Lt. Col. V. Stuart Couch, a Marine Corps pilot and veteran prosecutor, and devout Christian, was assigned to prosecute a Guantanimo Bay prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi. But he refused on the grounds that the signed confessions of Slahi were taken through Torture.
The Slahi case marks a rare instance of a military prosecutor refusing to bring charges because he thought evidence was tainted by torture. For Col. Couch, it also represented a wrenching personal challenge. Laid out starkly before him was a collision between the government’s objectives and his moral compass.
These kinds of concerns will likely become more prevalent as other high-level al Qaeda detainees come before military commissions set up by the Bush administration. Guantanamo prosecutors estimate that at least 90% of cases depend on statements taken from prisoners, making the credibility of such evidence critical to any convictions. In Mr. Slahi’s case, Col. Couch would uncover evidence the prisoner had been beaten and exposed to psychological torture, including death threats and intimations that his mother would be raped in custody unless he cooperated.
In the following weeks, Mr. Slahi said, he was placed in isolation, subjected to extreme temperatures, beaten and sexually humiliated. The detention-board transcript states that at this point, “the recording equipment began to malfunction.” It summarizes Mr. Slahi’s missing testimony as discussing “how he was tortured while here at GTMO by several individuals.”
In his detention-board testimony, Mr. Slahi provided further details, as did other people familiar with the matter. Two men took a shackled, blindfolded Mr. Slahi to a boat for a journey into the waters of Guantanamo Bay. The hour-long trip apparently led Mr. Slahi to think he was to be killed and, in fear, he urinated in his pants.
After making land, “two Arab guys” took him away, beat him and turned him over to a “doctor who was not a regular doctor [but] part of the team,” Mr. Slahi said. The doctor “was cursing me and telling me very bad things. He gave me a lot of medication to make me sleep,” Mr. Slahi said. After two or three weeks, Mr. Slahi said, he broke, “because they said to me, either I am going to talk or they will continue to do this.”