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Monday, March 28, 2005

Incident: Women taken hostage by coalition forces

According to a report in the Guardian, some time within this week, Salima al-Batawi (60 yrs) and her daughter Aliya (26 yrs) will be taken from their home in Baghdad. Her three sons will return home to find their mother and sister missing, and the following note hand-written in Arabic and attached to their gate:
Be a man Muhammad Mukhlif and give yourself up and then we will release your sisters. Otherwise they will spend a long time in detention.
(signed: Bandit 6)
Rather than surrendering, the wise sons alerted the media, and after 6 days, their mother and sister were released without charge.

Salima al-Batawi said Americans threatened to hold her until her sons surrendered but treated her and her daughter with respect. "They carried out a professional investigation. We found beds with clean sheets and copies of the Koran and bottles of water in a big room".

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Amnesty International Report, Kenya

Today, Amnesty International will release a report entitled Kenya The impact of "anti-terrorism" operations on human rights. In it, Amnesty International will express their concern that Kenya has been torturing its citizens as part of this anti-terrorism operations, largely resulting from the bombing of the Mombasa Hotel in 2002. The report's main findings were:
  • The use of torture and other ill-treatment during detention including physical abuse;
  • Detention of suspects without charge in undisclosed locations and without access to a lawyer or relatives;
  • The holding of suspects in degrading and unsanitary conditions without access to medical care when needed;
  • Harassment of family members and the arbitrary detention of relatives to put pressure on suspects to hand themselves in;
  • The failure of police to show warrants when arresting individuals or conducting searches of property.
An individual case, that of Mohammed Surur, is described in the 30 May 2003 entry.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Pentagon censors embarrassing information: that torture ineffectual

Today it will be reported that the censorship of documents released to NGOs under the Freedom of Information Act was not done purely to protect sensitive information. Government censors had removed phrases that indicated that the the authors had doubts about the value of the information obtained from detainees under duress. From the report:
... a US Senator has pressured the Justice Department into disclosing some of the previously hidden information in one of the memos, revealing more information about the FBI's stance on the military interrogation techniques employed at the base.

Among the newly released snippets of text is one in which the author says he discussed the "effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the DoD [interrogation] techniques." The words "(or lack thereof) of the DoD techniques" had previously been blanked out by government censors.

In another newly unredacted portion of the document, the author describes how FBI agents believed the results obtained from some of the military-run interrogations were "suspect at best."

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Happy Iran Sovereignty day, and hands off Iran

Today is the anniversary of the nationalization of Iran's oil industry. The political movement associated with this was subsequently crushed by the 1953 U.S backed coup d'etat, but it remains a potent symbol of struggle, and a reminder of the true motives of the empire. Some Iranian bloggers have got together the idea of putting a message in blogs about today, to speak against movements towards invasion of Iran. That's why the title of this blog now includes "Hands off Iran". I will be away on business today so I have decided to put my message against the war up early to participate as best I can.

The message I want to give is contained in this blog and sister-blog The People's Oil. "The People's Oil" is a documentation of the only thing that ever motivated the Administration. All talk of freedom and democracy is a capitulation to the good people of America, who would never accept an imperialist war for oil and power alone, and retain with their idealism the naivety to believe their leaders' speech.

Do not believe the lies about good intentions for the Middle East. The interests of brown people will only ever be considered where their interests and the interests of the Administration coincide. This rarely happens, and only when the People protest so hard that they make refusing their demands worse for the Administration than pursuing their original self-interested plan.

"Rummy's Diaries" is a retrospective archive of information about human rights abuse in the War on Terror. This horror is what "war" means. This is the depths of depravity which the Administration is willing to go to when given the American people's tacit support. The fact that the majority of Americans voted for this is proof that this Administration is not sufficiently curtailed by a moral and knowledgeable people to be entrusted with warfare. Don't let them do it to Iran as well. If self-interest is your only interest, I plead with you that there are enough terrorists in the world without creating fresh ones in Iranian detention facilities.

UPDATE: For those in the US who refuse to be passive participators, Sima has an awesome list of activities and protests planned for today. So stand up, get the blood off your hands, and get out there.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Media: 108 deaths in custody

various media outlets report that an estimated 108 people have died in U.S. custody in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and roughly a quarter of the cases have been investigated as possible U.S. abuse, according to government data provided to The Associated Press. Human-rights groups say there are others.

Of the prisoner deaths:

  • At least 26 have been investigated as criminal homicides involving possible abuse.
  • At least 29 are attributed to suspected natural causes or accident.
  • Twenty-two died during an insurgent mortar attack on April 6, 2004, on Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
  • At least 21 are attributed to "justifiable homicide," when U.S. troops used deadly force against rioting, escaping or threatening prisoners, and investigations found the troops acted appropriately.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Pentagon clears itself of responsibility for abuse

Today, an inquiry headed by Vice Admiral Albert T Church will find (exec summary) that neither government policy nor faulty leadership lead to prisoner abuses Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. Carl Levin, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, dismissed the document as a whitewash. I will provide highlights of the unclassified Executive Summary below. I will leave quotations as is, however links will be provided within them in appropriate places so that readers may do their own research into the content of the report.

With regards to GTMO, the summary states that the harshest technique permitted in Guantanamo Bay was "mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with a finger, and light pushing". It makes no references to allegations to the contrary, nor to internal memos generated prior which explicitly contradict this statement. Thus the summary concludes that "[in] GTMO, we found that from the beginning of the interrogation operations to the present, interrogation policies were effectively disseminated and interrogators closely adhered to the policies, with minor exceptions".

With regards to Afghanistan, the summary provides a time-line of events to explain some of the incidents that have come to light.

  • January 24, 2003: A "memorandum tacitly confirmed that "migration" of interrogation techniques [used in Afghanistan] had occurred separately" to the official development of interrogation procedures. It revealed that techniques approved for GTMO only were being used. The sender received no word from CENTCOM or the Joint Staff in response to the memo "and interpreted this silence to mean that the techniques then in use ... were unobjectionable to higher headquarters and therefore could be considered approved policy.
  • 27 February 2003: In light of two detainee deaths at Bagram, a "Commander modified or eliminated" tactics "as a precaution, out of general concern for detainee treatment".
  • March 2004: new interrogation guidance was created, which "was not drafted as carefully as it could have or should have been". The summary claims that the techniques were based upon an unsigned draft memo from Donald Rumsfeld to CENTCOM, which "identical to the Secretary's April 16, 2003 interrogation policy for GTMO", however they "found no evidence that the Secretary was ever aware of this draft memorandum, which was never approved".
With regards to Iraq and Afghanistan, the summary states that although, there was "poor unit-level compliance with approved policy memoranda",
we found that they did not lead to the employment of illegal or abusive interrogation techniques. According to our investigation, interrogators clearly understood that abusive practices and techniques - such as physical assault, sexual humiliation, terrorizing detainees with unmuzzled dogs, or threats of torture or death - were at all times prohibited ... Thus, with limited exceptions [see below] ... interrogators did not employ such techniques, nor did they direct MPs to do so.
DoD investigators had substantiated 71 cases of detainee abuse, including six deaths, 20 were were considered related to interrogation, defined as during questioning or in the presence of military-intelligence interrogators, including six deaths. They included:
  • Two female interrogators touched and spoke to detainees at GTMO in a sexually suggestive manner
  • Numerous villagers in Afghanistan being kicked and punched (see 18 March 2004)
  • Two deaths at Bagram
  • Sixteen interrogation-related abuses in Iraq
For all of the above cases, the conclude that "there is no link between any authorized interrogation techniques and the actual abuses described", because "none of the approved policies ... would have permitted the abuse that occurred".
We found, without exception, that the DoD officials and senior military commanders responsible for the formulation of interrogation policy evidenced the intent to treat detainees humanely, which is fundamentally inconsistent with the notion that such officials or commanders ever accepted that detainee abuse would be permissible. Even in the absence of a precise definition of "humane" treatment, it is clear that none of the pictured abuses at Abu Ghraib bear any resemblance to approved policies at any level , in any theater.
They note that
our conclusion is consistent with the findings of the Independent Panel, which ... determined that "[n]o approved procedures called for or allowed the kinds of abuse that in fact occurred. There is no evidence of a policy of abuse promulgated by senior officials or military authorities".

... Nevertheless, with the clarity of hindsight we consider it a missed opportunity that no specific guidance on interrogation techniques was provided to the commanders responsible for Afghanistan and Iraq, as it was ... for Guantanamo Bay.

So why did the abuse occur? According to the summary, the abuses were due to:
  • passions running high after battle
  • senior officials failed to respond to early warning signs in time. The report from the ICRC is used as an example.
  • discipline breakdown in some units

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Rape investigation

Today is International Women's Day. Today, The Guardian will report on the investigation into an alleged rape of an iraqi woman by soldiers. In more irony, this investigation was prompted by an article in soft-core porn magazine, Playboy. The article alleged that the 3rd Infantry Brigade had engaged in various war crimes, from rape to hogtieing and beating up an Iraqi detainee (sorry, I can't find the original).

In an internal invesigation obtained by the ACLU, it is revealed the the soldiers did indeed talk to the playboy reporter (e.g. page 8382), however they uniformly claim that the incidents reported did not occur.

The admission of SPC [censored] to having sex with Iraqi women is as follows (page 8404)

In reference to having sex with Iraqi women. I had sex with an Iraqi prostitute for ten dollars. I was pulling gaurd at a mall. I came off gaurd went into the mall had sex with the woman and then went back onto the roof to pull gaurd.
In questioning, SPC [censored] responds as follows(page 8405 onward). Note that the the following pages have a convenient vertical strip of white through them, giving the appearance that the printer malfunctioned.
Q: Where did you have sex with the Iraqi women?
A: At the shopping center.
Q: How did they get into the shopping center?
A: I don't know.
Q: How did you know about the women?
A: I don't know which one of the two told me, I think it was
Q: What did he tell you?
A: He told me there were some prostitutes downstairs, $10.00.
Q: Did [censored] tell you he had sex with the women?
A: Yes.
Q: What did he tell you?
A: He just said he, I can't remember. I am sure he told me but I can't remember what he said. He told me he had sex, but I don't remember what his exact words were.
Q: Did [censored] tell you he had sex with the women?
A: No, he said he didn't, because he was married, but it came out later that he did.
Q: How many women [illegible]
A: Two.
Q: How many did you have sex with?
A: One.
Q: How many did [censored] have sex with?
A: I don't know.
Q: How many did [censored] have sex with?
A: No idea.
Q: Did you force [illegible] in any way?
A: No.
Q: How do you [illegible] consenting to the sexual activity?
A: She took my pants off.
Q: Did she take her clothes off?
A: Yes.
Q: Did she cry or yell [illegible] incident?
A: No.
Q: Did she seem [illegible]?
A: No.
Q: Who did [illegible] (money?) to?
A: Her.
Q: Do you know [illegible] [censored] raped the woman?
A: No. I don't [illegible]
The testimony of other soldiers is included. For example, investigators summary (page 8387) includes the following
SPC [censored] stated he did hear about soldiers having sex while at the mall. He heard the soldiers that had sex were SPC [censored], PFC [censored], SPC [censored], and PFC [censored] [censored] deceased, formerly assigned to B Co., 1/15th Inf Bn, Fort Benning, GA). He stated he heard they took turns and paid $10.00, but the women were not raped. SPC [censored] had no further information pertaining to this investigation ...

... SGT [censored] stated he was present at the mall when SPC [censored], PFC [censored] and SPC [censored] had sex with prostitutes. SGT [censored] stated he saw the women in the mall and they did not appear to be forced or distressed ...

One soldier even presents an argument for why he did not believe any in his company had raped women (page 8370)
In fact, the sex would have been so cheap to buy, to get sex forcibly would have been to much of a hassel.
Several soldiers claim that sex-workers were plentiful, and that they were often accosted by them. However, on page 8353, one soldier states that SGT [censored] was having some difficulty finding prostitutes
Q: Do you know anything about SGT [censored] and prostitutes?
A: I know he was trying to find some.
Q: How do you know that?
A: He told me.
Q: What did he say?
A: He had said for the past few days he had been trying to get prostitutes down there, but none had shown up.
Q: How was he trying to get prostitutes?
A: I don't know.
Most soldiers quoted only mention the two women. However, some refer to several other Iraqi people present at the time. One soldier states that the prostitutes arrived with their family, and another that they had children with them.

The soldier describes a family as follows (page 8416-8417):

I was guarding the rooftop when someone informed myself and [censored] that there were two women and their families downstairs. We went to check on the situation and I saw two Iraqi men, one older woman about 45 to 50 years of age, and two younger ladies that were dressed in American style jogging outfits. PFC [censored] told me he had sex with one of them and SPC [censored] had also told me they had sex with the two young ladies and paid them $10 (US dollars).
The soldier later states that the girls did not appear distressed or forced to be there, and that he did not see the payment.

Another soldier claims that small children were present (page 8435)

There were 2 prostitutes that showed up at the shopping mall. An older lady and a man with small children were also present.
Some discrepency is noted regarding the sum paid to the prostitutes. Page 8451 has one of the soldiers claiming to have paid $5.00.

The polygraph of SGT [censored] was not included in the documentation.

The women involved were not found and questioned.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

10,000 Iraqis in detention

AFP quotes joint chief of staff General Babakir Zebari as saying "We have 10,000 of them [Iraqis] in detention."


Also today, Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst who helped set up the rendition program during the Clinton administration, will be quoted as saying

"They don't have the same legal system we have. But we know that going into it. It's finding someone else to do your dirty work."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

ACLU sues Rumsfeld

A lawsuit is filed in federal court in Illinois on behalf of eight men who claim to have been subject to torture and abuse at the hands of U.S. forces under Secretary Rumsfeld's command. The ACLU and Human Rights first charge that Secretary Rumsfeld knew that torture and abuse were taking place and did nothing to stop it.