Posts Tagged ‘prisoners’

Shame of US Justice

January 12, 2011

By Yvonne Ridley, Foreign Policy Journal, Jan 10, 2011

America’s international standing as a fair and just country does not match its superpower status as the world’s greatest democracy.

When it comes to basic human rights it is there in the gutter alongside some of the world’s most toxic, tinpot dictatorships and authoritarian regimes.

So there’s little surprise that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange fears being extradited to The States where some politicians and Pentagon officials have already called for his execution and Attorney General Eric Holder admits his government may invoke the US Espionage Act.

But it’s not just the persecution and the prosecution Assange should fear, either – the wheels of justice can be agonizingly slow in a process which could take years. And in the case of the Guantanamo detainees there is no end in sight – the majority of them have not been charged but simply forgotten.

Having stepped inside US prisons – both military and civilian – I can tell you there is nothing civilized about the penal institutions in the United States.

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Seymour Hersh Says US Troops Executing Prisoners in Afghanistan

May 13, 2010

David Edwards, LewRockwell.com, May 13, 2010

The journalist who helped break the story that detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were being tortured by their US jailers told an audience at a journalism conference last month that American soldiers are now executing prisoners in Afghanistan.

New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh also revealed that the Bush Administration had developed advanced plans for a military strike on Iran.

At the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Geneva, Hersh criticized President Barack Obama, and alleged that US forces are engaged in “battlefield executions.”

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Guantanamo: Still open for business

January 23, 2010
Morning Star Online,  January 22,  2010
by Paddy McGuffin
Almost 200 prisoners remain in the former naval base on Cuba

Almost 200 prisoners remain in the former naval base on Cuba

Friday saw Barack Obama’s self-imposed deadline for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp lapse.

The US administration pledged to shut the prison by January 22 at the latest but on Friday night almost 200 prisoners remained in the former naval base in the Caribbean amid new allegations of murder, torture and state cover-ups.

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Iraq may hang 126 women by year’s end despite international appeals

November 19, 2009

Larry Johnson,  Looking for Trouble blog, Nov 18, 2009

Iraq is planning to execute up to 126 women by the end of this year. At least 9 may be hanged within the next two weeks. Human rights groups say the only crime committed by many of these women was to serve in the government of Saddam Hussein. Others, according to human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, were convicted of common crimes based on confessions that were the result of torture.

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Notorious warlord returns to Afghanistan to help Karzai

August 17, 2009

By Jonathan S. Landay and Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers, Aug 16, 2009

KABUL — A notorious Afghan warlord accused of allowing the murder of hundreds, if not thousands, of prisoners and then destroying the evidence returned to Afghanistan Sunday night as part of what appears to be a political deal brokered with President Hamid Karzai.

Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum arrived from Turkey just four days before the Afghan presidential elections, in which his support could be key to Karzai’s chances of securing more than 50 percent of the vote – the threshold for avoiding a second round of elections.

Karzai has come under criticism for consolidating his position by striking deals with warlords like Dostum and those suspected of connections to the country’s opium trade.

Dostum comes with considerable baggage. There have been repeated allegations that his men were responsible for the deaths of up to 2,000 alleged Taliban and al Qaida prisoners in late-2001, a time when Dostum worked closely with U.S. special forces and intelligence teams in northern Afghanistan.

A McClatchy investigation last year uncovered information suggesting that Dostum later directed the removal of the remains of those slain prisoners, destroying the evidence of the original crime.

President Barack Obama recently said that he’s asked his national security team to collect as many facts as possible about the incident to determine whether to launch a full investigation.

Seamak Herawi, a spokesman for Karzai, told reporters that there was no reason why Dostum could not return home.

“There is no legal obstacle for Gen. Dostum’s return to Afghanistan,” he said.

Hundreds of jubilant members of Dostum’s Jumbish Party converged on Kabul International Airport to greet Dostum, an Uzbek former communist general who repeatedly switched sides in the devastating civil war that erupted between Islamic guerrilla groups after the Soviet occupation.

His head clad in a silver turban and his shoulders draped with a chapan, a traditional long green coat, Dostum rode into the city followed by his loyalists and rifle-toting members of his private militia in a caravan of honking cars and buses.

More supporters were awaiting him at his massive red three-story mansion in Sherpur, a neighborhood filled with “poppy palaces” allegedly built with opium profits.

Dostum’s name has been in the news recently – first in a McClatchy report last December that made public the fact that a gravesite in a north Afghanistan desert known as Dasht-e Leili had been dug up, and then again this July in The New York Times, which reported on the lack of U.S. investigation into the original incident.

Locals interviewed by McClatchy last year said that it was common knowledge that Dostum’s men were responsible for having removed the bones of the dead men with bulldozers or similar equipment.

Satellite imagery obtained by Physicians for Human Rights indicates that the digging took place as early as 2006. There appears to have also been subsequent excavation last year – a McClatchy reporter saw three smaller ditches that were apparently dug between June and November.

The site is still not being guarded by either Western or Afghan forces, according to Nathaniel Raymond, the lead investigator on the Dasht-e Leili case for Physicians for Human Rights.

“Though Dostum has returned to Kabul, he still should not be allowed to return to a position of power in the Afghan government until a full, transparent investigation of the Dasht-e Leili incident is complete,” Raymond said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Zemari Bashari said he could not discuss whether Dostum was under investigation for the alleged removal of the remains.

Dostum was put under house arrest in Afghanistan last year after he and his men were said to have dragged a rival leader out of his home, beaten him and his family and then held the man hostage. Then, after a meeting with Karzai in late-November, he left for Turkey.

Dostum at the time was stripped of his mostly honorary title of chief of staff to the commander in chief, but it was later reinstated.

Dostum has denied that the prisoners in 2001 died in large numbers, a position that he repeated in a statement last month, saying it was “confirmed by those who were responsible for accepting the surrender of these prisoners of war — including doctors and members of the military forces of the United States. In addition, it was reported to me that the U.S. Defense Department had also confirmed this.”

Some of the former prisoners, though, have said that they were stuffed into shipping containers in which hundreds of men suffocated to death or died from gunshots fired by Dostum’s men.

On Sunday, Dostum made a brief statement to thank Karzai for allowing him to return before retreating behind closed doors. The pair are expected to travel to Dostum’s hometown of Sheberghan, the capital of northern Jawzjan Province, on the final day of campaigning for Thursday’s presidential election.

Hundreds of his followers milled around the garden and glitzy reception hall of his mansion, whose inlaid floor of green, black and white stone, carved wooden columns and crystal chandeliers testified to Dostum’s immense wealth.

Haji Shah Mahmoud Nazari, a Jumbish candidate for the provincial council in northeastern Takhar Province, dismissed the allegations against Dostum as the “propaganda of Dostum’s enemies and the propaganda of the enemies of the Jumbish Party.”

“He came to participate in a very historical election which will determine the next five years of the country’s future,” he said. “He wants to be beside his people.”

Sayed Ahmad Sayed, a Jumbish official who is heading Karzai’s campaign in northern Fariab Province, said Dostum could deliver more than 1 million votes to the president’s re-election drive.

U.S. government withholds information about Bagram detainees

August 16, 2009

By Danielle Kurtzleben, Inter Press Service News

WASHINGTON, Aug 14 (IPS) – The U.S. government continues to withhold even the most basic information about prisoners in the Bagram detention facility in Afghanistan, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a New York-based legal rights organisation.

An April 2009 ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents and information about the detainment of prisoners at Bagram has yielded dead ends with both the Department of Defence (DOD) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The ACLU wants the Obama Administration to make these records public, including information about “the number of people currently detained at Bagram, their names, citizenship, place of capture and length of detention, as well as records pertaining to the process afforded those prisoners to challenge their detention and designation as ‘enemy combatants.’”

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Saudi rights abuses rise due to counter-terrorism methods

July 24, 2009

Middle East Online, First Published 2009-07-22




Saudi used its ‘powerful international clout’ to get away with abuses

Amnesty International: thousands detained in virtual secrecy under guise of security in Saudi.

LONDON – Human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia have soared as a result of counter-terrorism measures introduced since the 2001 attacks in the United States, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

The London-based rights organisation warned in a new report that under the guise of national security, thousands of people had been arrested and detained in virtual secrecy  and others had been killed in “uncertain circumstances”.

There have long been human rights problems in the kingdom but Amnesty said the number of people being held arbitrarily, including both Saudi nationals and foreigners, “has risen from hundreds to thousands since 2001”.

“These unjust anti-terrorism measures have made an already dire human rights situation worse,” said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa programme.

Amnesty noted that in June 2007, the Saudi interior ministry reported that 9,000 security suspects had been detained between 2003 and 2007 and that 3,106 of these were still being held.

Some of those held are prisoners of conscience, targeted for their criticism of government policies, the report said.

The majority are suspected of supporting groups that are opposed to Saudi Arabia’s close links to the United States and have carried out a number of attacks targeting Westerners and others.

Amnesty said trials of people suspected of terrorism offences are carried out in secret, despite sentences ranging from fines to the death penalty. The names of those involved or the charges against them are not disclosed.

“Detainees are held with no idea of what is going to happen to them,” Smart said. “Most are held incommunicado for years without trial, and are denied access to lawyers and the courts to challenge the legality of their detention.”

The Saudi authorities were not immediately available for comment, but the country’s top human rights official said last month that suspected militants being tried in special courts were allowed lawyers to help their defence.

“They can choose a lawyer… or the ministry of justice will provide one,” said Bandar al-Aiban, president of the official Saudi Human Rights Commission.

He said he regretted that the trials were being kept secret but said the government was worried some defendants would use a public trial as a soapbox to preach radical ideology. “We have to be mindful of other dangers,” he said.

Amnesty accused the international community of failing to hold the Saudi government to account over the alleged violations, saying the kingdom “has used its powerful international clout to get away with it”.

The group also reported that many people were thought to have been tortured “in order to extract confessions or as punishment after conviction”.

Methods include severe beatings by sticks, suspension from the ceiling and the use of electric shocks and sleep deprivation, while “flogging is also imposed as a legal punishment by itself or in addition to imprisonment”.

Bagram is Now Obama’s Guantanamo

June 25, 2009
By William Fisher | The Public Record, June 25, 2009

While millions know that the administration of George W. Bush has left Barack Obama with the job of closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, relatively few are aware that the new president will also face a similar but far larger dilemma 7,000 miles away.

That dilemma is what to do with the what has become known as “the other GITMO” – the U.S.-controlled military prison at Bagram Air Base near Kabul in Afghanistan – and the estimated 600-700 detainees now held there.

The “other GITMO” was set up by the U.S. military as a temporary screening site after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan overthrew the Taliban. It currently houses more than three times as many prisoners as are still held at Guantanamo.

In 2005, following well-documented accounts of detainee deaths, torture and “disappeared” prisoners, the U.S. undertook efforts to turn the facility over to the Afghan government. But due to a series of legal, bureaucratic and administrative missteps, the prison is still under American military control. And a recent confidential report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reportedly complained about the continued mistreatment of prisoners.

The ICRC report is said to cite massive overcrowding, “harsh” conditions, lack of clarity about the legal basis for detention, prisoners held “incommunicado” in “a previously undisclosed warren of isolation cells” and “sometimes subjected to cruel treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions”. Some prisoners have been held without charges or lawyers for more than five years. The Red Cross said that dozens of prisoners have been held incommunicado for weeks or even months, hidden from prison inspectors.

“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,” said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project in response to a new report published by the BBC documenting the torture of more than two-dozen former detainees. “Torture and abuse at Bagram is further evidence that prisoner abuse in U.S. custody was systemic, not aberrational, and originated at the highest levels of government. We must learn the truth about what went wrong, hold the proper people accountable and make sure these failed policies are not continued or repeated.”

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, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “The American people have a right to know what’s happening at Bagram and whether prisoners have been tortured there.”

In a related case, the ACLU is representing former Bagram prisoner Mohammed Jawad in a habeas corpus challenge to his indefinite detention at Guantánamo Bay. The Afghan government recently sent a letter to the U.S. government suggesting Jawad was as young as 12 when he was captured in Afghanistan and taken to Bagram, where he was tortured. Despite the fact that the primary evidence against Jawad was thrown out in his military commission case at Guantánamo because it was derived through torture, the U.S. government continues to rely on such evidence – including evidence obtained during interrogations at Bagram – in Jawad’s current habeas case to justify holding him indefinitely.

According to Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Bagram appears to be just as bad as, if not worse than, Guantanamo. When a prisoner is in American custody and under American control, our values are at stake and our commitment to the rule of law is tested”.

She told us, “The abuses cited by the Red Cross give us cause for concern that we may be failing the test. The Bush administration is not content to limit its regime of illegal detention to Guantanamo, and has tried to foist it on Afghanistan.”

She added: “Both Congress and the executive branch need to investigate what’s happening at Bagram if we are to avoid a tragic repetition of history.”

But most observers believe the solution is more likely to come in the courts and to be inextricably linked to recent judicial decisions affecting prisoners at Guantanamo.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that foreign nationals held as terrorism suspects by the U.S. military at Guantanamo have a constitutional right to challenge their captivity in U.S. courts in Washington. Last week, a federal judge began exploring whether this landmark decision also applies to Bagram.

Like Guantanamo, Bagram was set up as a facility where battlefield captives could be held for the duration of the “war on terrorism” under full military control in an overseas site beyond the reach of U.S. courts.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly thwarted the campaign to insulate Guantanamo from the courts’ review.  But the Justice argument is that none of those rulings has any application to Bagram, and that the federal judge should dismiss the legal challenges by Bagram detainees by finding that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over them.

But lawyers for four Bagram prisoners who have been held in detention since at least 2003 contend that recent Supreme Court Guantanamo decisions also apply to Afghanistan. They are also arguing that another Supreme Court decision — Munaf v. Geren — extended habeas rights to a U.S. military facility in Baghdad.

Barbara Olshansky of the Stanford Law School represents three of the four men who brought the court action. She said “there is no more complete analogy or mirror to Guantanamo than this (case).”

While U.S. District Judge John D. Bates has not ruled on the government’s motion to dismiss the four Bagram cases, he said during the court hearing, “These individuals are no different than those detained at Guantanamo except where they’re housed.”

In its motion to dismiss the cases, the Justice Department argued that Bagram is so much a part of ongoing military operations that there simply is no role for U.S. courts to play. “To provide alien enemy combatants detained in a theater of war the privilege of access to our civil courts is unthinkable both legally and practically,” the government’s brief claimed.

The government claims the U.S. does not have nearly the control over the Bagram Airfield as it does over Guantanamo Bay, and thus the reasoning of the Supreme Court in extending habeas rights to Guantanamo should not apply to Bagram.

It also noted that Bagram is in the midst of a war zone; Guantanamo is not.  It asserted that civilian court review of Bagram detentions would actually compromise the military mission in Afghanistan.

The Munaf decision also has no application to Bagram, the government’s motion contended, because that involved U.S. citizens, not foreign nationals.

Lawyers for the Bagram detainees noted that some of them have been held for more than six years, so any argument the Justice Department might have made against habeas rights abroad has now lost its force “after so much time has passed.”

They say the issue “is whether the Executive can create a modern-day Star Chamber, where it can label an individual an ‘enemy combatant’ or ‘unlawful enemy combatant,’ deny him any meaningful ability to challenge that label, and on that basis, detain him indefinitely, virtually incommunicado, subject to interrogation and torture, without any right of redress.”

The lawyers note that the Supreme Court has rejected such efforts at Guantanamo on three occasions.  But it added that the government is now seeking “to revive their effort to create a prison beyond judicial scrutiny by arguing that habeas does not extend to Bagram because they have deliberately located their Star Chamber in an airfield they contend is outside their ‘realm,’ for the express purpose of avoiding compliance with domestic civil, criminal, military, and international law.”

Bagram, their brief contended, “is not a temporary holding camp, intended to house enemy soldiers apprehended on the battlefield, for the duration of a declared war, finite in time and space.”  It said the “war on terror” as conceived by the government is “unlimited in duration and global in scope.”

It also noted that, unlike Guantanamo, Bagram is a permanent prison. Thousands of individuals from all over the world have been taken to the airfield prison, and nearly 700 remain there now, and it is being expanded with a new prison to hold more than 11,000. Moreover, they argued, Bagram detainees do not even have the minimal procedural guarantees to have their captivity reviewed that Guantanamo prisoners have in the so-called “Combatant Status Review Tribunals.” The military does not operate CSRTs as Bagram.

Lawyers for the four men — two Yemeni, one Tunisian and one Afghan – said none was captured while in battle or otherwise directly aiding terrorist groups.

The Justice Department argued that releasing alleged enemy combatants into the Afghan war zone, or even diverting U.S. personnel there to consider their legal cases, could threaten security.

“What evidence is there to believe they would return to the battlefield?” Judge Bates asked Deputy Assistant Attorney General John O’Quinn. “They were not on the battlefield to begin with.”

William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now writes on a wide-range of issues, from human rights to foreign affairs, for numerous newspapers and online journals. He blogs at The World According to Bill Fisher.

Torture: America’s policy, Europe’s shame

June 18, 2009

Jan Egeland, Mariano Aguirre| openDemocracy, June 17, 2009

The degrading treatment meted out to prisoners of the United States-led “war on terror” over seven years has yet to be subject to proper legal scrutiny and accountability. But the responsibility is Europe’s too, say Jan Egeland & Mariano Aguirre.

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In the very heart of the western world, Europe’s major ally has tortured prisoners to death – in an operation that we Europeans too were involved in. The fourteen “techniques” authorised by the George W Bush administration include semi-drowning (“waterboarding’), confinement in cramped and dark boxes, psychological torture and deprivation of sleep for up to eleven days and nights (see  Mark Danner, US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites” [New York Review of Books, 9 April & 30 April 2009]).

An undefined number of prisoners have died or committed suicide as a result of mistreatment in interrogation chambers run by the United States and its allies (the last one was a Yemeni in Guantánamo). It may be recalled that Japanese military jailors who employed these techniques during the second world war were adjudged war criminals by the US’s own military-legal experts.

This, to emphasise the point, is not about the despicable actions of some far-away dictator, nor the atrocities committed by Nazis and communists in Europe in the years of totalitarianism and genocide. No, these acts were part of a larger operation involving our own western, liberal democracies. Europeans  were there – with troops, intelligence, logistics and funding – taking part in the “war on terror” that formed the backdrop to these war crimes. After the US secret services had been authorised to mistreat prisoners held in American custody, the CIA was allowed to undertake its “extraordinary renditions”: more than 1,000 flights, often with unnamed prisoners  (“unlawful combatants”) in a wide arc across European airspace – from Norway to Romania. Several countries (including Jordan and, again, Romania) granted permission for these prisoners to be interrogated and mistreated in local, US-administered prison camps.

In 2007, a majority of elected representative in the European parliament accused the governments of Europe of having concealed the details of what had happened in these cases. In fact, several countries did more than clandestinely transport and keep prisoners; they also delivered some of their own prisoners into the hands of the CIA. The transfer by the Swedish police in December 2001 of two Egyptian nationals, Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed El Zary – who later vanished into Egypt’s prison-camp system where torture flourishes – is but one example. Reports from both the European parliament and the Council of Europe have found that Europeans have accepted the perpetration of severe abuses in our own backyards that we were and are quick to condemn anywhere else.

When defenceless prisoners – some of them hardcore terrorists, others quite innocent men – were being beaten and humiliated by United States soldiers at Bagram air- base in Kabul, Europeans were close by: every day, our military and civilian forces in Afghanistan would drive past.

When the inner circles around President Bush were planning the torture – how to legitimise, explain and implement it in a network of prisons (some secret, others not) in Europe, the middle east and elsewhere – Europeans remained silent and loyal contributors to the “war against terror” in Afghanistan.

When clever American legal experts were arguing that the principles of international humanitarian law – the Geneva conventions, United Nations conventions, and of habeas corpus –were not applicable in this case of “our battle” against “our enemies”, Europe’s own parliamentarians and NGOS were urging international legal action against some leaders in the global south on the grounds that they had broken the very same principles.

The dark side

How could it be that these years of torture could unfold under Europeans’ very noses, in flagrant contradiction of our national constitutions, our penal codes, our international legal commitments – all without hearings being organised and investigative commissions appointed? Where were our legal experts, our auditors and our journalists? And where were we, the researchers and commentators who have written this? With the exception of rare voices in a few media and human-rights organisations, and a couple of politicians that denounced what had happened, Europe kept silent.

There are no excuses. What was being conceived, planned and perpetrated was hardly a secret, even before the New Yorker and other media published detailed descriptions of these war crimes and the deceit involved (see, for example, Jane Mayer, Outsourcing torture“, New Yorker, 14 February 2005), .After all, only days after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, Dick Cheney admitted that the US chief executive was willing to make the “war against terror” an ugly, dirty affair: in a primetime national broadcast, the US vice-president  announced that the secret services would be authorised to go over to the “dark side” (see Jane Mayer, The Dark Side [Vintage/Anchor, 2009]).

Such attitudes began around the same time to infect popular and even intellectual culture. The US television industry broadcast (from November 2001) the well-engineered TV drama series 24, about a federal agent who could not always afford to play by the rules. In episode after episode, the popular series indulged the lie that the torture of suspects was necessary in order to save the lives of innocents. The academic and pundit Michael Ignatieff– then director of the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, now the head of Canada’s main opposition party and the country’s likely next prime minister – was only the most high-profile of several intellectual who began to argue that torture is terrible but could in some circumstances be morally and politically justified (see Mariano Aguirre, “Exporting democracy, revising torture: the complex missions of Michael Ignatieff“, 15 July 2005).

So it was that the Bush-Cheney cabal could demolish the legacy of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  The United States’s first president banned all maltreatment of English prisoners during the during the war of independence (1775-83), forbidding his troops to “imitate the brutality of the British”. Its sixteenth president followed the same principle during the American civil war (1861-65). Both respected here the US’s declaration of independence (1776), based as it was and is on the prohibition of abuse of power, arbitrary arrest and torture.

The next step

Many political, military and administrative leaders were involved in the planning and execution of the “war on terror”; none has had to face legal prosecution for what went on in Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and other sites of documented torture. Almost without exception, it is low-level operatives who have faced prosecution, even though their crimes were committed under a system that was organised in and controlled from the topmost echelons of power in the White House, the CIA and the Pentagon (see Philip Gourevitch & Errol Morris, The Ballad of Abu Ghraib [Penguin, 2008]).

President Barack Obama – whose election by US citizens in 2008 is a turning-pointin this story – declared his intention to close for ever this dark chapter in the history of the United States. For that to happen, he must ensure that the legal process focuses on those who bear political and administrative responsibility. Chile and Argentina are among the countries which investigated and prosecuted those who had  ordered torture – so why not the United States? In addition, it is clear that the Guantánamo prison-camp must be shut down; but military tribunals that fail to comply with international standards of jurisprudence should also be closed.

The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed the abuse and neglect of the highest principles of leadership nurtured by western civilisation over centuries. In this light, it is wrong to see the actions of Bush, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their coterie in isolation (see Philippe Sands, Lawless World: Making and Breaking Global Rules [ Penguin, 2006]). For this is also a tale of colossal hypocrisy and worse on the part of Europe, in accepting and being complicit in depredations that violate its own deepest values.

The experience was allowed to unfold year by grim year. During this long  period, the European allies of the US – aware of the absence of legal protection for those nameless prisoners being transported for interrogation and torture at destinations known and unknown – appear to have done very little. Why?

What will be the next steps in bringing to justice those responsible? Thomas Hammarberg, commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, has called on the council’s forty-seven member-states to provide the complete facts on what actually took place from 2001 to 2008, so that the guilty may be held to account. It cannot happen soon enough. For until it does, the enormous damage Europe has inflicted in these terrible years – not least on itself – can never be repaired.

This article was translated from Norwegian by Susan Høivik


Stop the US torture ship

May 30, 2009
Morning Star Online, Friday 29 May 2009
by Adrian Roberts
The notorious USS Bataan, which has held prisoners including John Walker Lindh, David Hicks and Ibn Al-Sheikh Al-Libi, docking in Mallorca on Thursday morning.

British human rights campaigners Reprieve have urged the Spanish authorities to board and search US torture ship USS Bataan after it moored at the Palma de Mallorca holiday resort.

Reprieve said on Friday that the USS Bataan is one of the US government’s most infamous “floating prisons” and will remain at the island until Saturday.

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

Reprieve pointed out that, in January 2002, Mr Al-Libi was flown to the ship, which was then cruising the northern Arabian Sea, before his interrogation began.

From there, he was rendered to Egypt where he was forced under torture to confess that al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein were in league on weapons of mass destruction.

Details regarding the operation of prison ships have emerged through a number of sources, including the US military and other administration officials, the Council of Europe, various parliamentary bodies and journalists, as well as the testimonies of prisoners themselves.

Reprieve investigations also 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 Guantanamo was at sea on an American ship before coming to Guantanamo. 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 Guantanamo.”

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 practice continues under Obama.

“The US and Spanish governments, as well as the EU, must urgently reveal what this ship is doing on European territory.”

Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith added: “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.”

Mr Stafford Smith has also pointed out that the US chooses ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers.

“By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons and information suggests up to 80,000 have been through the system since 2001,” he said.

“The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are and what has been done to them.”


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