Category Archives: Torture

Kosovo Leaders Have Been Accused of Killing and Harvesting Organs

John Dyer reports for Vice News:

KLA fighters in Pristina, 1999‘On Tuesday, Clint Williamson — an American diplomat appointed EU prosecutor in 2011 to investigate crimes against humanity in Kosovo — released a scathing statement that accused the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) of murdering a handful of people and then trafficking their kidneys, livers, and other body parts. KLA leaders now run the tiny Balkan country’s government…. The KLA also murdered, kidnapped, and detained people illegally, and in general oversaw a reign of terror against its non-Albanian and Albanian opponents after the group won Kosovo’s independence from Serbia in 1999.

The important thing for Americans to recall here is that the KLA achieved victory with the help of United States and NATO bombers attacking Serbian forces. At the time, President Bill Clinton portrayed the KLA as freedom fighters challenging Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic — a genocidal monster who died in a Hague prison cell in 2006. A few years ago, grateful Kosovars erected a bronze statue of Clinton in downtown Pristina, their capital. But now, it turns out, members of the KLA were probably monsters, too.’

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Spinwatch director talks to VICE about British PR companies “reputation laundering” for dictatorships

Jack Gilbert of Vice recently spoke to Tamasin Cave, director of Spinwatch:

‘The UK PR industry generates roughly £7.5 billion per year. If you work in media, it might feel like a good chunk of that comes via companies blasting your inbox with products that literally no one could ever want. But let’s be rational about this: there’s a lot more to be made by working for heavy hitters than trying to flog iridescent bean bags to a music reviews website.

Helped by a lack of interference from the government, and with no regulation standing in their way, British PR firms are doing their bit to suppress the evils of foreign dictatorships, and making a decent sum in the process. This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course – regimes have been employing spin doctors for decades whenever they need a dodgy human rights violation smoothed over. But thanks to the internet, there are increasingly more ways in which they can soften whatever blow it is that needs softening.’

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European Court of Human Rights Holds Poland Responsible for Allowing CIA Torture & Rendition

Kevin Gosztola writes for Firedoglake:

‘The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Poland had violated the United Nations Convention Against Torture when it allowed the CIA to torture and abuse prisoners on its territory. It also ruled that the country had violated the Convention by allowing the CIA to transfer prisoners, even though they would likely be subject to undisclosed detention. And the court ruled that Poland had violated the Convention by transferring prisoners to a country where they had a real risk of facing a “flagrant denial of justice.”

The complaints of violations of the torture convention came from Abu Zubaydah [PDF] and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [PDF]. Poland was ordered to pay 130,000 euros to Zubaydah and $100,000 to Nashiri for “enabling US authorities” to subject the two men to torture and ill-treatment. ECHR also sought to hold the country accountable for its “failure to carry out an effective investigation,” a violation of the torture convention as well. The Polish government has not decided whether it would like to appeal. Throughout the ECHR proceedings, the government consistently refused to constructively participate and provide information that would help the court make a fair ruling.’

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FDA considering ban on electric shock therapy

My Fox Boston reported last month:

‘A doctor who was part of an FDA advisory panel on electric shock therapy says the Judge Rotenberg Center is not reporting device malfunctions that randomly shock students to the government as required.

“We have no data on how often this device is malfunctioning,” said Dr. Steven Miles, a physician who served on a panel advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the devices used to deliver the shocks. “Any time that you have a medical device failure, in this case administering random shocks, you cause trauma to people. And in this case you traumatize people with learning disabilities.”

The Canton-based Rotenberg Center, the only place in the country using the devices, disagrees, saying the misfires don’t meet the FDA reporting standard of causing death or serious injury. The FDA, however, is not so sure.’

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How the UK taught Brazil’s dictators interrogation techniques

Emily Buchanan writes for BBC News:

Pictures showing some of the dead and disappeared‘As the world focuses on the World Cup, which opens in Brazil in less than a fortnight, many Brazilians are wrestling with painful discoveries about the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985. The BBC has found evidence that the UK actively collaborated with the generals – and trained them in sophisticated interrogation techniques.

Brazil’s 21-year dictatorship is less well known abroad than that of Argentina or Chile, but it was still brutal. Hundreds died and thousands were imprisoned and tortured. One of those tortured was a left-wing guerrilla who is now the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff. She set up a Truth Commission to unearth long-buried facts about the past.

As former victims and a few military players come forward to give evidence, Britain’s secret role has emerged. By the early 1970s Brazil’s rulers were engaged in a bitter struggle against left-wing guerrillas. Swept up in the oppression were union leaders, students, journalists and almost anyone who voiced opposition.’

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Torture in Northern Ireland sanctioned by British government minister

From AFP:

‘Torture methods used during internment of Irish nationalists at the height of the Northern Irish Troubles were sanctioned by the British government minister, an Irish television documentary claimed Wednesday.

In 1971, as violence intensified in the sectarian conflict, internment – or imprisonment without trial – was introduced by the British state as they tried to bring order to the province.

Hundreds of Catholic nationalists were brought to detention camps at army bases. Twelve men, who became known as the Hooded Men, were selected for ‘deep interrogation’.’

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Global Survey Shows Citizens Around World Fear Their Own Governments Would Torture Them

Kevin Gosztola writes for Firedoglake:

‘Worldwide, a global survey conducted by Amnesty International reveals that tens of thousands of citizens from twenty-one different countries believe if they were “taken into custody” by their government they would probably be tortured. From December 2013 to April 2014, Amnesty International interviewed 21,221 citizens from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Citizens were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the following statements: (1) If I were taken into custody by the authorities in my country, I am confident that I would be safe; (2) Clear rules against torture are crucial because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights; (3) Torture is sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public. On average, “more than four in ten people” indicated they would not “feel safe from torture if taken into custody.” The highest rates of fear were found in Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Pakistan and Kenya. Thirty-two percent of Americans surveyed feared they would be tortured.’

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Britons more likely to support torture than Russians

Tom Whitehead reports for The Telegraph:

Simulation of waterboarding, taken from an Amnesty film‘Up to one in three Britons think torture can be justified – because of what they have seen in fictional TV shows, Amnesty International has revealed. The British public is more likely to condone torture practices than people in Russia and almost half are against an outright ban. The civil rights organisation was surprised by the results of its poll and blamed programmes such as 24, Homeland and Spooks for their glorification of ill-treatment of terror suspects and criminals. Some 29 per cent of Britons said practices such as beatings, scalding and needles rammed under fingernails could be justified if it is to protect the public – compared to 25 per cent in Russia.’

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Amnesty: 141 Countries Still Torture

Michael Pizzi reports for Al Jazeera:

‘Three decades after the U.N. Convention Against Torture imposed measures to eradicate the practice, torture still happens in 141 countries — many of which are signatories to that convention — according to Amnesty International’s annual report on torture released Tuesday.

According to the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” That agreement, as well as the various Geneva Conventions and the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, have all dictated an absolute ban on torture for any purpose — even in times of war.

And yet, in police headquarters, secret prisons and CIA black sites, detainees across the globe report being subjected to torture as a means of extracting information or confessions, silencing dissent or simply as punishment. The Amnesty report details 27 categories of torture reported in the past year, including electric shocks, mock executions, water torture, rape and sexual violence and the pulling of teeth.’

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Patrick Cockburn: Prince Andrew praises Bahrain, island of torture

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa shows the UK's Prince Andrew round the Bahrain International Airshow (16 January 2014)‘The Duke of York will be the keynote speaker at a conference in London this Friday celebrating Bahrain as a place of religious freedom and tolerance of divergent opinions. Speaking during a visit to Bahrain last month, he said: “I believe that what’s happening in Bahrain is a source of hope for many people in the world and a source of pride for Bahrainis.” This is very strange, as the island kingdom of Bahrain has a proven record of jailing and torturing protesters demanding democratic rights for the Shia majority, an estimated 60 per cent of Bahraini citizens, from the Sunni al-Khalifa monarchy. In its annual report on human rights, the US State Department identifies many abuses, the most serious of which include “citizens’ inability to change their government peacefully; arrest and detention of protesters on vague charges, in some cases leading to their torture in detention”. It draws attention to the fact that “discrimination [has] continued against the Shia population”.’

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Important Revelations From New Leaks of CIA Torture Report: Interview with Michael Ratner

Sarah Palin: ‘Waterboarding is how we’d baptize terrorists’ if I were in charge

Mollie Reilly reports for The Huffington Post:

Speaking Saturday at the National Rifle Association’s “Stand And Fight” rally at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate accused the Obama administration of instating counterterrorism policies that “coddle adversaries.”

“Come on. Enemies, who would utterly annihilate America, they who’d obviously have information on plots, to carry out Jihad. Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen,” she said. “Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we’d baptize terrorists.”

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Documentary: Uncovering Pinochet’s Secret Death Camps

Senator Angus King Challenges Dick Cheney To Be Waterboarded And Then Say It’s Not Torture

UN Human Rights Committee Finds US in Violation on 25 Counts

Adam Hudson writes for Truthout:

Illustration: Lance Page / t r u t h o u tWhile President Obama told the country to “look forward, not backward” when it came to Bush’s torture program, the United Nations has taken a different route. Recently, the UN Human Rights Committee issued a report excoriating the United States for its human rights violations. It focuses on violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the country is party. The report mentions 25 human rights issues where the United States is failing. This piece will focus on a few of those issues – Guantanamo, NSA surveillance, accountability for Bush-era human rights violations, drone strikes, racism in the prison system, racial profiling, police violence, and criminalization of the homeless.

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US human rights record chastised in UN report

Matthew Weaver reports for the Guardian:

Guantanamo Bay

Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The UN has delivered a withering verdict on the US’s human rights record, raising concerns on a series of issues including torture, drone strikes, the failure to close Guantánamo Bay and the NSA‘s bulk collection of personal data.

The report was delivered by the UN’s human rights committee in an assessment of how the US is complying with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR], which has been in force since the mid 1970s.

The committee, which is chaired by the British law professor Sir Nigel Rodley, catalogued a string of human rights concerns, notably on the mass surveillance exposed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

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The Stanford Prison Experiment: Student Torture in the Name of Science

From Gizmodo:

The Stanford Prison Experiment: Student Torture in the Name of ScienceIn the summer of 1971, on the campus of one of the nation’s top universities and under the supervision of a faculty member, 11 students tortured 10 others over a six-day period, all in the interest of “science.”

Intended to last two weeks, according to the study’s author, Professor Phil Zimbardo, the original focus of the experiment was to see “how individuals adapt to being in a relatively powerless situation.”

The scenario chosen was a simulated prison, built in the basement of the psychology building on Stanford’s campus. Since the research was to involve people, it had to and was approved by the Stanford Human Subjects Committee. The study was set to begin on August 17, 1971.

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‘Torture gear’ brochures at world’s largest weaponry fair backfire

Cahal Milmo reports for The Independent:

Anti-arms trade campaigners have launched an unprecedented private prosecution against two defence companies for allegedly marketing torture equipment at the world’s largest weaponry fair in London. Lawyers said that the rare private proceedings were being mounted because state bodies had failed to act on allegations that laws banning the export of illegal weaponry were broken at the biennial Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition in London’s Docklands last year.

French company Magforce International and a Chinese exhibitor, Tianjin Myway International, were ejected from the event after brochures, seen by The Independent, were found to contain products including leg restraints and electronic stun batons. Despite details on the companies being passed to investigators at HM Revenue & Customs six months ago, no charges were brought prior to the expiry of a prosecution deadline earlier this month.

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Psychology Association’s Torture Link Fails “Do-No-Harm” Ethics

Roy Eidelson and Trudy Bond write for Truthout:

Psychology.

Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout; Adapted: Brian Hillegas, Reigh LeBlanc, abrinsky

After seven years, the American Psychological Association recently decided to close an ethics case against a Guantanamo psychologist without taking disciplinary action. This is not merely an isolated story about a single individual’s reprieve from accountability. Rather, the case of Dr. John Leso illuminates in full measure the APA’s disturbing post-9/11 decision to embrace the burgeoning US “war on terror” national security agenda at the expense of our profession’s do-no-harm ethical principles.

Shortly after the terrorists hit their targets on the morning of September 11, 2001, the American Psychological Association took action. Within hours, it mobilized a broad network of expert practitioners to offer psychological support to the families of victims and to rescue workers. But the APA also worked quickly to ensure that the Bush Administration viewed the world’s largest organization of psychologists as a valued partner in the rapid expansion of military and intelligence operations. High-level efforts were devoted to nurturing relationships with the Department of Defense, the CIA, and other government agencies. The APA aimed to position psychology and behavioral scientists as key players in US counterterrorism and counterintelligence activities. 

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Federal court to hear challenge to Gitmo force-feeding: Interview with detainee lawyer, Jon Eisenberg

‘The Guantanamo Bay Detention Center in Cuba is saying goodbye to one detainee while defending its practice of force-feeding prisoners on hunger strikes. Ahmed Belbacha, a 44-year-old man held without trial for 12 years, was transferred to the Algerian government. Belbacha was cleared for transfer several years ago, and is the first detainee to be transferred out of Gitmo this year. In the meantime, the military is defending itself in court against charges it is using a form of torture called “water cure” to force feed at least one of the Gitmo detainees participating in a hunger strike since summer of 2013. Lawyers for Emad Abdullah Hassan, a Yemeni who has been on hunger strike in the detention camp intermittently since 2005 and continuously since 2007, filed the first legal challenge to force-feeding at the military base brought before a US federal court. RT’s Ameera David discusses the case with one of Hassan’s lawyers, Jon Eisenberg.’ (RT America)

Guantanamo Officials Now Call Hunger Strikes “Long-Term Non-Religious Fasts”

Jason Leopold writes for Vice News:

Officials at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have come up with an ingeniously misleading new term to describe hunger strikes at the prison: “long-term non-religious fasts.” The rebranding appears in a 24-page document with the equally ingeniously misleading title, “Medical Management of Detainees With Weight Loss.” The standard operating procedure (SOP) document was exclusively obtained by VICE News Monday afternoon in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

“Preventing [redacted] is important to maintaining good order and discipline in the detention environment, and in protecting detainee health,” the document says. “The procedures outlined in this SOP will be protected from release to detainees and other personnel, including [Joint Task Force (JTF)] staff and visitors without a need to know.”

The document advises Guantanamo’s Joint Medical Group (JMG) on how to treat prisoners who engage in hunger strikes (a.k.a. long-term non-religious fasts). The SOP was implemented this past December, which was also when Gitmo public-affairs officers stopped providing the media with daily statistics on the number of prisoners who were engaged in hunger strikes and being subjected to force-feedings.

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The Feinstein Syndrome: ‘The Fourth Amendment for Me, But Not for Thee’

Norman Solomon writes for Disinfo:

Who knows, soon we might see headlines and cable TV shows asking: “Is Dianne Feinstein a whistleblower or a traitor?” A truthful answer to that question could not possibly be “whistleblower.” It may already be a historic fact that Senator Feinstein’s speech on March 11, 2014 blew a whistle on CIA surveillance of the Senate intelligence committee, which she chairs. But if that makes her a whistleblower, then Colonel Sanders is a vegetarian evangelist.

In her blockbuster Tuesday speech on the Senate floor, Feinstein charged that the CIA’s intrusions on her committee’s computers quite possibly “violated the Fourth Amendment.” You know, that’s the precious amendment that Feinstein — more than any other senator — has powerfully treated like dirt, worthy only of sweeping under the congressional rug. A tidy defender of the NSA’s Orwellian programs, Feinstein went on the attack against Edward Snowden from the outset of his revelations last June. Within days, she denounced his brave whistleblowing as “an act of treason” — a position she has maintained.

Snowden and other genuine whistleblowers actually take risks to defend the civil liberties and human rights of others, including the most vulnerable among us. Real whistleblowers choose to expose serious wrongdoing. And, if applicable, they renounce their own past complicity in doing those wrongs. Dianne Feinstein remains in a very different place. She’s 180 degrees from a whistleblower orientation; her moral compass is magnetized with solipsism as a leading guardian of the surveillance state.

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CIA Torturers Hide Report, But That’s Not The Worst Part

U.S. Seems Unlikely to Accept That Rights Treaty Applies to Its Actions Abroad

Charlie Savage writes for The New York Times:

In 1995, Conrad Harper, the Clinton administration’s top State Department lawyer, appeared before a United Nations panel in Geneva to discuss American compliance with a global Bill of Rights-style treaty the Senate had recently ratified, and he was asked a pointed question: Did the United States believe it applied outside its borders?

Mr. Harper returned two days later and delivered an answer: American officials, he said, had no obligations under the rights accord when operating abroad. The Bush administration would amplify that claim after the Sept. 11 attacks — and extend it to another United Nations convention that bans the use of torture — to justify its treatment of terrorism suspects in overseas prisons operated by the military and the C.I.A.

The United Nations panel in Geneva that monitors compliance with the rights treaty disagrees with the American interpretation, and human rights advocates have urged the United States to reverse its position when it sends a delegation to answer the panel’s questions next week. But the Obama administration is unlikely to do that, according to interviews, rejecting a strong push by two high-ranking State Department officials from President Obama’s first term.

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CIA Accused of Spying on Senate Intelligence Committee

Brendan Sasso writes for National Journal:

The Central Intelligence Agency is under investigation for allegedly spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee, panel Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein confirmed Wednesday. The CIA is prohibited from spying on Americans, and spying on members of Congress and their staff would raise particular concerns about the separation of powers. Congress created the House and Senate Intelligence committees in the 1970s to oversee the CIA, the National Security Agency, and other spy agencies after uncovering a slew of spying abuses.

The CIA’s internal watchdog, its inspector general, is reviewing whether CIA agents hacked into the computers of Senate staffers who were involved in producing a report critical of the agency’s now-defunct detention and interrogation program, The New York Times reported Wednesday. According to McClatchy, the inspector general’s office has asked the Justice Department to investigate the case. The committee worked on the 6,300-page interrogation report for years. The report, which remains classified, concluded that brutal interrogation techniques produced little valuable intelligence. Last June, the CIA responded with its own 122-page report challenging particular facts and the conclusion of the Senate’s document. Ending the interrogation program was one of President Obama’s first acts in office.

Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat and member of the Intelligence panel, wrote a letter to Obama on Tuesday, urging him to support declassification of the full report. Udall referred vaguely to the CIA’s alleged spying on the committee. “As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIAreview, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” Udall wrote. “It is essential that the Committee be able to do its oversight work—consistent with our constitutional principle of the separation of powers—without the CIA posing impediments or obstacles as it is today.”

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Top Ten US Aid Recipients All Practise Torture

From Projected Censored:

The top ten recipients slated to receive US foreign assistance in 2014 all practice torture and are responsible for major human rights abuses, according to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other major human rights organizations. The violators and degree of aid they are expected to receive are: 1. Israel – $3.1bn, 2. Afghanistan – $2.2bn, 3. Egypt – $1.6bn, 4. Pakistan – $1.2bn, 5. Nigeria – $693m, 6. Jordan – $671m, 7. Iraq – $573m, 8. Kenya – $564m, 9. Tanzania – $553m, 10. Uganda -$456m.

Each of the listed countries are accused of torturing people in the last year, and at least half are reported to be doing so on a massive scale. Financial support for such governments could violate existing US law mandating that little or no funding be granted to a country that “engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture.” The United States remains a signatory of the United Nations Convention against Torture, ratified in 1994. That the top ten recipients of US assistance all practice torture calls into serious question the Obama administration’s overall stance on and understanding of fundamental human rights.

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Operation Paperclip: U.S. Government Recruited Nazi Scientists To Work For The C.I.A.

From The Times of Israel:

The United States used former Nazi doctors to develop interrogation techniques — including some that used hallucinogens like LSD — during the Cold War, according to a new book by investigative journalist Annie Jacobsen. “Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America,” published Tuesday, documents a top secret intelligence and military program run with the help of prominent Nazi scientists and doctors, including Nazi Germany’s surgeon general.

“The CIA teamed up with Army, Air Force and Naval Intelligence to run one of the most nefarious, classified, enhanced interrogation programs of the Cold War,” Jacobsen wrote, in an excerpt posted on the Daily Beast. “The work took place inside a clandestine facility in the American zone of occupied Germany, called Camp King. The facility’s chief medical doctor was Operation Paperclip’s Dr. Walter Schreiber, the former Surgeon General of the Third Reich… The activities that went on at Camp King between 1946 and the late 1950s have never been fully accounted for by either the Department of Defense or the CIA.”

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Industrial group Skinny Puppy ‘invoices’ government for using songs at Guantanamo

From Raw Story:

InSkinny Puppy videodustrial band Skinny Puppy has presented an invoice the U.S. government for using its music to torment inmates at a prison camp for terrorist suspects.

“We heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people,” founder cEvin Key told the Phoenix New Times. “We heard that our music was used on at least four occasions.”

While the Canadian group tackles transgressive themes in a harsh musical style, Key said the thought that his music was used to torture prisoners made him feel “not too good.”

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Tony Blair ‘brokered deal’ blocking IRA victims from suing Libya

From The Belfast Telegraph:

Tony Blair could face legal action amid claims he “connived” with Colonel Gaddafi to block a multi-million pound compensation claim by IRA victims. An email is said to show the former prime minister intervened in a long-running legal action from victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism.

The email suggests Mr Blair helped to broker an agreement between Gaddafi and US President George W Bush, which saw Libya pay a one-off £1bn in compensation to US victims of terrorism to settle all actions. A spokesman for Mr Blair branded the claims “malicious”.

The Libyan regime supplied Semtex for IRA attacks, said to include the 1987 Enniskillen bomb which killed 11 people. Lawyers said the disclosure of the email, reported in the Sunday Telegraph, could form the basis for legal action in the UK.

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State Dept. Learned in November of Photos Said to Show Torture in Syria

via Associated PressFrom The New York Times:

The Obama administration first learned last November about a harrowing trove of photographs that were said to document widespread torture and executions in Syrian prisons when a State Department official viewed some of the images on a laptop belonging to an antigovernment activist, a senior official said Wednesday.

The United States did not act on the photos for the past two months, officials said, because it did not have possession of the digital files and could not establish their authenticity. Nevertheless, they said, the administration believes the photos are genuine, basing that assessment in part on the meticulous way in which the bodies in the photos were numbered.

The photographs, some of which were released this week on the eve of an international peace conference on Syria, have helped prompt the administration to heighten its demand that President Bashar al-Assad release political prisoners and allow Red Cross inspectors access to the prisons.

But it seems clear that the photos that appear to document the torture and executions will not fundamentally alter American policy, which is to push for a political settlement that will remove Mr. Assad from power but to avoid direct military intervention in the conflict.

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