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Thursday, April 28, 2005

US President reiterates commitment not to torture or outsource torture

At a press conference today, the following exchange will occur between a reporter and US President George W Bush. I have provided links within the text for further reading, particularly for those who find the US president's words convincing.
REPORTER: Mr. President, under the law, how would you justify the practice of renditioning, where U.S. agents who brought terror suspects abroad, taking them to a third country for interrogation? And would you stand for it if foreign agents did that to an American here?

THE PRESIDENT: That's a hypothetical, Mark. We operate within the law and we send people to countries where they say they're not going to torture the people.

But let me say something: the United States government has an obligation to protect the American people. It's in our country's interests to find those who would do harm to us and get them out of harm's way. And we will do so within the law, and we will do so in honoring our commitment not to torture people. And we expect the countries where we send somebody to, not to torture, as well. But you bet, when we find somebody who might do harm to the American people, we will detain them and ask others from their country of origin to detain them. It makes sense. The American people expect us to do that. We -- we still at war.

One of my -- I've said this before to you, I'm going to say it again, one of my concerns after September the 11th is the farther away we got from September the 11th, the more relaxed we would all become and assume that there wasn't an enemy out there ready to hit us. And I just can't let the American people -- I'm not going to let them down by assuming that the enemy is not going to hit us again. We're going to do everything we can to protect us. And we've got guidelines. We've got law. But you bet, Mark, we're going to find people before they harm us.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Karpinski gets reprimand

Today, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski is reprimanded for dereliction of duty in the Abu Ghraib scandal, and relieved of her command. In contrast, three other senior officers were cleared of wrong-doing. Also, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who perjured himself during a Senate Investigation into the Abu Ghraib scandal, is cleared of any wrong-doing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

18 released from GTMO told to stay quiet about abuse in front of reporters

Today, seventeen Afghans and one Turk will be freed from GTMO. During a handing over ceremony at the Afghan Supreme Court, they will be urged by Chief Justice Fazl Hadi Shinwari not to describe the abuses they suffered. Apparently fearing reprisals from the Republican Administration for any torture reports from the released prisoners, he will say to them
Don't tell these people [the reporters gathered] the stories of your time in prison because the government is trying to secure the release of others, and it may harm the [chances of winning the] release of your friends
Nevertheless, Abdul Rahman had this to say about his 3 years in GTMO
There was a lot of bad treatment against us, but this is not the time to tell you. ... Everybody in the world knows what kind of jail it is. I can't talk about it now.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Guantanamo: Honor bound to defend freedom

Today, a play called Guantanamo: Honor bound to defend freedom will be showing at the Brava Theater Center, California. According to the TicketWeb blurb, the play "is drawn from interviews of prisoners and their families, U.S. and British ofiicials, and others touched by this post 9-11 human rights disaster".

Report, HRW: Torture of detainees renditioned Egypt

Today, HRW will release a report entitled Black Hole: The Fate of Islamists Rendered to Egypt. The report will examine renditions to Egypt (the practise of sending detainees to be interrogated in another country, particularly one where they will abused or tortured). It is estimated that 152 individuals have returned from rendition to Egypt since 11 September 2001. In the few cases where information is available, detainees have been severely mistreated and tortured. The report uses 5 of these as case studies. The report updates the cases of Agiza and al-Zery.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

HRW Report: Still at Risk

Human Rights Watch released a report entitled Still at Risk: Diplomatic Assurances No Safeguard Against Torture, in which it condemns the practice of forced renditions of terror suspects to countries known for systemic torture and human rights abuses.

The report states that Egypt, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Yemen are known to have received detainees, and that such renditions have also been effected or proposed to countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Russia, Tunisia, and Turkey, where members of particular groups -- Islamists, Chechens, Kurds -- are routinely singled out for the worst forms of abuse.

Countries transfering their detainees to these countries rely upon "diplomatic assurances" that the receiving country will not torture or mistreat the detainees. This is either naivety, or simply a way for sending countries to divert criticism, and avoid culpability for a practice that is patently illegal. Numerous and credible reports of the torture of renditioned detainees make naivety the less parsimonious of the two explanations.

The countries engaging in this practice are named as follows: The United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Georgia.

HRW director Kenneth Roth is quoted as saying "Governments that are using diplomatic assurances know full well that they don't protect against torture, but in the age of terror, they're convenient. Only pressure from the public in Europe and North America can stop this negative trend."

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Passaro case: subpoenas

On 18 June 2003 Abdul Wali turned himself in to US forces in Afghanistan. After three days in their custody, he died.

Despite U.S. officials' insistence that Wali was not mistreated, and subsequent stories that Wali died of a heart attack, CIA operative David Passaro was later charged with mistreating Wali. Today, court documents relating to the trial of Passaro will be released.

Since the start of the trial, it appears that Passaro's initial tactic of trying to use military statements that Wali was not mistreated to prove that Wali was not mistreated has fallen through.

Passaro now intends to use a "public authority" defense, arguing that he acted under the authority of the President and the Director of the CIA, and that he had the authority to treat Wali in the way that he allegedly did. To demonstrate this, Passaro is attempting to subpoena U.S. officials, who have since proved untouchable in prisoner-abuse related court-cases. They include:

Defense lawyers also sought recordings or documents of satellite phone calls related to Wali's surrender, questioning and death. They also want the court to order the CIA and Justice Department to release documents "that address the capture, detention, and/or interrogation of members of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or other terrorist organizations or combatants operating in Afghanistan."

In early 2006 a federal judge will permit him to present evidence at the trial that he was following orders when he interrogated Wali, however he will stop short of authorizing Passaro to argue a broader "public authority defense" until jurors hear evidence supporting his claim.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

EOHR first annual report

The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights released its first annual report, which is regarded as tougher than expected for a council set up and financed by the government

The report observed that torture by Egyption police was commonplace, and that members of Islamist groups have been detained without charge, and detained after they complete their sentences. The report recommends the end of Emergency Law, which has been in place since 1981, and "[provides] the State a kind of immunity towards violating human rights and marginalizing the constitution and law, in addition to suspending the Egyptian Government's international commitments as ratified in international covenants and declarations concerning human rights".

The Egyptian Government's justification for extending the state of emergency is mainly based on the necessity to fight terrorism. EOHR has confirmed that no armed actions have been monitored since the Luxor Massacre in 1997. Furthermore, the use of the events of 11 September to give an impression that terrorist attacks might extend to Egypt is not politically or legally justified. By selecting justifications for continuing the state of emergency and in the absence of the necessary supervision of its implementation, we are left with its negative effects on the status and future of democracy and human rights in Egypt.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Deaths of ghost detainees

Today, Reuters will report that at least four references to deaths of "ghost" detainees that do not correspond to the Manadel al-Jamadi case have been recorded in Army investigations. (If anyone can point me to the original ACLU press-release for this, I would be grateful).

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Abu Ghraib prison attacked

Today, approximately 50 insurgents will attack Abu Ghraib prison in a well-planned attack.

Al Qaeda's offshoot in Iraq later is reported to have posted a statement on an Islamist website claiming responsibility. "Three martyrs were ... [killed] while infiltrating the infidels' fortresses and seven other martyrdom seekers went to heaven after they blew up the enemy," the statement said. "Your brothers in the Al Qaeda Organisation [for Holy War] in Iraq launched a well-planned attack on Abu Ghraib prison, where Muslim women and men are held," the groups said in a separate statement.