Posts Tagged ‘detainees’

Pakistani Military Holding Thousands of Detainees

April 22, 2010

Claims Civilian Courts Can’t Be Trusted

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com,  April 21, 2010
Pakistani officials and human rights advocates are expressing concern today about the large number of “suspects” being held in extralegal detention by Pakistan’s military in the tribal areas.
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George W. Bush ‘knew Guantánamo prisoners were innocent’

April 9, 2010

The Times/UK, April 9, 2010
Tim Reid, Washigton

Two detainees are escorted to interrogation by U.S. military  guards at Camp X-Ray in the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base , Cuba

Andres Leighton/AP)

Two detainees are escorted to interrogation by US military guards at Guantánamo Bay

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, according to a new document obtained by The Times.

The accusations were made by Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell, the former Republican Secretary of State, in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit filed by a Guantánamo detainee. It is the first time that such allegations have been made by a senior member of the Bush Administration.

Colonel Wilkerson, who was General Powell’s chief of staff when he ran the State Department, was most critical of Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld. He claimed that the former Vice-President and Defence Secretary knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantánamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was “politically impossible to release them”.

General Powell, who left the Bush Administration in 2005, angry about the misinformation that he unwittingly gave the world when he made the case for the invasion of Iraq at the UN, is understood to have backed Colonel Wilkerson’s declaration.

Colonel Wilkerson, a long-time critic of the Bush Administration’s approach to counter-terrorism and the war in Iraq, claimed that the majority of detainees — children as young as 12 and men as old as 93, he said — never saw a US soldier when they were captured. He said that many were turned over by Afghans and Pakistanis for up to $5,000. Little or no evidence was produced as to why they had been taken.

He also claimed that one reason Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld did not want the innocent detainees released was because “the detention efforts would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were”. This was “not acceptable to the Administration and would have been severely detrimental to the leadership at DoD [Mr Rumsfeld at the Defence Department]”.

Referring to Mr Cheney, Colonel Wilkerson, who served 31 years in the US Army, asserted: “He had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantánamo detainees were innocent … If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.”

He alleged that for Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld “innocent people languishing in Guantánamo for years was justified by the broader War on Terror and the small number of terrorists who were responsible for the September 11 attacks”.

He added: “I discussed the issue of the Guantánamo detainees with Secretary Powell. I learnt that it was his view that it was not just Vice-President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld, but also President Bush who was involved in all of the Guantánamo decision making.”

Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld, Colonel Wilkerson said, deemed the incarceration of innocent men acceptable if some genuine militants were captured, leading to a better intelligence picture of Iraq at a time when the Bush Administration was desperate to find a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, “thus justifying the Administration’s plans for war with that country”.

He signed the declaration in support of Adel Hassan Hamad, a Sudanese man who was held at Guantánamo Bay from March 2003 until December 2007. Mr Hamad claims that he was tortured by US agents while in custody and yesterday filed a damages action against a list of American officials.

Defenders of Guantánamo said that detainees began to be released as early as September 2002, nine months after the first prisoners were sent to the jail at the US naval base in Cuba. By the time Mr Bush left office more than 530 detainees had been freed.

A spokesman for Mr Bush said of Colonel Wilkerson’s allegations: “We are not going to have any comment on that.” A former associate to Mr Rumsfeld said that Mr Wilkerson’s assertions were completely untrue.

The associate said the former Defence Secretary had worked harder than anyone to get detainees released and worked assiduously to keep the prison population as small as possible. Mr Cheney’s office did not respond.

There are currently about 180 detainees left in the facility.

Sri Lanka: End Indefinite Detention of Tamil Tiger Suspects

February 13, 2010

Incommunicado ‘Rehabilitation’ Raises Fears of Torture and Enforced Disappearances

Human Rights Watch, February 1, 2010
2010_SriLanka_TamilIDPs.jpg

Tamil women in a camp for displaced persons in Sri Lanka asking for news of their relatives who were taken away by the army, allegedly for rehabilitation.

© 2009 Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images

The government has been keeping 11,000 people in a legal limbo for months. It’s time to identify who presents a genuine security threat and to release the rest.

–Brad Adams, Asia director

(New York) – The Sri Lankan government should end its indefinite arbitrary detention of more than 11,000 people held in so-called rehabilitation centers and release those not being prosecuted, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 30-page report, “Legal Limbo: The Uncertain Fate of Detained LTTE Suspects in Sri Lanka,” is based on interviews with the detainees’ relatives, humanitarian workers, and human rights advocates, among others. The Sri Lankan government has routinely violated the fundamental rights of the detainees, Human Rights Watch found. The government contends that the 11,000 detainees are former fighters or supporters of the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

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US unveils extended Bagram prison

November 15, 2009
Al Jazeera, Nov. 15, 2009
Al Jazeera was not permitted to ask detainees what they thought of the facilities [AFP]

Journalists have been allowed to inspect refurbished facilities at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, the largest US military hub in the region and home to a controversial prison.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent James Bays, who was among those who inspected the facilities on Sunday, said Bagram, unlike its Guantanamo counterpart, was clearly not going to be shut down soon.

“The new prison wing cost some $60 million to build … and is meant to be part of a new era of openness and transparency,” Bays said.

“But we were not shown the detainees. Human-rights lawyers say that, while the environment for the prisoners may be changing, their legal situation is not … not having been charged. Nor has any civilian lawyer ever been allowed inside.”

Bays said the extended prison could hold up to 1,000 detainees, but was at present holding around 700 inmates, including 30 foreign prisoners.

Lessons learnt

General Mark Martins, who runs detention operations at the airbase, said the US military was improving its treatment of detainees and had learnt many lessons since occupying the country in 2001.

In depth
Video: Access restricted on Bagram ‘tour’
Riz Khan: Is Bagram the new Guantanamo?
Focus: Guantanamo’s ‘more evil twin’?
Pictures: Faces of Guantanamo
Timeline: Guantanamo
Video: Freed inmate recounts ordeal
Smalltown USA’s Guantanamo hopes
Faultlines: Bush’s torture legacy
Witness: A strange kind of freedom

“Detention, if not done properly, can actually harm the effort. We are a learning organisation … we believe transparency is certainly going to help the effort, and increase the credibility of the whole process,” Martins said.

However, Clara Gutteridge, an investigator of secret prisons and renditions from the human rights organisation, Reprieve, said Bagram is seen as “Guantanamo’s lesser-known evil twin”.”All this talk about transparency, and the US government still won’t release a simple list of names of prisoners who are in Bagram,” she told Al Jazeera.

“None of them have had access to a lawyer … and that just seems very unfair.

“We at Reprieve see this as the next big fight after Guantanamo Bay.

“But one thing that the US government is saying is that Afghan prisoners in Afghanistan have less rights than any other prisoner which just seems absurd.”

Bagram Air Field is the largest US military hub in Afghanistan and is home to about 24,000 military personnel and civilian contractors.

Base expansion

Tens of millions of dollars continue to be spent on expanding and upgrading facilities – turning Bagram into a town spread over about 5,000 acres.

The air field part of the complex is already handling 400 tonnes of cargo and 1,000 passengers daily, according to Air Force spokesman Captain David Faggard.

It is continuing to grow to keep up with the requirements of an escalating war and troop increases.

“Detention, if not done properly, can actually harm the effort”

 

General Mark Martins,
commander of detention operations

Among new options being considered in Washington is regional commander General Stanley McChrystal’s request to bring an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan.But even with current troop levels – 65,000 US troops and about 40,000 from allied countries – Bagram already is bursting at the seams, our correspondent reported.

Plans are under way to build a new, $22m passenger terminal and a cargo yard costing $9m. To increase cargo capacity, a parking ramp supporting the world’s largest aircraft is to be completed in early 2010.

Bagram was previously a major Soviet base during Moscow’s 1979-89 occupation of Afghanistan, providing air support to Soviet and Afghan forces fighting the mujahidin.

Bagram lies in Parwan, a relatively quiet province. The Taliban is not believed to have a significant presence in the province.

But the base is susceptible to rocket and mortar attacks. In 2009, the Taliban launched more than a dozen attacks on the base, killing four and wounding at least 12, according to Colonel Mike Brady, a military spokesman.

CIA refuses to release torture probe documents

September 3, 2009

Middle East Online, Sep 3, 2009



Documents show ‘assistance provided by certain foreign governments’

US spy agency says further documents too sensitive to release amid public shock in America.

WASHINGTON – The CIA has refused to release further documents related to its controversial suspect rendition, detention and interrogation programs.

In a 33-page court statement made public on Tuesday, the Central Intelligence Agency said the documents contained sensitive information “that implicates intelligence activities, sources and methods, and information relating to the foreign relations and activities of the United States.”

Last month the Department of Justice revealed details of a report by a CIA inspector general that outlined methods used during interrogations of suspects  during the presidency of George W. Bush, including threats of rape of family members of detainees and murdering their children.

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Muslim states ‘deeply concerned’ by China unrest

July 8, 2009

Middle East Online, July 7, 2009



At least 156 people were killed in Urumqi unrest

OIC deplores disproportionate use of force, firepower against China’s Muslim Uighurs.

JEDDAH – Muslim states said they were “deeply concerned” on Tuesday by riots which left at least 156 people dead in China’s Xinjiang region, where Muslim Uighurs form the largest ethnic group.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference deplored the “disproportionate use of force,” calling upon Beijing to open an “honest probe over the seriously dangerous events and to bring those responsible to justice”.

“It seems from the huge number of civilian casualties that there has not been cautious and proportionate use of force and firepower,” the Jeddah-based grouping of 57 Muslim countries said in a statement.

It called on Beijing to address the “problem of Muslim groups and communities in China in a broad manner that would address the roots of the issue.”

At least 156 people were killed and more than 1,000 wounded when violence erupted in the capital of China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, Urumqi, on Sunday after decades of simmering tensions between Uighurs and Han Chinese.

Several human rights groups have expressed concern over the fate of 1,434 people who were taken into police custody, saying they could be tortured or mistreated.

Bagram Detainees Treated ‘Worse Than Animals’

June 27, 2009
by William Fisher, Antiwar.com, June 27, 2009

An investigation by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has revealed that former detainees at the U.S. Bagram airbase in Afghanistan were beaten, deprived of sleep and threatened with dogs.

The BBC’s conclusions are based on interviews with 27 former detainees who were held at Bagram between 2002 and 2006. None of these men were ever charged with a crime. Hundreds of detainees are still being held in U.S. custody at the Afghan prison without charge or trial.

Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, told IPS, “The BBC investigation provides further confirmation of the United States’ mistreatment of prisoners at Bagram.”

“These abuses are the direct consequence of decisions made at the highest levels of the U.S. government to avoid the Geneva Convention and forsake the rule of law. For too long, the unlawful detention and mistreatment of prisoners at Bagram has gone on outside the public eye,” he said. “Hopefully, this investigation will help change that.”

“When prisoners are in American custody and under American control, no matter the location, our values and commitment to the rule of law are at stake,” Hafetz said.

In April, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records pertaining to the detention and treatment of prisoners held at Bagram, including the number of people currently detained, their names, citizenship, place of capture and length of detention.

The ACLU is also seeking records pertaining to the process afforded those prisoners to challenge their detention and designation as “enemy combatants.”

“The U.S. government’s detention of hundreds of prisoners at Bagram has been shrouded in complete secrecy,” said Melissa Goodman, an ACLU staff attorney. “The American people have a right to know what’s happening at Bagram and whether prisoners have been tortured there.”

Amnesty International said it was “shocked” by the Bagram claims. It noted that a new detention center is currently under construction at the camp.

Another prominent human rights organization, the British-based Reprieve, called on the British government to take action concerning two Pakistanis who it says the U.K. helped render there from Iraq.

“The legal black hole in Bagram underlines the British government’s moral black hole when it comes to rendering two Pakistani prisoners there in 2004,” said Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve. “These men were in British custody in Iraq, were turned over to the U.S., and have now been held for five years without any respect for their legal rights.”

In February 2009, British Defense Secretary John Hutton announced to the House of Commons that Britain had handed two anonymous Pakistani men over to the U.S., and they had subsequently been rendered to Afghanistan, where they were still being held.

“We have been assured that are held in a humane, safe and secure environment, meeting international standards consistent with cultural and religious norms,” Hutton said at the time.

“As we have said all along, beating people and holding them incommunicado is not humane, safe and secure,” Stafford Smith told IPS. “Britain has a moral duty to identify these men, so that we can reunite them with their legal rights, yet Mr. Hutton refuses to do this.”

No prisoner in Bagram has been allowed to see a lawyer, or challenge his detention. According to the BBC, the U.S. justice department argues that because Afghanistan is an active combat zone it is not possible to conduct rigorous inquiries into individual cases and that it would divert precious military resources at a crucial time.

“These men were never in Afghanistan until the UK and the U.S. took them there,” said Stafford Smith. “It is the height of hypocrisy to take someone to Bagram and then claim that it is too dangerous to let them see a lawyer. Even Guantánamo Bay is better than this.”

The Pentagon has denied the BBC’s charges of harsh treatment and insisted that all inmates in the facility are treated humanely.

The Bagram Airbase built by the Soviet military in the 1980s. The approximately 600 people held there are classified as “unlawful enemy combatants.” None was charged with any offence or put on trial — some even received apologies when they were released.

Many allegations of ill-treatment appear repeatedly in the BBC interviews: physical abuse, the use of stress positions, excessive heat or cold, unbearably loud noise, being forced to remove clothes in front of female soldiers.

In four cases detainees were threatened with death at gunpoint.

“They did things that you would not do against animals let alone to humans,” said one inmate.

“They poured cold water on you in winter and hot water in summer. They used dogs against us. They put a pistol or a gun to your head and threatened you with death,” he said.

“They put some kind of medicine in the juice or water to make you sleepless and then they would interrogate you.”

The BBC said its findings were shown to the Pentagon. Lt. Col. Mark Wright, a spokesman for the U.S. secretary of defense, insisted that conditions at Bagram “meet international standards for care and custody.” He said the U.S. Defense Department has a policy of treating detainees humanely.

But he acknowledged that, “There have been well-documented instances where that policy was not followed, and service members have been held accountable for their actions in those cases.”

Since coming to office, U.S. President Barack Obama has banned the use of torture and ordered a review of policy on detainees, which is expected to report next month. But unlike its detainees at the U.S. naval facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, the prisoners at Bagram have no access to lawyers and they cannot challenge their detention.

(Inter Press Service)

POLITICS-US: Obama’s Right Turn

June 24, 2009

Analysis by William Fisher | Inter Press Service

NEW YORK, Jun 22 (IPS) – Human rights and open government advocates were heartened by President Barack Obama’s pledge during his first week in office to create “an unprecedented level of openness in government” and “establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration”.

But now, well into Obama’s second 100 days in office, many are expressing outrage and disappointment that many of the president’s decisions have followed the path of his predecessor, President George W. Bush.

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Ex-detainees allege Bagram abuse

June 24, 2009

BBC News, June 24, 2009

Former detainee: ‘They put medicine in our drink to prevent us sleeping’

By Ian Pannell
BBC News, Kabul

Allegations of abuse and neglect at a US detention facility in Afghanistan have been uncovered by the BBC.

Former detainees have alleged they were beaten, deprived of sleep and threatened with dogs at the Bagram military base.

The BBC interviewed 27 former inmates of Bagram around the country over a period of two months.

The Pentagon has denied the charges and insisted that all inmates in the facility are treated humanely.

All the men were asked the same questions and they were all interviewed in isolation.

Ill-treatment

They were held at times between 2002 and 2008 and they were all accused of belonging to or helping al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

None were charged with any offence or put on trial; some even received apologies when they were released.

Just two of the detainees said they had been treated well.

They put a pistol or a gun to your head and threatened you with death.
Former Bagram detainee

Many allegations of ill-treatment appear repeatedly in the interviews: physical abuse, the use of stress positions, excessive heat or cold, unbearably loud noise, being forced to remove clothes in front of female soldiers.

In four cases detainees were threatened with death at gunpoint.

“They did things that you would not do against animals let alone to humans,” said one inmate known as Dr Khandan.

“They poured cold water on you in winter and hot water in summer. They used dogs against us. They put a pistol or a gun to your head and threatened you with death,” he said.

“They put some kind of medicine in the juice or water to make you sleepless and then they would interrogate you.”

BAGRAM AIR BASE
Base built by the Soviet military in the 1980s
Around 600 people are held
Prisoners are classified as “unlawful enemy combatants’

The findings were shown to the Pentagon.

Lt Col Mark Wright, a spokesman for the US Secretary of Defence, insisted that conditions at Bagram “meet international standards for care and custody”.

Col Wright said the US defence department has a policy of treating detainees humanely.

“There have been well-documented instances where that policy was not followed, and service members have been held accountable for their actions in those cases,” he said.

‘Legal black hole’

Bagram has held thousands of people over the last eight years and a new detention centre is currently under construction at the camp.

Some of the inmates are forcibly taken there from abroad, especially Pakistanis and at least two Britons.

US soldier and helicopter in Afghanistan

Bagram detainees do not have the status of those at Guantanamo Bay

Since coming to office US President Barack Obama has banned the use of torture and ordered a review of policy on detainees, which is expected to report next month.

But unlike its detainees at the US naval facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the prisoners at Bagram have no access to lawyers and they cannot challenge their detention.

The inmates at Bagram are being kept in “a legal black-hole, without access to lawyers or courts”, according to Tina Foster, executive director of the International Justice Network, a legal support group representing four detainees.

She is pursuing legal action that, if successful. would grant detainees at Bagram the same rights as those still being held at Guantanamo Bay.

But the Obama administration is trying to block the move.

Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled that detainees at Guantanamo should be given legal rights.

Speaking on the presidential campaign trail, Barack Obama applauded the ruling: “The court’s decision is a rejection of the Bush administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo.

“This is an important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus.”

Ms Foster accuses the new administration of abandoning that position and “using the same arguments as the Bush White House”.

In its legal submissions, the US justice department argues that because Afghanistan is an active combat zone it is not possible to conduct rigorous inquiries into individual cases and that it would divert precious military resources at a crucial time.

They also argue that granting legal rights to detainees could harm Mr Obama’s “ability to succeed in armed conflict and to protect United States’ forces” by limiting his powers to conduct military operations.

A US federal appeals court judge is expected to rule soon.

These revelations come at a time when Mr Obama is trying to re-set Washington’s relationship with the Muslim world and trying harder than ever to win the war in Afghanistan.

It is a controversy that threatens to damage the image of the new administration in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

President Obama to restart Guantanamo Bay military tribunals

May 15, 2009

May 15, 2009


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