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Posts Tagged ‘Torture

Britain Can Be Sued For Torture.

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I covered this months ago, finally and thankfully the case went the way of the Kenyans, as BBC News reports with typical English understatement:

“Four elderly Kenyans have been told they can sue the Foreign Office for their alleged torture by British colonial authorities 50 years ago.

The High Court said the group could seek damages over their treatment during the 1950s and 60s.

Mr Justice McCombe said the claimants had an “arguable case” and it would be “dishonourable” to block the action.

Ministers say the UK government is not responsible for the actions of the colonial administration.

The decision means that the government will have to defend accusations of torture, murder, sexual assault and other alleged abuses at a full damages trial in 2012.

The four Kenyans, Ndiku Mutwiwa Mutua, Paulo Muoka Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara, all in their 70s and 80s, say ministers in London approved systematic abuse in special camps. A fifth claimant has died since the action began.

The High Court heard that Mr Mutua and Mr Nzili had been castrated, Mr Nyingi was beaten unconscious in an incident in which 11 men were clubbed to death, and Mrs Mara had been subjected to appalling sexual abuse.”

Gitmo, 150 Totally Innocent People.

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In olden times Kings and despots would invariably imprison their opponents. They would be thrown into a dark dungeon and forgotten about.

More recently in the 17th and 18th centuries the French King would use lettres de cachet to lock up those that annoyed or offended him.

The threat of arbitrary arrest or unfair imprisonment was one of the major grievances with the remnants of feudalism. In modern society, wherever possible, those arrested have certain rights to 1) be treated fairly 2) to know the charges against them 3) to receive a fair trial etc.

In fact, the Americans went so far as to enshrine many of these rights in the fifth and sixth amendments to the US Constitution:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favour, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.”

Rather commendable and forward thinking when you consider it, not forgetting Miranda.

However, all of these wonderful checks and balances which have developed in America were of little use to the detainees of Guantánamo Bay, or Gitmo as it is known.

Hundreds and hundreds of individuals were captured, kidnapped, many times just simply taken by local police forces or security services then handed over to the CIA (or the equivalent) and moved for rendition somewhere.

Rendition is the polite expression for forced travel and torture.

It is not quite as catchy as lettres de cachet, but the results are often similar. Instead of a dungeon the detainees would eventually end up in Gitmo, in a legal limbo, unaware of the charges against them and with no legal recourse until recently.

And all of these shameful practices have been going on since 2002, some nine years ago, and we know from recently released documents that at least 150 of the detainees were totally innocent.

The NPR’s take on it, Military Documents Detail Life At Guantanamo.

The NY Times, Classified Files Offer New Insights Into Detainees.

This is the Wikileaks page on it.

The Washington Post’s Interactive graphic tour of Guantanamo Bay.

This is not good, Detainees Transferred Or Freed Despite ‘High Risk’.

Update 1: The Guardian has a good page on Gitmo.

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25/04/2011 at 04:21

Her Majesty’s Government And Torture.

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British newspapers were rightly critical when the US government used rendition and carted people off to faraway countries to be tortured, but Britain’s own use of torture is often forgotten.

A new court case concerning HMG’s activities in 1950-60s Kenya should reveal more.

Dave Osler has details:

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office – which denies all liability – will tell the judge that the case should be thrown out, because legal responsibility for any abuses were transferred to the Kenyan government upon independence in 1963.

Mr Justice McCombe will listen to both sides over the next week or so and come to a decision in line with the applicable laws. Not being a lawyer myself, I have no worthwhile opinion on the strict legal aspects of this matter.

Yet the ethical issues surrounding this case seem to be absolutely clear. True, there were atrocities on both sides, to use the classic formula, and the exact death toll is a matter of debate between specialist historians.

But it is firmly established that the bulk of the atrocities were perpetrated by the colonialists, who of course had no business being in the country in the first place.

The lowest credible estimate of the number of Kenyans killed is around 11,500, although the claims go as high 70,000. The Mau Mau were responsible for around 2,000 of these deaths. The courts authorised 1,090 executions, and the use of torture and mass detention was widespread.

It must of course be established whether the plaintiffs were indeed the recipients of such treatment. But if this is demonstrably so, they have a moral right to recompense.

Of course, if Britain were to be held retrospectively liable for the slave trade, the Irish and Indian famines, the decimation of Australia’s indigenous population, the concentration camps of the Boer war, the Amritsar massacre and all too many other occurrences throughout its imperialist history, this country would be skint.

There is an argument to be had as to what cut off point – if any – should apply. But the suppression of what was known at the time as ‘the Kenya emergency’, with the first word pronounced ‘keen-yer’, was the work of my father’s generation.

The PA has more:

“The test case claimants, Ndiku Mutua, Paulo Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara, who are in their 70s and 80s, have flown 4,000 miles from their rural homes for the trial, which will also consider whether the claim was brought outside the legal time limit.

The judge heard that Mr Mutua and Mr Nzili had been castrated, Mr Nyingi was beaten unconscious in an incident in which 11 men were clubbed to death, and Mrs Mara had been subjected to appalling sexual abuse.

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Gao Zhisheng.

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The Index on Censorship has a piece on Gao Zhisheng, his wife recalls:

“In 2007, officials subjected him to electric shocks, held lighted cigarettes up to his eyes and pierced his genitals with toothpicks. In 2009, the police beat him with handguns for two days. He has been tied up and forced to sit motionless for hours, threatened with death and told that our children were having nervous breakdowns.”

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29/03/2011 at 22:49

Poland And Torture?

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I just caught a clip with Dick Marty, from the Council of Europe, where he discusses Poland’s involvement in the CIA’s programme of torture and rendition.

It certainly is very damning:

“On 7 March 2003 a CIA Gulfstream Jet landed at a remote airstrip in north-eastern Poland. Human rights officials and campaigners are convinced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the most senior al-Qaeda suspects, was on board.

American agents took him to a secret facility where, he says, he was tortured before being eventually transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

The secret transfer of CIA prisoners is said to have taken place in both Poland and Lithuania – a region where, only a generation ago, people were subject to arbitrary detention and torture at the hands of Communist secret police.

Now, seven years on, the full story of Poland’s secret detention site is emerging.

Dick Marty, the Council of Europe’s former Rapporteur on Torture, told the BBC: “If I use the judicial standard of proof – and I used to be a magistrate – then I say ‘Yes, Mohammed was in Poland. Yes, he was tortured.'”

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner on Human Rights, said he now believed detainees had been subjected to “intense torture” and called for prosecutions.

The CIA’s Inspector General, the internal watchdog, has said he was subjected to “183 applications of the waterboard” in a single month, one of the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” then used by the CIA.

At the heart of the counter-terrorism programme launched in the wake of 9/11, believed to be codenamed Greystone, was a decision to use secret detention sites to hold what it termed “high-value detainees”.

Dick Marty’s reports have described them as a “global spider’s web” of clandestine sites, linked by secret rendition flights.

The BBC has seen logs which confirm that executive jets leased by the CIA landed at the isolated Szymany airstrip in north-east Poland between December 2002 and September 2003.”

This is the 2007 report [a PDF] from the Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states: second report.

The AFP has more.

Update 1: I covered a similar point before in, China’s Black Jails.

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07/10/2010 at 13:29

Only 30,000?

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Is this really surprisingly?

“LONDON (Reuters) – The United States has released several thousand Iraqi prisoners into Iraqi custody despite documented evidence that Iraqi security forces have abused detainees, Amnesty International said Monday.

The handover of prisoners occurred following the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq last month.

“Iraq’s security forces have been responsible for systematically violating detainees’ rights and they have been permitted to do so with impunity,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Yet, the U.S. authorities, whose own record on detainees’ rights has been so poor, have now handed over thousands of people detained by U.S. forces to face this catalogue of illegality, violence and abuse, abdicating any responsibility for their human rights.”

The Amnesty report documents thousands of arbitrary detentions and beatings of detainees to obtain forced confessions.

It estimated 30,000 people were being held without trial in Iraq and 10,000 of those were recently transferred from U.S. custody.

Amnesty said it believed several detainees had died, possibly as a result of what it described as torture and other ill-treatment by interrogators and prison guards.”

Over at AI.

Written by modernityblog

13/09/2010 at 02:54

156 Pages.

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I should have written more after those seven paragraphs that the British government wanted to suppress concerning the treatment of Binyam Mohamed.

I was just reading the judgement, it is 156 pages and you can see why the British government didn’t want the appalling treatment inflicted on Binyam Mohamed to come out.

The judgement is viewable on the web or downloadable as a RTF file.

This is just a small extract:

“23. The problem in this case is not that Mr Mohamed was tortured in the UK. He was, however, subjected to torture. In Farhi Saeed Bin Mohamed, it is publicly recorded that “the Government does not challenge or deny the accuracy of Binyam Mohamed’s story of brutal treatment (p58)…the account in Binyam Mohamed’s diary bears several indicia of reliability (p61).” Note is taken of his “willingness to test the truth of his version of events in both the courts of law as well as the court of public opinion” (p62). Towards the end of its judgment two specific matters are recorded:

“(a)…[Mr Mohamed’s] trauma lasted for 2 long years. During that time, he was physically and psychologically tortured. His genitals were mutilated. He was deprived of sleep and food. He was summarily transported from one foreign prison to another. Captors held him in stress positions for days at a time. He was forced to listen to piercingly loud music and the screams of other prisoners while locked in a pitch-black cell. All the while, he was forced to inculpate himself and others in various plots to imperil Americans. The Government does not dispute this evidence.”(p64)

“(b) In this case, even though the identity of the individual interrogator changed (from nameless Pakistanis, to Moroccans, to Americans, and to special agent (the identity is redacted)), there is no question that throughout his ordeal Binyam Mohamed was being held at the behest of the United States (p68)…The court finds that [Mr Mohamed’s] will was overborne by his lengthy prior torture, and therefore his confessions to special agent…do not represent reliable evidence to detain petitioner”.

It gets worse for HMG:

“24. True to our shared traditions the District Court of Columbia made its findings publicly available. The courts in the United States, upholding the principles of open justice, have publicly revealed the essence of Mr Mohamed’s complaint and the circumstances of his detention. This provides an important aspect of my examination of the Foreign Secretary’s reliance on public interest immunity based on the control principle. Although Mr Mohamed is now discharged from the danger of proceedings in the USA, whether capital, or otherwise, there was a time when he was exposed to a genuine and serious risk that if convicted he would be executed. It was to address the risk of his conviction for a capital offence that the present proceedings were launched in this country against the Foreign Secretary. The redacted paragraphs formed part of the reasons of the court in a judgment which vindicated Mr Mohamed’s assertion that UK authorities had been involved in and facilitated the ill-treatment and torture to which he was subjected while under the control of USA authorities. “

So basically, he was tortured on behalf of the American government by various operatives from foreign powers, including an American, and the redacted name of a special agent clearly implies that HMG might have had a hand in it. At the very least, as the judgement suggests, all of this vindicates Binyam Mohamed claim that HMG were involved in and facilitating his ill-treatment and torture.

I have only skimmed the first 40 pages, but I’m sure there is more material in there to indict HMG. Clearly the actual judgement is much worse than those seven paragraphs.

Seven Paragraphs.

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The fragility of the supposed special relationship between Britain and America came into full view today, when it was argued that the release of information which detailed the torture of Binyam Mohamed would have seriously damaged the long standing Anglo-American relationship.

Such an argument did not stand up to much scrutiny, given the fact a US Court had already released the same information into the public domain.

The question as to why the Governments did not want it released is evidenced by the contents.

It has nothing to do with National Security, rather the released information would embarrass the spooks and show how they were complicit in the torture of a British citizen.

Embarrassment, the possibility of criminal proceedings and the desire to keep their questionable activities hidden was behind the court action to restrict those seven paragraphs.

The release of this information is a further nail in the coffin of Gitmo. It should have been closed years ago, and never opened in the first place.

I imagine that when Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush discussed the creation of an incarceration facility at Guantanamo Bay they probably thought they were being very clever. As it was something within their control, but in a grey area of legal jurisdiction, which allowed them plenty of freedom to mistreat or to condone the torture of inmates.

I would suspect that most of the torture was done by third parties around the world to keep US officials’ hands clean, but I hope the release of those seven paragraphs will bring forth more information.

We need to fully determine the culpability of those who did the torturing, who planned it and those who authorised it.

Much more than seven paragraphs needs releasing.

Written by modernityblog

10/02/2010 at 14:28