Posts Tagged ‘Guantanamo’

UN demands prosecution of Bush-era CIA crimes

March 5, 2013
RT,  March 04, 2013
AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards

AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards

A United Nations investigator has demanded that the US publish classified documents regarding the CIA’s human rights violations under former President George W. Bush, with hopes that the documents will lead to the prosecution of public officials.

Documents about the CIA’s program of rendition and secret detention of suspected terrorists have remained classified, even though President Obama’s administration has publicly condemned the use of these “enhanced interrogation techniques”. The US has not prosecuted any of its agents for human rights violations.

UN investigator Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, said that the classified documents protect the names of individuals who are responsible for serious human rights violations.

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Glenn Greenwald: The Obama GITMO myth

July 23, 2012

New vindictive restrictions on detainees highlights the falsity of Obama defenders regarding closing the camp

By Salon, July 23, 20

The Obama GITMO myth

Accused Sept. 11 co-conspirator Ramzi Binalshibh is shown while attending his military hearing at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. (AP/Janet Hamlin)

Most of the 168 detainees at Guantanamo have been imprisoned by the U.S. Government for close to a decade without charges and with no end in sight to their captivity. Some now die at Guantanamo, thousands of miles away from their homes and families, without ever having had the chance to contest accusations of guilt. During the Bush years, the plight of these detainees was a major source of political controversy, but under Obama, it is now almost entirely forgotten. On those rare occasions when it is raised, Obama defenders invoke a blatant myth to shield the President from blame: he wanted and tried so very hard to end all of this, but Congress would not let him. Especially now that we’re in an Election Year, and in light of very recent developments, it’s long overdue to document clearly how misleading that excuse is.

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Ahmed Belbacha, Guantanamo’s forgotten prisoner

March 13, 2010

Morning Star Online, Friday 12 March 2010

By Paddy McGuffin

Former British resident Ahmed Belbacha is beyond any doubt the forgotten man of Guantanamo. A tragic figure, who although declared innocent after eight years of false imprisonment, cannot leave as he has no country to return to.

For all Barack Obama’s much-vaunted election pledges to close Guantanamo Bay, Belbacha, along with his fellow prisoner Shaker Aamer, continues to languish in the US camp despite having been cleared of any wrongdoing and being deemed eligible for release.

Belbacha’s case, perhaps more than any other, exposes the appalling absurdity and cynicism of the so-called war on terror.

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“When the ‘War on Terror’ Becomes Genocide”

February 10, 2010

by J.B.Gerald,, Feb 10, 2010

The “Convention for the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide” stresses the prevention of genocide more than prescribing its exact manner of punishment. Genocide does not have to be committed for the Convention to have effect. By defining “genocide” it seeks to avert agendas which will confirm the crime. Physical manifestations of genocide are preceded by psychological preparation and the resulting psychological damage to entire victim groups. There is no way not to apply this awareness to current pressures on Islamic communities in North America, so this is an obvious and rather late notation of a genocide warning for Islamic peoples in the U.S. (see also Canada), late, in that one could sense the program over twenty years ago without knowing the scope of its intentions. The threat of whole or partial destruction of this religious group is exacerbated by Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people, bombing of civilian Lebanon, invasion of Gaza, which placed essentially Islamic civilian populations without human value, in a manner politically acceptable to U.S. and Canadian governments.

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Ramsey Clark: ‘A Free People Will Not Permit Torture’

September 9, 2009

By Ramsey Clark, Information Clearing House, September 9, 2009

Throughout history, torture has always been an instrument of tyranny. The very purpose of the Grand Inquisitor was to compel absolute obedience to authority. Torture was the weapon he used in the struggle to force freedom to submit to authority.

Fear is the principal element in both public acceptance of torture and individual submission to it. The frightened public is persuaded that only torture can force confessions essential to prevent catastrophic acts—terrorism in the present context. The frightened victim is persuaded torture will be unbearable, or be his death.

Franklin Roosevelt spoke truth when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Justice Black warned wisely, “We must not be afraid to be free,” dissenting in In re Anastaplo. Anastaplo was a law school classmate of mine who refused to take a non-Communist oath, a requirement for admission to the Illinois bar at the time. We have failed to follow this wisdom, a failure of faith urged by Lincoln at the then Cooper Institute: “Let us have faith that right makes might and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

At stake is our cultural insistence that America has faith in freedom, that America is, or aspires to be, the land of the free and the home of the brave. At risk is the image of America, which might become Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and rendition to torture chambers in client States.

Now we are confronted by the brutish and brazen mentality of Dick Cheney, only one of George W. Bush’s many vices. Having concealed truth by refusing to release records and after the destruction of evidence, Cheney proclaims, “I am very proud of what we did”—a war of aggression that has devastated and fragmented Iraq and Afghanistan, and created a danger to peace in Pakistan and beyond. The same wars that have left 5,000 U.S. soldiers dead and maybe 30,000 with impaired lives, spread corruption within the Bush administration, politics in prosecutors offices, the worst recession in 70 years caused by the failure to police his greedy friends and supporters, boasting of torture by any other name.

Cheney wants us to believe “enhanced interrogation techniques,” the phrase he prefers to torture, “were absolutely essential” in successfully stopping another terrorist attack on the U.S. after 9/11. This is utterly false, a matter of indifference to Cheney who may be getting desperate. These “enhanced interrogation techniques” were, however, torture as defined in Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture of 1984, an international treaty ratified by 184 nations, including the United States a decade late in 1994. The Convention, which is part of the supreme law of the land under the U.S. Constitution, recognizes “the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” and “that these rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person.”

Thus, the U.S. is treaty bound to prosecute all persons, high and low, who have authorized, condoned or committed torture if our word in the international community is to mean anything.

The Convention requires each signatory to ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law. It requires prosecution, or under specific conditions, extradition to another nation for prosecution of alleged torturers.

Former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan is only one of the key U.S. intelligence and investigative officials directly involved in the key interrogations who have publicly condemned the “enhanced interrogation techniques.” He has explained how the practice not only failed to obtain reliable or new information, but was also harmful. He concluded an op-ed article in the New York Times on Sept. 6, which stated that “the professionals in the field are relieved that an ineffective, unreliable, unnecessary and destructive program, one that may have given Al Qaeda a second wind and damaged our country’s reputation is finished.”

The struggle to prosecute torture by U.S. agents is related to the struggle over health care legislation and troop increases in Afghanistan. Real health care reform would end the theft of major national resources by the insurance industry, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and the wealth seeking medical profession at the expense of the lives and health of the poor and middle class.

We should remember that a decade before he gave us “What is good for General Motors is good for the nation,” Charles E. Wilson, once President of General Motors, and later Secretary of Defense under President Eisenhower, wrote in the Army Ordinance Journal in 1944: “War has been inevitable in our human affairs as an evolutionary force … Let us make the three-way partnership (industry, government, army) permanent.” Notice what comes first for Wilson, whose credo was “Let us have faith that might makes right.”

President Obama faces all three of these challenges, torture in our name, health care and Afghanistan at once. If he fails to insist on full investigation of torture and prosecution of all persons found to have authorized, directed or committed it, including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, he will lose all three, because his adversaries in each are the same.

We want to thank every member of the IndictBushNow movement for their work. The announcement that a Special Prosecutor has been appointed to investigate the crimes committed during the Bush administration is a critical step. It was the action taken by you and people all around the country that made this possible. Now we will build on this momentum. The voice of the people must and will be heard.

Bush’s torture legacy haunts the US

August 8, 2009

By Mark LeVine, Al Jazeera, Aug 8, 2009

Some human rights groups want Obama to investigate top Bush administration officials [GETTY]

Somewhere in the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Bowe Bergdahl, a US soldier, is being held captive by the Taliban.

The threat of execution hangs over him if the US does not agree to the still unspecified demands of his captors.

Bergdahl is the first US soldier captured in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion and the circumstances of his capture, which occurred around July 1 outside a US military base in Helmand Province, remain unclear.

But in the wake of years of revelations of abuses by US personnel of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib, and of alleged Taliban or al-Qaeda detainees elsewhere, the spectre of US troops in enemy hands is disturbing because of the possibility that they could face copy-cat treatment.

This is even more troubling when factoring in that US methods involved the use of water-boarding and numerous other “enhanced” interrogation techniques.

So far, it appears that private Berghdal has been unharmed and his Taliban captors have said they would treat him “with dignity.”

It is difficult to determine at this point whether the Taliban position is in response to the shift in rhetoric under the Obama administration or as a propaganda counterpoint to the documented mistreatment of detainees under the previous Bush administration.

The recently issued Taliban “code of conduct” calling for minimising suicide bombings and civilian casualties suggests that it is part of a larger pattern to change the movement’s image both in the region and globally.

However, US military officials have condemned the release of a video depicting Berghdal in captivity as propaganda that is “exploiting the soldier in violation of international law”

“Nation of Laws”

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban on July 1

Yet even as it condemns such practises, the Obama administration is struggling to come to grips with the many consequences of Bush-era detention and interrogation policies which will continue to impact the experiences of US forces on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to major human rights organisations, Obama’s record on this issue remains disappointingly mixed.

On the one hand, Obama’s first actions upon taking office were to announce his intention to close Guantanamo Bay, and end water-boarding and other clearly cruel and degrading forms of interrogation.

These actions were part of a larger attempt to improve the US image in the Muslim world and convince friends and enemies alike that the US is once again a “nation of laws”.

All sides to a conflict are obligated to obey international law, regardless of the conduct of their enemies.

Obama’s actions are partially intended to help ensure that US soldiers who, like private Berghdal, fall into enemy hands are not subjected to the kind of treatment authorised under the Bush administration.

In substantive terms, however, the Obama administration is hewing a path far closer to its predecessor than most Americans realise. This reality could well frustrate Obama’s attempts to cool down anti-American sentiments among potential Taliban and al-Qaeda sympathisers.

It could also further weaken the fabric of the rule of law inside the US itself, enshrining Bush-Cheney-era policies  as the political and legal status quo even as the Justice Department and Congress begin investigations into potential criminal conduct at the highest levels of that administration.

Slow progress

Most activists from the human rights community believe Obama walked into an untenable situation when he assumed responsibility for the detention and interrogation policies of the outgoing administration.

His unambiguous declaration that he would close Guantanamo within a year, ensure that the CIA would abide by the Army Field Manual guidelines for interrogating prisoners, and close all secret CIA detention facilities was welcomed around the world.

“The situation certainly improved in terms of the personalities making policy,” explains Gabor Rona, the International Legal Director for Human Rights First.

“There are now people in leadership positions that have a rather different view than their predecessors about both what is lawful and what is good policy.”

Chief among them is Eric Holder, the US attorney general, who has clearly expressed his discomfort at the possibility that those responsible for the torture policies may escape some form of investigation, if not prosecution.

Criticism increases

In depth
Pictures: Faces of Guantanamo
Timeline: Guantanamo
Inside Guantanamo Bay
Video: Move to close Guantanamo faces hitches
Video: Freed inmate recounts ordeal
Smalltown USA’s Guantanamo hopes
Faultlines: Bush’s torture legacy
Faultlines: Obama’s war on terror
Riz Khan: U-turn on Gitmo?
Witness: A strange kind of freedom

Beyond the level of rhetoric and as yet unfulfilled commitments, however, the Obama administration is facing growing criticism from human rights organisations.

To be sure, the situation Obama has taken ownership of offers few good choices.

According to a senior Amnesty International (AI) analyst, the new administration is being disingenuous when it claims that the situation was worse than they had imagined, and requires a more cautious move than originally intended.

“There was too much information already in the public realm for them to have been surprised,” Tom Parker, the AI’s Policy Director for Terrorism, Counter-terrorism and Human Rights, says

A more plausible reason for the slower pace of change is likely that while newly-appointed high level officials are adopting a different tone, below them the same people are running the show.

“I’m having the same conversations with the same people as under Bush,” a senior activist complained. “They remain as arrogant as ever.”

Indeed, on the ground, interviews with recently released Guantanamo detainees and investigations by organisations such as Human Rights First in Afghanistan are providing evidence that detainee abuse and lack of due process are continuing under the Obama administration, despite the shift in rhetoric.

Trial by hearsay

Parker believes significant attention is being focused on two issues which remain particularly egregious under the new administration: the continuing use of military rather than civilian trials, and the sanctioning of indefinite and potentially permanent imprisonment of detainees.

The latter is being considered even though Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, recently admitted some detainees had been acquitted by a military commission.

“This is one of the worst things I’ve ever heard a democratic state say,” Parker says.

Shayana Kadidal, the managing attorney for Guantanamo detainee cases at the Centre for Constitutional Rights, confirms that the worst policies of the last two years of the Bush Administration, including military trials and indefinite detentions, “are today being explicitly put forward as viable policies for the future, not just for cleaning up the mess Bush left behind.”

“Why do you need an indefinite detention scheme if you’re going to try people in military commissions? It’s ludicrous and reflects a situation in which the Obama administration has failed politically, while in terms of principle comes off looking unable to make up its mind about what to do.”

Is Obama “waffling”?

Some analysts believe Obama has been unable to move far from Bush’s policies [EPA]

The most startling example of this continuity is the administration’s concerted efforts to continue detaining Mohammed Jawad, the youngest Guantanamo detainee, in a case the federal judge presiding says is “riddled with holes.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has criticised this move as reminiscent of the Bush Administration’s constant changes of strategy to frustrate directives from federal judges regarding Guantanamo detainees.

Other examples of such “waffling” is Obama’s objection to Congressional demands that all future interrogations be conducted only by official military personnel rather than contractors, and his willingness to admit hearsay as evidence in military trials.

Admitting hearsay would enable coerced statements to be used against detainees without affording them the opportunity to directly question an interrogator who used the coercive technique.

No new initiatives

Ultimately, in the words of one activist, whatever the good intentions of the Obama administration, the new pragmatic policy-making style remains devoid of new ideas.

“There is very little daylight between Obama and Bush,” Human Rights First’s Gabor Rona says.

Similarly, a senior member of another organisation explains that “renditions to countries that routinely use torture are continuing, as are military trials and indefinite detentions. So much of Obama’s line is that ‘we’ll do it smarter. You can trust us.’ But this is not acceptable.”

Rona, who worked for many years as a lawyer for the International Committee of the Red Cross, says the administration is “still using an overly broad application of the Laws of War paradigm to justify detentions that are not justifiable under international law.”

One reason for the pragmatism thus far is that a pitched battle is underway within the administration over how much of Bush’s policies should be retained.

“The new administration has not spoken with one consistent voice,” Rona says. “There are very strong voices within it that speak in support of the policies and practises of its predecessor.”

Even Obama’s attempt to recalibrate the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative branches back to the pre-Bush era of parity and consultation has failed to produce policy changes.

This is largely because the Democratic-controlled Congress is even more reluctant to take on Republicans on national security issues (and risk being labelled as soft on terrorism) than is the president.

Pursuing senior officials

Human rights groups want top officials, like Cheney, to be prosecuted [EPA]

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), believes the Obama administration can re-establish rule of law and US moral standing by bringing “those most responsible” for creating and executing illegal policies under the Bush administration to justice.

“Senior officials should be held to the same level of investigation as the soldiers who went to jail for the Abu Ghraib abuses,” he says.

A HRW statement in July urged Holder, the attorney general, to include senior Bush administration officials in his investigation.

“The United States can’t truly claim to have repudiated these egregious human rights violations unless it returns to the day when it treated them as crimes rather than as policy options,” HRW said. The ACLU has supported this position.

Such an investigation would have little to do with political payback.

Most activists agree that if Dick Cheney, the former vice-president, Don Rumsfeld, the former defence secretary and White House lawyers such as John Yoo and Jay Bybee (who developed the legal justifications for Bush officials), are not called to account for their actions while in power, future administrations will feel confident that they can resume now discredited practises without fear of prosecution.

This would make Executive Branch lawyers legal henchman, knowing that even the flimsiest of legal cover for such actions will be enough to protect from future prosecution.

The Centre for Constitutional Rights’ Kadidal argues that any investigation by the Justice Department or Congress “needs to go to the top”.

“This wasn’t a situation where people started doing things in the field under pressure and Washington just tried to give them legal cover afterwards. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It was top down; the directions came from Washington and were clearly signed off by Rumsfeld and Cheney,” she said.

Bush administration authorisation

Declassified reports indicate Rice authorised harsh interrogation methods [GETTY]

According to a declassified Senate Intelligence Report released in April, Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser, John Ashcroft, the attorney general, and George Tenet, the CIA director and their legal councils all joined Cheney in authorising waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods in 2002.

What is still unknown but could be determined by a Justice Department or Congressional investigation is whether Bush was one of “the principals” who according to the report, “reaffirmed that the CIA [enhanced interrogation] program was lawful and reflected administration policy.”

But such an investigation will extract a high political price at a time when most Americans are not focused on these issues and not pressing the White House or Congress to act on them.

In the absence of such sustained public pressure, many human rights professionals believe that the failure of Bill Clinton, the former US president, to reform the military’s ban on gays serving openly still stands as a warning not to waste precious political capital on divisive issues that don’t have wide public support.

As AI’s Parker says: “What we haven’t been able to do is put millions in the streets [on this issue]. Amnesty can’t get a meaningful turnout, and if we can’t, no one can.”

Instead, the human rights community is focusing much of its energy on the mainstream media. But while most journalists and editors are sympathetic to a human rights agenda, they simply do not have the time or space to focus regularly on these issues.

A significant share of the Washington commentating class has accepted the administration’s arguments that pragmatism rather than pushing for human rights and democracy is the best rudder for US foreign policy.

Impetus For Obama

Is there a chance that Obama will take the lead on this issue? Roth is sure Obama at least knows the stakes.

“I met with Obama a few months ago. He fully understands the importance of maintaining the moral high ground to fight terror because without it the international co-operation needed to fight it is discouraged.”

While most Americans support human rights in principle, a majority still believe, erroneously, that torture works. As Kadidal points out, this makes it very hard to construct a powerful public narrative to motivate Americans en masse to push for real change.

“Most of the public do not know that torture and coercive interrogations don’t work. Regular polling conducted by the Open Society Institute reveals that the public still believes it can produce good intelligence. And with people worried today about losing jobs, global warming, and so on – there’s even less room to convince them otherwise.”

HRW’s Roth says such a situation makes it difficult to know whether Obama has the strength and political space to “abide with the insight he himself has, and share with the American people his understanding that human rights is not only the right thing to do but it’s also the smart thing to do.”

“Our golden rule is, ‘don’t do anything to detainees that you wouldn’t want done to one of your own captured soldiers’,” he says.

As the United States ramps up its military engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Obama administration and its military leadership would be wise to heed this advice.

Mark Levine is a professor of history at the University of California, Irvine and author, most recently, of Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam (Random House 2008) and Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books, 2009).

British Foreign Secretary: Clinton threatened to cut-off intelligence-sharing if torture evidence is disclosed

August 1, 2009

Glenn Greenwald |, July 31, 2009

I’ve written several times before about the amazing quest of Binyam Mohamed — a British resident released from Guantanamo in February, 2009 after seven years in captivity — to compel public disclosure of information in the possession of the British Government proving he was tortured while in U.S. custody.  At the center of Mohamed’s efforts lie the claims of high British government officials that the Obama administration has repeatedly threatened to cut off intelligence-sharing programs with the U.K. if the British High Court discloses information which British intelligence officials learned from the CIA about how Mohamed was tortured.  New statements from the British Foreign Secretary yesterday — claiming that Hillary Clinton personally re-iterated those threats in a May meeting — highlight how extreme is this joint American/British effort to cover-up proof of Mohamed’s torture.

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Obama And The Deadline For Closing Guantánamo: It’s Worse Than You Think

July 29, 2009

Andy Worthington, July 29, 2009

Barack Obama signs the Executive Order relating to the closure of Guantanamo, January 2009

When the Obama administration’s Detention Policy Task Force, established by Executive Order on the President’s second day in office, conceded last week that it would miss its six-month deadline to issue its recommendations about how to close Guantánamo, many observers focused on whether this meant that Obama would fail to meet his deadline of Jan 21, 2010 for the closure of the prison, and missed the bigger story, which was only revealed through close scrutiny of the Task Force’s five-page interim report (PDF).

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U.N. Asked to Probe CIA Rendition

June 27, 2009

By William Fisher | Inter Press Service

NEW YORK, Jun 26 (IPS) – Human rights groups are asking United Nations officials to investigate the case of an Italian citizen and victim of the “extraordinary rendition” programme of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency who is currently being held in a Moroccan prison based on a confession coerced from him through torture.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Geneva-based Alkarama for Human Rights have requested that two U.N. Special Rapporteurs investigate the circumstances of Abou Elkassim Britel’s forced disappearance, rendition, detention and torture, and raise his case with the governments of the United States, Morocco, Pakistan and Italy.

The requests were made to the U.N. Special Rapporteurs on Torture and the on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism.

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Obama and the Torturers

June 25, 2009

Celebrate Torture Day by Punishing the Torturers

By James Bovard | Counterpunch, June 25, 2009

Since 1997, every June 26 has been formally recognized as the International Day of Support for Victims of Torture. Political leaders around the globe take the occasion to proclaim their opposition to barbarism.

On June 26, 2003, President George W. Bush proudly declared“The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment.”

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