Torture - search results
Video: ‘Torture for fun’: Iraqi forces filmed executing hospital employee suspected of ISIS links...
Video: Lawyer for Tortured Detainees: U.S. Created ISIS Through Misguided Detention, Interrogation Policies
Video: Syrian Refugee Crisis Linked to Rampant Torture, Disappearances & Arrests of Civilian Population
Video: Journalist James Risen: CIA Torture Methods Caused Long-Term Psychological Harm to Former Prisoners
Video: Military Injustice: As Bowe Bergdahl Court-Martialed, Navy SEALs Tied to Torture, Killing Walk...
Lawsuit Filed Against CIA Torture Psychologists Physicians for Human Rights Welcomes ACLU’s Case, Demands...
Video: No More Torture: World’s Largest Psychologists Group Bans Role in National Security Interrogations
Video: Psychologists Collaborated with CIA & Pentagon on Post-9/11 Torture Program, May Face Ethics...
Szymany airport in Poland, allegedly used for covert prisoner transportation by the CIA in 2003 Poland.(AFP Photo / Piotr Placzkowski )
Warsaw has paid €230,000 to two former inmates of CIA "black site" prisons, which used to be on Poland's territory - a move that has raised questions in the country.
"Poland has fulfilled the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights," Deputy Foreign Minister Rafał Trzaskowski said on Thursday, RIA Novosti reports. He said that money had been sent to one victim's bank account. The other's share had been transferred to his court deposit, as he is under international sanctions.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in July 2014 that Poland must pay compensation to the two terror suspects: Palestinian Abu Zubaydah and Saudi Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who were held and tortured in CIA-run detention centers in Poland between 2002 and 2003. The court set this Saturday as the deadline for the payments.
The two men are now being held in America's Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. They are to receive €100,000 each for psychological damage, plus Zubaydah is due an additional €30,000 in court expenses.
Warsaw's decision to pay up raised questions in Poland. Opposition lawmaker Witold Waszczykowski, cited by AP, said: “I think we shouldn’t pay, we shouldn’t respect this judgment. This is a case not between us and them – it’s between them and the United States government.”
However, no US officials have been held accountable to date. The only other related ruling handed down by the European Court of Human Rights was to Macedonia. In 2012, it was ordered to pay €60,000 for the detention of a Lebanese-German, who was subjected to abuse by the CIA on trumped up terror suspicions.
Poland has been investigating allegations of secret CIA detention centers or "black sites" on its territory since 2008. In December 2014, Poland's former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski officially admitted that a secret CIA prison had existed at an airbase, where terror suspects were brought for torture and interrogation. He insisted, though, that Warsaw had no idea about the abuse happening at the site.
Kwaśniewski's statement came on the heels of a US Senate committee report on CIA activities. In August the same year, Barack Obama admitted for the first time that torture had indeed taken place in American custody after the 9/11 attacks.
The authorities should have expected to be held accountable sooner or later, criminology professor Ben Davis told RT. "The only people who have been betrayed in all of this are the ordinary people in all of these countries," he said. "The ordinary citizens who count on their governments not to torture people, to comply with their obligations in international law or domestic law."
Obama administration grants architects of torture sneak peak at Senate Intelligence Committee report on...
The CIA’s Global Torture Operations: Disclosure under Barack Obama, the Most Secretive President in...
A new book called Mainstreaming Torture argues that torture has been with us for a long time and remains with us and has been mainstreamed and increased in acceptability in the years since Bush and Cheney left office. We speak with the author, Rebecca Gordon. She teaches in the Philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. Previous publications include Letters From Nicaragua and Cruel and Usual: How Welfare “Reform” Punishes Poor People. She is an editor of WarTimes/Tiempo de guerras, which seeks to bring a race, class, and gender perspective to issues of war and peace.
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Christians Are Being Burned Alive, Beheaded, Crucified, Tortured To Death And Imprisoned In Metal...
The “coming persecution of Christians” has already begun. It is already here. So why is the mainstream media in the United States almost totally silent about this phenomenon? When some politician somewhere around the globe inadvertently offends homosexuals or Muslims, it instantly makes headline news. But very few Americans are even aware that it has [...]
Outsourcing the NSA’s Dirty Deeds In An Attempt to Create Plausible Deniability Torture doesn’t work to produce actionable intelligence. Indeed, it harms our national security and creates more terrorists. Because torture is blatantly illegal, the Bush and Obama administrations have … Continue reading →
- their monitoring of and direct participation in torture procedures;
- instructing interrogators to continue, adjust, or stop certain ones;
- informing detainees that medical treatment depended on their cooperation;
- performing medical checks before and after each torture session; and
- treating the effects of torture as well as ailments and injuries during incarceration.
- "Involvement in abusive interrogation; consulting on conditions of confinement to increase the disorientation and anxiety of detainees;
- Using medical information for interrogation purposes; and
- Force-feeding of hunger strikers."
- "Excus(ing) violations of ethical standards by inappropriately characterizing health professionals engaged in interrogation as 'safety officers;'
- Implement(ing) rules that permitted medical and psychological information obtained by health professionals to be used in interrogations;
- Requir(ing) physicians and nurses to forgo their independent medical judgment and counseling roles, as well as to force-feed competent detainees engaged in hunger strikes even though this is forbidden by the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association;
- Improperly designat(ing) licensed health professionals to use their professional skills to interrogate detainees as military combatants, a status incompatible with licensing; and
- Fail(ing) to uphold recommendations by the Army Surgeon General to adopt international standards for medical reporting of abuse against detainees."
- "issuing protocols requiring doctors and nurses to participate in the force-feeding of detainees, including forced extensive bodily restraints for up to two hours twice a day;
- enabling interrogators access to medical and psychological information about detainees for exploitation by interrogators; and
- permitting clinical care for detainees to suffer from the inability or failure of clinicians to address causes of detainee distress from torture."
Medical, Military, and Ethics Experts Say Health Professionals Designed and Participated in Cruel, Inhumane,...
WASHINGTON - October 17 - George W Bush’s former Under-Secretary for Homeland Security has dismissed claims advanced by lawyers for the UK Government that hearing cases brought by torture victims in the British courts may damage US-UK intelligence-sharing.
In the best known of these cases, Gaddafi opponent Abdulhakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar are taking the Government, MI6 and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to court next week over their alleged role in their kidnap and ‘rendition’ to Libya in 2004, where Mr Belhaj was tortured. Mr Straw was Foreign Secretary, with responsibility for MI6, at the time.
Lawyers for the UK Government have claimed that the case should not proceed as it would damage UK-US relations and the US’ willingness to share intelligence with the UK. However, asked today by Reprieve’s Strategic Director, Cori Crider, whether he agreed with UK ministers’ claim that rendition and torture cases cannot be tried in Britain without endangering the intelligence-sharing relationship with the US, Asa Hutchinson, who also headed the Drugs Enforcement Administration under Bush, said “no.”
Mr Hutchinson was speaking at the UK launch of a report on ‘Detainee Treatment’ produced by a panel of former security officials, military figures, and senior US politicians. He was joined by former US Ambassador to the UN, Thomas Pickering, also a member of the panel, who agreed with his view on the UK Government’s claims. Ambassador Pickering stated that the information being shared and the partnership between the US and UK were “too important” and that, as a result, “of course” the information would be shared.
Ambassador Pickering also criticised the recently-passed Justice and Security Act, which rolls out secret courts known as Closed Material Procedures across the civil justice system in Britain, arguing that it seems it will lead to “more secrecy, not less.”
On Shaker Aamer, the British resident detained at Guantanamo Bay despite having been cleared for release, he said that “The US should immediately release Aamer or give reasons for his continued detention.”
Commenting, Cori Crider said: “When a Bush-era senior security official and a former US ambassador both dismiss the UK Government’s claims on why torture cases should not come before the court, it becomes clear that ministers do not have a leg to stand on. Government lawyers are trotting out the same tired old line to try to avoid accountability: that it will harm national security, and the US will stop sharing intelligence with us. Under-Secretary Hutchinson’s and Ambassador Pickering’s comments show that this claim is nonsense.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 / [email protected] uk
Mass Hunger Strike by Californian Prisoners Protesting Torture: Dangers of Starvation-related Deaths
The Administration’s domestic Surveillance and Torture programs: Obama appoints former Bush deputy Attorney General...
Investigative journalist Dahr Jamail reported for Democracy Now! throughout the early stages of the U.S. invasion of Iraq 10 years ago. Now with Al Jazeera, Jamail has just returned from Iraq once again, finding what he calls a "failed state" living in "utter devastation." In part one of our interview, Jamail discusses the harrowing security situation for Iraqis living in fear of bombings, executions and kidnappings, the widespread torture in Iraq’s prisons, and the breakdown of security in what he calls a "lawless state." Jamail is the author of "Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq" and "The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan."
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
Nermeen Shaikh: On the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led attack on Iraq, a series of deadly bomb blasts has hit the capital city of Baghdad. The first attack came early morning Tuesday and killed a Finance Ministry official. It was followed by more than a dozen bombings that targeted a vegetable market, a bank and a restaurant. At least 65 people were killed, and hundreds more were wounded. The spate of violence comes as many Iraqis are reflecting on what has changed in their country since the invasion, which led to the ouster of longtime leader Saddam Hussein. Many say they have yet to see any of the benefits they were promised.
Ghali Al-Atwani: [translated] The decision to go to war in Iraq was incorrect. Firstly, Iraq was put under Chapter VII. Then the war was waged. Nothing has changed in Iraq. There was Saddam’s dictatorship before, but now there’s a collective dictatorship in Iraq. What has changed in Iraq? The economic situation is very bad. The public services are in poor condition. Baghdad was flooded with water because of heavy rains. So the Americans always bring destruction and death in every place they go and invade.
Amy Goodman:The almost nine-year U.S. occupation of Iraq led to the deaths of at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more. Many in Iraq continue to suffer the consequences of the invasion.
Later we’ll also talk about the war’s impact on U.S. military veterans, but first we’re joined by longtime Democracy Now! contributor Dahr Jamail, now an investigative reporter for Al Jazeera English in Doha. If you watched our coverage during the 10 years of the invasion, you will remember his reports from Fallujah and elsewhere. Dahr recently returned to Baghdad, where he filed several major reports. His recent stories for Al Jazeera include and He’s also reported on the million displaced Iraqis who are struggling without government aid. Dahr Jamail is the author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq and The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Welcome welcome back to Democracy Now!, Dahr. It’s good to have you with us. We last saw you when we were in Doha, as well. That’s where you are, at the studios of Al Jazeera. Dahr, talk about what you found in your most recent trip to Iraq.
Dahr Jamail:Well, it’s a huge question, Amy, because the situation in Iraq today, 10 years after the U.S.-led invasion and occupation began, it’s just utter devastation. It’s a situation where, overall, we can say that Iraq is a failed state. The economy is in a state of crisis, perpetual crisis, that began far back with the institution of the 100 Bremer orders during—under the Coalition Provisional Authority, the civil government set up to run Iraq during the first year of the occupation. And it’s been in crisis ever since.
The average Iraqi is just barely getting by. And how can they get by when there’s virtually no security across much large swaths of country to this day, where, you know, as we see in the headlines recently, even when there’s not these dramatic, spectacular days of dozens of people being killed by bombs across Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, on any given day there’s assassinations, there’s detentions, there’s abductions and people being disappeared and kidnapped? One of the demands, for example, of the ongoing Sunni protests in Fallujah and across much of Al Anbar province is to ban silencer weapons, as they describe them, because there are so many hidden executions happening. Iraq has basically become a lawless state where the government is laughingly referred to oftentimes as the "sidewalks government," because one of the only things visible that they’ve actually accomplished is to install some new sidewalks across parts of Baghdad.
But it’s really hard to describe the amount of devastation. I mean, we’re having to talk about a country where, since 2003 began, we can cite the Lancet study that was published in the peer-reviewed Lancet medical journal in 2006, which way back in that time, seven years ago—excuse me, seven years ago now, found 655,000 excess deaths in Iraq. And that’s now a grossly outdated study, particularly given the level of violence we saw in 2006, 2007, and the low-level chronic violence that perpetuates to this day.
Nermeen Shaikh: Dahr Jamail, a lot of people say that what’s going on in Iraq now is not so much the result of the U.S. invasion but rather sectarian war between Sunnis and Shias. Could you respond to that? Do you agree?
Dahr Jamail:I don’t agree. I think all of this is a direct result of—either direct or indirectly a result of the U.S. invasion and occupation and the strategy applied. I mean, we saw something come out just last week in a joint investigation of BBC Arabic and The Guardian, which gave hard evidence, insider evidence, of the machinations of the U.S. using retired Lieutenant Colonel James Steele, infamous during the Reagan administration of orchestrating so many of the death squads in Central America along with Negroponte. Well, Negroponte happened to be the U.S. ambassador to Iraq for some of the occupation and, of course, brought in his old buddy James Steele to set up the same types of tactics, the detentions, the types of torture techniques that we’re seeing rampant across today—across Iraq today, the blatant attempts to foment sectarian violence, sort of a divide-and-conquer policy. Even Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld under Bush, back around 2006, 2007, referred to kind of casually using the "Salvador Option" in Iraq, and that’s precisely what he was describing.
So, the sectarianism fomented where, you know, we don’t have a natural sectarianism or animosities between the sects in Iraq, but it was only after the occupation began and these strategies were applied by the Bush administration that we saw the violence, the purging in the mixed neighborhoods, that continues to this day, and the sectarianism, and basically turning Iraqis against one another very effectively. And this is a direct result of the Bush administration policy, as well as bringing in Maliki as prime minister himself.
We have to remember that when neoconservative Zalmay Khalilzad was the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Maliki was basically the guy that the U.S. government and Iran could agree with as having as prime minister. And so, there wasn’t a whole lot of democracy involved in that whatsoever. I say, tongue in cheek, he was basically appointed by Zalmay Khalilzad and agreed upon by the powers that be in Iran, and he of course remains prime minister to this day despite—we’ve had elections that clearly he has not won, yet he remains in power.
Amy Goodman:Dahr, I wanted to go to that Guardian/BBC Arabic report that found that a key U.S. general behind the effort, James Steele, as you said, had firsthand knowledge of brutal torture carried out by Iraqi surrogates but did nothing to stop it. Steele served as then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s liaison with Iraq’s Special Police Commandos. His stint in Iraq came 20 years after overseeing the U.S. special operations forces that trained government death squads in El Salvador. Speaking to The Guardian, an Iraqi general said Steele was unfazed when the torture of a young prisoner interrupted his lunch.
Gen. Muntadher Al-Samari:[translated] One of the detainees was screaming. By chance, James Steele was there outside, washing his hands. He opened the door and saw the detainee. He was hanging by his legs, upside down. James Steele didn’t react at all when he saw this man. It was just normal. He closed the door and came back to his seat in the advisers’ room.
Amy Goodman:Steele was a colonel. Dahr Jamail?
Dahr Jamail:Well, he’s a veteran of that kind of tactic. This goes way back to the ’80s all across Central America, which, you know, he clearly had plenty of opportunity to streamline his techniques. And that type of torture described in the clip that you just played is rampant.
The story that I did, talking primarily about the tactics and strategies being used by Maliki’s security forces, and particularly within the prisons—first of all, we have a situation where detentions across Iraq, primarily in Sunni-dominated parts of Baghdad, as well as in areas like Fallujah, predominantly Sunni cities, where people are being detained, en masse at times, nightly home raids, same type of stuff that the U.S. military used when they were in Iraq. And then the types of torture being described coming out of the prisons is truly horrific: people being hung by their ankles for days at a time while their heads are in buckets of water on the ground; people having their hands tied behind their backs and then hung from their hands for sometimes days at a time; electrical shock being used on people’s limbs, on their genitals, on their tongues; men being raped by broom handles as well as bottles; women in prison being raped. I spoke with one woman released just over a week ago at this point, talking about how she had been in prison for four years and was raped repeatedly by Iraqi forces.
Other types of techniques being used—and again, all of this comes back to the types of workings of Colonel James Steele, where as people are being—men are being threatened. And I interviewed several Iraqis who said this, that when they were detained, they said, "Look, they threatened me that if I didn’t talk and give them the information they wanted or give them some names that would help them acquire the information that they wanted," that their sisters, their mothers, their wives would be brought in and raped repeatedly in front of them. So, of course people would just start giving them anything that they thought they wanted to hear.
But the types of torture is ongoing. It’s rampant. It’s one of the driving factors as to why we’re seeing massive Friday protests now, well into the three month, across Al Anbar province and the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad, where Sunnis are demanding a halt for the detentions, a halt of the so-called Article 4, which is the legislation passed and being used in the Iraqi government that—basically where they took a page out of the Bush playbook of giving them carte blanche to arrest anybody for any reasons under the guise of terrorism charges, of suspected terrorism, and then they can be held indefinitely. I spoke with people both at Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch about this, and they said one of the problems now is, it’s the detentions and the being held secretly is so rampant now by the Iraqi security forces that there isn’t really even a need for secret prisons anymore. Remember a ways back, we had—it all came out that there were secret Maliki prisons. Well, now, today in Iraq, they’re referring—they’re being referred to by a lot of Iraqis as "secret prisoners," because people are being detained, their families aren’t—there’s no law requiring that the families be notified, nobody knows where these people are. They can be held in any prison anywhere in broad daylight, because no name is being registered anywhere. So, literally, we have untold numbers of people being detained, being treated horrifically.
And as people in Fallujah have told me, they said, "Look, we think that the Maliki regime tactics are even worse than the Americans," because when the Americans—when they detain people, there was at least hope that they would eventually be released, and likelihood that they would. Under Maliki, that hope is gone; there’s not a hope. The Fallujahns also referred to as the Americans therefore being at least somewhat more merciful than the tactics being employed by the Maliki regime, because people are being detained and not being heard from again, except in one instance, I interviewed the mother of a young man. He was 17 years old when he was detained. He was held for a year and a half. They never could find him, until she received a phone call from him saying, "Look, I’ve been a prisoner in these prisons, and I’m getting one last phone call to say goodbye to you, because tomorrow I’m going to be executed."
Amy Goodman:Dahr Jamail, we’re going to come back to you. Dahr Jamail, investigative journalist who has just returned from Iraq, he’s speaking to us from Al Jazeera headquarters in Doha. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back with him in a minute.
Iraq is wracked by detentions, torture, and executions, and fingers are pointing at Prime Minister Maliki.
Baghdad - Heba al-Shamary (name changed for security reasons) was released last week from an Iraqi prison where she spent the last four years.
"I was tortured and raped repeatedly by the Iraqi security forces," she told Al Jazeera. "I want to tell the world what I and other Iraqi women in prison have had to go through these last years. It has been a hell."
Heba was charged with terrorism, a fate faced by many Iraqis who are detained by security forces.
"I now want to explain to people what is occurring in the prisons that [Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki and his gangs are running," Heba added. "I was raped over and over again, I was kicked and beaten and insulted and spit upon."
Heba's story, horrific as it is, unfortunately is but one example of what a recent report from Amnesty International refers to as "a grim cycle of human rights abuses" in Iraq today.
The report, "Iraq: Still paying a high price after a decade of abuses", exposes a long chronology of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees committed by Iraqi security forces, as well as by foreign troops, in the wake of the US-led 2003 invasion.
One Iraqi woman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said her nephew was first detained when he was just 18. Held under the infamous Article Four which gives the government the ability to arrest anyone "suspected" of terrorism, he was charged with terrorism. She told, in detail, of how her nephew was treated:
"They beat him with metal pipes, used harsh curse words and swore against his sect and his Allah (because he is Sunni) and why God was not helping him, and that they would bring up the prisoners' mothers and sisters to rape them," she explained to Al Jazeera. "Then they used electricity to burn different places of his body. They took all his cloths off in winter and left them naked out in the yard to freeze."
Her nephew, who was released after four years imprisonment after the Iraqi appeals court deemed him innocent, was then arrested 10 days after his release, again under Article 4. This law gives the government of Prime Minister Maliki broad license to detain Iraqis. Article four and other laws provide the government the ability to impose the death penalty for nearly 50 crimes, including terrorism, kidnapping, and murder, but also for offenses such as damage to public property.
While her nephew was free, he informed his aunt of how he and other detainees were tortured.
"They made some other inmates stand barefoot during Iraq's summer on burning concrete pavement to have sunburn, and without drinking water until they fainted. They took some of them, broke so many of their bones, mutilated their faces with a knife and threw them back in the cell to let the others know that this is what will happen to them."
She said her nephew was tortured daily, as he wouldn't confess to a crime he says he didn't commit. He wouldn't give names of his co-conspirators, as there were none, she said.
"Finally, after the death of many of his inmates under torture, he agreed to sign up a false confession written by the interrogators, even though he had witnesses who have seen him in another place the day that crime has happened," she added.
He remains in prison, where he has told his aunt he is now being tortured by militiamen and one of his eyes has been lanced by them.
Yousef Abdul Rahman has an equally shocking story, from being detained in 2011 and spending four months in "the worst of prisons".
"I was kept in a Maliki prison, where they dumped cold water on me and used electricity on me," he told Al Jazeera. "Many of the prisoners with me were raped. They were raped with sticks and bottles. I saw the blood on their bodies, and I saw so many men this happened to."
In today's Iraq, it is unfortunately all too easy to find Iraqis who have had loved ones who have been detained and tortured, and the trend is increasing, according to Iraqis Al Jazeera spoke with, along with several human rights groups.
'This was really harmful to me'
Ahmed Hassan, a 43-year-old taxi driver, was detained by Iraqi police at his home in the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad in December 2008. He was charged with "terrorism", and held in a federal police prison in nearby Khadimiyah.
Hassan told Al Jazeera the prison was run by the Ministry of Interior, but alleged it was overseen by Prime Minister al-Maliki himself.
He said he was regularly tortured and held in a six-by-four metre cell with "at least 120 detainees, with a small toilet that has no door, and scarce running water".
Prisoners received one meal a day that was often undercooked. And it was so crowded that "most of us would be forced to sleep standing", he said.
Hassan explained that his jailors had "various techniques of torture".
Iraqis held in what are now commonly referred to as "Maliki's jails" are telling horror stories of torture techniques used, including beatings, hangings, and electricity. [GALLO/GETTY]
"They forced me to drink huge amounts of water and then would tie up the head of my penis so I could not urinate. This was really harmful to me," said Hassan.
Another method was to "take off my fingernails with a pair of pliers, one by one."
This was an attempt to elicit confessions for crimes he said he never committed.
Hassan said he was also hung upside down from his feet with his head placed in a bucket of water while he was whipped with plastic rods.
Stories of detentions and torture and executions are everywhere in today's Iraq.
Sheikh Khaled Hamoud Al-Jumaili, a leader of the ongoing demonstrations in Fallujah against the Maliki government, told Al Jazeera there that "thousands of Fallujans have been detained and we don't know how many are now dead or on death row."
"The fighting from 2004 has never stopped," he added. "We simply switched from fighting the Americans to fighting Maliki and his injustice and corruption."
Another Fallujah sheikh, who asked to speak on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera he was detained and tortured by "Maliki's forces" in 2012.
"I was taken to the Khadamiyah prison [in Baghdad] and tortured there," he said while pulling up his shirt to reveal dark puncture wounds across his back. "I was beaten with sticks, punched, starved, spit upon, and hung by my ankles and then wrists. Maliki is even worse than the Americans."
Iraq currently has one of the highest rates of death sentences in the world, and Sunnis say they are suffering disproportionately from the killings.
Stories like those from Jassim and Hassan are exactly the kind referenced in the recent Amnesty International report.
"Torture is rife and committed with impunity by government security forces, particularly against detainees arrested under anti-terrorism while they are held incommunicado for interrogation," the report states.
"Detainees have alleged that they were tortured to force them to 'confess' to serious crimes or to incriminate others while held in these conditions. Many have repudiated their confessions at trial only to see the courts admit them as evidence of their guilt, without investigating their torture allegations, sentencing them to long term imprisonment or death."
Executions and International Condemnation
Saadiya Naif, 60, has had three of her sons executed – two by American forces during the occupation, and one in 2008 by Iraqis.
"Baker was arrested by Iraqi police and held for one and a half years," she told Al Jazeera, while weeping. "He was only 19 when they executed him. I tried to use lawyers to get him out of prison, but all three of them received death threats. Then, after one and a half years in prison, he phoned me to say goodbye, because he was to be executed the next day."
According to international human rights groups, at least 3,000 Iraqis received death sentences since 2005, which was the year capital punishment was reinstated after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
At least 447 prisoners have been executed since 2005, and hundreds of prisoners wait on death row. In addition, 129 prisoners were hanged in 2012.
The government of Prime Minister Maliki has been strongly criticised by both the UN and several other human rights groups for the number of executions being carried out.
Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said last year he was alarmed by reports of individuals who remain at risk of execution. "I am appalled about the level of executions in Iraq. I deeply deplore the executions carried out."
The surge in state-sanctioned killings has also drawn sharp criticism from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who called it "a sharp increase from previous years".
"Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, and the very wide range of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, this is truly a shocking figure," Pillay said.
Human Rights Watch's deputy Middle East director, Joe Stork, said Iraq "has a huge problem with torture and unfair trials".
Lisa Hajjar is a professor of sociology at University of California Santa Barbara and a visiting professor at American University Beirut. Her work focuses on torture and detention issues in the context of war.
She said the situation in Iraq is common in ongoing civil wars, with the regime in power attempting to eliminate opponents from the past. Hajjar described the executions and torture as "intentional state terror".
"I call it terroristic torture," Hajjar told Al Jazeera. "When people are tortured or there are extrajudicial executions, the purpose is to dissuade others. The goal is to create a visible spectacle, and the purpose is to terrorise communities into quiescence."
In response to this kind of international criticism, Iraq's Justice Ministry said torture might happen in isolated incidents, and the media exaggerates it.
"The international community has not been fair with the Iraqi people," Justice Ministry spokesman Haider al-Sadee recently told Al Jazeera. "When there is an explosion in America the whole world is rocked and countries are invaded as a result. But when Iraq defends its rights and executes a person after convicting him of a crime, international organisations condemn it."
"Speaking as an Iraqi citizen," he added. "I believe the least that should be done to show justice to the families of victims is to execute them publicly."
This cavalier attitude, along with increasing rates of detentions, reports of ongoing torture, and increasing executions, have factored largely into why predominantly Sunni areas of Iraq, like Baghdad's Al-Adhamiyah neighbourhood and much of Al-Anbar province, are holding regular demonstrations against Maliki's government.
Every Friday in Fallujah, for three months now, hundreds of thousands have demonstrated and prayed on the main highway linking Baghdad and Amman, which runs just past the outskirts of that city.
People in Fallujah, and the rest of Iraq's vast Anbar province, are enraged at the government of Prime Minister Maliki. They say his security forces, heavily populated by members of various Shia militias, have been killing and detaining Sunnis in Anbar Province, as well as across much of Baghdad.
Sheikh Khaled Hamoud Al-Jumaili, a leader of recent demonstrations, made it clear to Al Jazeera why the protests have been ongoing.
Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is currently being accused of "being worse than the Americans" by people in Fallujah, or told Al Jazeera of ongoing detentions and executions being carried out by the Maliki government [GALLO/GETTY]
"We demand an end to checkpoints surrounding Fallujah, we demand they allow in the press, we demand they end their unlawful home raids and detentions, we demand an end to federalism and gangsters and secret prisons," he told Al Jazeera inside a tent just prior to recent Friday demonstrations.
Sheikh Jumaili went on to tell Al Jazeera that the millions of people in Anbar province had withdrawn all their demands on the Maliki government, because none of them had been met.
"Now we demand a change in the regime and a change in the constitution," he said. "We will not stop these demonstrations."
The Sheikh was then asked what would happen if the Maliki government did not listen to the demands of the protestors.
"Maybe armed struggle comes next," he replied.
While there is no way of linking the events, on March 14 Iraq's Ministry of Justice was attacked by at least one car bomb and a suicide bomber, as part of a series of coordinated attacks that rocked Baghdad, killing 24 and injuring at least 50 others.
Meanwhile, protests against the Maliki government's ongoing use of detentions, torture, and executions continue in Sunni areas around Iraq, with no sign of abatement.
"Death sentences and executions are being used on a horrendous scale," Amnesty International's Hadj Sahraoui said in the group's recent report. "It is particularly abhorrent that many prisoners have been sentenced to death after unfair trials and on the basis of confessions they say they were forced to make under torture."
"It is high time that the Iraqi authorities end this appalling cycle of abuse and declare a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty for all crimes," he added.
Human Rights Watch's Erin Evers, a Middle East Researcher working on Iraq, said she has received a wide range of figures from various sources as to the number of actual detainees.
"Iraq's Ministry of Justice claims 30,000 people in Ministry of Justice and Interior Ministry detention facilities, but there are a lot contradictions from the government," Evers told Al Jazeera. "I've had another source put the number at 50,000. The fact that the number varies so widely and that information on where and how people are detained is not widely available points to a larger problem."
A point made to Al Jazeera by many Iraqis is this: perhaps the Maliki government does not need secret prisons anymore, because it instead has "secret prisoners."
What is meant by this is that since the Iraqi security apparatus is not operating by the rule of law by carrying out arbitrary detentions and no due process, it is thus easy enough to detain people and hold them in normal facilities without having any record of them.
In this way it is possible for the government to interrogate ordinary Iraqis using any method it chooses, because the families and friends of the detainees have no idea where the detainee is, or how long they will be kept there.
Human Rights Watch told Al Jazeera the problem in Iraq today is "secret prisoners" since so many Iraqis are being detained that are not being registered with the government [GALLO/GETTY]
Evers went on to point out that the fact that the Iraqi justice system is so opaque points to the route of the problem.
"Which is that these institutions are failing, and it is a misnomer to call it a justice system as it's certainly not actually meting out justice," she said.
Amnesty International's report is based on information gathered from multiple sources, including interviews with detainees, victims' families, refugees, lawyers, human rights activists and others, plus reviews of court papers and other official documents.
Amnesty International sent its latest findings to the Iraqi government in December 2012 but has yet to receive any response.
"The real tragedy here is that not only are ordinary Iraqis suffering from ongoing terrorist attacks, but from the fact that the institutions that are supposed to protect them are instead targeting them," Evers concluded. "By invoking ordinary Iraqis' suffering from ongoing terrorist attacks and instability, the government implies that somehow it's OK to violate people's human rights under the guise of protecting them, and clearly even this not working."
by Jeff Lincoln
A report released in early February by the Open Society Justice Initiative titled “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition” establishes that the Central Intelligence Agency, acting under the direction of the highest levels of the US government, has utilized a global network of secret prisons, foreign intelligence agents, and interrogation and torture centers to send detainees to without any legal protections.
This arrangement is worldwide and includes the involvement of at least 54 different countries touching almost every continent.
There is enormous diversity among the countries involved. They include Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Syria and Jordan, which carried out the torture on suspects that the CIA rendered to them. Poland, Lithuania, Romania and Thailand hosted secret prisons operated by the CIA where detainees could be held clandestinely and have interrogations or torture conducted directly by American intelligence operatives.
European nations such as Macedonia, Georgia, and Sweden detained and delivered suspects to the CIA to be tortured. Larger countries such as Britain or Germany conducted some of the interrogations themselves while smaller countries such as Iceland, Denmark, Belgium, or Greece provided intelligence, logistical support, use of airspace, etc.
On the whole, the report stands as an indictment against all of Washington’s allies and client states in its self-proclaimed “war on terror.”
The Australian government stands implicated in the rendition of Mamdouh Habib, an Australian national, to Egypt where he was tortured and then later transferred to Guantanamo Bay where he was detained until he was released without charge in 2005.
Egypt stands as the country that has interrogated, tortured and abused the most people subject to extraordinary rendition. The relationship between the US and Egypt dates back to the Clinton administration that used the country almost exclusively for its rendition program, which was dramatically ramped up after September 11, 2001.
Italy’s secret services played a role in the abduction of Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric who was previously given asylum in Italy but was abducted in Milan in 2003; he was then placed on a flight to Egypt. Italian authorities authorized some 46 stopovers by CIA operated aircraft at Italian airports.
The United Kingdom, the country that enjoys the closest relationship with US imperialism, has extensive involvement with America’s rendition program. In addition to providing airspace, MI6 and other British intelligence worked hand in glove with the CIA to abduct and interrogate suspects. Omar Deghayes, a Libyan national but a British resident was arrested in 2002 and transported by US and British intelligence agents to Bagram, where he was subjected to abuse. After interrogation by MI5 agents, he was sent to Guantanamo where he underwent further physical abuse, suffering a broken finger, a broken nose, and damage to his right eye.
In 2004, the British government arranged to have a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Sami al-Saadi, rendered into Libyan custody by approaching him in China and convincing him to fly to the British embassy in Hong Kong where he would be allowed to return to the UK. Instead, his whole family was taken into custody in Hong Kong and flown over to Libya where Mr. al-Saadi remained for six years and was subjected to torture by physical beatings and electric shocks.
While the report sheds some light on what countries are involved, the numbers of individuals subjected to rendition remains unknown. By 2005, it is estimated that about 150 persons were rendered to foreign countries according to admissions made by then-president George W. Bush. The real number is likely much higher, as Egypt alone has had to acknowledge that it received sixty to seventy terror suspects since September 11, 2001. Human Rights Watch has attempted to compile a list of persons who have been held in CIA prisons, and they have identified almost forty people who have either gone missing or whose whereabouts are unknown.
There are dozens more countries detailed in the report than just the ones mentioned above. Still, the report is extremely limited in scope in that it does not document transfers or detentions by any agency other than the CIA. It does not include the detention practices of the Defense Department, for example, and its notorious facilities in Guantanamo Bay or Afghanistan. Moreover, what is known is only based on the experiences of 139 individuals who have been released from custody. Nevertheless, it is now clear that the US government has been running a detention and “enhanced interrogation” operation with tentacles that span the globe.
It appears likely that the United States intentionally sought out the widespread involvement of so many countries to ensure that those who might later nominally reject these practices would themselves be so implicated that they would be unwilling to publicly expose the details of Washington’s dirty deeds.
Indeed, none of the countries mentioned in the report, save one, has even admitted any culpability for their participation in gross human rights violations. The lone exception is Canada, which assisted in the rendition of Canadian citizen Maher Arar in 2002 to Syria where he was tortured. A hastily conducted commission placed blame on the Royal Mounted Police but absolved those higher up in government of any responsibility. Other nations, such as Britain, Sweden and Australia have quietly settled lawsuits alleging their participation but have made no admission of liability.
As a matter of fact, far from acknowledging their complicity in abduction, rendition, and torture, many of the countries in the report were publicly denouncing these practices by the US government at the same time they were secretly abetting them.
A number of liberal and human rights organizations have reacted to the revelations in the Open Society Justice Initiative report by calling for and supporting the efforts of international tribunals to hear cases brought against officials of some of the countries complicit in assisting in the rendition of persons by the US Government.
While there are some actions pending in the European Court of Human Rights and other high courts against some of the countries named in the report for their role in assisting in rendition, the cases will have no impact on the operations of the CIA.
Setting aside the obvious fact that cases can only be brought by individuals whom the CIA has already decided to release, the outcome of these actions hinge on the narrow issue of the extent to which the participating countries knew or should have known torture was likely to occur. This glosses over the more fundamental issue that, unlike extradition, extraordinary rendition is, by definition, a transfer without legal process. In fact, the whole CIA program is designed to place detainee interrogations completely beyond the reach of law. Moreover, the US government has refused to recognize the jurisdiction of international courts of human rights.
President Barack Obama for his part, despite making claims of reversing the Bush-era CIA policies, has further escalated the crimes committed by his predecessor.
In January 2009, Obama issued a series of executive orders that purported to close down then existing CIA detention facilities and also created a task force to examine rendition practices and make recommendations to ensure humane treatment. These orders were nothing more than a sham to conceal the fact that, rather than restricting the ability of the CIA to conduct extraordinary renditions, the orders were purposely crafted to preserve it.
While Obama has ordered the CIA to shut down certain detention facilities, the directive specifically exempts facilities designed to hold people on a temporary or transitory basis. In other words, the executive order essentially codifies the CIA’s authority to detain suspects and then to render them to other countries to face interrogation, trial, or worse. Furthermore, if the CIA wanted the detainees to remain in the custody of the United States, they could be sent to a facility operated by the Department of Defense or kept offshore on a Navy vessel.
The task force created by Obama’s order functions merely as a fig leaf for the continuation of Bush-era policies. The report, which was completed in 2009, has not been made public and is not binding on any agency. However, as an example of its toothlessness, a Justice Department press release disclosed that one of the recommended safeguards was relying on assurances from the receiving country that the detainees would be treated humanely.
The Justice Department under Obama appointee Eric Holder has closed inquiries into the treatment of over 100 detainees who were in CIA custody overseas, including several who died while in custody, stating that no criminal charges would be pursued.
Oscar León is an experienced international press correspondent and documentary filmmaker based in Arizona. His work has reached continental TV broadcast in many occasions on Telesur, ECTV, Ecuavisa, Radio Canada, Canal Uno and even Fox Sports Latin America and El Garaje TV; he has been a TRNN correspondent since 2010. Oscar has reported from as many as 9 countries and more than 12 cities in US; his coverage includes TV reports, special reports and TV specials, not only covering social movements, politics and economics but environmental issues, culture and sports as well. This includes the series "Reportero del Sur", "Occupy USA - El Otoño Americano", "Habia una vez en Arizona", "Motor X" all TV mini series broadcasted to all Americas and "Once upon a time in Arizona" finalist in Radio Canada's "Migration" 2010 contest.
EndDISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
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Despite calls to close the centers, the U.S. government continues to fund them.
Photo Credit: (c) RDaniel/Shutterstock.com
March 14, 2013 |
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The United States is not just funding an abusive drug war at home; taxpayer funds are propping up violently oppressive "drug treatment" centers that act more like detainment camps abroad. At the U.S.-backed Somsanga Rehabilitation Center in Laos, detainees are subjected to shocking physical abuse, including beating to the point of unconsciousness for showing withdrawal symptoms or attempting to escape. Allegations of sexual assault are also rampant.
According to reports, younger residents are raped by older detainees whom the center gives power to enforce rules and regulations. One Somsanga detainee interviewed by Human Rights Watch said he saw "supervisors rape boys between the ages of 10 and 14." Children are not exempt from indefinite detainment in these camps. UNICEF-sponsored investigations in Laos found 150 detainees under 18 in 2003, and more than 600 children in 2006.
Despite calls from human rights organizations, the United States has continued to pump money into the Somsanga Rehabilitation Center.
In March of last year, 12 United Nations agencies, including the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Health Organization, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and UNAIDS, issued a joint statement calling for the closure of drug-user detention centers where they identified grave human rights violations. Abused patients, perhaps better described as inmates, should be released "without delay," the report urged. Nonetheless, a new report from UN's special expert on torture, Juan Mendez, explains that many nations, including the US, continue to send hundreds of thousands of dollars to "rehabilitation" centers that act as hubs for indefinitely holding and systematically abusing marginalized people.
"These centers continue to operate often with direct or indirect support and assistance from international donors without any adequate human rights oversight," the UN report says. Detainment in punitive drug-free centers still "exponentially" exceeds evidence-based treatment for drug dependence, Mendez said.
Mendez notes that "numerous calls by various international and regional organizations to close compulsory drug detention centers" -- as well as several recommendations and resolutions from WHO, UNODC, and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs -- "are routinely ignored."
This June, the U.S. agreed to donate an additional $400,000 to the Somsanga center. US officials heeded no warnings issued by at least three separate reports (2003 UNICEF report, 2004 WHO report, and 2011 Human Rights Watch report), each of which warned against the center's deplorable conditions and inhumane treatment of detainees. The UN report says past US funds have been used to build dormitories "to expand the capacity of the government to detain drug users, street children, and ethnic minorities," as well as fences surrounding the center.
“International donors claim that Somsanga is a legitimate drug treatment center,” Joe Amon, director of health and human rights at Human Rights Watch, said in a press release prompted by the UN report. “The reality is that people, including children and the homeless, are held in Somsanga against their will, behind barbed wire fences, and are beaten and brutalized.”
Human Rights Watch says that while only a minority of amphetamine-users (the most popular drug in Laos) actually become addicted, legislators pressure local officials to declare their villages “drug-free.” Eager to comply with public policy, village officials and locals request for detainment in Somsanga people who use drugs only occasionally and do not necessarily require rehabilitation.
Located in Laos near the capital of Vientiane, Somsanga’s patients did not voluntarily commit to drug addiction rehabilitation, nor is there always evidence that they are drug addicts. Rather, Somsanga detainees are picked up by police or sent away by relatives bowing to pressure to cleanse their villages of drug users. The result is not more addicts in drug treatment, but the detainment of "beggars, homeless people, street children, and people with mental disabilities" without due cause. One detainee cited in the report says an arrest for being out too late landed him in Somsanga for nine months.
Published time: March 12, 2013 16:04
Two Bahraini police officers were sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of torturing a Shiite protester to death. Three others were acquitted for “failing to report the crime,” a judicial source said.
The two policemen were convicted of "torturing to death Ali al-Saqr,” who was arrested during the February 2011 uprising, the source told AFP.
Saqr died on April 9, 2011, from “hypovolemic shock resulting from several traumas,” according to a report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Investigation (BICI), an international panel that investigated the events that unfolded during March and April of that year.
All five officers were found not guilty for the murder of another protester, Zakeriya Asheeri, who also died in 2011 while in detention.
“For the 4th time in 3 months a police officer [is] acquitted for killing a civilian. #bahrain culture of impunity," Said Yousif Almuhafda, the head of the monitoring section at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
Several other officers are currently being investigated or standing trial on allegations of torture after hundreds of demonstrators were detained following a crackdown on the protest movement in mid-March 2011.
In late January, a court sentenced a police officer to seven years in prison for torturing a protester to death.
Complicity in torture expands beyond rank-and-file police officers, as Bahraini Princess Nora Bint Ebrahim Khalifa also appeared in court over torture allegations in January. Princess Nora, who serves in Bahrain’s Drugs Control Unit, allegedly collaborated with another officer in the torture of three activists who had been taken into custody.
Two of the Bahraini King’s sons – Nasser Bin Hammad Khalifa and Khalid Bin Hammad Khalifa – as well as one other member of the royal family, Khalifa Bin Ahmed Khalifa, were also accused of directly taking part in torturing activists in the country, a 55-page report titled ‘Citizens in the Grip of Torture’ charged.
Authorities in the kingdom have said they are implementing the recommendations of an independent commission of inquiry appointed by the king, which confirmed the use of excessive force by security forces during the uprising.
Bahrain – home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet – is ruled by a Sunni monarchy, while over 75 percent of the population is Shia.
On February 14, 2011, thousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital Manama, demanding democratic reforms and the resignation of Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Khalifa, the longest-serving prime minister in the world.
Since the start of the uprising, opposition activists say at least 88 protesters have been killed, including nine children.
Published time: March 05, 2013 00:59
A public inquiry into allegations that British soldiers in Iraq murdered 20 unarmed prisoners and tortured 5 others has begun in London, with further legal arguments expected to slow the inquiry in the deaths of the Iraqi men nine years ago.
The Al-Sweady inquiry will examine claims that Iraqi prisoners were tortured by British soldiers following the Battle of Danny Boy in Maysan province, southern Iraq in the summer of 2004.
Evidence has also come to light that several of the corpses suffered severe mutilation. Iraqi death certificates recorded that one man had allegedly had his penis removed while another two bodies were missing eyes.
Several of the corpses were also said to have signs of torture when they were handed back to their families by British personnel at Camp Abu Naji.
However, there is major dispute between the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the families of the dead Iraqi men over the way in which the deaths occurred.
“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 14th May, and who were handed back to their families dead the next day,” said Jonathan Acton Davis QC, counsel to the inquiry.
“The military say the evidence points to 20 Iraqi dead having been recovered from the battle and handed back to their families the next day,” he added, continuing that the two sides couldn’t even agree about the number of those killed or captured, or their identities.
On May 14th 2004, the troops embroiled in the allegations were involved in a fierce battle known as Danny Boy, the name of a permanent vehicle check point, which was on route six in Iraq.
A group of insurgents launched an attack against vehicles of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. It soon developed into a fierce firefight, which also involved soldiers from the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, with many Iraqis shot dead and two British soldiers being wounded.
The Iraqi dead would normally have been left on the battlefield but British soldiers were allegedly told to try and identify an insurgent thought to be involved in the murder of 6 British soldiers a year earlier in 2003.
One of the first jobs of the inquiry is to try and establish whether the 20 Iraqis were killed in battle as the MoD claims or if in fact they were captured alive and then unlawfully killed.
The inquiry will also try to determine if five men taken prisoner following the battle of Danny Boy were mistreated at a second British base in Shaibah, near Basara, between 14 May and 23 September 2004.
The al-Sweady inquiry as it is known is named after Hamid al-Sweady, a 19 year old alleged victim.
The inquiry was set up after former prisoners and relatives of the dead men took their case to the High Court in London in February 2008. They are entitled to an independent inquiry because the UK is a signatory of the European convention on human rights.
But even as the enquiry opened on Monday, there were signs of legal disagreements to come. Lawyers for the relatives of the dead Iraqis are saying that its terms of reference are too narrow, while the MoD is arguing that it should be limited to allegations of mistreatment that were already decided in previous High Court rulings.
This is potentially the most embarrassing inquiry since the killing of 26-year-old Iraqi citizen Baha Mousa while in British custody in Basara in 2003. He was severely beaten on suspicion of being an insurgent. The Ministry of Defense never accepted any liability for Mousa's death.
According to Christpher Stanley of the UK-based Rights Watch group, "today [the MoD] is trying to manage it and put a cap on it. These are people getting away with grave human rights violations – including killing – without punishment or due process of law. “
So far the MoD has not come out well in the proceedings. The inquiry was ordered by then defense secretary Bob Ainsworth, after high court judges found that the MoD had made “serious breaches” of its duty.
Furthermore, British Foreign Minister William Hague has written a private memo to other ministers on March 1, urging them not to discuss Iraq and its legality in the run-up to the tenth anniversary of the NATO-led invasion.
Investigators have faced problems trying to access MoD documents concerning events covering the battle of Danny Boy and at Camp Abu Naj.
In 2010 investigators found in files of the Royal Military Police a number of relevant papers which had been entirely absent from evidence disclosed by the MoD in previous court proceedings. While another 9 files were handed over by the MoD in 2011, a six week search by investigators of MoD archives found 600 documents that were relevant to the case.
Last week the inquiry was still waiting to receive emails from the MoD about a visit to the Shaibah base by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The inquiry has already cost the taxpayer £15 million and that is expected to double. Up to 200 military witnesses will be called and 45 Iraqis will give evidence through a video link from Beirut.
Published time: February 28, 2013 15:59
Seven Shia Muslim men, three of whom are minors, have received 10-year jail sentences in Bahrain after being found guilty of attempting to murder police during protests last year. A day earlier, two policemen were acquitted of murdering a protester.
The trial took place on Wednesday. Attorney General Mhanna al-Shayji said in an official statement that the group were accused of "intentionally attempting to kill policemen in the (Shiite) town of Sitra... using petrol bombs." Seven of the men received jail terms, and 13 others were acquitted.
The men were arrested in the wake of mass protests that took place in February 2012. Human rights groups voiced criticism of the arrests at that time, claiming the detainment was illegitimate, no arrest warrants had been presented, and the confessions of the accused were extracted under torture.
Following the Wednesday ruling, the main Shia opposition bloc Al-Wefaq alleged that all 20 men, including the five minors, were "tortured" during their interrogation and spoke "under duress."
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights also noted that the judge presiding in the case, Mohammed Bin Ali Al-Khalifa, is a member of the ruling family.
In February 2012, violent clashes broke out in Bahrain at the funeral of a teenager killed during protests marking the one-year anniversary of a revolt by the Shia majority against the ruling Sunni monarchy. Police blocked and dispersed the procession with stun grenades and tear gas.
Protester Fadhel Al-Matrook died of wounds from the police fire. However, the police officers were acquitted on Tuesday – a judge ruled they had no intent to kill, and were performing their duty during protests. Jalila al Sayed, a Bahraini human rights lawyer, described the verdict as "a very sad day for justice in Bahrain," BBC reported.
Bahraini human rights activists have unsuccessfully called on the international community to intervene, in what they described as the suppression of the country opposition.
Bahrain – home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet – is ruled by a Sunni monarchy, while over 75 percent of the population is Shia. In February 2011, thousands of protesters swarmed the streets of Bahrain's capital Manama, demanding democratic reforms and the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa. At least 82 protesters have been killed since the start of the uprising.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Today we spend the hour taking an inside look at the Guantánamo military prison, where 166 men remain locked up. Many have been held for over a decade without charge. Our first guest today was one of the first military officers assigned to prosecute prisoners at Guantánamo. Stuart Couch joined the Marines in 1987, enrolled in law school, became a military prosecutor, and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He eventually left active duty but returned after the September 11th attacks. A friend of his, Michael Horrocks, died on September 11th. Horrocks was the co-pilot of United Airlines Flight 175, the second plane to hit the World Trade Center.
AMY GOODMAN: Two months after the attacks, President Bush issued an order creating military commissions to try prisoners captured abroad. Lieutenant Colonel Couch's first assignment was the prosecution of a man named Mohamedou Ould Slahi. At one point, Slahi was described as "the highest value detainee" at Guantánamo Bay. The case would change Couch's life and put him at the center of a national debate around torture, interrogations and ethics.
Couch's story is featured in the new book, Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay. It's by Wall Street Journal reporter Jess Bravin. Later in the show, we'll be joined by Jess, but first we turn to Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch, who's joining us from Charlotte, North Carolina, where he now works as an immigration judge.
Lieutenant Colonel, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about the first day you went to Guantánamo and what you found.
LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, Amy, it was in October of 2003, shortly after I had joined the Office of Military Commissions. And on that particular day, I was waiting to watch the interrogation of one of the detainees who had been assigned to me to prosecute his case. This was a detainee that was particularly cooperative and involved in some very serious activities in the Gulf region. As I was waiting in a room next to his interrogation room, I heard some loud heavy metal rock music playing down the—down the hallway. I went down to investigate. I thought it was a couple of guards that were off duty and didn't realize that we were getting ready to conduct the interview. So I walked down the hallway, and as I reached the room where the source of the music was coming out, the door was cracked. And I looked into the room, and I could—all I could see was a strobe light flashing. The rest of the lights in the room were out, but from the flashes of the strobe light, I could see a detainee in orange sitting on the—seated on the floor and shackled, hand to feet, and rocking back and forth.
There were two civilians who asked me, you know, what was I doing. And I said, "I'm Lieutenant Colonel Couch. You need to turn that down. What's going on here?" And they just basically told me to move along, and shut the door in my face. There was a judge advocate reservist with me, and I said, "Did you see that?" And his immediate response: "Well, yes. That's approved." And so, that was my first inclination that there was—of evidence of coerced interrogations going on at Guantánamo.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, what did you do at that point?
LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, I started mulling that over. For me, it was—it was a degree of a flashback. Before I had become a lawyer, I was a naval aviator in the Marine Corps, a C-130 pilot. And part of that training as an aviator, we were sent to a school called SERE school—Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape. It's a school conducted by various Department of Defense entities to help train aviators for how to conduct themselves if they're ever taken into captivity by the enemy. Basically, it's—the course is based upon lessons learned of the treatment of aviators in the war in Vietnam and also the treatment of our own POWs that suffered in Korea. And so, what I saw occurring on that day in October of 2003 was right out of the SERE school playbook. It was precisely the same treatment that I had received there.
And so, having had that experience, my immediate concern was, if this is how the evidence is being collected in some of our cases, it's going to be inadmissible, because it's going to be at least coercive and at worst torture that precipitates that information. And so, there—at that time, I was still becoming acquainted with the military commissions process that had been set up. The rules and standards of admissibility of evidence were significantly different than I was accustomed to, both in civilian prosecutions as well as military courts-martial. And so, in my view, this incident sort of crystallized for me very quickly that there were going to be some problems with some of the evidence that we were to use.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, this, of course, was in 2003, before the Abu Ghraib photos were revealed to the world and where—before there was real discussion of possible mistreatment or torture of prisoners in U.S. custody. Could you talk about the—when you then began to get the case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi and what you found as you began to deal with that particular case?
LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, by the—not long after I joined the office in August of 2003, the Slahi case was presented to me. And at that time, to our knowledge, he was one of the very few detainees held at Guantánamo Bay that had a 9/11 connection. As I was studying over the different statements that he had made, the intelligence reports that had come out of his interrogations, I could see a trend where he was uncooperative for a long period of time, but then, beginning in the later part of the summer of 2003, I saw where he began to give up significant information. And so, again, as a prosecutor, my view was past conduct and what evidence I had of past conduct and what was going to be his connection to 9/11, if any.
The vast majority—virtually all of the evidence I had against Slahi at that point were his own statements, as well as statements of another detainee. And so, to determine the veracity of that information, I had to find out, OK, why is he saying the things he's saying about his own conduct? And I actually plotted it out over a chart on a timeline, and I could see a definite point where he went from giving no information to giving a lot of information. And so, that was—after I saw what I saw in October of 2003, my concern was, if this—if these were the kinds of interrogation techniques that were being applied to Slahi to get his cooperation, then we might very well have a significant problem with the body of evidence that we were able to present as to his guilt.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you go into the details of some of his interrogations and what they reported?
LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, at that time—at that time, I was not privy to what techniques were applied in his interrogations. All I had was the intelligence reports that came out that stated what he—what admissions he made. And I do want to make sure I'm clear on this, that none of the information that I'm going to talk about today is classified at this point; it's all been subject to a congressional inquiry and is a matter of congressional record.
I requested information to tell me, OK, give me the circumstances of the interrogations and interviews where Slahi was giving his information, again, in preparation for the day down the road that I would have to present this evidence in court, with the concern of basically credibility of the information. That information was not provided to me. I had a criminal investigator that was working on this case, and as we began to discuss these matters, he had the same concerns that we might have a problem with the evidence. And I would note he's—he was also a former marine, as well, so we had a lot of commonality on how we viewed the world. This criminal investigator had unofficial sources of information on the intelligence side. There was kind of this dividing line between the law enforcement efforts at Guan