Britain.
Is such torture ever justified? Does it work? How are the values of Western society undermined by involvement in torture?
'GUANTANAMO GUIDEBOOK' TV SHOW STIRS CONTROVERSY
By Jeremy Bransten
** One of Great Britain's top television channels is preparing to air a "reality-style" show that purports to show the effect of torture on detainees. The "prisoners" in question are all volunteers who agreed to subject themselves to stress techniques allegedly used by U.S. interrogators on terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay and other prisons. The show's producers says their aim is educational, but others wonder whether broadcasting such programming serves any useful purpose. **
Radio Free Europe
February 10, 2005
PRAGUE -- The world expressed shock last year after seeing pictures showing the torture of prisoners by U.S. personnel in Iraq.
The U.S. military blamed the abuse at the Abu Ghurayb prison on a few rogue individuals, some of whom have already been convicted for their actions. But the scandal raised broader questions about U.S. treatment of terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba and other facilities and whether interrogation techniques officially condoned by the military are, in fact, torture.
Now, a commercial British television channel known for its provocative programming has stepped into the fray. Channel 4 has filmed and is planning to broadcast a show later this month that it claims will let viewers decide for themselves what constitutes torture.
The show, titled "The Guantanamo Guidebook," will be part of a series of programs on human rights. It involves a group of seven volunteers -- all men -- who agreed to be filmed as they were locked up in cages over a period of 48 hours and subjected to a range of punishments and humiliation. Three of the participants are Muslims.
The program, as presented to viewers, will include edited "highlights" and run for one hour. Yad Luthra, a spokesman for the production company that prepared the program, describes what the participants had to endure.
"We certainly do try to include techniques such as stress positions, sleep deprivation, removal of clothing, exposure to extremes of temperature, mild noninjurious physical contact, interrogation, etc.," he said.
Luthra says the techniques used in "The Guantanamo Guidebook" duplicate procedures outlined in declassified U.S. documents and as described by released detainees. Although the exercise lasted only 48 hours and the volunteers knew ahead of time what they would have to endure -- unlike the detainees at Guantanamo Bay -- the results were dramatic, says Luthra.
"Obviously, what the volunteers endured was mild in comparison to the treatment of the real Guantanamo detainees," he says. "Yet two of them vomited, another soiled himself, and one had to drop out after only seven hours due to the onset of hypothermia. So, even though they were aware of what was going to be expected of them, until you've actually experienced it -- [until] reality actually hits you -- you don't really know."
Luthra says this is the point that the program seeks to make. He denies any commercial motive. No prizes were awarded and no winners or losers declared on the program.
"The use of torture or information gained through torture has been justified as essential in the war against terror," he says, "and this season of programs, we hope, challenges viewers to watch torture techniques that we know are used in Guantanamo. We're showing photographs of men tortured to death in countries which supply information to the U.S. and Britain, so it's really to raise questions about whether torture is ever justified and does it work and how are the values of Western society undermined by our involvement in torture? So it is not there for titillation, nor is it an exploitative thing. It is really there to raise questions."
No one -- aside from the show's producers -- has seen the finished program, which makes it difficult to judge. But the show's concept is eliciting debate among human rights advocates.
The Danish-based International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, a highly respected advocacy group that campaigns against the use of torture worldwide, opposes the idea of the program.
As spokesman Paul Struve Nielsen tells RFE/RL, the United Nations Convention Against Torture prohibits all forms of torture, which includes degrading treatment against detainees for any reason at any time. It is a crime whose merits or faults should not be relativized and do not need to be discussed -- especially on a commercial television show.
"There is an absolute prohibition against torture. Torture can never be justified," he says. "It is irresponsible, and it cannot be justified that a TV channel now starts a debate on the justification of such serious violations of human rights."
Steve Crawshaw, director of the London office of Human Rights Watch, holds a different view. His organization was consulted by Channel 4 for other programs in the station's series on human rights.
Crawshaw has not seen "The Guantanamo Guidebook," but says that if the show's aim is educational, as its producers claim, it could have a positive impact.
"If this program helps people to understand how entirely unacceptable in practical, in moral, and in legal terms, the things are that go on at Guantanamo, then I would like to think it could serve a beneficial role," Crawshaw says.
He says U.S. denials that it sanctions practices that amount to psychological and physical torture at Guantanamo are not convincing in the face of testimony from former detainees and the refusal by Washington to open the camp to inspections by human rights organizations and lawyers. The Red Cross has made visits to Guantanamo but does not publicize its findings, in line with its official policies.
Crawshaw says the public in the United States, Britain, and some other European countries has a tendency to downplay what is going on at Guantanamo when what they are in fact doing is turning a blind eye to human rights abuses. If the show changes their opinion, all the better, he says.
"I think there is still a very serious problem -- certainly in the United States but also elsewhere, of people downplaying the kinds of things that are going on, saying: 'Well, you know, lots of people can be kept alone for long periods. I'd like some time to myself,'" Crawshaw says. "People use quite frivolous ways of treating things or fail to understand the importance, for example, of the disrespect made to a religious book and don't see this as degrading treatment -- which would be illegal. I think if a program can give the sense of how important this can be, then it will play an important role. But I must frame this with the caveat that I assume -- I take on good faith -- that the medical protection was put in there by Channel 4 to make sure that the participants did not suffer long-term damage."
Luthra says that before their ordeal, some of the volunteers on the program supported what they thought was taking place at Guantanamo.
"[Among] the volunteers, there were people who were supportive of what they knew or what they thought was going on in Guantanamo Bay," he says.
They soon changed their minds, Luthra says. "The Guantanamo Guidebook" is due to air later this month or in March.