US torture ship sighted today in Spanish holiday resort Palma de Mallorca

May 28, 2009

Image of hands in shackles

One of the US government’s most infamous “floating prisons” – the USS Bataan – is currently moored in the Spanish holiday resort of Palma de Mallorca.

At least nine prisoners are confirmed to have been held aboard the USS Bataan, including Ibn Al-Sheikh Al-Libi, who recently died in mysterious circumstances in Libyan custody.

Al-Libi’s case reflects the greatest catastrophe of the US rendition programme. In January 2002 he was flown to the USS Bataan, which was then cruising the northern Arabian Sea, and his interrogation began. From there he was rendered to Egypt where he was forced under torture to confess that al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were in league on WMD – statements publicly repeated by George Bush and Colin Powell to justify going to war in Iraq. Many thousands of lives later we all know this to have been false, and Al-Libi’s journey through the secret prison system ended when he was sent to Libya to disappear. He duly died in Libyan custody in May 2009.

Other prisoners held aboard the USS Bataan include John Walker Lindh and David Hicks.

Both the USS Bataan and the USS Peleliu have been confirmed by US government sources to have been used to hold prisoners. Reprieve investigations suggest that a further 15 ships have been used to hold prisoners beyond the rule of law since 2001. Prisoners are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations.

A former prisoner told Reprieve: “One of my fellow prisoners in Guantánamo was at sea on an American ship … before coming to Guantánamo … he was in the cage next to me. He told me that there were about 50 other prisoners on the ship. They were all closed off in the bottom of the ship. The prisoner commented to me that it was like something you see on TV. The people held on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantánamo.”

Reprieve investigator Clara Gutteridge said: “Ships have been used by the US to hold terror suspects illegally since the days of President Clinton, so it would be no surprise if this practise continues under Obama. The US and Spanish governments, as well as the EU, must urgently reveal what this ship is doing on European territory.”Spanish authorities are duty-bound to board and search the ship for missing prisoners.”

Clive Stafford Smith said: “The arrival of USS Bataan should ring alarm bells in any law-abiding country. The Spanish authorities are duty-bound to board and search the ship for missing prisoners.”


For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674.

Notes for Editors:Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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