Posts Tagged ‘torture of prisoners’

Secret Iraqi government prison was ‘worse than Abu Ghraib’

April 29, 2010

Inmates at covert jail suffered routine electric shocks and sexual abuse

By Kim Sengupta, Diplomatic Correspondent, The Independent/UK, April 29, 2010

The torture of prisoners in Iraq jails was widespread under Saddam  Hussein's regime. Now human rights  activists claim that similar abuses  are taking place on government orders
The torture of prisoners in Iraq jails was widespread under Saddam Hussein’s regime. Now human rights activists claim that similar abuses are taking place on government orders

A secret Iraqi government prison, where detainees were subjected to horrific abuse and at least one died from his injuries, was described yesterday as being “worse than Abu Ghraib”.

Its prisoners, who were mainly Sunni Arabs, included a wheelchair-bound British national. Freed captives told the New York-based organisation Human Rights Watch that they were raped, tortured with electric shocks and suffocated.

All had been taken to the covert jail, at Muthanna airfield west of Baghdad, after being arrested by security forces and accused of involvement in the long-running insurgency. Following American pressure, the prison was hurriedly closed last week and its 431 inmates were transferred to the Iraqi capital as reports of torture emerged.

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Investigate Top Officials, not Just CIA Interrogators

August 31, 2009

Doug Bandow, The Huffington Post, Aug 24, 2009

Buzz up!

Attorney General Eric Holder is appointing a special prosecutor to review CIA interrogations of terrorist suspects. However, the investigation shouldn’t stop at the agency. No one should be above the law, especially top policymakers.

Investigating Bush administration policies and officials is bound to be controversial. President George W. Bush and his aides undoubtedly did what they thought was right. However, much of it was wrong. The Iraq war was foolish and unnecessary.

And there was no need to sacrifice the Constitution and civil liberties to protect the American people from terrorism. As Barack Obama observed in his inaugural address: “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

Those ideals require an impartial investigation of any Bush administration officials who may have violated the law.

At issue are not policy disagreements, no matter how great. Liberal democracy requires that political conflict remain bounded. Arrest and prison are appropriate only when those in authority break the basic rules of the game.

Already under investigation as possible obstruction of justice is the destruction of the CIA interrogation session tapes. To this Holder has added the torture of prisoners.

The arguments against torture are obvious. First, many, if not most, interrogators believe other techniques are more effective and doubt torture yields accurate information. FBI Director Robert Mueller said that he didn’t “believe it to be the case” that any terrorist attacks had been thwarted by the Bush administration’s use of torture.

Torture has stained America’s reputation, undercutting Washington’s moral claims and discouraging cooperation by allied governments. Perhaps most important, torture undermines what it is to be America. Argued Charles Fried of Harvard Law School, President Ronald Reagan’s Solicitor General: “we cannot authorize indecency without jeopardizing our survival as a decent society.”

The Bush administration claimed that it did not torture, but the evidence is otherwise. Retired Lt. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba and Reagan White House attorney Robert Turner both spoke of “war crimes.” Susan Crawford, a retired (Republican) judge sent to Guantanamo Bay by the Defense Department, concluded that torture had occurred. As head of President Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel Jack Goldsmith revoked two legal opinions which had authorized torture.

Policymakers bear the principal responsibility. The issue was debated at the upper reaches of the White House. The Senate Armed Services Committee concluded that “senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”

An investigation also is needed into Bush administration violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The administration made a number of extravagant claims to justify ignoring FISA. First, the president had quasi-monarchical powers, at least in war-time. Second, the Authorization for Use of Military Force repealed every law thought by the president to impede his war powers. Third, as military commander-in-chief the president has authority to ignore an express congressional enactment.

Being commander-in-chief naturally gives the president extensive discretion when it comes to operational issues. However, the Constitution tasks Congress to create the broad legal and administrative frameworks within which military and intelligence operations occur.

Indeed, the Constitution gives Congress almost all war powers other than operational command. The legislature raises the military, declares war, and is to “To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations,” “make rules concerning captures on land and water,” “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces,” and “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.”

In the war-related surveillance area, constitutional authority appears to be concurrent. If Congress does not legislate, the president may act. However, if Congress chooses to require warrants before the executive is allowed to spy on Americans, the president has responsibility to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

If President Bush and those around him thought the Congressionally-prescribed procedures to be inadequate, they should have requested additional legal authority from Congress. The legislature consistently gave the president whatever he wanted when it came to fighting terrorism; even the Democratic Congress elected in 2006 acquiesced to administration pressure in amending FISA.

The Obama administration has been nervous about prosecuting Bush officials, lest it be accused of conducting a partisan witch hunt. But President Obama has a legal obligation to uphold the law, and that includes holding accountable government officials who broke the law.

At the very least executive law-breaking requires investigation. The people should know what was done in their name. Moreover, policies and procedures should be adopted to make it harder for future officials to follow suit. It is hard to develop safeguards that will work in the presence of a determined executive and pusillanimous legislature, but the effort must be made.

Finally, prosecution must be considered. If high government officials can violate the law simply by claiming to believe that their actions are legal, then the law is meaningless. The U.S. government has prosecuted foreign officials and soldiers for war crimes, including torture. It must hold its own citizens to the same standard. To survive a democratic republic requires public accountability.

In his opening address at Nuremberg Robert Jackson said that the law must “not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power.” So, too, must it do so in America today.

Call From Gaza

April 14, 2009

Hiyam Noir |, April 13, 2009


Please forward widely….

Dear Everyone:

Please take a few minutes to read the call-out below from a broad Gaza-based prisoner solidarity campaign made up of a coalition of prisoner rights groups, local and international activists, prisoner families and Ministry of Detainees representatives in Gaza.

Friday April 17th is the international day of solidarity with Palestinian prisoners. Just over 11,000 are behind bars in occupation prisons inside the apartheid lines and outside the ghetto walls of the West Bank and Gaza.

Prisoners are a community under siege which represents every faction in Palestine. Solidarity between prisoners inside Israeli jails crosses all political borders. They have sacrificed their individual freedom for collective freedom.

From taking direct action to symbolic gestures (in the case if prisoner campaigns, simple visual solidarity gestures drawing public attention to the struggle of prisoners is always effective in keeping memories, spirit and solidarity alive). Please take action this week! And email us about it…
April 17th is the international day of solidarity with Palestinian prisoners. These over 11,000 men, women and children are ghost prisoners, forgotten by the international community and media which has focused on the systematic and physical psychological torture of prisoners in high profile camps such as Guantanamo Bay but has largely ignored the network of Israel’s ‘Guantanamos’ inside ‘Israel’.

This call comes from Gaza – recognized as a large open air prison and place of punishment and exile for Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank.

Maximum security facilities such as Nufha, Haderim, Jalamy, and Ashkalon , and so-called ‘black sites’ which the Israeli government refuses to acknowledge, hold thousands of Palestinian prisoners. These prisoners are regularly and systematically tortured, denied access to legal representation, family visits, education, shelter, light, essential medical care and medicines.

The ‘Israeli state’ has a policy of administrative detention which means any man, woman or child can be arrested at any time and in any place and incarcerated without trial or access to any alleged evidence held by the intelligence services, for an undetermined and extendable length of time.

The majority of Palestinian men has been and will be arrested and incarcerated at some point in their lives by Israeli occupation forces. Under the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which Israel is a signatory to, Palestinian prisoners should be treated by the occupying forces under the rules applicable to the treatment of civilians in time of war.

Almost all the Palestinian detainees are held in jails away from the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip, in violation of international humanitarian law, which bars the removal of detainees to the territory of the occupying power. The ‘Israeli’ military and security forces regularly violate international law and conventions relating to prisoners.

Imprisonment and torture is an intergenerational experience for Palestinians living in Gaza, 1948 Palestine (‘Israel’) and the West Bank.

Imprisonment is a core element of the Israeli occupation’s strategy of collective containment and punishment of the Palestinian population – both of those jailed, and their families who suffer their absence and wait for their release. Military resistance fighters, as well as non-militarily active political activists, community organizers, paramedics, doctors, journalists, teachers, and students are regularly jailed under an Israeli legal framework which criminalizes any form of resistance to occupation

The inhumane prison conditions that Palestinian prisoners endure are steadily deteriorating. Following the Gaza massacres, the collective punishment of prisoners from Gaza has accelerated, with prisoners being denied the right to newspapers, radios, phone calls and visits from legal representatives. Gazan prisoners are now being confined to their cells for up to 23 hours a day and are being classified as “enemy combatants” further stripping away any rights to legal defense.

Palestinian prisoners are a forgotten community behind bars, often locally referred to as ‘living martyrs’. The prisoner issue is a core part of the Palestinian struggle, whose liberation is as integral to the struggle for justice and peace as the return of refugees, Jerusalem and stolen land.

In Gaza we will be holding a week of activities in solidarity including a marathon through the streets of Gaza in solidarity with our jailed loved ones, a conference of all prisoner advocacy organizations and prisoners’ families, a mass demonstration and a celebration of Palestinian resilience, sacrifice and patience.

In the light of ‘Israel’s’ further shift to the far right, unchallenged impunity, and the intensified humiliation of Palestinian prisoners, we call on the international community to take a stand.

We call for an end to double standards and for international pressure to force ‘Israel’ to adhere to international law.

We call on national representatives, parliamentarians, human rights organizations, trade unions, activists and people of conscience throughout the world to recognize, remember, speak out and protest the treatment of Palestinian prisoners this week.

We hope this week will be the catalyst that sparks long-term campaigns and commitments towards solidarity with Palestinian prisoners.

Ahmed A. Alnajjar

Director of International Relations Office

Ministry of Education & Higher Education- Gaza

April 12 2009

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