Posts Tagged ‘renditions’

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.

High Court shocked by US obstruction in Guantánamo torture case

October 24, 2008

Andy Worthington, 23.10.08

Binyam Mohamed“Contempt of court” is the title of an article I wrote for the Guardian’s “Comment is free” section today, in which I looked at the UK High Court’s latest judgment in the case of British resident and Guantánamo prisoner Binyam Mohamed, a victim of “extraordinary rendition” and torture who is engaged in a transatlantic struggle to secure exculpatory evidence proving that his confessions — of involvement with al-Qaeda and a “dirty bomb” plot — were extracted through the use of torture.

On Tuesday I reported how the US Defense Department had dropped Binyam’s proposed trial by Military Commission (and those of four other prisoners) following the resignation of Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, the prosecutor in all five cases, and this latest article brings the British side of the story up to date. It is, of necessity, inconclusive, as the judges are awaiting a ruling on the exculpatory evidence in a US court, but it was clear yesterday that Lord Justice Thomas and Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones were appalled by the lengths to which the US administration seems prepared to go to avoid having to release the evidence.

I intend to write about the judgment in more detail in the near future, but in the meantime I hope that this article captures the essence of yesterday’s ruling.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press/the University of Michigan Press).

Ethiopia/Kenya: Account for Missing Rendition Victims

October 3, 2008

Secret Detainees Interrogated by US Officials Are Still in Custody

Source: Human Rights Watch

(Washington, DC, October 1, 2008) – At least 10 victims of the 2007 Horn of Africa rendition program still languish in Ethiopian jails and the whereabouts of several others is unknown, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Several of the detained men were interrogated by US officials in Addis Ababa soon after they were secretly transferred from Kenya to Somalia, and then to Ethiopia in early 2007.


The 54-page report, “‘Why Am I Still Here?’: The Horn of Africa Renditions and the Fate of the Missing,” examines the 2007 rendition operation, during which at least 90 men, women, and children fleeing the armed conflict in Somalia were unlawfully rendered from Kenya to Somalia, and then on to Ethiopia. The report documents the treatment of several men still in Ethiopian custody, as well as the previously unreported experiences of recently released detainees, several of whom described being brutally tortured.

“The dozens of people caught up in the secret Horn of Africa renditions in 2007 have suffered in silence too long,” said Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “Those governments involved – Ethiopia, Kenya and the US – need to reverse course, renounce unlawful renditions, and account for the missing.”

In late 2006, the Bush administration backed an Ethiopian military offensive that ousted the Islamist authorities from the Somali capital Mogadishu. The fighting caused thousands to flee across the border into Kenya, including some who were suspected of terrorist links.

Kenyan authorities arrested at least 150 men, women, and children from more than 18 countries – including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada – in operations near the Somali border and held them for weeks without charge in Nairobi. In January and February 2007, the Kenyan government then rendered dozens of them – with no notice to families, lawyers or the detainees themselves – on flights to Somalia, where they were handed over to the Ethiopian military. Ethiopian forces also arrested an unknown number of people in Somalia.

Those rendered were later transported to detention centers in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and other Ethiopian towns, where they effectively disappeared. Denied access to their embassies, their families, and international humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, the detainees were even denied phone calls home. Several have said that they were housed in solitary cells, some as small as two meters by two meters, with their hands cuffed in painful positions behind their backs and their feet bound together.

A number of prisoners were questioned by US Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in Addis Ababa. From February to May 2007, Ethiopian security officers daily transported detainees – including several pregnant women – to a villa where US officials interrogated them about suspected terrorist links. At night, the Ethiopian officers returned the detainees to their cells.

“The United States says that they were investigating past and current threats of terrorism,” Daskal said. “But the repeated interrogation of rendition victims who were being held incommunicado makes Washington complicit in the abuse.”

For the most part, detainees were sent home soon after their interrogation by US agents ended. Of those known to have been interrogated by US officials, just eight Kenyans remain. (A ninth Kenyan in Addis Ababa was rendered to Ethiopia in July/August 2007, after US interrogations reportedly stopped.) These men, who have not been subjected to any interrogation since May 2007, would likely have been repatriated long ago but for the Kenyan government’s longstanding refusal to acknowledge their claims to Kenyan citizenship or to take steps to secure their release.

Human Rights Watch recently spoke by telephone to several of the Kenyans in detention in Ethiopia, many of whom complained of physical ailments and begged for someone to help get them home. Although Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga made a campaign pledge to help repatriate these detainees, little progress has been made to date. In mid-August 2008, Kenyan authorities visited these men for the first time. The officials reportedly told the detainees they would be home within a few weeks, but more than a month and a half has now passed.

“The previous Kenyan government deported its own citizens and then left them to rot in Ethiopian jails,” Daskal said. “The new Kenyan government should reverse course, bring these men home, and show that it is not following the same shameful path as the old.”

The Ethiopian government also used the rendition program for its own purposes. For years, the Ethiopian military has been trying to quell domestic Ogadeni and Oromo insurgencies that receive support from neighboring countries, such as Ethiopia’s archrival, Eritrea. The Ethiopian intervention in Somalia and the multinational rendition program provided them a convenient means to gain custody over people whom they could interrogate for suspected insurgent links. Once these individuals were in detention, Ethiopian military interrogators and guards reportedly subjected them to brutal beatings and torture.

Detainees said Ethiopian interrogators pulled out their toenails, held loaded guns to their heads, crushed their genitals, and forced them to crawl on their elbows and knees through gravel. Several reported being beaten to the point of unconsciousness.

The Human Rights Watch report calls upon the Ethiopian government to immediately release the rendition victims still in its custody or prosecute them in a court that meets basic fair trial standards. It also urges the Kenyan government to take immediate steps to secure the repatriation of Kenyan nationals still in Ethiopian custody, and the US government to withhold counterterrorism assistance from both governments until they provide a full accounting of all the missing detainees.

BOOKS-US: “A Policy of Deliberate Cruelty”

September 11, 2008

By Mark Weisenmiller | Inter-Press Service News

TAMPA, Florida, Sep 10 (IPS) – Perhaps the most thorough and informative book about the George W. Bush administration’s approval of the use of torture and “extraordinary renditions” of alleged terrorists to third countries has continued to stay on bestseller lists.

First published in July, “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals” (Doubleday) by Jane Mayer is still listed among the top 10 nonfiction best-selling books of 2008 by The New York Times.

In the book, Mayer, a reporter for The New Yorker magazine, shows in detail how high-level officials of the Bush administration, particularly in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, took advantage of the fear and paranoia that gripped the country after the terrorist attacks of Sep. 11, 2001 to launch “an ideological trench war” and “a policy of deliberate cruelty that would’ve been unthinkable on Sept. 10”.

While Bush supported the overall strategy, he was almost a minor player, Mayer reports. “President Bush is not typically interested in fine details. He left those to others in the formation of the military commissions, and other areas,” she told IPS.

Arguably, the two administration officials whose post-9/11 policy decisions are most responsible for leaving the United States’ “reputation as a lead defender of democracy and human rights…in tatters”, in Mayer’s words, were Cheney and his Chief of Staff David Addington, whom Mayer notes the vice president came to rely on heavily for legal advice in prosecuting the “war on terror”.

In June this year, Addington was subpoenaed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee — along with former Justice Department attorney John Yoo — about detainee treatment, interrogation methods and the limits of executive authority.

Mayer, who was in the room when Addington testified, said “I…was struck by his utter contempt for both the Congressional panel that was quizzing him, and the gathering press.”

“He evidently thought that hauteur was the way to win the day, which was another example of his astoundingly poor political sense…I think at the moment, it’s a stretch to think that there is the necessary political will to prosecute top administration figures like Addington, who could argue that they were simply doing what they thought was necessary to protect the country.”

Regarding Cheney, she writes in “The Dark Side” that the vice president lived in such a state of anxiety after the 9/11 attacks that “…he was chauffeured in an armoured motorcade that varied its route to foil possible attackers. On the back seat behind Cheney rested a duffle bag stocked with a gas mask and a biochemical survival suit.”

Mayer asked repeatedly to interview Addington and Cheney and was refused. A one-paragraph statement by the CIA, regarding the conduct of its agents in the interrogation of alleged terrorists, is on the last page of “The Dark Side”.

However, she did manage to interview hundreds of sources in and around the Bush White House, as well as sources from the Red Cross, compiling a grim picture of interrogation and abuse of prisoners in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

The book describes the use of alleged forms of torture by members of a little-known U.S. military programme called SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape). It also explores the CIA’s hiring of psychologists of questionable abilities and morals, who proceeded to encourage the use of interrogation methods that were created decades ago, ironically enough by the former Soviet Union’s KGB secret police agency, and points out how essentially no piece of relevant information has ever resulted from such interrogations.

Mayer also looks at renditions, the transfer of suspected terrorists by U.S. authorities, mainly the CIA, to countries known to employ harsh interrogation techniques and torture. Asked if she believed that renditions were still being done by U.S. government agents, even though the practice has now been exposed by the world’s media, Mayer told IPS, “After the bad publicity surrounding them, there is likely a greater effort to ensure that they (U.S. government agencies) are not ‘rendering’ mistaken suspects, or sending them to be tortured, in contravention of the law, but the programme exists in a classified realm where this is hard to determine.”

Among the many disturbing incidents recounted in the book is the last night of Manadel al-Jamadi.

He was an Iraqi suspect who was detained outside of Baghdad at approximately four a.m. local time on Nov. 4, 2003. “An hour later, he was dead. An autopsy performed by military pathologists classified his death as a homicide,” writes Mayer.

She goes on to report that “Jamadi was driven first to an Army base for debriefing, where the (U.S. Navy special forces unit) SEALs punched, kicked, and struck him with their rifle muzzles for some 20 minutes.” Jamadi was later interrogated by CIA operatives at Abu Ghraib prison, where he was hung up by his wrists, and subsequently killed.

Eight members of the SEALs platoon received administrative punishment for abuse of al-Jamadi and other prisoners, but Mark Swanner, the CIA interrogator, has faced no charges.

“I hope readers (of “The Dark Side”) come away with a vivid sense of how far from American traditions the Bush administration strayed in choosing to set aside the rule of law, in it’s approach to the war on terror,” noted Mayer. “There have been other lapses in the past, but as Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the late presidential historian told me ‘Nothing has hurt America more (in the world) ever.’.”

US ‘held suspects on British territory in 2006’

August 3, 2008

Terrorist suspects were held by the United States on the British territory of Diego Garcia as recently as 2006, according to senior intelligence sources. The claims, which undermine Foreign Office denials that the archipelago in the Indian Ocean has been used as a so-called ‘black site’ to facilitate extraordinary rendition, threaten to cause a diplomatic incident.

The government has repeatedly accepted US assurances that Diego Garcia has not been used to hold high-ranking members of al-Qaeda who have been flown to secret interrogation centres around the world in ‘ghost’ planes hired by the CIA. Interrogation techniques used on suspects are said to include ‘waterboarding’, a simulated drowning that Amnesty International claims is a form of torture. But now the government’s denials over Diego Garcia’s role in extraordinary rendition are crumbling. Senior American intelligence sources have claimed that the US has been holding terrorist suspects on the British territory as recently as two years ago.

The former intelligence officers unofficially told senior Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón that Mustafa Setmarian, a Spanish-based Syrian accused of running terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, was taken to Diego Garcia in late 2005 and held there for months. The Spanish are trying to locate and arrest Setmarian for separate terrorist offences.

It is thought that more than 10 high-ranking detainees have been held on Diego Garcia or on a US navy vessel within its harbour since 2002. The suggestion, if true, is acutely embarrassing for the British government which has admitted only that planes carrying al-Qaeda suspects landed on Diego Garcia on two occasions in 2002.

However, a former senior American official familiar with conversations in the White House has also told Time magazine that in the same year Diego Garcia was used to hold and interrogate at least one terrorist suspect.

The Council of Europe has also raised concerns that the UK territory has been used to house detainees. Earlier this year Manfred Novak, the United Nations special investigator on torture, told The Observer he had talked to detainees who had been held on the archipelago in 2002, but declined to name them.

The human rights group Reprieve said it believes most of high-level detainees captured by the US have been rendered through Diego Garcia at one time or another. These include Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi accused of being one of al-Qaeda’s top strategists, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, allegedly the mastermind behind 9/11.

‘We are confident high-value prisoners have been held on Diego Garcia for interrogation and possible torture,’ said a Reprieve spokeswoman. ‘We now have sources from the CIA, the UN, the Council of Europe and a Spanish judge who will confirm this.’

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