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Ramzi bin al-Shibh

Photo: Human Rights Watch


Nationality: Yemeni
Date of birth: 1 May 1972
Place of birth: Hadramawt, Yemen
Aliases: Ramzi Mohamed Abdellah Omar; Umar al-Yemeni; Abu Ubaydah al-Hadrami; Hasan Ali al-Assiri; Ahad Sabet

Capture: Karachi, Pakistan, 11 September 2002
Captured alongside: Ayub Marshid Salih, Hassan bin Attash, Abd al-Rahim Rabbani, Ghulam Rabbani, Shawqi Awad, Bashir al-Marwalah, Musab al-Mudwani, Said Saleh Said, Ha’il al-Mithali
SSCI prisoner number: 41

Entered CIA custody: 8 February 2003
Period of CIA custody: 1305 days
Left CIA custody: 5 September 2006

Detained: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Morocco, Poland, Morocco, Guantánamo Bay, Morocco, Romania, unknown, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay

Current status: detained, Guantánamo Bay


Timeline of Key Events

11-14 September 2002
Capture and detention, Karachi, Pakistan (alongside Hassan bin Attash)

14 September 2002
Rendition, Pakistan-Afghanistan

14-17 September 2002
Detention, ‘Dark Prison’, Afghanistan

17 September 2002
Rendition, Afghanistan- Morocco

17 September 2002 - 8 February 2003
Detention, CIA black site, Morocco

8 February 2003
Rendition, Morocco-Poland

8 February - 6 June 2003
Detention, CIA black site, Poland

6 June 2003
Rendition, Poland-Morocco

6 June - 22 September 2003
Detention, CIA black site, Morocco

22 September 2003
Rendition, Morocco-Guantánamo Bay

22 September 2003 - 27 March 2004
Detention, CIA black site, Guantánamo Bay

27 March 2004
Rendition, Guantánamo Bay-Morocco

27 March - 1 October 2004
Detention, CIA black site, Morocco

1 October 2004
Rendition, Morocco-Romania

1 October 2004 - 2005
Detention, CIA black site, Romania

2005 - 5 September 2006
Further detentions and renditions with other 'High-Value Detainees'
, unknown dates and locations (possibly Lithuania and/or Afghanistan)

5 September 2006
Rendition, unknown location - Guantánamo Bay

5 September 2006 – Present
Detention, Guantánamo Bay

Ramzi bin al-Shibh is a Yemeni national who was captured by Pakistani authorities in Karachi on 11 September 2002. He spent four years in secret CIA detention in numerous countries around the world. He was transferred to Guantánamo Bay in September 2006 with others classified as 'High-Value Detainees', and he is still being detained there. The US Government accuses bin al-Shibh of being 'significant member of al-Qaeda who was selected to be the "coordinator" for the 11 September 2001 attacks', and who planned further attacks alongside bin Laden until his capture. In 2008 he was one of five detainees charged with conspiracy in relation to the 9/11 attacks; a case which is currently being heard by a military commission in Guantánamo Bay.

Bin al-Shibh was captured alongside Hassan bin Attash and several other detainees during a series of raids by Pakistani forces on suspected al-Qaeda safe houses in Karachi on 11 September 2002. Within several days, it was reported that bin al-Shibh had been 'handed over to US authorities and... taken to an undisclosed third country for further interrogation'. There are, however, conflicting accounts of the exact fate and whereabouts of bin al-Shibh after his capture. According to CIA officials speaking to Dana Priest at The Washington Post, he was moved from Pakistan to the CIA secret prison in Thailand. However, Hassan bin Attash, who was captured with bin al-Shibh in Karachi, has testified that he was transferred with him to Afghanistan on 14 September, where they were kept for 2-3 days in the 'Dark Prison' before being rendered to Jordan (bin Attash refers to bin al-Shibh by one of his aliases, Abu Otaibi Hadarami). Indeed, bin al-Shibh himself has told the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that his second place of detention was in Afghanistan, and that he was kept naked and shackled to the ceiling in a painful position for 'two to three days', thus matching bin Attash's testimony.

According to Amnesty International, bin al-Shibh was detained and repeatedly tortured by Jordanian intelligence (GID) in facility in Wadi Sir, Amman, for at least 12 months. Human Rights Watch has also spoken to a former detainee in Jordan who has provided 'a detailed account of being held in a cell next to al-Shibh's in late 2002, on the third floor of the GID detention facility'. The source told Human Rights Watch that he was able to talk to bin al-Shibh through the vent in door of the cell, and that he had reported being transferred to the facility from Afghanistan with two or three others, where was being tortured by the Jordanians, including 'electric shocks, long periods of sleep deprivation, forced nakedness, and being made to sit on sticks and bottles'.

These accounts of bin al-Shibh’s detention and torture in Jordan are, however, contradicted by Adam Goldman’s analysis of his transfers and locations in the four years of his secret detention. According to Goldman, who had spoken to US intelligence officials regarding bin al-Shibh’s detention, he was in fact flown to Morocco on 17 September 2002, after a stopover in Jordan 'to drop off the brother of a detainee'. His transfer to Morocco in 2002 was confirmed in August 2010 by US officials, when discussing the discovery of videotapes of his interrogation by Moroccan intelligence (see below).

Flight data collected by The Rendition Project confirms that the CIA-owned Gulfstream V jet with registration number N379P flew from Afghanistan to Jordan on 17 September 2002, before travelling on to Morocco. Ramzi bin al-Shibh was therefore likely to have been on board this flight, and was either off-loaded in Jordan with bin Attash, or kept onboard all the way to Morocco. Click here to see our analysis of the flight data and documentation associated with bin al-Shibh’s rendition from Afghanistan to Jordan or Morocco.

It is difficult to reconcile the conflicting accounts of bin al-Shibh's whereabouts in late 2002. He was clearly in Morocco at some point soon after capture, given the videotapes of his interrogation. It may have been thathe was in fact sent to Jordan along with bin Attash on 17 September, and then sent on to Morocco at a later date. This would explain the fact that former detainees at the GID facility testify as to his presence there, although no flight data currently exists in the public domain which points to a second rendition flight between Jordan and Morocco in late 2002. It is also conceivable – although less likely – that Ramzi bin al-Shibh was the detainee which the UK Government has admitted passed through the British island territory of Diego Garcia in September 2002. This flight formed an earlier stage of the rendition circuit by N379P which then flew Afghanistan-Jordan-Morocco, and this earlier stage likely encompassed a rendition from Southeast Asia to Egypt or Morocco. This clearly would link with The Washington Post's assertion that bin al-Shibh was taken to Thailand after capture, although it would leave his detention in Thailand improbably short, and would contradict bin al-Shibh's own account (above) of being detained in Afghanistan for 2-3 days shortly after capture.

Ramzi bin al-Shibh was detained in Morocco during late 2002 and early 2003, in a prison run by Moroccan intelligence but financed by the CIA. According to former CIA officials speaking to the Associated Press, 'the CIA could move detainees in and out, and oversee the interrogations, but officially Morocco had control'. The interrogation of bin al-Shibh was recorded by Moroccan intelligence, who passed at least two videotapes and one audiotape to the CIA. The existence of these tapes was acknowledged by the CIA in 2007, in a letter to a US federal court, although bin al-Shibh's name was redacted from the public copy. It wasn't until August 2010 that the tapes were publically linked to bin al-Shibh, with the footage apparently showing a straight question-and-answer interrogation session rather than the use of torture.

CIA records cited by the SSCI report document that bin al-Shibh was “rendered to a foreign government, [redacted]” on [redacted] September 2002, and then “approximately five months later, on February [redacted] 2003, bin al-Shibh was rendered from the custody of [redacted] to CIA custody, becoming the 41st CIA detainee.” Records show that he was rendered to the CIA-run DETENTION SITE BLUE in Poland. In anticipation of his arrival, officers at BLUE prepared an interrogation plan for bin al-Shibh, which subsequently became a template for CIA requests to use “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

This account of bin al-Shibh’s fate and whereabouts is confirmed by The Rendition Project flight database, which has a flight from Morocco to Poland by the CIA-owned Gulfstream V jet with registration number N379P on 8 February 2003 that bears all the hallmarks of a rendition. This included the filing of a 'dummy' flight plan by Jeppesen International Trip Planning, the company which provided logistical support to numerous CIA rendition circuits, in order to disguise the flight into Szymany, Poland (the airfield which serviced the CIA prison). Click here to access our analysis of the flight data and documentation associated with this possible rendition circuit.

It was at this point that bin al-Shibh formally entered CIA custody, and was held in the CIA's secret prison in Poland for around four months where, according to an investigation conducted by the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, he was subjected to 'his most intensive period of "enhanced techniques"' during his time in secret detention. Bin al-Shibh's testimony to the ICRC stated that he was kept naked and shackled to the ceiling for seven days in Poland, and deprived of solid food for 3-4 weeks. He was also 'splashed with cold water from a hose' during interrogations. CIA records cited by the SSCI report document that:

The interrogation plan proposed that immediately following the psychological and medical assessments conducted upon his arrival, bin al-Shibh would be subjected to “sensory dislocation”. The proposed sensory dislocation included shaving bin al-Shibh’s head and face, exposing him to loud noise in a white room with white lights, keeping him “unclothed and subjected to uncomfortably cool temperatures”, and shackling him “hand and foot with arms outstretched over his head (with his feet firmly on the floor and not allowed to support his weight with his arms)”.

The plan included the use of near-constant interrogations, sensory deprivation, liquid diet, attention grasp, walling, facial hold, facial slap, abdominal slap, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation beyond 72 hours, and the waterboard. He was also threatened with the use of rectal rehydration. EITs were used on bin al-Shibh for “behaviour adjustment” purposes, including as “punishment” for perceived disrespect, such as failing to address an interrogator as “sir”. At one point, officers noted that he was cowering in the corner of his cell after a bulb had blown, and proceeded to use darkness as an interrogation technique, subjecting bin al-Shibh to sleep deprivation standing, shackled feet and hands, with hands over his head, naked, in total darkness.” This torture took place for over a month, throughout February and early March 2003.

On 6 June 2003, according to the former officials speaking to Adam Goldman, bin al-Shibh was transferred to Rabat, Morocco, alongside another detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (who had been held in Poland since December 2002). Flight data confirms a transfer on this date, and demonstrates that both men were moved on board the same aircraft as likely brought him to Poland four months earlier (the CIA-owned Gulfstream V jet with registration N379P). This aircraft had flown from Afghanistan, where it had picked up a third 'High-Value Detainee', Walid bin Attash, in order to transfer him to Poland. The entire circuit by N379P was arranged by the company Jeppesen Dataplan, and again was disguised by the filing of 'dummy' flight plans to hide the landing in Szymany, Poland. Analysis of the flight records also shows that Jeppesen used two special designators in their flight plans, STS/STATE and STS/ATFMEXEMPTAPPROVED, to denote the official status of the flights. Click here for our analysis of the flight data and documentation associated with Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s rendition from Poland to Morocco.

Bin al-Shibh was held in Morocco for three-and-a-half months, although there exist no details in the public sphere regarding his treatment during this time. According to the former officials speaking to Goldman, the detainee was transferred again on 22 September 2003, this time to a secret CIA prison in Guantánamo Bay. Al-Nashiri was moved alongside bin al-Shibh, and the aircraft that picked them up – the CIA-owned Boeing 737 with registration N313P – had already been to Afghanistan, Poland and Romania, and had two other ‘High-Value Detainees’ on board: Abu Zubaydah and Mustafa al-Hawsawi. Click here for our analysis of the flight data and documentation associated with bin al-Shibh’s rendition from Morocco to Guantánamo Bay.

This transfer of Ramzi bin al-Shibh to the CIA’s secret prison in Guantánamo Bay is confirmed by CIA records cited by the SSCI report. For six months, al-Shibh was detained alongside al-Nashiri, Abu Zubaydah, and al-Hawsawi, as well as Abu Yasir al-Jaza'iri and Gouled Hassan Dourad. Then, on 27 March 2004, he was moved back to Morocco with the other 'High-Value Detainees', as the CIA sought to keep their most valued assets away from the encroaching arm of the US Courts. Flight records demonstrate that this rendition was carried out onboard the privately-owned Gulfstream IV jet with the tail number N85VM, which had been hired to perform rendition operations as part of the CIA’s contract with DynCorp. Click here for our analysis of the flight data and documentation associated with bin al-Shibh’s rendition from Guantánamo Bay to Morocco.

Once in Morocco, CIA records document that bin al-Shibh “attempted to influence” an intelligence officer, which further strained bilateral relations with the US. There are conflicting accounts regarding the length of time that bin al-Shibh was held in Morocco for his third detention period in the country. According to Goldman, he was moved again on 1 October 2004, this time taken to the CIA black site in Romania. The Council of Europe's 2012 investigation, however, places him on a flight to Morocco four months later, on 18 February 2005. Flight data confirms that rendition-linked aircraft flew between the two countries on both dates: in October 2004, the Gulfstream IV jet N85VM flew direct from Morocco to Jordan and then on to Romania; in February 2005, another private aircraft contracted to the CIA – a Boeing 737 with the registration number N787WH – flew direct from Morocco to Romania, filing a 'dummy' flight plan to disguise its landing in Bucharest, where the prison was located.

Once in Romania, bin al-Shibh has testified that he was 'restrained on a bed, unable to move, for one month, February 2005 and subjected to cold air-conditioning during this period'. Referring to the prison as his 'eighth place of detention', he also alleged that he was forcibly but partially shaved in order to humiliate him. The Council of Europe's 2012 investigation into the prison in Romania found that detainees who had been moved to the prison from prolonged secret detention elsewhere – such as Ramzi bin al-Shibh – had, by that time, been considered to have lower intelligence value. This set of detainees, according to the report, were less likely to have been subjected to 'enhanced interrogation techniques' while in Romania (which was not the case for 'High-Value Detainees' such as Janat Gul and Abu Faraj al-Libi, who were captured during 2004-2005 and taken directly to Romania for 'enhanced interrogation').

Very little is known about the fate and whereabouts of bin al-Shibh and the other 'High-Value Detainees' after their time in Romania. Most were likely moved during 2005, with evidence pointing towards Lithuania and Afghanistan as the final detention sites before their final transfer out of secret detention in September 2006. Indeed, one of the only scraps of evidence which exists outside of aircraft movements is the testimony of another detainee, Khaled al-Maqtari, who was held in a secret CIA prison. According to al-Maqtari, at some point during 2006 he was handed a blanket by one of the guards. On this was written: 'To Cuba, to Morocco, to Romania and to this place – Abu Ubeidah al-Hadrami' (where al-Hadrami is a known alias of bin al-Shibh). This suggests that bin al-Shibh at least was moved from Romania to this further detention site alongside al-Maqtari. The location of this site is disputed, although some former detainees believe it was in Afghanistan, and there is flight data to support this assertion. Click here for further analysis of where the 'High-Value Detainees' – including Ramzi bin al-Shibh – may have been held during 2005-2006.

CIA records show that Ramzi bin al-Shibh was transferred out of the CIA’s secret prison network and into US military detention in Guantánamo Bay on 5 September 2006, after more than three and a half years (1305 days) in CIA secret detention. This transfer took place alongside the other HVDs in custody at that time (all of whom appear to have been transferred to Guantánamo Bay on 4 September or 5 September 2006). This final transfer was announced by President Bush, as part of a wider disclosure about the CIA's use of secret prisons.

Bin al-Shibh remains detained in Guantánamo Bay, where he has been charged with conspiracy in relation to the 9/11 attacks and is facing a military trial along with Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, Walid bin Attash, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, and Ammar al-Baluchi.



Rendition Research Team - © University of Kent
University of Westminster University of Kent E.S.R.C