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Musicians seek Guantanamo records on detainee torture

Human rights activists hope that the musicians' actions will bring attention to the practice and ensure that it won't be used again.

"In light of the patterns of widespread use of music as torture over the last seven years, difficulties in accessing these current detainees and the failure of the U.S. to explicitly rule out the use of loud music, the musicians' FOIA request is crucial for learning about the United States' past, present and even future use of music as a torture technique," said Jayne Huckerby, research director at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the NYU School of Law.

The prolonged use of loud music to control or coerce prisoners, Huckerby points out, is a violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and constitutes both torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The United States is a party to the convention.

According to Huckerby, the use of loud music was "pretty much a widespread tool of the U.S. government and a standard condition of CIA prisons." Huckerby's organization represents Mohammed al-Asad and Mohamed Bashmilah, former prisoners who were released in 2005. Both men say they were forced to listen to excruciatingly loud music continuously for days and weeks.

Cusick, the NYU music professor, has interviewed a number of former detainees about their experiences and says the music they most often described hearing was heavy metal, rap and country. Specific songs mentioned include Queen's "We Are the Champions" and "March of the Pigs" by industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails.

Another former prisoner, Binyam Mohamed, told Human Rights Watch that he had been forced to listen to the rapper Eminem's song "The Real Slim Shady" for 20 days.

Joining in the call for the release of information were dozens of musicians, including David Byrne, Billy Bragg, Steve Earle, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and T-Bone Burnett.

For now, the artists are trying to find out what songs were played. They say they will explore legal options once the songs are known. It is unclear what, if any, recourse they may have.

Staff writer Michael Shear contributed to this report.

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