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Mohammed al-Shoroeiya and Khalid al-Sharif

Photo: Human Rights Watch


Mohammed al-Shoroeiya

Nationality: Libyan
Date of birth: 22 March 1969
Place of birth: unknown
Aliases: Hassen Rabi’I; Hassan Rabii; Hassan Riba’I, al-Shara’iya, Abd al-Karim

Capture: 3 April 2003, Peshawar, Pakistan
Captured alongside: Khalid al-Sharif
SSCI prisoner number: 52

Entered CIA custody: 12 April 2003 – 18 April 2003
Period of CIA custody: 490-499 days
Left CIA custody: 22 August 2004

Detained:Pakistan; Afghanistan (COBALT/GRAY and ORANGE); Libya

Current Status: released, 16 February 2011


Photo: Human Rights Watch

Khalid al-Sharif

Nationality: Libyan
Date of birth: 1965
Place of birth: unknown
Aliases: Abu Hazim al-Libi, Mohammed Daoud, Amer,

Capture: 3 April 2003, Peshawar, Pakistan
Captured alongside: Mohammed al-Shoroeiya
SSCI prisoner number: 51

Entered CIA custody: 12 April 2003 – 18 April 2003
Period of CIA custody: 730-739 days
Left CIA custody: 21 April 2005

Detained:Pakistan; Afghanistan (COBALT/GRAY and ORANGE); Libya

Current Status: released, 23 March 2010


Timeline of Key Events

3-13 April 2003
Capture and detention, Peshawar, Pakistan

13 April 2003
Transfer, Peshawar-Islamabad, Pakistan

13-18 April 2003
Detention, Islamabad, Pakistan

18 April 2003
Rendition, Pakistan-Afghanistan

18 April 2003 - 25 April 2004

25 April 2004

25 April - 22 August 2004 (al-Shoroeiya) / 20 April 2005 (al-Sharif)

22 August 2004
Rendition (al-Shoroeiya), Afghanistan-Libya

22 August 2004 - 16 February 2011
Detention (al-Shoroeiya), various prisons (incl. Abu Salim), Libya

21 April 2005
Rendition (al-Sharif), Afghanistan-Libya

21 April 2005 - 23 March 2010
Detention (al-Sharif), various prisons, Libya

23 March 2010
Release (al-Sharif)

16 February 2011
Release (al-Shoroeiya)

28 April 2011
Re-arrest and detention (al-Sharif)

Sometime in Summer 2011
Release (al-Sharif)

The analysis of the cases described in these pages is drawn largely from the Human Rights Watch investigation, Delivered into Enemy Hands: US-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi’s Libya. We are grateful to Human Rights Watch for granting permission for us to use this information here.

Mohammed al-Shoroeiya and Khalid al-Sharif were both members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). They had left Libya in 1991 (al-Shoroeiya) and 1988 (al-Sharif) because of the threat they felt the Gaddafi regime posed to Muslims. They had both gone on to live in various countries, where they continued their struggle with the LIFG, and after the 9/11 attacks they ended up in Pakistan.

On 3 April 2003, both men were arrested by Pakistani police. Al-Sharif had been staying in al-Shoroeiya’s house in Peshawar. During the arrest, al-Shoroeiya broke his leg, and al-Sharif broke his foot. Al-Shoroeiya was detained for about 10 days in a building he called the ‘Khyber’. Al-Sharif said he was held for 7 days in a building he called the ‘army stadium’ somewhere in Peshawar. It is not clear if these were the same locations. While in Peshawar, al-Sharif described being kicked in the groin and beaten so hard on his head with a whip that he nearly fainted. Pakistani personnel also deliberately stood on his broken foot to cause pain. He describes an American interrogator sitting on a chair in front of him while the Pakistani officer beat him. Al-Shoroeiya stated that on some occasions, the Americans ordered their Pakistani colleagues to beat him, although they would leave the room while this took place.

They were then both transferred to a detention facility in Islamabad, and were held in cells next door to each other. They were both interrogated by Pakistani and US personnel, and subjected to beatings during some of the interrogations. Then, on 18 April 2003, after about a week in the Islamabad detention facility, al-Shoroeiya and al-Sharif were rendered to Afghanistan. They were prepared for rendition according to standard CIA preparation procedures: they were stripped, blindfolded, handcuffed and had their legs shackled, had ear plugs put in their ears and hoods placed over their heads. Both detainees were transferred onboard an aircraft on a flight lasting about 30 minutes, and then moved to the CIA-run DETENTION SITE COBALT.

By piecing together the testimony of several detainees known to have been held in the same facility at the same time, it appears likely that this site was near to Kabul, and was the facility referred to by some as the 'Dark Prison'. Floorplans of the prison have been provided by two detainees, Khaled al-Maqtari and Mohamed Bashmilah, which depict twenty cells in one large space, in two rows of ten, and then a separate set of interrogation rooms. Drawing on this information, and additional testimony from those held at the site, it is possible to identify at least some of the detainees in the Dark Prison between April 2003 and May 2004.

Al-Shoroeiya and al-Sharif were held in almost total darkness throughout their time in COBALT. They were both subjected to having very bright lights shone in their eyes and extremely loud music, blaring constantly. They were denied clothing throughout their first few months. Al-Shoroeiya described having a small mat and bucket for a toilet in the cell, and describes a terrible stench from the excrement and cleaning chemicals combined. Al-Sharif described the size of his cell, as being about 4x3 metres, while al-Shoroeiya’s was a little bigger. Both had steel doors with a barred window at the top. They were chained throughout the first 3-4 months to two iron rings attached to the wall, about one metre high. They were sometimes chained by one arm, sometimes by both arms, and sometimes by both arms and both legs. After four months they were allowed to remain in their cells without being shackled. They were not allowed to wash, cut their nails or hair in the first few months.

During the first four months, both men were subjected to intense interrogation and abuse. Al-Sharif describes being sent to a small cell where his hands were suspended above his head for long periods, on one occasion for three days. He was barely fed:

They only gave me water once, at night. They gave me a milkshake and a small cup of milk with cocoa. That was all I had for three days. They banned me from going to the restroom for those three days. I had to pass urine and go to the bathroom standing up. I wasn’t wearing clothes. At night, they gave me some water to drink but poured the rest of it over my body. I was trying to move to create some warmth in my body. Because of the lack of sleep for three days, I went hysterical. I thought I was going crazy. Everything was spinning around me and it was totally dark.

Al-Shoroeiya describes similar treatment shortly after arriving at the facility. He described being placed in a box of about half a metre wide, just high enough to stand, with his hands cuffed to a bar above his head. Loud music was blasted and it was dark with what looked like blood stains on the walls. He was left there for a day and half, naked, with no food. Al-Shoroeiya also described being locked in a wooden box, about 1 metre by 1 metre with small holes in the sides, through which interrogators would prod him with long, thin objects. He was also taken to a room with wooden walls against which he was beaten. Al-Shoroeiya described the facility to Human Rights Watch as comprising several different types of rooms used for interrogation and torture:

One was a group of rooms where he was interrogated. Another set of rooms were freezing cold and were used to submerge the prisoners in icy water while lying on plastic sheeting on the ground. A third set of rooms he called the “torture rooms,” where they used specific instruments. One of these instruments was a wood plank that they used to abuse him with water.

In this facility, al-Shoroeiya and al-Sharif were subjected to waterboarding. Al-Shoroeiya said that after being strapped to the board, held with his head lower than his feet, and hooded, they would pour buckets of very cold water over his nose and mouth to the point that he felt he would suffocate. Icy cold water was also poured over his body. He said it happened over and over again. Both men reported that doctors were present throughout. The doctors would monitor their body temperatures and they would have warm water poured over him if they got too cold. Al-Sharif had the plaster cast for his broken leg removed before the waterboarding.

CIA records cited by the SSCI report confirm the use of torture on these two men, at te CIA-run DETENTION SITE COBALT in Afghanistan. A cable sent to Headquarters dated 18 April 2003 requested the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”, although given their injuries stated that interrogators would "forego cramped confinement, stress positions, walling, and vertical shackling.” In order to accommodate their injuries, the cable stated that “rather than being shackled standing during sleep deprivation, the detainees would be ‘seated, secured to a cell wall, with intermittent disruptions of normal sleeping patterns.’ For water dousing the detainees injured legs would be ‘wrapped in plastic.’”  These requests were approved, and six days later, on 24 April 2003, Headquarters further approved the use on al-Sharif of the attention grasp, facial insult slap, abdominal slap, water dousing and sleep deprivation of up to 72 hours. A 10 May 2003 cable then extended authorisation to include the use of walling and the facial grasp on al-Sharif, and the use of walling and stress positions on al-Shoroeiya.

In reality, however, CIA records show that both men were subjected to a range of techniques that COBALT has specifically stated it wouldn’t use, and that hadn’t been approved. Some of the techniques applied were also by interrogators unauthorised to do so. Al-Sharif was subjected to walling on 28-29 April 2003, and the facial hold on 27 April 2003. Al-Shoroeiya was subjected to cramped confinement on 19-20 April 2003, stress positions on 21 April and walling on 21 April and 29 April. Cables noted that al-Shoroeiya’s head was placed on a wall, he was bent at the waist, and “shuffled backwards to a safe, yet uncomfortable position.” During sleep deprivation use, he was “walked for 15 minutes every half-hour through the night and into the morning." A few days later a cable stated that, even given the best prognosis, al-Shoroeiya would have arthritis and limitation of motion for the rest of his life.

CIA records cited by the SSCI report also document the use of water dousing on al-Sharif that approximated, or was equivalent to, waterboarding. During this torture, al-Sharif turned blue as water was poured onto a cloth placed over his mouth to disrupt his breathing. Al-Sharif’s experience, and that of another detainee at COBALT, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, is partially corroborated by the existence of a CIA photograph seen by the SSCI. Despite the absence of CIA records of waterboarding at COBALT, this photo was taken at the site and shows a “waterboard device in the photograph... surrounded by buckets, with a bottle of unknown pink solution (filled two thirds of the way to the top) and a watering can resting on the wooden beams of waterboard.” In meetings between the SSCI and the CIA, the CIA was “unable to explain the details of the photograph, to include the buckets, solution, and watering can, as well as the waterboard’s presence at DETENTION SITE COBALT.”

By 12 May 2003, both men had been assessed by a CIA physician as having injuries that were “sufficiently healed to allow being placed in the standing sleep deprivation position.” Approval for this came shortly after from Headquarters, and al-Sharif was subjected to 52 hours of standing sleep deprivation from 3-5 June 2003, and al-Shoroeiya for an undisclosed amount of time on 15 May 2003.

CIA records also document that al-Sharif was denied a bucket for his waste as a punishment during interrogation sessions, and was also subjected to nudity and dietary manipulation.

In April 2004, likely to have been either 24 or 25 April, both men were transferred alongside several other detainees to a second CIA black site, DETENTION SITE ORANGE, where they would continue to be held in secret detention for four months (in the case of al-Shoroeiya) and one year (for al-Sharif).

While in ORANGE, al-Shoroeiya and al-Sharif say they were chained to the wall of their cell with a long chain that allowed them to walk around. They had a toilet, a basin and a mattress, and there were cameras, microphones and speakers everywhere. The whole facility was new, and was much more building-like COBALT (which had been more of a hanger). There was constant noise at the facility - both loud music and sounds through the loudspeakers, and also the sound of a turbine - and the cells had no ventilation. Both stated that the treatment was different here, more psychological than physical, and involved mainly noise, isolation, restraint and continuous interrogation. The guards were Afghans, wearing all black with facemasks, and the interrogators were American, unmasked and in civilian clothes.

Al-Shoroeiya was held for about four months at this second facility. On 22 August 2004, he was rendered with two other detainees, Majid al-Maghrebi and Saleh Di’iki, to Libya onboard the CIA-contracted Gulfstream IV aircraft with tail number N63MU. The three men were held in a shipping container before being loaded onto the aircraft and flown to Libya. The aircraft was operated by International Group LLC, and Universal Weather and Aviation provided logistical services for the rendition circuit. Click here for our analysis of the flight data and documentation associated with the rendition of al-Shoroeiya, al-Maghrebi and Di'iki from Afghanistan to Libya

Once in Libya, al-Shoroeiya was held in a number of prisons, including Tajoura, the al-Nasser bureau, Sikka, Ajn Zara, and finally the Abu Salim prison in 2006. At first he was not mistreated, and believes there was some kind of agreement with the US not to abuse those who the CIA had returned to Libya. However, after the first six months, the abuse began, with long periods in solitary confinement and beatings with whips, steel pipes, electrical cables and sticks. In September 2004 he was allowed to see his wife, and his child, Aisha, for the first time. He saw them again two months later, but then not again until April 2006. There were four further visits after that, but then nothing for two years. Following that, visits were permitted every 60 days. Al-Shoroeiya was taken to court and sentenced to life in prison after several years of detention without charge in Libya. He was finally released on 16 February 2011, as the uprising against Gaddafi was beginning.

It was many months after al-Shoroeiya was transferred that al-Sharif was also rendered to Libya. His rendition took place on 21 April 2005, alongside Mustafa al-Mehdi. Again, he was taken by car to a shipping container that appeared to be a form of military storage facility (with boxes of ammunition and other equipment), and then flown to Libya.

Flight data analysis has identified the aircraft which transferred Mehdi and al-Sharif to Libya: the CIA-contracted Gulfstream IV with registration N740JA. Click here to access our analysis of the flight data and documentation associated with al-Sharif’s rendition from Afghanistan to Libya.

Although he was held for prolonged periods in complete isolation while in Libya, he was not physically abused. He was held in just two prisons, Tajoura and Abu Salim. In January 2008 he was tried and convicted of attempting to overthrow the regime, and sentenced to death by firing squad. At one point he reports being interrogated by agents of the French intelligence service. He was finally released on 23 March 2010, along with two other Libyan rendition victims, Abdel Hakim Belhadj and Sami al-Saadi, having publically renounced their opposition to the regime. Al-Sharif was, however, re-arrested on 28 April 2011, a couple of months after the uprising had begun, and was tortured. It is not clear when he was finally released, but he went on to head the Libyan National Guard, following the fall of Gaddafi.


Further Reading


Human Rights Watch, September 2012, Delivered into Enemy Hands: US-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi’s Libya


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