Posts Tagged ‘Somalia’

Under Obama, more targeted killings than captures in counterterrorism efforts

February 15, 2010

By Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Washington Post, February 14, 2010

When a window of opportunity opened to strike the leader of al-Qaeda in East Africa last September, U.S. Special Operations forces prepared several options. They could obliterate his vehicle with an airstrike as he drove through southern Somalia. Or they could fire from helicopters that could land at the scene to confirm the kill. Or they could try to take him alive.

The White House authorized the second option. On the morning of Sept. 14, helicopters flying from a U.S. ship off the Somali coast blew up a car carrying Saleh Ali Nabhan. While several hovered overhead, one set down long enough for troops to scoop up enough of the remains for DNA verification. Moments later, the helicopters were headed back to the ship.

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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.

Arms Trade Treaty could fail without human rights

September 23, 2008

Amnesty International, 17 September 2008

Every year,more than 300,000 people are killed with conventional weapons. Millions more are injured, abused, forcibly displaced and bereaved as a result of armed violence. Many of the weapons used to commit these violations are sourced on the poorly regulated international arms market.

Amnesty International’s new report, Blood at the Crossroads: Making the case for a global Arms Trade Treaty, uses nine detailed case studies of the catastrophic human rights consequences of unrestrained arms trading.

Launched as UN member states prepare to meet in October to consider further steps to move towards negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty, the report says that world leaders should adopt a “Golden Rule” to help protect human rights when arms are transferred between countries.

The “Golden Rule” states simply: that governments must prevent arms transfers where there is a substantial risk that they are likely to be used for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

From the ongoing conflict in Darfur, military crackdowns in Myanmar and Guinea to the proliferation of sectarian violence in Iraq, the report shows how and why the current variations and loopholes in national arms legislation allow massive violations of human rights to occur. It also demonstrates that without an effective human rights provision, a global Arms Trade Treaty could fail to protect those most vulnerable.

The report is launched during a global week of action by activists and supporters of the Control Arms Campaign. Campaigners are reminding governments that “The World is Watching”, a theme during the week of events and activities to ild up pressure for an agreement on an effective Arms Trade Treaty as quickly as possible.

Worldwide support for a UN process to develop a global Arms Trade Treaty was reflected when 153 states voted in favour (1 against (US), and 24 abstained) during the General Assembly in December 2006. Then during 2007 almost 100 states submitted their views to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, proposing human rights protection as one of the top considerations.

In the run up to October’s UN discussions at the General Assembly First Committee meeting on Disarmament and Security, a few states – including China, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Russia and the US – have been attempting to block, delay and water down proposals. These attempts could make the treaty fail in its objectives and allow the continued unchecked trade in arms.

“Despite the massive green light from most of the world community, a small minority of sceptics want to keep the status quo shambles so they can turn a blind eye to blatantly irresponsible arms transfers, rendering most national arms controls and UN arms embargoes weak and ineffective,” said Brian Wood, Amnesty International’s arms control manager.

China, Russia, the US and many other nations, are highlighted in the report as trading arms to countries with well documented human rights violations.

China and Russia remain the largest suppliers of conventional arms to Sudan that are used for serious ongoing human rights violations by the Sudanese armed forces in Darfur. Russia supplied military helicopters and bomber aircraft, while China sold Sudan most of its arms and ammunition.

In Iraq, the US Department of Defense has funded most of the supply of over one million rifles, pistols and infantry weapons for 531,000 Iraqi security force personnel in a poorly managed and unaccountable process since 2003. This supply has compounded the massive proliferation of arms and gross human rights abuses that began under the former Saddam government.

The new supplies have sometimes involved dubious players in international supply chains and a lack of accountability by Iraq, US and UK governments, leading to diversions of supplies to armed groups and illicit markets.

In Myanmar, despite the persistent pattern of well documented human rights violations committed by Myanmar government forces, China, Serbia, Russia and the Ukraine have between them supplied armoured personal carriers, trucks, weapons and munitions. India has recently offered to supply more arms.

The report shows graphically how violations of the UN arms embargo continue on Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia and Darfur in Sudan because of weak national laws and lack of commitment and capacity by some governments. The failure of over 80 percent of states to establish laws to control arms brokering and arms transportation makes this problem worse.

A UN Group of Governmental Experts examined the Arms Trade Treaty from February to August 2008 and its report will be considered at the UN First Committee of the General Assembly in October.

Amnesty International and its partners are now calling for states during their discussions at General Assembly to agree in December to start a negotiating process during 2009 so that the international community can benefit from a legally-binding and universal Arms Trade Treaty by the end of 2010.

“Discussions on an Arms Trade Treaty have reached a crossroads,” says Helen Hughes, one of the researchers on the report. “Governments can either carry on ignoring the horrific consequences of irresponsible international arms transfers or they can meet their obligations in an Arms Trade Treaty with a ‘Golden Rule’ on human rights that will actually help save people’s lives and protect their livelihoods.”

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