Posts Tagged ‘human rights violations’

The Resentment Against Indian Rule Persists in Kashmir

August 10, 2010
By Raoof Mir, Foreign Policy Journal, Aug 10, 2010

People of Kashmir carry the body of a man shot by Indian police in Srinagar on August 3, 2010 (Press TV)
People of Kashmir carry the body of a man shot by Indian police in Srinagar on August 3, 2010 (Press TV)

Recently I was asked by one friend of mine who works as a reporter in a ‘reputed’ regional Telugu daily, the reasons for ‘gun culture’ and ‘stone pelting culture’ in the Indian administered Kashmir valley: “Why is it that people of Kashmir don’t peacefully complain about their problems to the government?”

I replied to him that it is the cynicism and the distrust of the people with the system. My friend didn’t ask me what that actually meant. I wanted to explain to him about the life of common people in Kashmir, the diabolical role of Indian army, and their impunity for human rights violations.I wanted to explain to him how a knock on the door late at night or sneaking away to smoke a cigarette at night sends spasms of anxiety through the people, afraid that this might be their last breath.

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Egypt a ticking time bomb

April 26, 2010

The Arab world’s leading nation has become a political and cultural backwater — and that’s not good

Eric Margolis, The Toronto Sun, April 25, 2010

As battered air travellers struggle to recover from Iceland’s volcanic big bang, another explosion is building up.

This time, it’s a political one that could rock the entire Mideast, where rumours of war involving the U.S., Syria, Israel and Iran are intensifying.

President Hosni Mubarak, the U.S.-supported strongman who has ruled Egypt with an iron hand for almost 30 years, is 81 and in frail health. He has no designated successor.

Mubarak, a general, was put into power with U.S. help after the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat by nationalist soldiers. Sadat had been a CIA “asset” since 1952.

Egypt, with 82 million people, is the most populous and important Arab nation and Cairo the cultural centre of the Arab world. It is also an overcrowded madhouse with eight million people whose population has tripled since I lived there as a boy.

Not counting North Africa, one in three Arabs is Egyptian.

Egypt was once the heart and soul of the Arab and Muslim world. Under Sadat’s predecessor, the widely adored nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt led the Arab world. Egyptians despised Sadat as a corrupt western toady and sullenly accepted Mubarak.

After three decades under Mubarak, Egypt has become a political and cultural backwater. In a telling incident, Mubarak recently flew to Germany for gall bladder and colon surgery. After billions in U.S. aid, Mubarak could not even trust a local hospital in the Arab world’s leading nation.

The U.S. gives Egypt $1.3 billion annually in military aid to keep the generals content and about $700 million in economic aid, not counting secret CIA stipends, and vast amounts of low-cost wheat.

Mubarak’s Egypt is the cornerstone of America’s Mideast Raj (dominion). Egypt’s 469,000-man armed forces, 397,000 paramilitary police and ferocious secret police keep the regime in power and crush all dissent.

Though large, Egypt’s military is starved by Washington of modern weapons, ammo and spare parts so it cannot wage war against Israel. Its sole function is keeping the U.S.-backed regime in power.

Mubarak has long been a key ally of Israel in battling Islamist and nationalist groups. Egypt and Israel collaborate on penning up Hamas-led Palestinians in Gaza.

Egypt is now building a new steel wall on the Gaza border with U.S. assistance. Mubarak’s Wall, which will go down 12 metres, is designed to block tunnels through which Gaza Palestinians rely for supplies.

While Washington fulminates against Iran and China over human rights, it says nothing about client Egypt — where all elections are rigged, regime opponents brutally tortured and political opposition liquidated.

Washington could quickly impose real democracy to Egypt where it pulls all the strings, if it wanted.

Ayman Nour, the last man who dared run in an election against the eternal Mubarak — “pharaoh” to Islamist opponents — was arrested and tortured.

Now, as Mubarak’s health fails, the U.S. and Israel are increasingly alarmed his death could produce a political eruption in long-repressed Egypt.

Mubarak has been trying to groom his son, Gamal, to succeed him. But Egyptians are deeply opposed. The powerful 72-year old intelligence chief, Gen. Omar Suleiman, an ally of the U.S. and Israel, is another possible strongman. CIA will also be grooming another army or air force general for the job.

Egypt’s secular political opposition barely exists. The regime’s real opponent remains the relatively moderate, highly popular Islamic Brotherhood. It would win a free election hands down. But its leadership is old and tired. Half of Egyptians are under 20.

Mohammed El-Baradai, the intelligent, principled, highly respected Egyptian former UN nuclear chief, is calling for real democracy in his homeland. He presents a very attractive candidate to lead post-Mubarak Egypt.

Washington hopes it can ease another compliant general into power and keep the security forces loyal before 30 years of pent-up fury at Mubarak’s dictatorship, Egypt’s political emasculation, thirst for change and dire poverty produce a volcanic eruption on the Nile.

2010: Palestinian Prisoners Day

April 23, 2010

Palestine Monitor, April 22, 2010

prisoners_day__10_.jpg

There are currently more than 7.000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Hundreds are being held in administrative detention. 17th of April was the Palestinian Prisoners Day. Hundreds of Palestinians took part to the rallies organised across the West Bank and Gaza. Palestine Monitor’s photographer, FLV, takes a look to the commemoration held in Ramallah.

Since its occupation of the Palestinian Territory in 1967, the Israeli authorities systematically violate the most basic rights granted by international and human rights conventions through inhumane treatment, restrictions on movements, killings, deportation, and detention.

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Supporting Iranian prisoners of conscience

March 18, 2010

Amnesty International, March 16, 2010

Journalist Emadeddin Baghi was arrested on 28 December 2009 © Private

To mark the Persian spring holiday of Nowrouz, Amnesty International has launched a campaign to send messages of goodwill to prisoners of conscience in Iran.

The seven cases selected by Amnesty International mirror the “Haft Sin” (seven “s”s) traditionally placed on a Nowrouz table.

The 14 individuals in the seven cases have all been identified as being “at risk”. Many have been sentenced to long prison terms for their beliefs or peaceful activism and several are in poor health.

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HRW: West must press Syria on rights violations

March 12, 2010

Middle East Online, First Published 2010-03-11



Syrian security services have detained many human rights activists


Rights group accuses Syrian officials of jailing anyone who dares to utter critical word in their prison cells.

EW YORK – Western countries must press Syria on its continued repression of dissidents as part of their efforts to draw Damascus out of political isolation, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday.

“Talking to Syria without putting its rights record on the table emboldens the government to believe that it can do whatever it wants to its people, without consequences,” said the US-based rights group’s Middle East director Sarah Whitson.

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Torture Never Stopped Under Obama

January 28, 2010

By Shamus Cooke, ZNet, Jan 27, 2010

Shamus Cooke’s ZSpace Page

“A year on, the [Obama] administration continues to look the other way when it comes to full disclosure of and remedy for human rights violations perpetrated by the U.S.A. in the name of countering terrorism.”

– Amnesty International

What is Torture?  It can be physical or psychological, quick or unhurried.  It implies lasting trauma unbefitting a human.  The U.N. defines torture as:

” …any act by which severe pain or suffering, physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession…” (U.N. Convention Against Torture).

By this definition the U.S. continues to practice torture. Yes, Obama outlawed some especially shocking forms of torture — water boarding, for example — but other types of torture were not labelled “torture” and thus continue.

Surprisingly, this fact was recently discussed at length in The New York Times, under an Op-Ed piece appropriately entitled Torture’s Loopholes.  In it, an ex-interrogator explains some of the more glaring examples of how the U.S. currently tortures and argues for the practices to end.  In reference to Obama’s vow to end the systematic, obscene torture under Bush, the article states:

“…the changes were not as drastic as most Americans think, and elements of our interrogation policy continue to be both inhumane and counterproductive.”

The author says bluntly, “If I were to return to one of the war zones today… I would still be allowed to abuse [torture] prisoners.”

The article also explains how the U.S. “legally” continues a practice that thousands of people in the U.S. prison system already know to be psychological torture:

“…extended solitary confinement is torture, as confirmed by many scientific studies. Even the initial 30 days of isolation could be considered abuse [torture].”

Other forms of torture commonly practiced — since they are part of the Military’s updated Field Manual — are “…stress positions [shackling prisoners in painful positions for extended periods of time], putting detainees into close confinement or environmental manipulation [hot or frigid rooms]…”

Also mentioned as torture is sleep deprivation, a tactic used in combination with 20-hour interrogation sessions. The author concludes that these practices do “not meet the minimum standard of humane treatment, either in terms of American law or simple human decency.”  (January 20, 2010).

Unmentioned by the article are other forms of torture institutionalized under the Obama administration.  One is “sensory deprivation,” a deeply traumatizing psychological torture described in detail in Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine. The new Army Field Manual says that the tactic — though not called “sensory deprivation” — should be used to “prolong the shock of capture,” and should include “goggles or blindfolds and earmuffs” that completely disconnects the senses from the outside world, where the captive is able to experience only the thoughts in their head.

Yet another blatant form of torture that Obama refused to stop practicing is “extraordinary rendition,” or what critics call “outsourcing torture.”  This is the practice of flying a prisoner to a country where torture is routinely practiced, so that the prisoner can be interrogated.  As reported by The New York Times:

“The Obama administration will continue the Bush administration’s practice of sending terrorism suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but pledges to closely monitor their treatment to ensure that they are not tortured, administration officials said Monday.” (August 24, 2009).

Human rights groups instantly called Obama’s bluff:  why transport terrorism suspects to other countries at all? If not for the fact that torture and other “harsh interrogation methods” are routinely practiced there? No justifiable answer has been given to these questions.

Another common way the U.S. continues to outsource torture is performed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.  There, the U.S. military often arrests suspects and hands over the interrogation duties to Iraqi or Afghan security forces, knowing full well that they regularly torture (this was also the strategy in the Vietnam war).  Unfortunately, handing over someone to be tortured means you are also guilty of the crime.

A less obvious form of torture is the concept of “indefinite detention” — holding someone in prison indefinitely without a trial.  The terrible experience of hopelessness that a victim of this crime experiences, over years, is a profound form of psychological torture.  This is one of the reasons why the American Constitution guarantees due process, a legal detail that the Obama administration continues to ignore.

In connection, The Washington Post recently announced that the Obama administration will detain 50 Guantanamo inmates “indefinitely,” without any legal charges or chance of a trial.  This act is consistent with earlier statements made by Obama, when he stated that “some detainees are too dangerous, to be released.”  Of course, there does not exist any evidence to prove that these detainees are dangerous, otherwise they would be prosecuted in a legal court.  The article reports that these detainees are “un-prosecutable because officials fear trials…could challenge evidence obtained through coercion [torture].” (January 22, 2010).

The Washington Post article also reports that 35 additional Guantanamo inmates will be tried in Federal or Military courts.  In the latter court, far less evidence — if any — is needed, and the military jury can be handpicked to deliver the preferred outcome.

Obama, like Bush, has sought to undermine the legal rights of those detained and the victims of torture who seek accountability.  Obama continues to refuse to release pictures (evidence) of detainee abuse, preventing Americans from really understanding what their government is guilty of.  Obama has also refused detainees in so-called “black sites” (U.S. Bagram Air Base, for example) access to attorneys or courts. Finally, by not prosecuting anyone for torture crimes in the Bush administration, Obama is guaranteeing that the worst forms of torture will continue, since institutionalized behavior rarely stops unless rewards or punishments are implemented.

In the end, the act of torture is impossible to separate from war in general.  The “rules of war” are always ignored by both sides, who implement the most barbaric acts to terrorize their opponents into submission.

Obama’s wars, like Bush’s, are wars of conquest. U.S. corporations want the oil and other raw materials in the region.  They also want to privatize the conquered state-owned companies, and to sell U.S. products in the new markets the war has opened them.  Many corporations benefit from the act of war itself (arms manufacturers and corporate-employed mercenaries), or from the reconstruction opportunities the destruction creates.

Working people have no interest in this type of war.  The hundreds of billions of dollars that Obama is using for destruction should be used to create jobs instead, or for health care, public education, social services, etc.   It is up to all working people to organize themselves — through their unions and community organizations — to broadcast this demand and make it a reality.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org).  He can be reached at shamuscook@yahoo.com

Mirwaiz appeals EU to play role in Kashmir settlement

November 24, 2009

Continued detention of Hurriyet leaders denounced
Kashmir Media Service, Nov 24, 2009

 

Srinagar, November 24 (KMS): The APHC Chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq briefed a European Union delegation, today, about the gross human rights violations by Indian troops in occupied Kashmir. The delegation comprising New Delhi based diplomats, Mr Olof Lindgren, Ms Daniele, Mr. Lon Dela Riva, Mr Jean M Debouller and Mr Oscar Schlyter, met the APHC Chairman in Srinagar.

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Saudi Arabia: Counterterrorism Efforts Violate Rights

August 10, 2009

Indefinite Detention, Inappropriate Reeducation, and Flawed Trials

Human Rights Watch, August 10, 2009

Saudi Arabia’s response to terrorism for years has been to lock up thousands of suspects and throw away the key. The authorities made believe that religious counseling could replace trials, and now they are pretending that convictions after secret trials can legitimize continued detention.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch

(New York) – Saudi Arabia has detained indefinitely more than 9,000 people under its counterterrorism program since 2003, offering many religious “reeducation” instead of judicial review to attain their freedom Human Rights Watch said in a report issued today. Saudi Arabia only moved in October 2008 to try some detainees, announcing in July 2009 that it had convicted more than 300 on terrorism charges, in trials the report says were secret and unfair.

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IRAN: Victims’ Families Share Stories, Defying Pressure

July 29, 2009

By Tesa Sabet | Inter Press Service News

TEHRAN, Jul 28 (IPS) – It has become common these days to hear about the killing of young Iranians at the hands of Iran’s security forces and Basij militia. So many families have come forward with heart-wrenching tales about the deaths of their children in prison or during peaceful protests, it is difficult to keep count.

While each story is unique, all speak of serious human rights violations, extreme violence, and an unaccountable court, prison and security system that gives families the runaround. Another common thread is the pressures that families face when trying to claim the bodies of their children or to hold funeral and memorial services.

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Saudi Arabia’s war on human rights

July 22, 2009

We should not ignore the human rights abuses committed by Saudi Arabia’s justice system in the name of security

Two weeks ago today the Saudi Arabian authorities announced that 331 defendants had been found guilty of terrorism offences in 179 separate cases. You would have thought that such a sequence of trials and convictions would be major news. It isn’t. Aside from a limited burst of publicity following the Saudi Justice Ministry’s announcement, the whole affair is shrouded in deepest secrecy.

Who are those that make up this vast number of people? What are their offences? Are they all Saudis, or are their foreigners amongst them? Do our own security forces know anything about the cases?

One person who might know something is Prince Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s veteran interior minister. He has been the country’s politician in charge of national security for a stunning 34 years (making our home secretaries seem like political mayflies). He’s the man who announced last October that 991 people had been charged with suspected involvement in terrorism. Back in 2007, he said that Saudi Arabia had detained more than 9,000 security suspects since 2001. Of these, 3,106 were still in custody at that time.

Beyond the sporadic announcement of mind-boggling numbers and the occasional well-constructed journalistic tour of a “re-education” facility, the Saudi system is buried in secrecy. What we do know is that it is characterised by appalling human rights violations: arbitrary arrest, torture, unfair trials, flogging and execution. At Amnesty International, we also believe the situation is getting worse.

In a report just published, we highlight some of the human rights violations perpetrated by Saudi Arabia’s authorities in the name of security and fighting terrorism. Some of the detail is shocking, not least for the residents of al-Jouf who awoke one morning in 2005 to see on public display the bodies of three men who had been executed and then crucified. Majed Nasser al-Shummari and Mislat al-Mutayri were arrested in 2002-3 and respectively sentenced to three years and two years plus flogging. They’re still in jail today. Non-violent critics of the government have been caught in the net, along with lawyers and human rights defenders.

But should our own government care? Every now and then the FCO does express broad concern about human rights in Saudi Arabia. It’s difficult to feel that this is an agenda item at top-level discussions and the Saudi government has proven adept at using its geopolitical position and oil wealth to deflect criticism. But there are a number of reasons why it’s important to consider a more outspoken approach.

First, Britons can find themselves caught up this. For example, a group of British men including William Sampson endured sleep deprivation and torture before being hauled in front of TV cameras in 2001 to “confess” their crimes. This followed a series of bomb attacks and shootings that the authorities unconvincingly attributed to turf wars between western bootleggers.

Second, in the current circumstances, any secret information shared with the UK by Saudi general intelligence or other agencies is potentially tainted as torture evidence. The situation also makes it virtually impossible to safely deport any critic of Saudi Arabia back to the country, given the fundamental concerns about torture and lack of due process. Third, the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is just plain wrong – and our government should acknowledge this in plain terms.

There’s also a new reason for the FCO to look again at things in the Saudi kingdom. If Britain didn’t open its eyes to Saudi injustice during the fake bootlegging affair, it ought to now. It is continuing to negotiate with the US government over the release from Guantánamo Bay of a Saudi national called Shaker Aamer. He’s a long-standing UK resident, with a young British family in south London. If the government fails to secure his release back to these shores, he may find himself swallowed up in Saudi Arabia’s secretive and unaccountable justice system.

Saudi Arabia has genuine security issues to confront. Scores of its own civilians have been killed in bombings and shootings by armed groups. Fifteen of the 9/11 attackers were from the kingdom. Responding to these threats is necessary, but by failing to respond within a framework of human rights, the Saudi Arabian detention system is another side of the same degraded counter-terrorism coin as the Guantánamo detention facility in which Shaker Aamer continues to reside.


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