Former Gitmo Guard Tells All

Brandon Neely

Brandon Neely

Army Private Brandon Neely served as a prison guard at Guantánamo in the first years the facility was in operation. With the Bush Administration, and thus the threat of retaliation against him, now gone, Neely decided to step forward and tell his story. “The stuff I did and the stuff I saw was just wrong,” he told the Associated Press. Neely describes the arrival of detainees in full sensory-deprivation garb, he details their sexual abuse by medical personnel, torture by other medical personnel, brutal beatings out of frustration, fear, and retribution, the first hunger strike and its causes, torturous shackling, positional torture, interference with religious practices and beliefs, verbal abuse, restriction of recreation, the behavior of mentally ill detainees, an isolation regime that was put in place for child-detainees, and his conversations with prisoners David Hicks and Rhuhel Ahmed. It makes for fascinating reading.

Neely’s comprehensive account runs to roughly 15,000 words. It was compiled by law students at the University of California at Davis and can be accessed here. Three things struck me in reading through the account.

First, Neely and other guards had been trained to the U.S. military’s traditional application of the Geneva Convention rules. They were put under great pressure to get rough with the prisoners and to violate the standards they learned. This placed the prison guards under unjustifiable mental stress and anxiety, and, as any person familiar with the vast psychological literature in the area (think of the Stanford Prison Experiment, for instance) would have anticipated produced abuses. Neely discusses at some length the notion of IRF (initial reaction force), a technique devised to brutalize or physically beat a detainee under the pretense that he required being physically subdued. The IRF approach was devised to use a perceived legal loophole in the prohibition on torture. Neely’s testimony makes clear that IRF was understood by everyone, including the prison guards who applied it, as a subterfuge for beating and mistreating prisoners—and that it had nothing to do with the need to preserve discipline and order in the prison.

Second, there is a good deal of discussion of displays of contempt for Islam by the camp authorities, and also specific documentation of mistreatment of the Qu’ran. Remember that the Neocon-laden Pentagon Public Affairs office launched a war against Newsweek based on a very brief piece that appeared in the magazine’s Periscope section concerning the mistreatment of a Qu’ran by a prison guard. Not only was the Newsweek report accurate in its essence, it actually understated the gravity and scope of the problem. Moreover, it is clear that the Pentagon Public Affairs office was fully aware, even as it went on the attack against Newsweek, that its claims were false and the weekly’s reporting was accurate.

Third, the Nelly account shows that health professionals are right in the thick of the torture and abuse of the prisoners—suggesting a systematic collapse of professional ethics driven by the Pentagon itself. He describes body searches undertaken for no legitimate security purpose, simply to sexually invade and humiliate the prisoners. This was a standardized Bush Administration tactic–the importance of which became apparent to me when I participated in some Capitol Hill negotiations with White House representatives relating to legislation creating criminal law accountability for contractors. The Bush White House vehemently objected to provisions of the law dealing with rape by instrumentality. When House negotiators pressed to know why, they were met first with silence and then an embarrassed acknowledgement that a key part of the Bush program included invasion of the bodies of prisoners in a way that might be deemed rape by instrumentality under existing federal and state criminal statutes. While these techniques have long been known, the role of health care professionals in implementing them is shocking.

Neely’s account demonstrates once more how much the Bush team kept secret and how little we still know about their comprehensive program of official cruelty and torture.

Harpers

A Call to End All Renditions

Binyam Mohamed

Binyam Mohamed

Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian residing in Britain, said he was tortured after being sent to Morocco and Afghanistan in 2002 by the U.S. government. Mohamed was transferred to Guantánamo in 2004 and all terrorism charges against him were dismissed last year. Mohamed was a victim of extraordinary rendition, in which a person is abducted without any legal proceedings and transferred to a foreign country for detention and interrogation, often tortured.

Mohamed and four other plaintiffs are accusing Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. of flying them to other countries and secret CIA camps where they were tortured. In Mohamed’s case, two British justices accused the Bush administration of pressuring the British government to block the release of evidence that was “relevant to allegations of torture” of Mohamed.

Twenty-five lines edited out of the court documents included details about how Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel as well as other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding “is very far down the list of things they did,” according to a British official quoted by the Telegraph (UK).

The plaintiffs’ complaint quotes a former Jeppesen employee as saying, “We do all of the extraordinary rendition flights – you know, the torture flights.” A senior company official also apparently admitted the company transported people to countries where they would be tortured.

Obama’s Justice Department appeared before a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Monday in the Jeppesen lawsuit. But instead of making a clean break with the dark policies of the Bush years, the Obama administration claimed the same “state secrets” privilege that Bush used to block inquiry into his policies of torture and illegal surveillance. Claiming that the extraordinary rendition program is a state secret is disingenuous since it is has been extensively documented in the media.

“This was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen to stay the course,” said the ACLU’s Ben Wizner, counsel for the five men.

If the judges accept Obama’s state secrets claim, these men will be denied their day in court and precluded from any recovery for the damages they suffered as a result of extraordinary rendition.

Two and a half weeks before Obama’s representative appeared in the Jeppesen case, the new President had signed Executive Order 13491. It established a special task force “to study and evaluate the practices of transferring individuals to other nations in order to ensure that such practices comply with the domestic laws, international obligations, and policies of the United States and do not result in the transfer of individuals to other nations to face torture or otherwise for the purpose, or with the effect, of undermining or circumventing the commitments or obligations of the United States to ensure the humane treatment of individuals in its custody or control.”

This order prohibits extraordinary rendition. It also ensures humane treatment of persons in U.S. custody or control. But it doesn’t specifically guarantee that prisoners the United States renders to other countries will be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that doesn’t amount to torture. It does, however, aim to ensure that our government’s practices of transferring people to other countries complies with U.S. laws and policies, including our obligations under international law.

One of those laws is the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty the United States ratified in 1992. Article 7 of the ICCPR prohibits the States Parties from subjecting persons “to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” The Human Rights Committee, which is the body that monitors the ICCPR, has interpreted that prohibition to forbid States Parties from exposing “individuals to the danger of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment upon return to another country by way of their extradition, expulsion or refoulement.”

Order 13491 also mandates, “The CIA shall close as expeditiously as possible any detention facilities that it currently operates and shall not operate any such detention facility in the future.” The order does not define “expeditiously” and the definitional section of the order says that the terms ‘detention facilities’ and ‘detention facility’ “do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis.” Once again, “short term” and “transitory” are not defined.

In his confirmation hearing, Attorney General Eric Holder categorically stated that the United States should not turn over an individual to a country where we have reason to believe he will be tortured. Leon Panetta, nominee for CIA director, went further and interpreted Order 13491 as forbidding “that kind of extraordinary rendition, where we send someone for the purposes of torture or for actions by another country that violate our human values.”

But alarmingly, Panetta appeared to champion the same standard used by the Bush administration, which reportedly engaged in extraordinary rendition 100 to 150 times as of March 2005. After September 11, 2001, President Bush issued a classified directive that expanded the CIA’s authority to render terrorist suspects to other States. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the CIA and the State Department received assurances that prisoners will be treated humanely. “I will seek the same kinds of assurances that they will not be treated inhumanely,” Panetta told the senators.

Gonzales had admitted, however, “We can’t fully control what that country might do. We obviously expect a country to whom we have rendered a detainee to comply with their representations to us . . . If you’re asking me, ‘Does a country always comply?’ I don’t have an answer to that.”

The answer is no. Binyam Mohamed’s case is apparently the tip of the iceberg. Maher Arar, a Canadian born in Syria, was apprehended by U.S. authorities in New York on September 26, 2002, and transported to Syria, where he was brutally tortured for months. Arar used an Arabic expression to describe the pain he experienced: “you forget the milk that you have been fed from the breast of your mother.” The Canadian government later exonerated Arar of any terrorist ties. Thirteen CIA operatives were arrested in Italy for kidnapping an Egyptian, Abu Omar, in Milan and transporting him to Cairo where he was tortured.

Panetta made clear that the CIA will continue to engage in rendition to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects and transfer them to other countries. “If we capture a high-value prisoner,” he said, “I believe we have the right to hold that individual temporarily to be able to debrief that individual and make sure that individual is properly incarcerated.” No clarification of how long is “temporarily” or what “debrief” would mean.

When Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) asked about the Clinton administration’s use of the CIA to transfer prisoners to countries where they were later executed, Panetta replied, “I think that is an appropriate use of rendition.” Jane Mayer, columnist for the New Yorker, has documented numerous instances of extraordinary rendition during the Clinton administration, including cases in which suspects were executed in the country to which the United States had rendered them. Once when Richard Clarke, President Clinton’s chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council, “proposed a snatch,” Vice-President Al Gore said, “That’s a no-brainer. Of course it’s a violation of international law, that’s why it’s a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.”

There is a slippery slope between ordinary rendition and extraordinary rendition. “Rendition has to end,” Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! “Rendition is a violation of sovereignty. It’s a kidnapping. It’s force and violence.” Ratner queried whether Cuba could enter the United States and take Luis Posada, the man responsible for blowing up a commercial Cuban airline in 1976 and killing 73 people. Or whether the United States could go down to Cuba and kidnap Assata Shakur, who escaped a murder charge in New Jersey.

Moreover, “renditions for the most part weren’t very productive,” a former CIA official told the Los Angeles Times. After a prisoner was turned over to authorities in Egypt, Jordan or another country, the CIA had very little influence over how prisoners were treated and whether they were ultimately released.

The U.S. government should disclose the identities, fate, and current whereabouts of all persons detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody by the CIA since 2001. Those who ordered renditions should be prosecuted. And the special task force should recommend, and Obama should agree to, an end to all renditions.

Britain: Foreign Office colludes with US to cover-up torture of Binyam Mohamed

Binyam Mohamed

Binyam Mohamed

A High Court ruling by two British judges regarding the torture of a Guantánamo detainee has unleashed a major political crisis.

The judges have stated that they have been pressured by the United States into concealing evidence that should be made available in any country governed by the rule of law. This took the form of threats to withdraw security cooperation, instigated under the Bush administration and continued under Barak Obama’s presidency.

Binyam Mohamed, 30, is currently in Guantánamo Bay but is reportedly being prepared for a return to the UK. He states that he was tortured by US agents in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan between 2002 and 2004, and that Britain’s security agencies were complicit.

The High Court judgment on February 4 refused to order the disclosure of the CIA dossier said to contain evidence of his abuse. The document is a report by the US government to the British security services. The ruling followed a submission by the UK Foreign Office.

While calling for the document to be made public, the judges stated that it was not presently in the public interest to publish it, as the US government could “inflict on the citizens of the United Kingdom a very considerable increase in the dangers they face at a time when a serious terrorist threat still pertains”.

The joint judgment by Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones registered its concern that the document remained secret. “In the light of the long history of the common law and democracy which we share with the United States it was in our view difficult to conceive that a democratically elected and accountable government could possibly have any rational objection to placing into the public domain such a summary of what its own officials reported, as to how a detainee was treated by them and which made no disclosure of sensitive intelligence matters”.

The judgment continued, “Indeed we did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials…relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be”.

The ruling stated that the High Court had been informed by lawyers for the Foreign Secretary David Miliband that a threat to withdraw security cooperation remained under the Obama administration. The court said of the Foreign Office submissions, “We have however been informed by counsel for the foreign secretary that the position has not changed. Our current understanding is therefore that the position remains the same even after the making of executive orders by President Obama on 22 January 2009”.

This refers to the recent executive orders signed by Obama to close down the Guantánamo Bay prison camp within a year and to review the military trials for alleged terrorist suspects.

The British government has denied that the US government threatened to break off security intelligence cooperation. Miliband said that he would not demand that Obama intervene in the case, stating, “I am not going to join a lobbying campaign against the American government for this decision”.

Miliband’s account has been flatly contradicted by BBC reporter Jonathan Beale, who said that he had been informed in Washington by a former Bush administration official who dealt with Guantánamo Bay that US intelligence agencies did tell the UK that they opposed the release of certain US intelligence without their consent.

On February 5, Channel 4 News documented the contents of confidential letters from the US State Department to the UK Foreign Office. One of the letters was dated August 21, 2008, and read, “The public disclosure of these documents or of the information contained therein is likely to result in serious damage to US national security and could harm existing intelligence information-gathering arrangements between our two countries”.

A further letter sent a week later said, “Ordering the disclosure of the US intelligence information now would have only the marginal effects of serious and lasting damage to the US-UK intelligence sharing relationship, and thus the national security of the United Kingdom”.

Opposition politicians have demanded a full explanation from government ministers regarding the allegations that Britain was complicit in torture. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader said, “If British ministers were complicit in any way in the use of torture, or helped the US authorities to cover it up, they could face consequences in the International Criminal Court”.

David Davis, a Conservative Party opposition MP who has projected himself as a champion of democratic rights said, “The judge rules that there is a strong public interest that this information is put in the public domain even though it is politically embarrassing”.

Davis said US interference in the judicial process in Britain “is completely beyond the rule of law…. All the rumours are that it actually does show some degree of complicity by the UK and US governments. The question has come about that one of our agencies—MI5, MI6, whoever—have known about torture being used against people like that, has used information arising from torture, all of those sorts of issues”.

Mohamed, an Ethiopian national resident in the UK for seven years, was arrested in Pakistan as he was about to board a flight to Britain in April 2002. Mohamed said that he had gone to Afghanistan to attempt to escape from and deal with a drug problem. He was accused by the United States of travelling to Afghanistan in May 2001 and attending “terror training camps”.

He became a victim of the US government’s notorious policy of “extraordinary rendition” and was forcibly transferred from one country to another on three occasions, without reference to a court of law. He was questioned in Pakistan and subjected to torture there and in Morocco and Afghanistan. In Morocco he was subjected to prolonged torture for a period of 18 months. The American Civil Liberties Union website reports that “his interrogators routinely beat him, sometimes to the point of losing consciousness, and he suffered multiple broken bones. During one incident, Mohamed was cut 20 to 30 times on his genitals. On another occasion, a hot stinging liquid was poured into open wounds on his penis as he was being cut. He was frequently threatened with rape, electrocution and death. He was forced to listen to loud music day and night, placed in a room with open sewage for a month at a time and drugged repeatedly”.

The Bagram Theater Internment Facility is a US detention facility located at an air base in Afghanistan. At Bagram, Mohamed was forced to write a 20-page statement that detailed his relationship with alleged terrorist Jose Padilla. Included in the document were details of how he and Padilla went to Afghanistan together, and how they planned to go to the United States to detonate a “dirty bomb”. Mohamed has always maintained that these “confessions” were extracted on the basis of torture.

He was taken from Bagram on September 19, 2004, and moved to Guantánamo, where he has spent more than four years. Mohamed was charged under President Bush’s military order and was told he would face trial by a military commission. In November 2005 he was charged with conspiracy on the basis of his confessions. Mohamedmade a statement denouncing the commission as illegitimate. Following a ruling by the US Supreme Court that the president lacked the constitutional authority to create military commissions, proceedings against Mohamed were halted. He could have faced the death penalty.

Mohamed’s lawyer had said that that all a trial by military commission would produce “is evidence not of terrorism, but of torture…. I have seen not one shred of evidence against him that was not tortured out of him. We know the British talked to Binyam [Mohamed] in Pakistan, told him he was to be rendered and gave information to the US that was used in his torture in Morocco”.

Last July his lawyers filed a petition in a UK court declaring that the Foreign Office should be compelled to turn over the evidence of his abuse. In August the High Court concluded that the British security services had facilitated the original interrogation of Mohamed in Pakistan and that he was seen by British agents whilst in detention. The court established that British security service provided information about Mohamed and interrogation questions having full knowledge of the conditions of his detention and treatment.

The court stated that much of the case against Mohamed was believed to have been based on confessions made in Bagram between May and September 2004, and in Guantánamo Bay before November 2004. Judges ruled that the Foreign Office should disclose this material as “not only necessary but essential for his defence”.

In August 2007, Foreign Secretary Miliband requested that the US government release Mohamed and four other UK residents at Guantánamo. The US released three of the men, but refused to release Mohamed and Saudi-born Shaker Aamer. In June last year the US military announced they were formally charging Mohamed. These charges were dropped in October.

In the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has brought a case against a subsidiary of the Boeing Company, Jeppesen Dataplan, accusing the firm of aiding in rendition flights that carried Mohamed and others to torture. The case was dismissed in a San Francisco court last year after the Bush administration asserted its “state secrets privilege”. An appeal to this decision is expected to come before the court next week.

Supporters of Mohamed in Britain have demanded that he is moved immediately from the maximum security prison Camp 5 in Guantánamo due to the risk to his mental and physical health. He is said to have smeared faeces over his cell walls and spent days in the cell with his water supply cut off. His lawyer states he is on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

The case of Binyam Mohamed reveals the extent to which basic democratic and legal norms have been overturned in the name of the “war on terror”. There is a growing body of evidence revealing collusion between the UK and US governments in the suppression and erosion of democratic rights, using criminal practises including humiliation, abuse, torture and extraordinary rendition. It has been used as a pretext for waging illegal wars abroad and for attacking established constitutional rights at home.

It also demonstrates that while signing the order to close Guantánamo and promising to review the ongoing military trials, the Obama regime intends to preserve the essential elements of the “war on terror”, including the suppression of evidence of torture and other nefarious activity.

Informationclearinghouse

Bush Officials Authorized Torture of US Citizen, Lawyers Say

Jose Padilla

Jose Padilla

Attorneys for US citizen Jose Padilla — who was convicted of material support for terrorist activities in 2007 — say that high-level Bush Administration officials knew their client was being tortured during the time he was held an enemy combatant in a South Carolina brig, because of the command structure and that then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld employed in approving harsh interrogation tactics.

Rumsfeld approved the harsh interrogation techniques early in Bush’s presidency. In Iraq, a cheat sheet titled “Interrogation Rules of Engagement,” revealed that some of them required the Iraq commanding general’s approval.

Among those requiring approval are tactics Padilla’s mother and lawyer say he was the victim of: “Sleep adjustment,” “Sleep management, “Sensory deprivation,” “isolation lasting longer than thirty days” and “stress” positions.” It wouldn’t be a shock if military guards went beyond the traditional treatment of a US prisoner, given Rumsfeld’s approved techniques and that Padilla was is legal limbo as an enemy combatant and eligible to be held for years without charge.

Padilla and his mother filed suit against the US government last year alleging a litany of harsh interrogation practices they said were tantamount to torture. His lawyer also says he was held in isolation for years while held at the South Carolina brig.

“They knew what was going on at the brig and they permitted it to continue,” Tahlia Townsend, an attorney representing Padilla, told the Associated Press Thursday. “Defendants Rumsfeld and [Deputy Paul] Wolfowitz were routinely consulted on these kinds of questions.”

The Justice Department is attempting to get the case dismissed. Padilla’s suit alleges mistreatment and that Padilla’s being held as an enemy combat was unconstitutional.

Dismissal might quietly shut the door on a troubled case that drew broad attention because the Bush Administration had deemed a US citizen an enemy combatant, the quasi-legal terminology used to hold suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.

Padilla, a US citizen, was arrested in 2002 and accused of plotting with al-Qaida to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in a major U.S. city, but those charges were dropped. He was declared an enemy combatant after his arrest, and held at the brig from June 2002 until January 2006, again without charge.

In 2008, Padilla and his mother, Estela Lebron, filed a lawsuit accusing the government of mistreating and illegally detaining Padilla while he was held near Charleston, South Carolina. Padilla suffered “extreme isolation, sensory deprivation, severe physical pain, sleep deprivation, and profound disruption of his sense and personality, all well beyond the physical and mental discomfort that normally accompanies incarceration,” according to the lawyers’ claim. Such treatment bears the hallmarks of harsh interrogation techniques approved by then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and used by interrogators of other enemy combatants held at the US’ Guantanamo Bay and Iraqi prisons.

In particular, they singled out then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

Padilla has alleged he was shackled in painful “stress positions,” a technique used at Guantanamo Bay that a bipartisan U.S. Senate panel ruled last year was the direct result of Bush administration detention policies, not individual guards or interrogators.

The original charge leveled at Padilla when he was arrested in 2002 was that he was part of a “dirty bomb” al Qaeda plot. By the time he was charged five years later, government lawyers had dropped the charge.

The following are excerpts from Padilla’s 2006 motion (PDF link) which describe the claims of torture in more detail:

A substantial quantum of torture endured by Mr. Padilla came at the hands of his interrogators. In an effort to disorient Mr. Padilla, his captors would deceive him about his location and who his interrogators actually were. Mr. Padilla was threatened with being forcibly removed from the United States to another country, including U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was threatened his fate would be even worse than in the Naval Brig. He was threatened with being cut with a knife and having alcohol poured on the wounds. He was also threatened with imminent execution. He was hooded and forced to stand in stress positions for long durations of time. He was forced to endure exceedingly long interrogation sessions, without adequate sleep, wherein he would be confronted with false information, scenarios, and documents to further disorient him. Often
he had to endure multiple interrogators who would scream, shake, and otherwise assault Mr. Padilla. Additionally, Mr. Padilla was given drugs against his will, believed to be some form of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or phencyclidine (PCP), to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations.
….

It is worth noting that throughout his captivity, none of the restrictive and inhumane conditions visited upon Mr. Padilla were brought on by his behavior or by any actions on his part. There were no incidents of Mr. Padilla violating any regulation of the Naval Brig or taking any aggressive action towards any of his captors. Mr. Padilla has always been peaceful and compliant with his captors. He was, and remains to the time of this filing, docile and resigned B a model detainee.

In sum, many of the conditions Mr. Padilla experienced were inhumane and caused him great physical and psychological pain and anguish. Other deprivations experienced by Mr. Padilla, taken in isolation, are merely cruel and some, merely petty. However, it is important to recognize that all of the deprivations and assaults recounted above were employed in concert in a calculated manner to cause him maximum anguish. It is also extremely important to note that the torturous acts visited upon Mr. Padilla were done over the course almost the entire three years and seven months of his captivity in the Naval Brig. For most of one thousand three hundred and seven days, Mr. Padilla was tortured by the United States government without cause or justification. Mr. Padilla=s treatment at the hands of the United States government is shocking to even the most hardened conscience, and such outrageous conduct on the part of the government divests it of jurisdiction, under the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment, to prosecute Mr. Padilla in the instant matter.

insight-info

Judge Orders Release of Uighurs at Guantanamo

Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Bay

U.S. human rights and civil rights groups lauded a federal court decision Tuesday that orders the release of 17 Muslim minority Chinese men who have been held without charges for seven years at the infamous U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But despite the praise of the organisations, it is uncertain whether the decision will actually mean freedom for the detainees anytime soon.

The ruling is the latest in a string of rebukes by the federal judiciary of Pres. George W. Bush’s detention policies of suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. naval base leased from the Cuban government.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina calls for the government to end its detention of the men, Chinese Uighurs who were arrested in Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion there, and bring them before U.S. courts to address their status in habeas corpus lawsuits.

‘I think the moment has arrived for the court to shine the light of constitutionality on the reasons for the detention,’ Urbina said, contending that the continued detention of the men was no longer lawful since they lost their status as enemy combatants.

In June, a federal appeals court ruled that the U.S. military improperly labeled Huzaifa Parhat, a Chinese Muslim held at Guantanamo Bay, an ‘enemy combatant’. The court ordered that he be released, transferred, or granted a new hearing.

Nonetheless, Parhat and his 16 associated have remained behind bars, embroiled in controversies over where to send the men, who said that they had initially fled Western China for Afghanistan because of government pressure and would likely face persecution and possibly torture if they were released to Chinese authorities.

But Tuesday’s ruling gives some hope to rights groups that the detainees will finally be released into the U.S. for a hearing before Urbina next week.

‘This is a landmark decision that represents a stinging rejection of the Bush administration’s unconstitutional Guantanamo policies. The situation facing the Uighurs is a stark reminder of the legal and moal quagmire Guantanamo,’ said Jameel Jaffer, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, in a statement.

‘The judge was right to rule that this kind of detention is unlawful because the Constitution prohibits indefinite imprisonment without any charges,’ he said.

But some of the rights groups remained cautious and urged the government to act quickly to release the Uighur detainees.

‘The government should not drag its feet, but should immediately release these men from their unlawful confinement at Guantanamo,’ said the senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch, Jennifer Daskal.

In a release from Amnesty International, the organisation said that it was ‘thrilled’ by the ruling, but noted that past rulings from federal courts have fallen on deaf ears within the Bush administration.

‘Today’s decision is a huge victory for the rule of law and fundamental liberties,’ said Larry Cox, the executive director of Amnesty International USA. ‘However, this decision will mean little to the detainees if it is ignored, as other court opinions have been in practice by the Bush administration.’

‘How many times does the Bush administration need to be told that detainees are entitled to essential rights?’ continued Cox. ‘All the remaining detainees in Guantanamo Bay must be either charged and tried or released immediately.’

Despite the pleas and insistence from the rights groups, the Bush Justice Department appears unlikely to cooperate fully with the order.

A lawyer for the department, John O’Quinn, asked the judge to stay the order so that the government could consider filing an appeal, but Urbina rejected the request and announced his intention to release the detainees to Uighur families living in the Washington area.

O’Quinn suggested that existing laws may force the government to take the Uighur detainees into immigration custody if they enter the United States because they are, the administration alleges, tied to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a Uighur separatist group that Washington says has links to al Qaeda.

Urbina reportedly reacted angrily to the Justice Departments apparent intentions.

‘All of this means more delay, and delay is the name of the game up until this point,’ he said, insisting that the government leave the Uighurs alone and that the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security would be afforded opportunities to make their views clear in next week’s hearing.

The alleged involvement of the Uighurs in Guantanamo with the separatists’ movement is what initially spurred their detention by the U.S. even though they claimed that they were not in Afghanistan as anti-U.S. fighters but rather to escape harsh treatment by the Chinese authorities.

The alleged connection to al Qaeda is what initially got the Uighurs the ‘enemy combatant’ status that the U.S. used to detain prisoners strictly under the authority of the executive branch.

But in the summer case of Parhat, the government conceded that while the Uighurs were still designated enemy combatants, they were not considered significant threats or ‘to have further intelligence value’.

After the court ruled against the administration in that case, the government decided not to retry Parhat and removed his status as an enemy combatant. The last of the Uighurs were absolved of the ‘enemy combatant’ status in September.

full article: www.insight-info.com

Report: Gitmo prosecutor quits, alleging evidence withheld from detainee

Gitmo protest

Gitmo protest

A military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay has resigned because his office withheld exculpatory evidence against an Afghan detainee, the prisoner’s lawyers say.

The attorneys for Mohammed Jawad say the prosecutor, Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, backs their bid to get charged dismissed against Jawad, who is accused of throwing a grenade that injured two U.S. soldiers. Vandeveld could not be reached.

Michael Berrigan, the tribunals’ deputy chief defense counsel, said today that Vandeveld told them the prosecutor’s office was refusing to hand over the evidence.

full article: www.insight-info.com

John McCain, Torture Puppet

Sen. John McCain, who recently shelved his opposition to torture by voting against a bill banning the use of torture by the CIA,, compounded his desperate lunge for the Hard Right vote by declaring that last Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling, granting constitutional habeas corpus rights to the prisoners at Guantánamo, was “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”

John McCain

As the conservative columnist George F. Will asked, in a Washington Post column, “Does it rank with Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), which concocted a constitutional right, unmentioned in the document, to own slaves and held that black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect? With Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which affirmed the constitutionality of legally enforced racial segregation? With Korematsu v. United States (1944), which affirmed the wartime right to sweep American citizens of Japanese ancestry into concentration camps?”

McCain’s effort portray Barack Obama as soft on terror flies in the face of the ever-growing evidence that the entire “War on Terror” imprisonment program has been both chronically brutal and irredeemably flawed, and that Obama is correct to call the ruling “an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus.”

On ABC News on Monday, Obama explained more, saying, “Let’s take the example of Guantánamo. What we know is that in previous terrorist attacks, for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in US prisons, incapacitated. And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world.”

Full article: http://www.insight-info.com/articles/item.aspx?i=1182

US accused of holding terror suspects on prison ships

· Report says 17 boats used

· MPs seek details of UK role

· Europe attacks 42-day plan

 Duncan Campbell and Richard Norton-Taylor

 The Guardian,

 Monday June 2 2008

 

The United States is operating “floating prisons” to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.

Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.

Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.

The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped.

It is the use of ships to detain prisoners, however, that is raising fresh concern and demands for inquiries in Britain and the US.

According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as “floating prisons” since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.

Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu. A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the UK and the Americans.

Reprieve will raise particular concerns over the activities of the USS Ashland and the time it spent off Somalia in early 2007 conducting maritime security operations in an effort to capture al-Qaida terrorists.

At this time many people were abducted by Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces in a systematic operation involving regular interrogations by individuals believed to be members of the FBI and CIA. Ultimately more than 100 individuals were “disappeared” to prisons in locations including Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Guantánamo Bay.

Reprieve believes prisoners may have also been held for interrogation on the USS Ashland and other ships in the Gulf of Aden during this time.

The Reprieve study includes the account of a prisoner released from Guantánamo Bay, who described a fellow inmate’s story of detention on an amphibious assault ship. “One of my fellow prisoners in Guantánamo was at sea on an American ship with about 50 others before coming to Guantánamo … he was in the cage next to me. He told me that there were about 50 other people on the ship. They were all closed off in the bottom of the ship. The prisoner commented to me that it was like something you see on TV. The people held on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantánamo.”

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s legal director, said: “They choose ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers. We will eventually reunite these ghost prisoners with their legal rights.

“By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been ‘through the system’ since 2001. The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are, and what has been done to them.”

Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, called for the US and UK governments to come clean over the holding of detainees.

“Little by little, the truth is coming out on extraordinary rendition. The rest will come, in time. Better for governments to be candid now, rather than later. Greater transparency will provide increased confidence that President Bush’s departure from justice and the rule of law in the aftermath of September 11 is being reversed, and can help to win back the confidence of moderate Muslim communities, whose support is crucial in tackling dangerous extremism.”

The Liberal Democrat’s foreign affairs spokesman, Edward Davey, said: “If the Bush administration is using British territories to aid and abet illegal state abduction, it would amount to a huge breach of trust with the British government. Ministers must make absolutely clear that they would not support such illegal activity, either directly or indirectly.”

A US navy spokesman, Commander Jeffrey Gordon, told the Guardian: “There are no detention facilities on US navy ships.” However, he added that it was a matter of public record that some individuals had been put on ships “for a few days” during what he called the initial days of detention. He declined to comment on reports that US naval vessels stationed in or near Diego Garcia had been used as “prison ships”.

The Foreign Office referred to David Miliband’s statement last February admitting to MPs that, despite previous assurances to the contrary, US rendition flights had twice landed on Diego Garcia. He said he had asked his officials to compile a list of all flights on which rendition had been alleged.

CIA “black sites” are also believed to have operated in Thailand, Afghanistan, Poland and Romania.

In addition, numerous prisoners have been “extraordinarily rendered” to US allies and are alleged to have been tortured in secret prisons in countries such as Syria, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt.

U.S. Has Detained 2,500 Juveniles as Enemy Combatants

America supports human rights – what a crock!

 

guantanamo

 

The United States has detained approximately 2,500 people younger than 18 as illegal enemy combatants in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay since 2002, according to a report filed by the Bush administration with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Although 2,400 of the juveniles were captured in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, only 500 are still held in detention facilities in that country. The administration’s report, which was made public yesterday by the American Civil Liberties Union, says that most of the detained Iraqi youths were “engaging in anti-coalition
activity.”

As of last month, 10 juveniles were still being held in Bagram, Afghanistan, out of 90 that had been captured in that country since 2002, according to the report.

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