SEE ALSO: Gitmo Lawyer Speaks Out (We Are Change)
by CAROL ROSENBERG
‘Guantánamo prison staff members were tube-feeding 30 of the 100 hunger-striking captives on Wednesday, the detention center said, reporting an all-time high last reached in 2005.
Three of the captives were being treated in the hospital, said Army Lt. Col. Samuel House, a prison spokesman, although none “currently have any life-threatening conditions.”
The Pentagon’s Southern Command headquarters had earlier sent medical reinforcements to the remote prison camps, to increase the military deployment of Navy doctors, nurses and corpsmen to about 140 to care for the 166 captives at the sprawling detention center in southeast Cuba. ‘
Why is Obama Hiding 6,000-Page Report on Bush-Era Torture and Why is Torture Still Allowed? ~ All Gov
‘President Barack Obama is currently blocking the release—or allowing the CIA to block the release—of a comprehensive Senate report on the use of torture by the George W. Bush administration CIA that is said to conclude that torture was not an effective or reliable method of interrogation and that the agency repeatedly misled the White House, the Justice Department, and Congress about its interrogation efforts.
[...] Although the report validates anti-torture positions taken by Democrats, including President Obama, during the Bush years, Obama may be delaying its release over concerns about shedding negative light on his own, related, anti-terror policies that offend human rights, such as the continued use of torture at Guantánamo Bay or the predator drone assassination program. Further, the deep involvement of Obama’s hand-picked CIA Director, John Brennan, in the Bush-era torture and kidnapping programs may call Obama’s judgment about Brennan into question.’
‘The WaPo reports that the woman who helped Jose Rodriguez destroy the torture tapes will not — as had been floated — officially lead the Clandestine Services.
A female CIA officer who was the first woman to lead the agency’s clandestine service, but was also closely tied to the agency’s interrogation program, will not get to keep that job as part of a management shake-up announced Tuesday by CIA Director John O. Brennan, U.S. officials said.
The report (sourced to “US officials,” which can be code for members of Congress or staffers) emphasizes that the intervention of members of Congress — and Dianne Feinstein specifically — played in key role in persuading John Brennan such an appointment would be a problem.’
by Ben Child
‘A newly declassified CIA document suggests members of the US agency did help to shape the narrative of Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow‘s recent film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
[...] Several elements of the draft screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty were changed for the final film upon agency request, according to the memo. Jessica Chastain’s Maya, the film’s main protagonist, was originally seen participating in an early water-boarding torture scene, but in the final film she is only an observer. A scene in which a dog is used to interrogate a suspect was also excised from the shooting script. Finally a segue in which agents party on a rooftop in Islamabad, drinking and shooting off an AK47 in celebration, was also removed upon CIA insistence. This was agreed to despite the documented use of aggressive dogs in US interrogations of terror suspects at Guantánamo Bay in the early days of George W Bush’s war on terror, and despite some of the photographs from the later Abu Ghraib scandal featuring dogs menacing naked prisoners.
The memo appears to confirm suspicions of a cosy relationship between the CIA and Boal, with the agency confident it would be portrayed positively due to the level of help it had provided to the film-makers. “As an agency, we’ve been pretty forward-leaning with Boal,” a CIA staff member wrote to colleagues in documents released last year. “He’s agreed to share scripts and details about the movie with us so we’re absolutely comfortable with what he will be showing.”
by John Glaser
‘President Obama this week defended the US’s policy of force feeding detainees in Guantanamo Bay who are protesting their due process-free indefinite detention by going on a hunger strike.
On Wednesday, UN human rights officials declared that force feeding amounts to torture, saying “it is unjustifiable to engage in forced feeding of individuals contrary to their informed and voluntary refusal of such a measure.”’
by JOE MORGAN
Gay Star News
‘Three ‘gay and effeminate’ teens have died after being starved, tortured and killed at a camp that promised to turn them into ‘men’.
A picture of Raymond Buys, 15, taken in April 2011 showed a skeletal, emaciated figure fighting for his life.
Just 10 weeks before, the teen’s parents signed him up to the Echo Wild Game Rangers training course in South Africa in perfect health.’
by Stephen C. Webster
If the United States really, in the words of President Barack Obama, wishes to keep “looking forward” instead of backward when it comes to the violent legal limbo that is the Bush administration’s legacy, someone might want to ensure New York State Senator Greg Ball (R) gets a copy of that memo.
In several separate instances this weekend, Sen. Ball has advocated torturing the teen police are accusing of helping execute the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and injured more than 140.
“So, scum bag #2 in custody,” he wrote on Twitter Friday night. “Who wouldn’t use torture on this punk to save more lives?”
by Alex Spillius
A two-year study by the Constitution Project determined that there was “no justification” for the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” deployed by the George W Bush administration, which it said violated both international and American law.
“It is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture,” said the 577-page report by Constitution Project, a high-powered Washington watchdog.
“I had not recognized the depths of torture in some cases,” said James Jones, a former Democratic congressman who acted as co-chairman of the research team with Asa Hutchinson, formerly a senior Bush official. “We lost our compass.”
The report is the most ambitious effort so far to document the controversial practices of the war on terror.
Shocking Video from Maine Prison Shows a Restrained Prisoner Being Tortured with Pepper Spray ~ ACLU
‘[...] In the video, we see Schlosser immobilized in the restraint chair and surrounded by officers in riot gear. Schlosser remains compliant until one of the officers pins Schlosser’s head to the back of the chair; Schlosser responds by squirming and then spitting at the officer. Without warning, Captain Welch suddenly coats Schlosser’s face at close range with pepper spray from a canister only intended to be used on large crowds from a distance of twenty feet or more, according to an investigator’s report. Schlosser chokes and fights for breath. He pleads, “I can’t breathe, Captain,” but Welch does nothing. Instead of following accepted professional standards and rinsing away the liquid, Welch puts a spit hood on Schlosser, effectively trapping the pepper spray against the man’s face. For over 20 minutes, Welch, with canister in hand, paces in and out of the small area where Schlosser is being restrained, and refuses to let him wash the burning spray from his face and eyes.
Sadly, this is one of many examples of corrections staff abusing restraints and pepper spray, at times with deadly results’
by Alaa al-Aswany
During the clashes that erupted last Friday [March 22] between the Muslim Brotherhood and protesters in Mokattam, the Brotherhood arrested left-wing activist Kamal Khalil and detained him inside a mosque. He saw a number of demonstrators stripped of their clothes and brutally flogged in the mosque, to the point that most of them lost consciousness. Brotherhood members were using a big whip to strike their victims. Khalil asked the flogger [about it], who replied: “It’s a Sudanese whip. I soaked it in oil a while ago. … A single strike can cut through skin.”
Luckily, Khalil recognized his neighbor from among the Brotherhood members, who intervened and prevented him from being tortured. Yet, Khalil posted his testimony about the Brotherhood’s slaughterhouse on the website of Al-Bedaiah newspaper. Soon after, the testimonies from victims published in newspapers confirmed that they had been brutally tortured. Amir Ayad, a demonstrator, revealed that when the Brotherhood found out that he was a Copt, they increased the severity of his torture, pushing him to the brink of death as they called him a “Christian dog.” The Brotherhood committed the same heinous crimes in Mokattam that they had carried out in front of the Ittihadiya Palace.
As I read the testimonies of the Brotherhood’s victims, I was thinking that the Brotherhood member who was proud of his Sudanese whip — along with his colleagues who flogged their victims to the point of unconsciousness — are believers who diligently pray, fast and refrain from any forbidden or even detestable acts. How did they become torturers? We must remember that committing crimes in the name of religion has happened in all religions. The Catholic Church, for instance, which offered to the world the esteemed values of love and tolerance, is the same church that launched the Crusades, carried out the Inquisition, and killed hundreds of thousands of Jews and Muslims. Any correctly understood religion elevates us as human beings, while interpreting it fanatically leads us to commit crimes. The question is: How can a believer turn into a torturer? I believe any true believer cannot commit such crimes. Yet an extremist can transform into a torturer through the following steps.
First: Monopolizing the truth
Second: Distinguishing oneself through the practice of religion
Third: Restoring the glory of religion through holy wars
Fourth: Dehumanizing opponents
Fifth: Denial of anything that threatens their virtual world
by John Glaser
The Guardian has published a report based on new interviews with British soldiers who witnessed torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees at the US-run prison Camp Nama following the invasion in 2003.
“On the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq,” the report says, a number of British personnel who cooperated with US forces and officials at Camp Nama “have come forward to describe the abuses they witnessed,” which include:
- Iraqi prisoners being held for prolonged periods in cells the size of large dog kennels.
- Prisoners being subjected to electric shocks.
- Prisoners being routinely hooded.
- Inmates being taken into a sound-proofed shipping container for interrogation, and emerging in a state of physical distress.
The full extent of the torture and abuse that took place in US-run facilities in Iraq will never be known. Most Americans think the scandal went no farther than a few bad apples at Abu Ghraib, where leaked photographs revealed blood-streaked floors, detainees on dog collars, sadistic sexual abuse, evidence of homicide and more. But the true scandal was bigger. Much bigger.
Suspects were brought to the secret prison at Baghdad International airport, known as Camp Nama, for questioning by US military and civilian interrogators. But the methods used were so brutal that they drew condemnation not only from a US human rights body but from a special investigator reporting to the Pentagon.
A British serviceman who served at Nama recalled: “I saw one man having his prosthetic leg being pulled off him, and being beaten about the head with it before he was thrown on to the truck.”
The abuse at Camp Nama has been reported before. One Army intelligence sergeant “told his commander three members of the counterintelligence team had hit detainees, pulled their hair, tried to asphyxiate them and staged mock executions with pistols pointed at the detainees’ heads,” The Washington Post reported in 2005. In 2006, The New York Times revealed that American interrogators at Camp Nama severely beat detainees and even shot paintball guns at them for target practice, among other cruelties.
“Torture and other abuses against detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq were authorized and routine, even after the 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal,” Human Rights Watch found in 2006. According to the report, “detainees were routinely subjected to severe beatings, painful stress positions, severe sleep deprivation, and exposure to extreme cold and hot temperatures.”
Many of these reports indicated there was official sanction of this abuse from high up the US chain of command, including full knowledge of it by Stanley McChrystal. The Guardian report adds further weight to this, revealing that UK soldiers had to go through certain procedures because US officials knew they would be in violation of international law.
…[O]ne peculiarity of the way in which UK forces operated when bringing prisoners to Camp Nama suggests that ministers and senior MoD officials may have had reason to know those detainees were at risk of mistreatment. British soldiers were almost always accompanied by a lone American soldier, who was then recorded as having captured the prisoner. Members of the SAS and SBS were repeatedly briefed on the importance of this measure.
It was an arrangement that enabled the British government to side-step a Geneva convention clause that would have obliged it to demand the return of any prisoner transferred to the US once it became apparent that they were not being treated in accordance with the convention. And it consigned the prisoners to what some lawyers have described as a legal black hole.
And what failed to stop after Abu Ghraib also did not end with Camp Nama. On May 30, 2006, “a joint US-Iraqi inspection” of an Iraqi detention facility “discovered more than 1,400 detainees in squalid, cramped conditions,” many of whom were illegally detained, according to a confidential State Department cable released by WikiLeaks. Prisoners “displayed bruising, broken bones, and lash-marks, many claimed to have been hung by handcuffs from a hook in the ceiling and beaten on the soles of their feet and their buttocks.”
The inspectors found a torture contraption where ”a hook…on the ceiling of an empty room at the facility” was “attached [to] a chain-and-pulley system ordinarily used for lifting vehicles” and that “apparent bloodspots stained the floor underneath.” All 41 prisoners interviewed by US inspectors had reported being tortured and 37 juveniles were held illegally.
Also revealed by WikiLeaks cables was the US military order Frago 242, which discouraged US forces from taking note when Iraqi interrogators engaged in torture and abuse.
Many in the media have spent the last three weeks pouring over decisions about the Iraq War, marking the 10th anniversary of the invasion. The strategic and moral case for the war was justifiably the focus of this flood of commentary, with nary a word about the rampant torture and abuse that went on in countless prisons and black cites in Iraq following the invasion. The list of Bush administration atrocities and war crimes, I suppose, is too long to get equal attention.
by David Corn (Dec. 1, 2010)
In its first months in office, the Obama administration sought to protect Bush administration officials facing criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies the that governed interrogations of detained terrorist suspects. A “confidential” April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid to the State Department—one of the 251,287 cables obtained by WikiLeaks—details how the Obama administration, working with Republicans, leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.
The previous month, a Spanish human rights group called the Association for the Dignity of Spanish Prisoners had requested that Spain’s National Court indict six former Bush officials for, as the cable describes it, “creating a legal framework that allegedly permitted torture.” The six were former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; David Addington, former chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney; William Haynes, the Pentagon’s former general counsel; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Jay Bybee, former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and John Yoo, a former official in the Office of Legal Counsel. The human rights group contended that Spain had a duty to open an investigation under the nation’s “universal jurisdiction” law, which permits its legal system to prosecute overseas human rights crimes involving Spanish citizens and residents. Five Guantanamo detainees, the group maintained, fit that criteria.
Soon after the request was made, the US embassy in Madrid began tracking the matter. On April 1, embassy officials spoke with chief prosecutor Javier Zaragoza, who indicated that he was not pleased to have been handed this case, but he believed that the complaint appeared to be well-documented and he’d have to pursue it. Around that time, the acting deputy chief of the US embassy talked to the chief of staff for Spain’s foreign minister and a senior official in the Spanish Ministry of Justice to convey, as the cable says, “that this was a very serious matter for the USG.” The two Spaniards “expressed their concern at the case but stressed the independence of the Spanish judiciary.”
Two weeks later, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and the embassy’s charge d’affaires “raised the issue” with another official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The next day, Zaragoza informed the US embassy that the complaint might not be legally sound. He noted he would ask Cándido Conde-Pumpido, Spain’s attorney general, to review whether Spain had jurisdiction.
On April 15, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), who’d recently been chairman of the Republican Party, and the US embassy’s charge d’affaires met with the acting Spanish foreign minister, Angel Lossada. The Americans, according to this cable, “underscored that the prosecutions would not be understood or accepted in the US and would have an enormous impact on the bilateral relationship” between Spain and the United States. Here was a former head of the GOP and a representative of a new Democratic administration (headed by a president who had decried the Bush-Cheney administration’s use of torture) jointly applying pressure on Spain to kill the investigation of the former Bush officials. Lossada replied that the independence of the Spanish judiciary had to be respected, but he added that the government would send a message to the attorney general that it did not favor prosecuting this case.
The next day, April 16, 2009, Attorney General Conde-Pumpido publicly declared that he would not support the criminal complaint, calling it “fraudulent” and political. If the Bush officials had acted criminally, he said, then a case should be filed in the United States. On April 17, the prosecutors of the National Court filed a report asking that complaint be discontinued. In the April 17 cable, the American embassy in Madrid claimed some credit for Conde-Pumpido’s opposition, noting that “Conde-Pumpido’s public announcement follows outreach to [Government of Spain] officials to raise USG deep concerns on the implications of this case.”
Still, this did not end the matter. It would still be up to investigating Judge Baltasar Garzón—a world-renowned jurist who had initiated previous prosecutions of war crimes and had publicly said that former President George W. Bush ought to be tried for war crimes—to decide whether to pursue the case against the six former Bush officials. That June—coincidentally or not—the Spanish Parliament passed legislation narrowing the use of “universal jurisdiction.” Still, in September 2009, Judge Garzón pushed ahead with the case.
The case eventually came to be overseen by another judge who last spring asked the parties behind the complaint to explain why the investigation should continue. Several human rights groups filed a brief urging this judge to keep the case alive, citing the Obama administration’s failure to prosecute the Bush officials. Since then, there’s been no action. The Obama administration essentially got what it wanted. The case of the Bush Six went away.
Back when it seemed that this case could become a major international issue, during an April 14, 2009, White House briefing, I asked press secretary Robert Gibbs if the Obama administration would cooperate with any request from the Spaniards for information and documents related to the Bush Six. He said, “I don’t want to get involved in hypotheticals.” What he didn’t disclose was that the Obama administration, working with Republicans, was actively pressuring the Spaniards to drop the investigation. Those efforts apparently paid off, and, as this WikiLeaks-released cable shows, Gonzales, Haynes, Feith, Bybee, Addington, and Yoo owed Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thank-you notes.
by William Mason
Torture has its gradations: from the most extreme forms (such as waterboarding) to the most subtle expressions (such as passive-aggressive obstructionism in relationships).
In its most heinous forms, torture consists of confining a helpless victim, who is subjected to physical pain and torment, emotional abuse, and various other degrading humiliations. Prohibited by both international and domestic laws, the torture of suspected “terrorists” is nonetheless now widely condoned by most American citizens (or so it seems).
A kind of “torture-of-the-week” riveted the audience of the popular TV series 24. The disturbing film Dark Zero Thirty rationalized and depicted graphic torture—and was praised by critics and the public alike. Why, so many observers have asked, do Americans today tolerate (or even approve) of the illegal torture so routinely administered by their own government?
Of course, Americans have long been desensitized to violence. Everyday life is in itself brutalizing to any humane sensibility. The average U.S. employee is stripped of her dignity on an almost-daily basis: penalties for lateness, nit-picking “performance reviews,” reprimands and unfair demands, the ever-lurking danger of the “pink slip,” mandatory overtime, and so on.
Without strong union representation (increasingly rare in the retrograde U.S. workplace), the individual often feels trapped and demoralized—with few (if any) options for escape. Yet although a job, with all the daily frustrations it entails, is often humiliating, the un-employed person is even deprived of whatever modest status is conferred by “working.”
In short: human beings, to the extent that they still can defiantly assert their “humanity,” resent being treated as objects—objects to be “employed,” worked with maximal “efficiency,” and then discarded.
What do such frustrated, beleaguered Americans feel? Quite often: resentment, even rage–and a desire for reprisal. But who to blame? Why not suspicious “foreigners,” such as “job-stealing” immigrants or “subversive” Muslims? Angry, demoralized Americans may thus deny their sense of humiliation–and displace their vindictive rage, from their corporate overseers onto conveniently available scapegoats (like “suspects” held in indefinite detention).
As described by Freudian psychoanalysts, such humiliated individuals may seek to reverse their psychological status from victim to (vicarious) perpetrator–through a potent “identification-with-the-aggressor.”
From the demeaning feeling of being a “loser”–in a winner-take-all economic system– one may vicariously feel a satisfying surge of “power-over” those detained, harshly “interrogated” and stigmated (as possible “terrorists”). Let us not forget the grinning, even exultant faces of the perpetrators at Abu Ghraib—“empowered” to dispense abuse and degradation–instead of receiving it.
by Patrick Cockburn
Torture of detainees by state security is pervasive in Iraq ten years after the fall of Saddam Hussein says an Amnesty International report, Iraq: a Decade of Abuses, published tomorrow. Though American and British leaders cited the brutality and cruelty of Saddam Hussein’s regime as a justification for overthrowing his regime, extreme abuse of prisoners has never ceased.
Forced confessions are at the heart of the present legal system with prisoners being given life and death sentences on the basis of false statements extracted by torture. In one case last year, cited by Amnesty, four men were arrested in Ramadi, held incommunicado and tortured by various means, including being hung up by the wrists and beatings, until they confessed. Before their trial a local television station “broadcast film of them providing self-incriminating evidence of having committed capital crimes.” All four were sentenced to death under the anti-terrorism law ignoring, according to one of the four men, even a request by the prosecution to release him.
The report says that “thousands of Iraqis are detained without trial or are serving prison sentences imposed after unfair trials, torture remains rife and continues to be committed with impunity, and the new Iraq is one of the world’s leading executioners.” The government hanged 129 prisoner last years and holds 37,000 prisononers, of whom 21,000 have been sentenced. In pre-trial confessions on TV different people unconnected with each other have confessed to the same crime.
Use of torture has been a feature of all the post-Saddam governments. They have used secret prisons – including at least one in the Green Zone controlled by the government’s elite Baghdad Brigade – where detainees can be held for years without charge. Even when found innocent, detainees may not be released for months.
The failure of the Iraqi government to end torture and its reliance on forced confessions has done much to erode its legitimacy, particularly in the eyes of the Sunni community. The release of prisoners is a central demand of protesters in Sunni areas that have been going on since last December. A further complaint is that secret informants, frequently motivated by personal grudges, provide the only evidence against a person arrested.
Forced confessions are used as a political weapon. The report says that “in December 2011, Iraqi TV stations broadcast testimonies of at least three detained former bodyguards of the office of Vice President Tareq al-Hasemi in which they accuse him of ordering them to murder government and security officials.” One other bodyguard is alleged to have died under torture while Mr Hashemi has fled the country.
by Adam Serwer
John Yoo, the author of the Bush administration legal memos justifying the use of torture, thinks President Obama is really getting too much grief over targeted killing. And he wants Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—who filibustered Obama’s nominee to head the CIA for 13 hours on Wednesday—to lay off.
“I admire libertarians but I think Rand Paul’s filibuster in many ways is very much what libertarians do, they make these very symbolic gestures, standing for some extreme position,” said Yoo, now a UC Berkeley law professor, who once suggested it was okay for the president to order a child’s testicles be crushed. Referring to Paul’s marathon filibuster, an attempt to force the Obama administration to clarify its views on the use of military force against terror suspects in the United States, Yoo said “It sort of reminds me of young kids when they first read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged and they suddenly think that federal taxation equals slavery and they’re not going to pay any federal taxes anymore.” Yoo’s statements were made on a conference call Thursday held by the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal organization.
Paul’s conservative colleagues also pushed back on him on Thursday: On the Senate floor, John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) mocked Paul’s objections as “ridiculous.”
The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.
Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows.
After the Pentagon lifted a ban on Shia militias joining the security forces, the special police commando (SPC) membership was increasingly drawn from violent Shia groups such as the Badr brigades.
A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding.
Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and returned to the country in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.
The allegations, made by US and Iraqi witnesses in the Guardian/BBC documentary, implicate US advisers for the first time in the human rights abuses committed by the commandos. It is also the first time that Petraeus – who last November was forced to resign as director of the CIA after a sex scandal – has been linked through an adviser to this abuse.
Coffman reported to Petraeus and described himself in an interview with the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes as Petraeus’s “eyes and ears out on the ground” in Iraq.
“They worked hand in hand,” said General Muntadher al-Samari, who worked with Steele and Coffman for a year while the commandos were being set up. “I never saw them apart in the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centres. They knew everything that was going on there … the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture.”
Additional Guardian reporting has confirmed more details of how the interrogation system worked. “Every single detention centre would have its own interrogation committee,” claimed Samari, talking for the first time in detail about the US role in the interrogation units.
“Each one was made up of an intelligence officer and eight interrogators. This committee will use all means of torture to make the detainee confess like using electricity or hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails, and beating them on sensitive parts.”
There is no evidence that Steele or Coffman tortured prisoners themselves, only that they were sometimes present in the detention centres where torture took place and were involved in the processing of thousands of detainees.
The Guardian/BBC Arabic investigation was sparked by the release of classified US military logs on WikiLeaks that detailed hundreds of incidents where US soldiers came across tortured detainees in a network of detention centres run by the police commandos across Iraq. Private Bradley Manning, 25, is facing a prison sentence of up to 20 years after he pleaded guilty to leaking the documents.
by Robert Evans
United Nations’ torture investigator Juan Mendez said on Tuesday the Obama administration showed no sign of reversing its position and allowing him access to terrorism suspects in long-term detention at the Guantanamo Bay prisoncamp.
Mendez, whose predecessor was also denied access to Guantanamo prisoners, said the latest Washington response indicated there would be no let up in U.S. insistence he could tour the facility but could not interview detainees.
“We had hoped that there would be a change of position when Barack Obama became president in 2009,” Mendez told reporters.
“But to my disappointment, the terms (offered by the United States) were no different.”
Under the U.N. rules for such visits, human rights investigators should be granted free access to any prisoners they wish to see without any officials being present, and at a time of their own choosing.
A U.N. treaty defines torture as including not just physical abuse but also inhuman and degrading treatment – like long-term solitary confinement – that can inflict mental anguish on inmates.
His predecessor, Austrian professor Manfred Nowak, long sought permission from the administration of George W. Bush to talk to detainees at the prison. Nowak turned down an invitation in 2004 because he would have had no access to them.
“I am persisting, but I don’t expect it to happen any time soon,” said Mendez, an Argentine human rights lawyer who now lives in the U.S. capital.
A Libyan military commander who is suing the British government over its alleged role in his detention and rendition has offered to settle for 3 pounds ($4.50) and an apology, saying he is seeking justice, not personal enrichment.
Belhaj, a former fighter in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group that had opposed the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, claims that both British and U.S. intelligence may have played a role in his 2004 detention in Thailand and his transfer to Tripoli, where he spent years in prison.
He said Monday that he had sent an open letter to the British government offering to drop the case in return for a token 1 pound compensation from each defendant along with an apology and an admission of liability.
A public inquiry into allegations that British troops murdered up to 20 unarmed prisoners and tortured five others following a fierce battle with Iraqi insurgents has opened in London with evidence that some of their death certificates recorded what were described as signs of severe mutilation.
Several of the deceased were said to bear signs of torture after their corpses were handed back to their families by British personnel at Camp Abu Naji, while the Iraqi death certificates recorded that one man’s penis had been removed and two bodies were missing eyes, the inquiry was told on Monday.
But there is a “stark dispute” between the relatives of the dead men and the Ministry of Defence over the way in which the deaths occurred, said Jonathan Acton Davis QC, counsel to the inquiry.
“The Iraqi witnesses say that the evidence points to there having been a number of Iraqi men having been taken into Camp Abu Naji alive by the British military on 14 May 2004, and who were handed back to their families dead the next day.
“The military say the evidence points to 20 Iraqi dead having been recovered from the battle … and handed back to the families the next day.”
The two sides, said Acton Davis, could not reach agreement even over the number of deceased, or their identities.
The allegations arise out of a gun battle known as the battle of Danny Boy, which took place a year after the 2003 invasion of Iraq and underlined the way in which British troops were being drawn into an increasingly bloody insurgency rather than accepted as liberators following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
A United Nations investigator has demanded that the US publish classified documents regarding the CIA’s human rights violations under former President George W. Bush, with hopes that the documents will lead to the prosecution of public officials.
Documents about the CIA’s program of rendition and secret detention of suspected terrorists have remained classified, even though President Obama’s administration has publicly condemned the use of these “enhanced interrogation techniques”. The US has not prosecuted any of its agents for human rights violations.
UN investigator Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, said that the classified documents protect the names of individuals who are responsible for serious human rights violations.
“Despite this clear repudiation of the unlawful actions carried out by the Bush-era CIA, many of the facts remain classified, and no public official has so far been brought to justice in the United States,” Emmerson said in a report to the UN Human Rights Council, according to Reuters.
Kept in secret prisons around the world, the CIA’s detainees were subjected to torture including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and various other interrogation techniques that violate human rights. The detainees were often subjected to clandestine transfers to secret prisons known as CIA ‘black sites’.
by Toby Helm
An alliance of more than 100 human rights groups, legal experts and free press campaigners has called on MPs to vote against government plans for “secret courts” – branding them “a charter for cover-ups” that will seriously undermine the principles of British justice.
In a letter to the Observer, the group says it is “deeply concerned” at the effects that the justice and security bill will have on “open and accessible justice” and insists that it threatens the right to a fair trial and the rule of law.
MPs will vote on the third reading of the bill, which would extend the number of court hearings that can be held behind closed doors, this week.
Ministers have been engulfed in controversy for more than a year over their plans to extend so-called “closed material procedures” (CMPs), in which cases are heard entirely in private, to civil law.
The proposals have been drawn up with the close involvement of the security services, which want evidence in terrorism and other sensitive cases to be kept secret. The services claim that other countries will stop sharing their intelligence with the UK if information is heard in public sessions.
The secret court plan came into being as a direct result of evidence that emerged in court supporting allegations that MI5 and MI6 knew about the torture or inhuman and degrading treatment meted out by the CIA to terror suspects, including British citizens and residents, notably Binyam Mohamed.
In a move that angered Washington, the high court, later backed by senior judges in the court of appeal, ruled that information the CIA had passed to MI5 and MI6 should be disclosed.
To avoid disclosing what the security services may have known about the secret transfer of detainees to the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and about their treatment, the government offered them expensive out-of-court settlements.
Ministers, under pressure from the security and intelligence agencies – and the US – then decided to introduce the new law designed to prevent any intelligence information from being disclosed in civil court hearings ever again.
While former justice secretary Kenneth Clarke has tabled a series of amendments, these have failed to satisfy critics who say fundamental principles of the British justice system are being put at risk.
Supporters of the plans argue that the legislation will prevent the need for government to make expensive out-of-court settlements in order to prevent evidence being heard in public in cases involving terrorists or other extremists.
The letter, signed by senior law academics, journalists and freedom of information campaigners, as well as groups such as Amnesty International, states that the consequences of the measures are dire for the justice system.
“The bill is a charter for cover-ups. Neither the public, nor the victims, nor their lawyers nor the media will have a right to know.
“Court records could be kept secret forever. Secret courts could be extended to undercover police officers, deaths of suspects in custody and deaths in the military.
“The measures in the bill are an attack on open and accessible justice, they threaten the right to a fair trial and the rule of law. Journalism at its best uncovers the truth and the bill intends to hide the evidence.”
Critics say evidence of British collusion in the abuse and rendition of terror suspects to places where they risked being tortured – including evidence of MI6′s role in the rendition in 2004 of two Libyan dissidents into the hands of Muammar Gaddafi’s secret police – might never have seen the light of day had the bill been in place.
John McDonnell, secretary of the NUJ parliamentary group, commented: “The proposals are an aberration. They run totally contrary to the idea that justice must be done, and must be seen to be done.”
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou headed to prison on Thursday to begin serving his 30 month sentence for his involvement in exposing the torture tactics implemented by the US government. Kiriakou was the first ever government official to confirm that waterboarding was used against detainees.
To watch the full interview on Democracy Now!, visit http://owl.li/hXDjR.
Former Guantánamo Bay military prosecutor Lt. Col. Stuart Couch provides an inside look at the U.S. prison where 166 men remain imprisoned. Couch reveals shocking details about detainees being subjected to blaring music, blinding lights and other conditions he says amounted to torture.
What makes someone join Al Qaeda? In the case of Abu Yahya al-Libi, the Al Qaeda luminary killed in an American drone strike in Pakistan last June, his older brother has no doubt. Americans are culpable for his sibling’s embrace of terrorism. He draws a direct line between al-Libi’s recruitment by al Qaeda and the suffering he endured at the hands of American interrogators using techniques similar to those portrayed in the movie Zero Dark Thirty.
Al-Libi’s slaying may have been one of the reasons Libyan jihadists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last September, an assault that led to the death of ambassador Christopher Stevens. In the days leading up to the attack, Al Qaeda’s amir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, focused his annual 9/11 message on the drone war, eulogized al-Libi and called on “Libyan brothers” to avenge the loss.
Lamenting American missteps in the war on terror, Abd Al-Wahhab Muhammad Qaid says his brother had been in Afghanistan for 15 years, as a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, but that he, “like all of us shunned Al Qaeda.” That is, until his mistreatment at Bagram Air Base. “He was tortured very aggressively and humiliated. Naturally, for each action there’s a reaction,” he sighs.
Now the chairman of the national security committee in the General National Congress, Libya’s parliament, Qaid hopes America will rethink how it combats Muslim extremists and base its actions on reason not emotions; on investigation and not supposition.
Sitting in the grand lobby of Tripoli’s Rixos hotel for a rare interview with an American journalist, Qaid disclosed for the first time that, when he was jailed by the then-dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Americans seeking to understand his brother’s psychology visited him in prison to explore whether his brother could be coaxed to break with Al Qaeda.
The American visits were made before his brother became second in command of Al Qaeda, suggesting the CIA had spotted quickly that he was a rising terrorist star. He told them that it might be possible to persuade his brother to leave Al Qaeda and return to Libya, if Gaddafi would guarantee no torture and no jail time.
The 45-year-old Qaid is an imposing man and favors traditional Libyan dress. When I met him he was wearing a black galabeya and white prayer cap. He is the third senior member of the now defunct Libyan Islamic Fighting Group I have interviewed in recent months. There are similarities between him and his former comrades-in-arms Abdelhakim Belhadj and Sami Mostefa al-Saadi. All three are highly thoughtful and they all exhibit a calm dignity I’ve seen in other long-serving political prisoners.
And surprisingly none of them appear to bear any ill will to the West or Americans. All of them have tempered their beliefs and describe themselves as Islamist modernizers.
Belhadj and Saadi were among the 15 Libyan Islamists opposed to Gaddafi that the Americans and British delivered to Libya’s spy chief, Musa Kusa. The Americans tortured several of them before rendering them illegally to Libya, where they were tortured again. When Gaddafi’s intelligence boss interrogated al-Saadi he bragged: “Before 9/11, you went to countries where we couldn’t reach you. But now, after 9/11, I can just pick up the phone and call MI6 or the CIA.”
The renditions constitute one of the darkest chapters in the war on terror and they highlight a point Qaid is eager to convey: the failure of the West to distinguish between different Islamists and to view them all as being Al Qaeda.
Torture doesn’t necessarily have to deal with physical pain. The US military have used Christian heavy metal music by the band Demon Hunter after rockers Metallica asked they stop using their recordings on prisoners.
The US Navy SEAL involved in the killing of Osama bin Laden told Esquire magazine that prior to using Demon Hunter recordings, the commandoes used Metallica music to pull information out of Iraqi prisoners.
“When we first started the war in Iraq we were using Metallica music to soften people up before we interrogated them,”the spokesperson said.
However after the band, who is totally opposed to violence, asked the US military to stop using their music at interrogations, the commanders chose Demon Hunter.
“Demon Hunter said, ‘We’re all about promoting what you do.’ They sent us CDs and patches. I wore my Demon Hunter patch on every mission – I wore it when I blasted Bin Laden,” the Navy SEAL added.
“Part of me is proud they chose Metallica, and then part of me is bummed about it. We’ve got nothing to do with this and we’re trying to be apolitical as possible – I think politics and music, at least for us, don’t mix,” Metallica front man James Hetfield said in 2008 commenting on the news that US military used the band’s music for the interrogation of Guantanamo prisoners.
An official investigation into torture in Afghan prisons has found widespread abuse, President Hamid Karzai said Sunday, following a UN report into the problem.
“According to the report of the commission of inquiry, half of the prisoners interviewed complained of mistreatment, harassment and even torture during their detention,” the president’s office said in a statement.
It described prisoners’ access to lawyers as “problematic”, but made no conclusions or recommendations.
Karzai ordered the probe after the United Nations issued a damning report in January citing evidence of frequent abuse in the country’s prison system.
The report revealed that 326 of 635 prisoners interviewed across the country said they had been abused, including 80 minors.
Fourteen types of torture were described in the UN report, including beatings with cables and pipes, attacks on the genitals, threats of execution or rape, electric shocks and forced stress positions.
The United Nations also said 81 people imprisoned in southwestern Kandahar disappeared between September 2011 and October 2012.