February 2011 Archives

Torture: What Is to Be Done?

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"Nothing demonstrates the bankruptcy of the current ruling elites than the use of torture and assassination. The fight against torture must mean a full political assault against the legitimacy of a state apparatus and its defenders, who use such horrific means as torture as a bulwark against those who they fear challenge their rule and privileges. It must also involve the full use of the social power of civil society (unions, churches, professional organizations), which thus far have remained wedded to leaderships that will not challenge the electoral mastery of a morally and politically bankrupt two-party system. -- Jeff Kaye

Shannon_vigil.jpgWith every day that goes by there is also more and more evidence to indicate that the Irish government has contravened the UN Convention Against Torture by allowing known and suspected rendition planes to land at Shannon. A recently released Wikileaks cable from 2007 has revealed that Minister Dermot Ahern was "convinced" that renditions flights had transited Shannon. This and the ongoing use of Shannon in support of acts of war is something Ireland should be ashamed of. The next government must face up to its legal and moral responsibilities and end the U.S. military and CIA use of Shannon Airport.

Spanish Judges Rule Case on US Torture Can Continue

February 25, 2011, New York - In response to news that the full panel of Judges of the Audencia Nacional (Spain's High Court) rejected a Spanish prosecutor's effort to stop an investigation into the role of  US officials for torture on Guantanamo, the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has submitted many papers in this and a related case in Spain, released the following statement:

This is a monumental decision that will enable a Spanish judge to continue a case on the "authorized and systematic plan of torture and ill treatment" by U.S. officials at Guantanamo. Geoffrey Miller, the former commanding officer at Guantánamo, has already been implicated, and the case will surely move up the chain of command. Since the U.S. government has not only failed to investigate the illegal actions of its own officials and, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks,  also sought to interfere in the Spanish judicial process and stop the case from proceeding, this will be the first real investigation of the U.S. torture program. This is a victory for accountability and a blow against impunity. The Center for Constitutional Rights applauds the Spanish courts for not bowing to political pressure and for undertaking what may be the most important investigation in decades.  
For more information and filings related to the Spanish cases, both the above torture case and the Bush 6 case looking into the role of the lawyers in the torture program, visit the Spanish case page on the Center for Constitutional Rights web site.
Ben Ferencz, the last surviving prosecutor from the World War II Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, will make an important statement on U.S. foreign policy at an event in Boca Raton on Feb. 26, 2011. Check David Swanson's blog, War Is A Crime, for details.

Meanwhile, check out this video clip c/o KQED, where Ben addresses accountability for American criminals:

Link to THE RECKONING film here

An ongoing crime of U.S. imperialism.  Who should be behind bars?

By Kenneth J. Theisen

One of the ongoing crimes of the U.S. government is the existence and running of the U.S. military prison at the notorious Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.  Like the better known Guantánamo Prison known as Gitmo, the Bagram prison is a hell hole where prisoners of the U.S. war of terror are held. These prisoners face torture, death and other human rights abuses. They are denied fundamental legal rights including the right to challenge their incarceration, known as habeas corpus...

John Yoo, who believes that presidents are sometimes empowered to order the massacre of a village or the crushing of a child's testicles, has a post up at Ricochet arguing that president Obama "misunderstands his constitutional role"  and "continues to display his misunderstanding of the constitutional order." How?

cohn_marjorie.jpgProfessor Marjorie Cohn, editor and co-author of The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse talks to Amanda Bronstad at The National Law Journal about her new book's relevance in light of the recent events in Egypt:

"This was in effect a military coup motivated by the popular protest by people in the streets. The military's now in charge. They have disbanded Parliament and the Constitution, but they have not lifted the state of emergency, and the state of emergency, which has been in effect for 30 years, has been the excuse for secret police to arrest people without any charges, detain them and torture them. Most of the torture is committed by the secret police. But The Guardian reported that the Egyptian military, since the protests started, secretly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of suspected government opponents since mass protests began, and at least some of these have been tortured. Keep in mind the military has been the backbone for this oppressive regime for 30 years, and they've been a central pillar of this police state...

the U.S. is continuing to fund the government there, which is really a military government. It is the vast amount of money the U.S. government has sent to Egypt all these years that has enabled Mubarak to rule with a fist of terror. And the U.S. government continues to support other vicious dictators around the world, including several in the Middle East.

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this is what we allowed, and we 
continue to debate whether it is 
justified. You can't do that to 
a human being and still think 
of yourself as a human being.





photo by IAN GARCIA-DOTY/The Stanford Daily

My Tortured Journey With Former Guantanamo Detainee David Hicks

My Tortured Journey With Former Guantanamo Detainee David Hicks
David Hicks, author of "Guantanamo: My Journey." (Image: Random House Australia)


I've been struggling these past few weeks.

I read a book written by a former Guantanamo detainee named David Hicks titled "Guantanamo: My Journey." It's a powerful and heartbreaking memoir and it made a profound impact on me emotionally.

I interviewed Hicks after I read his book. We spoke about a half-dozen times over the past two months. This is the first interview he's granted since he was released from the "least worst place" in 2007. Click here to read the full Q&A.

Hicks is the Australian drifter who converted to Islam, changed his name to Muhammed Dawood and ended up at training camps in Afghanistan the US government said was linked to al-Qaeda, one of which was visited by Osama bin Laden several times. Hicks was picked up at a taxi stand by the Northern Alliance in November 2001 and sold to US forces for about $1,500. Hicks was detainee 002, the second person processed into Guantanamo on January 11, 2002, the day the facility opened.

Hicks was brutally tortured. Psychologically and physically for four years, maybe longer. He was injected in the back of his neck with unknown drugs. He was sodomized with a foreign object. He spent nearly a year in solitary confinement. He was beaten once for ten hours. He was threatened with death. He was placed in painful stress positions. He was exposed to extremely cold temperatures, loud music and strobe lights designed to disorient his senses.

I've been obsessed with the torture and rendition program since details of it first surfaced nearly a decade ago. I'm not exactly sure why I'm so fascinated and outraged by every tiny detail, every new document dump or why I chase every new lead as if I were paparazzi trying to get a shot of Lindsay Lohan. What I do know is that there's something about the crimes committed by the Bush administration in our name that haunts me.

I have never spoken to a former detainee before I phoned Hicks at his home in Sydney, Australia, a few days before the New Year. There was something surreal about listening to Hicks' voice as he described his suffering in painstaking detail. Maybe it was the fact that there was a real person on the other end of the receiver and not just a name on a charge sheet. I found it incredibly difficult to separate the reporter from the human being once Hicks stopped speaking. Before I hung up the phone after our first conversation, I told Hicks I was sorry.

"I'm sorry my government tortured you, David," I said.

"Thanks, mate," Hicks said, his voice cracking....

conspiracy to torture

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With no consequences -- not even ostracism -- for those involved in facilitating torture, they simply reappear, recast as book authors, experts and even potential heads of state. And each time we accept these individuals in their new guise, we mire ourselves further in the dirty business of torture, colluding in what has been a conspiracy of silence about the most heinous of human rights violations, and further undermining our international credibility.

Among the most devastating consequences of the U.S. failure to confront and punish torture is the way in which torture -- long considered beyond the pale -- has now been mainstreamed....

see A Dark Reminder In Rumsfeld's Memoir

Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo wrote the infamous "torture memo" of August 2002 because [former CIA counsel John Rizzo] had asked for clarification about techniques that could be used on detainees...

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Rizzo seems bitter that he and other CIA officials have been criticized for authorizing harsh interrogations under Bush, and yet there has been little outcry over the faster pace of lethal operations under Obama. (From 2004 to 2008, Bush authorized 42 drone strikes, according to the New America Foundation. The number has more than quadrupled under President Obama--to 180 at last count.)

A Newsweek interview with the man who approved 
'lethal operations': Inside the Killing Machine

Padilla Against Rumsfeld

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Mubarak: One Torturer GONE

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"Watching the delirious celebrations in Egypt, and spreading to cities across the region, and the world, you've got to feel the joy.  A hated dictator, who until a month or so ago held unchallengeable power, is gone, relatively quickly, through the action of people in the streets.  Standing up to the police state, the open on-the-street killing of protesters, the jailing and torture of 10,000 political prisoners as S.O.P., Egyptian youth have opened something up which is doubtless making other repressive governments nervous...

Where this all will go we can't know.  But never tell me, again, that protest 'doesn't do any good'. People used to ask, when we began World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime, 'what does that mean? drive out?' The last 3 weeks provide a stunning example.  Received via Twitter: 'ya'll know we could have done this w/ Pres Bush right?? it's not too late to end the war & torture. world can't wait' - Debra Sweet

'Thousands' of protesters may have been tortured: report

The World WON'T Wait

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"It is not yet clear whether George W. Bush is planning to cross the Atlantic to flog us his memoirs, but if I were his PR people I would urge caution. As book tours go, this one would be an absolute corker....  The real trouble -- from the Bush point of view -- is that he might never see Texas again...[as officials]...place some handcuffs on the former leader of the Free World.... 
- Boris Johnson, Mayor of London 


Since [Gul] Rahman's death, [undercover CIA officer] Paul's career has advanced quickly. He is chief of the Near East Division, the section that oversees spy operations in Iraq, Iran and other Middle East countries. It's one of the most important jobs in the agency. Matt [another CIA officer] has completed assignments in Bahrain, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he was deputy chief of tribal operations.... 
Six Questions:
Scott Horton interviews Cherif Bassiouni, law professor at DePaul University in Chicago, one of the key authors of the Convention Against Torture and a preeminent expert in international criminal law.

evidence of torture

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UPDATE: "Between The Lines" Scott Harris speaks with Claire Tixeire from the Center for Constitutional Rights about the basis for the Bush torture indictment and plans to pursue the case around the world. Listen in here

Nine years ago today, the Bush administration decided that international law does not apply to prisoners of war. It was a watershed moment in US history, resulting in a policy of torture that pervaded and darkened the Bush years, and inflamed anti-American sentiment abroad.

To mark that grim anniversary, two men who claim to have been victims of torture filed official complaints in Geneva, Switzerland, seeking a ruling on universal jurisdiction...

Torture complaints hit Bush on ninth anniversary of key decision


"I thought the US Government sent the discredited law professor John Yoo back to Berkeley. Yet somehow his tortured approach to constitutional law is now back at work in the Obama Administration... - Stephen Diamond

Administrating Torture

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Secretary of State doublespeaks support for Empire,

The War on Torture

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Pvt. Lynndie England and a prisoner at Abu GhraibPARK CITY, Utah--Near the start of this year's Sundance Film Festival, at a panel titled "Why Art Matters," veteran television producer Norman Lear answered the question this way: "The arts start the conversation. When the world is saved--and it really does require saving--the door will be opened through the arts and then the politicians. Then the policies will follow." 


Robert Redford, Doug Liman, and other filmmakers and artists unite to remind Americans about prisoner abuse

5 February 2011, Geneva - Just days before George W. Bush's scheduled arrival to Geneva, the former United States President decided to cancel his trip. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sent the following statement:

"CCR, with the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), have spent weeks preparing a 2,500 page torture case against Bush that would have been filed on Monday, February 7 - the anniversary of the day, nine years ago, when Bush decided the Geneva Conventions didn't apply to 'enemy combatants.' Bush was due to be in Geneva on the 12th, and his presence on Swiss territory is required for the prosecutor to take action.

"The complaint, brought under the Convention Against Torture with the support of 50 NGOs, two former UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and two Nobel Prize winners, was on behalf of two torture victims, one who is still at Guantánamo.

"Whatever Bush or his hosts say, we have no doubt he cancelled his trip to avoid our case. The message from civil society is clear - If you're a torturer, be careful in your travel plans. It's a slow process for accountability, but we keep going."

All of these international efforts to seek justice for the human rights violations committed by the Bush administration are possible only because the US has refused to prosecute.

"I really have come to question the moral compass of my fellow Americans who do not themselves question the routine suppression of other peoples by our government. What business do we have meddling in another country's internal affairs let alone invading other countries, occupying them, torturing their citizens, attacking their citizens directly or covertly with unseen drones? I think that the individual who lives in the United States with his head held high, who simply lives his own life while ignoring what his country does to the rest of the world is someone I don't want to know.

- Susan O'Connell reflects on U.S. backing of Omar Suleiman, America's go-to guy for renditions and head of the dreaded Egyptian intelligence service

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Events & Calendars

War Criminals Watch Events



Important Reading

Physicians for Human Rights
Broken Laws, Broken Lives

NLG White Paper
ON THE LAW OF TORTURE...

The President's Executioner

Detention and torture in Guantanamo



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