Posts Tagged ‘torture’

Reprieve: Tell us the truth about torture

February 24, 2010

Morning Star Online, February 23, 2010

by Paddy McGuffin
The legal charity will launch a court  bid to uncover interrogation guidance

The legal charity will launch a court bid to uncover interrogation guidance

Human rights group Reprieve has launched a legal challenge aimed at forcing the government to publish its guidance to MI5 and MI6 agents on interrogation practices.

Reprieve and Leigh Day & Co solicitors announced they are seeking a judicial review of the code of practice used by British intelligence services at a press conference in London.

The application states that there is “compelling evidence” demonstrating that, since at least 2002, “UK intelligence personnel have been engaged in activities amounting to complicity in torture” and that “the inevitable inference is that such activities have been in conformity with unlawful promulgated policies and guidance.”

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Cheney Exposes Torture Conspiracy

February 18, 2010

By Robert Parry, Consortiumnews.com, February 14, 2010

If the United States had a functioning criminal justice system for the powerful – not just for run-of-the-mill offenders – former Vice President Dick Cheney would have convicted himself and some of his Bush administration colleagues with his comments on ABC’s “This Week.”

On Sunday, Cheney pronounced himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” a near-drowning technique that has been regarded as torture back to the Spanish Inquisition and that has long been treated by U.S. authorities as a serious war crime, such as when Japanese commanders were prosecuted for using it on American prisoners during World War II.

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Torture is a crime, not a state secret

February 14, 2010

It’s a convenient argument for both governments, but the Binyam Mohamed ruling will not harm UK-US intelligence co-operation

The UK court ruling in the case of Binyam Mohamed demonstrates once more that judges on both sides of the Atlantic have had enough of governments hiding behind national security “secrets” to shield themselves from their many trespasses in the “war on terror”.

The court’s decision to publish a seven-paragraph summary of intelligence given to MI5 by the CIA has been met by the convenient, and wholly unbelievable, argument from British and American officials that the release could damage intelligence co-operation and sharing between the two allies.

The British foreign secretary, David Miliband, has argued that keeping the summary secret was vital to ensuring that the US continues to share vital intelligence with the British security services. The White House only played up this threat after the decision was handed down.

“We’re deeply disappointed with the court’s judgment because we shared this information in confidence and with certain expectations,” White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said. “As we warned, the court’s judgment will complicate the confidentiality of our intelligence-sharing relationship with the UK, and it will have to factor into our decision-making going forward.”

There are two important things to remember when analysing Miliband and the White House’s arguments concerning the “intelligence” released on the treatment of Ethiopian-born British resident Binyam Mohamed while he was in US custody.

First, the seven-paragraph summary details that the interrogation practices endured by Mohamed while in American custody during 2002 constituted “at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”. It reveals nothing besides the fact the US and its proxies resorted to barbarous methods to extract information from captives they believed were al-Qaida terrorists.

Second, far more damning information on Mohamed’s torture was published last year by a US court. In November 2009, US District Judge Gladys Kessler granted the habeus corpus petition of Gitmo detainee Farhi Saeed Bin Mohammed – another indicator of the cross-Atlantic return of the rule of law. The prisoner had been held indefinitely without charge at Guantánamo Bay since 2002, based partly on Mohamed’s confessions to US interrogators. There was one problem, however: US interrogators coerced Mohamed’s allegations against Mohammed through torture. “The government does not challenge Petitioner’s evidence of Binyam Mohamed’s abuse,” Kessler wrote in her decision. It’s important to note that the “abuse” Mohamed says he endured during his detention included having his genitals slashed by a razor.

In short order, the information the British court ordered released yesterday was neither intelligence nor secret. What it did show, however, was what we already knew. The US had systematically tortured detainees it deemed terrorists without due process, and British intelligence was complicit.

Therefore the probability the United States would jeopardise its intelligence-sharing relationship with the United Kingdom over the Mohamed release is remote. It would demonstrate that the United States values protecting its lawless practices overseas more than the national security of its greatest ally. Imagine the public relations disaster if the British public learned the United States did not share intelligence of an imminent terrorist attack because of this judicial decision. Fortunately, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the head of the US intelligence community, has already played down any break in the cross-Atlantic alliance. “This court decision creates additional challenges, but our two countries will remain united in our efforts to fight against violent extremist groups,” yesterday’s statement read.

So when the Milibands and White House apparatchiks of this world claim that exposing state crimes jeopardises the government’s ability to protect its citizens from terrorist atrocities, it’s important to remember the words of the radical political philosopher Michael Bakunin:

“There is no horror, no cruelty, sacrilege, or perjury, no imposture, no infamous transaction, no cynical robbery, no bold plunder or shabby betrayal that has not been or is not daily being perpetrated by the representatives of the states, under no other pretext than those elastic words, so convenient and yet so terrible: ‘for reasons of state’.”

Torture is a crime; it is not a state secret.

That Which Cannot Be Spoken

February 13, 2010

Willian Blum, Foreign Policy Journal, Feb 7, 2010

“The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction,” writes Fareed Zakaria, a leading American foreign-policy pundit, editor of Newsweek magazine’s international edition, and Washington Post columnist, referring to the “underwear bomber”, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and his failed attempt to blow up a US airliner on Christmas day. “Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn’t work. Alas, this one worked very well.”[1]

Is that not odd? That an individual would try to take the lives of hundreds of people, including his own, primarily to “provoke an overreaction”, or to “sow fear”? Was there not any kind of deep-seated grievance or resentment with anything or anyone American being expressed? No perceived wrong he wished to make right? Nothing he sought to obtain revenge for? Why is the United States the most common target of terrorists? Such questions were not even hinted at in Zakaria’s article.

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“When the ‘War on Terror’ Becomes Genocide”

February 10, 2010

by J.B.Gerald, nightslantern.ca, Feb 10, 2010

The “Convention for the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide” stresses the prevention of genocide more than prescribing its exact manner of punishment. Genocide does not have to be committed for the Convention to have effect. By defining “genocide” it seeks to avert agendas which will confirm the crime. Physical manifestations of genocide are preceded by psychological preparation and the resulting psychological damage to entire victim groups. There is no way not to apply this awareness to current pressures on Islamic communities in North America, so this is an obvious and rather late notation of a genocide warning for Islamic peoples in the U.S. (see also Canada), late, in that one could sense the program over twenty years ago without knowing the scope of its intentions. The threat of whole or partial destruction of this religious group is exacerbated by Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people, bombing of civilian Lebanon, invasion of Gaza, which placed essentially Islamic civilian populations without human value, in a manner politically acceptable to U.S. and Canadian governments.

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The Terror-Industrial Complex and Aafia Siddiqui

February 9, 2010

By Chris Hedges, TruthDig.com, Feb 8, 2010

AP / Fareed Khan
Mohammad Ahmed, son of Aafia Siddiqui, takes part in a demonstration arranged by Human Rights Network.

The conviction of the Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui in New York last week of trying to kill American military officers and FBI agents illustrates that the greatest danger to our security comes not from al-Qaida but the thousands of shadowy mercenaries, kidnappers, killers and torturers our government employs around the globe.

The bizarre story surrounding Siddiqui, 37, who received an undergraduate degree from MIT and a doctorate in neuroscience from Brandeis University, often defies belief. Siddiqui, who could spend 50 years in prison on seven charges when she is sentenced in May, was by her own account abducted in 2003 from her hometown of Karachi, Pakistan, with her three children—two of whom remain missing—and spirited to a secret U.S. prison where she was allegedly tortured and mistreated for five years. The American government has no comment, either about the alleged clandestine detention or the missing children.

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Torture Never Stopped Under Obama

January 28, 2010

By Shamus Cooke, ZNet, Jan 27, 2010

Shamus Cooke’s ZSpace Page

“A year on, the [Obama] administration continues to look the other way when it comes to full disclosure of and remedy for human rights violations perpetrated by the U.S.A. in the name of countering terrorism.”

– Amnesty International

What is Torture?  It can be physical or psychological, quick or unhurried.  It implies lasting trauma unbefitting a human.  The U.N. defines torture as:

” …any act by which severe pain or suffering, physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession…” (U.N. Convention Against Torture).

By this definition the U.S. continues to practice torture. Yes, Obama outlawed some especially shocking forms of torture — water boarding, for example — but other types of torture were not labelled “torture” and thus continue.

Surprisingly, this fact was recently discussed at length in The New York Times, under an Op-Ed piece appropriately entitled Torture’s Loopholes.  In it, an ex-interrogator explains some of the more glaring examples of how the U.S. currently tortures and argues for the practices to end.  In reference to Obama’s vow to end the systematic, obscene torture under Bush, the article states:

“…the changes were not as drastic as most Americans think, and elements of our interrogation policy continue to be both inhumane and counterproductive.”

The author says bluntly, “If I were to return to one of the war zones today… I would still be allowed to abuse [torture] prisoners.”

The article also explains how the U.S. “legally” continues a practice that thousands of people in the U.S. prison system already know to be psychological torture:

“…extended solitary confinement is torture, as confirmed by many scientific studies. Even the initial 30 days of isolation could be considered abuse [torture].”

Other forms of torture commonly practiced — since they are part of the Military’s updated Field Manual — are “…stress positions [shackling prisoners in painful positions for extended periods of time], putting detainees into close confinement or environmental manipulation [hot or frigid rooms]…”

Also mentioned as torture is sleep deprivation, a tactic used in combination with 20-hour interrogation sessions. The author concludes that these practices do “not meet the minimum standard of humane treatment, either in terms of American law or simple human decency.”  (January 20, 2010).

Unmentioned by the article are other forms of torture institutionalized under the Obama administration.  One is “sensory deprivation,” a deeply traumatizing psychological torture described in detail in Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine. The new Army Field Manual says that the tactic — though not called “sensory deprivation” — should be used to “prolong the shock of capture,” and should include “goggles or blindfolds and earmuffs” that completely disconnects the senses from the outside world, where the captive is able to experience only the thoughts in their head.

Yet another blatant form of torture that Obama refused to stop practicing is “extraordinary rendition,” or what critics call “outsourcing torture.”  This is the practice of flying a prisoner to a country where torture is routinely practiced, so that the prisoner can be interrogated.  As reported by The New York Times:

“The Obama administration will continue the Bush administration’s practice of sending terrorism suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but pledges to closely monitor their treatment to ensure that they are not tortured, administration officials said Monday.” (August 24, 2009).

Human rights groups instantly called Obama’s bluff:  why transport terrorism suspects to other countries at all? If not for the fact that torture and other “harsh interrogation methods” are routinely practiced there? No justifiable answer has been given to these questions.

Another common way the U.S. continues to outsource torture is performed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.  There, the U.S. military often arrests suspects and hands over the interrogation duties to Iraqi or Afghan security forces, knowing full well that they regularly torture (this was also the strategy in the Vietnam war).  Unfortunately, handing over someone to be tortured means you are also guilty of the crime.

A less obvious form of torture is the concept of “indefinite detention” — holding someone in prison indefinitely without a trial.  The terrible experience of hopelessness that a victim of this crime experiences, over years, is a profound form of psychological torture.  This is one of the reasons why the American Constitution guarantees due process, a legal detail that the Obama administration continues to ignore.

In connection, The Washington Post recently announced that the Obama administration will detain 50 Guantanamo inmates “indefinitely,” without any legal charges or chance of a trial.  This act is consistent with earlier statements made by Obama, when he stated that “some detainees are too dangerous, to be released.”  Of course, there does not exist any evidence to prove that these detainees are dangerous, otherwise they would be prosecuted in a legal court.  The article reports that these detainees are “un-prosecutable because officials fear trials…could challenge evidence obtained through coercion [torture].” (January 22, 2010).

The Washington Post article also reports that 35 additional Guantanamo inmates will be tried in Federal or Military courts.  In the latter court, far less evidence — if any — is needed, and the military jury can be handpicked to deliver the preferred outcome.

Obama, like Bush, has sought to undermine the legal rights of those detained and the victims of torture who seek accountability.  Obama continues to refuse to release pictures (evidence) of detainee abuse, preventing Americans from really understanding what their government is guilty of.  Obama has also refused detainees in so-called “black sites” (U.S. Bagram Air Base, for example) access to attorneys or courts. Finally, by not prosecuting anyone for torture crimes in the Bush administration, Obama is guaranteeing that the worst forms of torture will continue, since institutionalized behavior rarely stops unless rewards or punishments are implemented.

In the end, the act of torture is impossible to separate from war in general.  The “rules of war” are always ignored by both sides, who implement the most barbaric acts to terrorize their opponents into submission.

Obama’s wars, like Bush’s, are wars of conquest. U.S. corporations want the oil and other raw materials in the region.  They also want to privatize the conquered state-owned companies, and to sell U.S. products in the new markets the war has opened them.  Many corporations benefit from the act of war itself (arms manufacturers and corporate-employed mercenaries), or from the reconstruction opportunities the destruction creates.

Working people have no interest in this type of war.  The hundreds of billions of dollars that Obama is using for destruction should be used to create jobs instead, or for health care, public education, social services, etc.   It is up to all working people to organize themselves — through their unions and community organizations — to broadcast this demand and make it a reality.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org).  He can be reached at shamuscook@yahoo.com

Egypt and Libya: A year of serious abuses of human rights

January 25, 2010

Human Rights Messengers Remain Particularly Vulnerable in Both Countries

Human Rights Watch, January 24, 2010

“Both Egypt’s and Libya’s human rights records will come under intense scrutiny by the UN Human Rights Council in 2010.  Egyptian security services need to understand that their thuggery confirms the international image of Egypt as a police state, while Libyan security forces continue to dominate political space in Libya in an atmosphere of fear.”

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director

(Cairo, Egypt) – Egypt should revoke its draconian Emergency Law and revamp its abusive security forces as top priorities in 2010, Human Rights Watch said today in its comprehensive World Report 2010. Libya should free unjustly detained prisoners and reform laws that criminalize free speech and association, Human Rights Watch said.

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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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Torture: The Transfers of Afghan Prisoners

December 24, 2009
Letter to Canada’s House of Commons

by Lawyers Against the War

Uruknet.info, Monday, December 21, 2009

Open letter to the Parliamentary Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan

Dear Committee Members:

Chair: Rick Casson, Vice-chair: Bryon Wilfert, Members: Jim Abbott, Ujjal Dosanjh, Francine Lalonde, Claude Bachand, Laurie Hawn, Dave MacKenzie, Paul Dewar, Greg Kerr, Deepak Obhrai:

Lawyers against the War (LAW) urges the Parliamentary Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan to recommend:

The immediate cessation of transfers of people taken prisoner in Afghanistan (prisoners) by Canada, to third countries, including Afghanistan; and,

That Canada immediately undertake effective protective and remedial measures with respect to all prisoners already transferred by Canada to third countries; and,

The creation of a judicial inquiry mandated to inquire into allegations that the transfers violate Canadian and international law and to recommend the civil and criminal remedies required by law.

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