Posts Tagged ‘torture’

Human Rights Day & U.S. Hypocrisy

December 14, 2010

Defensive America’s Contempt for Full Court, Press

by Nima Shirazi, Foreign Policy Journal, December 14, 2010

“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.” – André Gide

“WikiLeaks has shown there is an America in civics textbooks and an America that functions differently in the real world.” – James Moore

Sixty-two years ago, on December 10, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration, to which the United States is undoubtedly beholden, affirms:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Well, except for WikiLeaks, of course.

Internet giant Amazon.com, which hosted the whistle-blowing website, dropped WikiLeaks last week, “only 24 hours after being contacted by the staff of Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate’s committee on homeland security.” Lieberman’s call for censorship was also heeded by the Seattle-based software company, Tableau, which was hosting some informational, interactive charts linked to by WikiLeaks. These graphics contained absolutely no confidential material whatsoever and merely provided data regarding where the leaked cables originated and in what years they had been written. Nevertheless, for fear of government retribution, Tableau removed the charts, explaining,

Our decision to remove the data from our servers came in response to a public request by Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, when he called for organizations hosting WikiLeaks to terminate their relationship with the website.

Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal have all since followed suit.

Continues >>

Paul C. Roberts: The Stench of American Hypocrisy, Part 2

November 27, 2010

By Paul Craig Roberts, Foreign Policy Journal, Nov 23, 2010

In a recent column, “The Stench of American Hypocrisy,” I noted that US public officials and media are on their high horse about the rule of law in Burma while the rule of law collapses unremarked in the US. Americans enjoy beating up other peoples for American sins. Indeed, hypocrisy has become the defining characteristic of the United States.

Hypocrisy in America is now so commonplace it is no longer noticed. Consider the pro-football star Michael Vick. In a recent game Vick scored 6 touchdowns, totally dominating the playing field. His performance brought new heights of adulation, causing National Public Radio to wonder if the sports public shouldn’t retain a tougher attitude toward a dog torturer who spent 1.5 years in prison for holding dog fights.

I certainly do not approve of mistreating animals. But where is the outrage over the US government’s torture of people? How can the government put a person in jail for torturing dogs but turn a blind eye to members of the government who tortured people?

Under both US and international law, torture of humans is a crime, but the federal judiciary turns a blind eye and even allows false confessions extracted by torture to be used in courts or military tribunals to send tortured people to more years in prison based on nothing but their coerced self-incrimination.

Continues >>

P.C. Roberts: The Stench of American Hypocrisy

November 19, 2010

By Paul Criag Roberts, Foreign Policy Journal, Nov 18, 2010

Ten years of rule by the Bush and Obama regimes have seen the collapse of the rule of law in the United States. Is the American media covering this ominous and extraordinary story?  No, the American media is preoccupied with the rule of law in Burma (Myanmar).

The military regime that rules Burma just released from house arrest the pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The American media used the occasion of her release to get on Burma’s case for the absence of the rule of law. I’m all for the brave lady, but if truth be known, “freedom and democracy” America needs her far worse than does Burma.

I’m not an expert on Burma, but the way I see it, the objection to a military government is that the government is not accountable to law.  Instead, such a regime behaves as it sees fit and issues edicts that advance its agenda.  Burma’s government can be criticized for not having a rule of law, but it cannot be criticized for ignoring its own laws. We might not like what the Burmese government does, but, precisely speaking, it is not behaving illegally.

In contrast, the United States government claims to be a government of laws, not of men, but when the executive branch violates the laws that constrain it, those responsible are not held accountable for their criminal actions.  As accountability is the essence of the rule of law, the absence of accountability means the absence of the rule of law.

Continues >>

FIVE POLITICAL PRISONERS WERE EXECUTED IN TEHRAN TODAY

May 11, 2010

Iran Human Rights, May 9, 2010

9farzad-ali-shirin-final.jpg

Iran Human Rights, May 9: According to the reports from Iran five political prisoners were executed in Tehran’s Evin prison early this morning.

According to the official Iranian news agency IRNA, four men and one women, all convicted of Moharebeh (at war against the God), were hanged at the Evin prison today.

Four of those executed were the kurdish political prisoners Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili and Shirin Alamhooli, all convicted of membership in PJAK (the Iranian branch of PKK), while the fifth person was Mehdi Eslamian convicted of involvement in a bomb explosion in 2008 in Shiraz.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights condemned today’s executions and said: “None of the five executed today had fair trials and they had been subjected to torture while in the prison”. He continued: “We ask the UN, EU and the international community to condemn these execution”. He added: “Several other political prisoners are at imminent danger of execution and the world community should let that happen.”

Former Argentine president gets 25 years for crimes against humanity

April 22, 2010

Amnesty International, April 21, 2010

Reynaldo Bignone served as de facto president of Argentina in 1982  and 1983

Reynaldo Bignone served as de facto president of Argentina in 1982 and 1983

© AP GraphicsBank

Amnesty International has welcomed the prison sentence handed to a former Argentine president responsible for crimes against humanity in the 1970s.

Reynaldo Bignone, a former military general, was found guilty of torture, murder and several kidnappings that occurred while he was commander of the notorious Campo de Mayo detention centre between 1976 and 1978.

Continues >>

Secret prison revealed in Baghdad

April 20, 2010

Forces under the office of Prime Minister Maliki held hundreds of Sunni men at the facility. The U.S. fears that the news will stoke instability.

Iraqi  leader

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said he had been unaware of abuses at the secret prison at Old Muthanna airport run by troops under his office’s direct command. He vowed to shut down the prison. (Hadi Mizban / Associated Press / March 26, 2010)

By Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2010

Reporting from Baghdad

Hundreds of Sunni men disappeared for months into a secret Baghdad prison under the jurisdiction of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s military office, where many were routinely tortured until the country’s Human Rights Ministry gained access to the facility, Iraqi officials say.

The men were detained by the Iraqi army in October in sweeps targeting Sunni groups in Nineveh province, a stronghold of the group Al Qaeda in Iraq and other militants in the north. The provincial governor alleged at the time that ordinary citizens had been detained as well, often without a warrant.

Worried that courts would order the detainees’ release, security forces obtained a court order and transferred them to Baghdad, where they were held in isolation. Human rights officials learned of the facility in March from family members searching for missing relatives.

Revelation of the secret prison could worsen tensions at a highly sensitive moment in Iraq. As U.S. troops are withdrawing, Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, and other political officials are negotiating the formation of a new government. Including minority Sunni Arabs is considered by many to be key to preventing a return of widespread sectarian violence. Already there has been an increase in attacks by Al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni extremist group.

The alleged brutal treatment of prisoners at the facility raised concerns that the country could drift back to its authoritarian past.

Commanders initially resisted efforts to inspect the prison but relented and allowed visits by two teams of inspectors, including Human Rights Minister Wijdan Salim. Inspectors said they found that the 431 prisoners had been subjected to appalling conditions and quoted prisoners as saying that one of them, a former colonel in President Saddam Hussein’s army, had died in January as a result of torture.

“More than 100 were tortured. There were a lot of marks on their bodies,” said an Iraqi official familiar with the inspections. “They beat people, they used electricity. They suffocated them with plastic bags, and different methods.”

An internal U.S. Embassy report quotes Salim as saying that prisoners had told her they were handcuffed for three to four hours at a time in stress positions or sodomized.

“One prisoner told her that he had been raped on a daily basis, another showed her his undergarments, which were entirely bloodstained,” the memo reads.

Some described guards extorting as much as $1,000 from prisoners who wanted to phone their families, the memo said.

Maliki vowed to shut down the prison and ordered the arrest of the officers working there after Salim presented him with a report this month. Since then, 75 detainees have been freed and an additional 275 transferred to regular jails, Iraqi officials said. Maliki said in an interview that he had been unaware of the abuses. He said the prisoners had been sent to Baghdad because of concerns about corruption in Mosul.

“The prime minister cannot be responsible for all the behavior of his soldiers and staff,” said Salim, praising Maliki’s willingness to root out abuses. Salim, a Chaldean Christian, ran for parliament in last month’s elections on Maliki’s Shiite-dominated list.

Maliki defended his use of special prisons and an elite military force that answers only to him; his supporters say he has had no choice because of Iraq’s precarious security situation. Maliki told The Times that he was committed to stamping out torture — which he blamed on his enemies.

“Our reforms continue, and we have the Human Rights Ministry to monitor this,” he said. “We will hold accountable anybody who was proven involved in such acts.”

But Maliki’s critics say the network of special military units with their own investigative judges and interrogators are a threat to Iraq’s fragile democracy. They question how Maliki could not have known what was going on at the facility, and say that regardless, he is responsible for what happened there.

“The prison is Maliki’s becauseit’s not under the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Justice or Ministry of Interior officially,” said one Iraqi security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

The revelations echoed those at the beginning of Iraq’s sectarian war. In late 2005, the U.S. military found a secret prison in an Interior Ministry bunker where Sunnis rounded up in police sweeps were held.

The latest episode, the U.S. Embassy report warns, could exacerbate tensions between Iraq’s Shiite majority and Sunnis even with the facility closed.

U.S. troops already have pulled out of Iraq’s cities, and Iraqi officials say U.S. influence is diminishing as the Americans focus on ending their military presence. The number of U.S. troops in Iraq is scheduled to drop by about half, to 50,000, by the end of August.

The embassy report cautions that “disclosure of a secret prison in which Sunni Arabs were systematically tortured would not only become an international embarrassment, but would also likely compromise the prime minister’s ability to put together a viable government coalition with him at the helm.”

Maliki’s main political rival, Iyad Allawi, narrowly defeated him in parliamentary elections last month. Allawi, a secular Shiite, drew on dissatisfaction in Sunni regions around central Iraq. In the interview, Maliki invited Allawi to join him in forming a new government. But news of a secret prison that falls under the jurisdiction of the prime minister’s military office could make it difficult for him to gain any Sunni partners.

The controversy over the secret prison, located at the Old Muthanna airport in west Baghdad, has also pushed Maliki to begin relinquishing control of two other detention facilities at Camp Honor, a base in Baghdad’s Green Zone. The base belongs to the Baghdad Brigade and the Counter-Terrorism Force, elite units that report to the prime minister and are responsible for holding high-level suspects.

Families and lawyers say they find it nearly impossible to visit the Camp Honor facilities. The Justice Ministry is now assuming supervision of the Green Zone jails, although Maliki’s offices will continue to command directly the military units.

The 431 detainees brought down from Nineveh were initially held at Camp Honor. Interrogations began after they were transferred to the prison at the Old Muthanna airport.

According to the U.S. Embassy report and interviews with Iraqi officials, two separate investigative committees questioned the detainees and abused them. During the day, there were interrogators from the Iraqi judiciary. In the late afternoon they came from the Baghdad Brigade.

The embassy report says that at least four of the investigators from the Baghdad Brigade are believed to have been indicted for torture in 2006. The charges against them at the time included selling Sunni Arab detainees held at a national police facility to Shiite militias to be killed.

In December, the Human Rights Ministry asked the judiciary to investigate Baghdad Brigade interrogators over allegations of torture at Camp Honor, but hasn’t received an answer, Iraqi officials said.

With the secret facility at the old airport being shut down, and both Maliki and Salim, the human rights minister, hailing what they regard as progress, some Iraqis with knowledge of the security apparatus say they are worried that nothing will really change.

One former lawmaker with great knowledge of the prime minister’s security offices called for radical change in the next government. “This is the beginning. We have to hold people accountable,” the former lawmaker said. “It’s a coverup of torture.”

Revealed: Ashcroft, Tenet, Rumsfeld warned 9/11 Commission about ‘line’ it ’should not cross’

March 18, 2010

Sahil Kapur, Raw Story, March 17, 2010

Senior Bush administration officials sternly cautioned the 9/11 Commission against probing too deeply into the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, according to a document recently obtained by the ACLU.

The notification came in a letter dated January 6, 2004, addressed by Attorney General John Ashcroft, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and CIA Director George J. Tenet. The ACLU described it as a fax sent by David Addington, then-counsel to former vice president Dick Cheney.

In the message, the officials denied the bipartisan commission’s request to question terrorist detainees, informing its two senior-most members that doing so would “cross” a “line” and obstruct the administration’s ability to protect the nation.

Continues >>

U.S. report offers damning picture of human rights abuses in Afghanistan

March 14, 2010

Conditions are horrific, torture is common and police frequently rape female detainees, the U.S. State Department finds

Paul Koring, The Globe and Mail, arch 12, 2010

Afghan prison conditions are horrific, torture is common and police frequently rape female detainees, the U.S. State Department finds in its annual survey of human rights.

The damning report paints a grim picture of scant respect for human rights by the embattled regime headed by President Hamid Karzai. While Taliban treatment of civilians is even worse, the report’s assessment of vile prison conditions and routine abuse and torture by Afghan police and security raises new questions about whether Canada and other nations are still transferring prisoners to known torturers. Doing so is a war crime under international law.

“Torture was commonplace among the majority of law enforcement institutions, especially the police,” the U.S. report found, citing the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the group used by Ottawa to help monitor whether detainees transferred by Canadian troops are abused or tortured.

Canadian diplomats compile a similar annual report on selected countries – including Afghanistan – but it isn’t made public. Government censors blacked out all references to torture, abuse and extrajudicial killings by Afghan police and prison guards in the last available report obtained under Access to Information.

Yesterday’s U.S. report makes no similar attempt to shield allies from human rights scrutiny, even in places where U.S. troops are deployed.

Michael Posner, the U.S. undersecretary of state for human rights and democracy whose group prepared the mammoth report – generally considered the most authoritative annual assessment of conditions in more than 190 countries – said the issue of foreign troops being ordered by their governments to hand detainees to Afghan security forces was vexed.

“How can United States and NATO countries ensure or guarantee safe treatment or fair process when those transfers occur. … Those are issues very much on our minds,” Mr. Posner said.

The U.S. runs a prison facility at Bagram where more than 600 battlefield detainees are held. Some of them have been there for six years. But Canada, Britain, the Netherlands and other NATO countries with troops fighting in southern Afghanistan turn prisoners over to Afghan police and the Afghan internal security service (National Directorate of Security), usually within 96 hours. For years, no follow-up inspections were made to ensure transferred prisoners weren’t tortured or killed, but after publication of harrowing accounts of abuse, Ottawa added sporadic inspections.

Most Canadian detainees are turned over to the feared NDS. The U.S. report said it was impossible to determine how many prisons the NDS operates, or how many prisoners they contain. The report, which covers 2009, also noted that the Afghan government was making efforts to improve conditions in prisons.

Other countries where human rights abuses are identified include Iran and China.

Canada generally got good marks but the Harper government’s long-running effort to keep a Canadian citizen from returning home was cited. “In July the government complied with an order of the Federal Court of Canada and facilitated the return to Canada of Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian-Sudanese dual national, after the Court determined that Canadian officials had been complicit in his detention in Sudan in 2003,” the report said.

******

TORTURE, RAPE, CHILD ABUSE COMMON

Excerpts from the Afghanistan sections of the U.S. government’s latest human rights report:

  • Afghan police and security “tortured and abused detainees. Torture and abuse methods included, but were not limited to, beating by stick, scorching bar, or iron bar; flogging by cable; battering by rod; electric shock; deprivation of sleep, water, and food; abusive language; sexual humiliation; and rape.”
  • Afghan “police frequently raped female detainees and prisoners.”
  • “Harems of young boys were cloistered for ‘bacha baazi’ (boy-play) for sexual and social entertainment …”
  • “Child abuse was endemic throughout the country, based on cultural beliefs about child-rearing, and included general neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, and confined forced labor to pay off family debts.”
  • “Human rights problems included extrajudicial killings, torture, poor prison conditions, official impunity, prolonged pretrial detention, restrictions on freedom of the press, restrictions on freedom of religion, violence and societal discrimination against women, restrictions on religious conversions, abuses against minorities, sexual abuse of children, trafficking in persons, abuse of worker rights, the use of child soldiers in armed conflict, and child labor.”

Bush/Cheney Pulled Torture Strings

March 6, 2010

By Robert Parry, Consortiumnews.com, March 4, 2010

George W. Bush’s White House stage-managed the Justice Department’s approval of torture techniques by putting pliable lawyers in key jobs, guiding their opinions and punishing officials who wouldn’t go along, according to details contained in an internal report that recommended disciplinary action against two lawyers.

Though the recently released report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility concentrated on whether lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee deserved punishment for drafting and signing 2002 memos that permitted brutal interrogations of suspected terrorists, the report also revealed how the White House pulled the strings of Yoo, Bybee and others.

Continues >>

Winter in America: Democracy Gone Rogue

March 5, 2010

Thursday 04 March 2010

by: Henry A. Giroux, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

The absolute … spells doom to everyone when it is introduced into the political realm.

– Hannah Arendt [1]

Democracy in the United States is experiencing both a crisis of meaning and a legitimation crisis. As the promise of an aspiring democracy is sacrificed more and more to corporate and military interests, democratic spheres have largely been commercialized and democratic practices have been reduced to market relations, stripped of their worth and subject to the narrow logics of commodification and profit making. Empowerment has little to do with providing people with the knowledge, skills, and power to shape the forces and institutions that bear down on their lives and is now largely defined as under the rubric of being a savvy consumer. When not equated with the free market capitalism, democracy is reduced to the empty rituals of elections largely shaped by corporate money and indifferent to relations of power that make a mockery out of equality, democratic participation and collective deliberation.

Continues >>


%d bloggers like this: