Friday, May 16, 2014

Close Guantanamo demos, UK hooding and murder, and Sand Creek



You might think Sand Creek or the Amritsar massacre were in the past for the US or British army in Iraq. You would be wrong...

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In the second story below, the British army captured a nameless man, kicked him to death for loosening the bonds on his hands, and couldn't be bothered to find out his name. Tariq Sabri al-Fahdawi has not been given justice.

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Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Mercer, the British military's most senior lawyer in the country just after the American-British invasion who saw the prisoners hooded, warned about international law (Tony Blair and George Bush are special "Christian" perpetrators of torture, like the folks who tacked that perpetrator in Bethlehem up on a cross along with many others). Founding amnesias runs deep; Sand Creek is today, to American and British pundits, far away.

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Chivington was a Methodist Elder...

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Al Qaeda in Iraq cut off the head of an innocent American. It needs to be put out of business. But is there no mote in the American and British eye?

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Iraq is "Indian country,"an American captain announced to his troops, poised to invade in 2003. See here.

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Habaes corpus - the right of each person to a day in court and not to be tortured - is the centerpiece of Anglo-American law. These militaries under orders from the Executive - authoritarian "commander in chief power" (cf. Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss) - spat on the rule of law.

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As in the expansion in the American West - "Manifest Destiny" - or British colonial conquest and administration, nonwhite people then and now may be tortured and thrown away.

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The war criminals, whose tracks are in these articles, are American and British leaders and officers. Yet there are no hearings about these Sand Creeks. In contrast to today's official silence, three Federal hearings, once upon a time, rightly condemned that massacre.

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Counts of Monte Christo have been on hunger strike at Guantanamo...

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Every human being who wants to live in a decent democracy and not feel or face revulsion - something each of us has a profound concern about or interest in - should come to a "Close Guantanamo" demonstration a week from Friday, May 23 (see the first article below), and push hard for hearings for those who did this and more importantly, those who sent them. Torturers on parade - see here and here - these are high American and British government officials, soldiers and now those who protect them. CIA criminal Jose Rodriguez illegally destroyed tapes of American/CIA torture (like a Picture of Dorian Gray, these tapes revealed Mr. Rodriguez's soul...), but tapes of British torture still exist.

Early in his first term, Obama released the torture memos, but has since abetted the torturers. It would be an act to restore civilization for the UK government to release these tapes and condemn (rather than shelter like some all encompassing poison) what they show...

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"Close Guantánamo: Take Part in the Global Day of Action on May 23, 2014
12.5.14

The links in this article can be found here.

Next Friday, May 23, is a global day of action, “Not Another Broken Promise! Not Another Day in Guantánamo!” organized by the campaigning group Witness Against Torture, with the support of numerous other groups including Close Guantánamo, Amnesty International, Blue Lantern Project, Center for Constitutional Rights, CloseGitmo.net, Code Pink, London Guantánamo Campaign, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, No More Guantánamos, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition, Veterans for Peace and World Can’t Wait.

25 events in five countries have been arranged so far, and they include events in New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, London, Munich and Toronto. The full list can be found here, and Andy Worthington, the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, will be speaking at the London protest, which takes place in Trafalgar Square from 12 noon to 2pm. If your hometown isn’t represented, and you want to set up your own event, please contact Witness Against Torture, and see this page for a comprehensive toolkit for those organizing protests.

It’s a year since President Obama’s promise to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo

The reason for the global day of action next Friday is because, on May 23, it will be exactly a year since President Obama delivered a major speech on national security issues, in which he promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, after a period of nearly three years in which the release of prisoners had almost ground to a halt. Sadly, it took a prison-wide hunger strike — and unprecedented domestic and international interest in the plight of the prisoners — for the president to promise action.

Congress had imposed restrictions on the release of prisoners, requiring the administration to certify that, if released, prisoners would be unable to engage in terrorism — a certification that was, essentially, impossible to make. However, although a waiver existed in the legislation, allowing President Obama to bypass Congress if he regarded it as being “in the national security interests of the United States,” the president chose not to use it.

What made this so unacceptable was the fact that 86 of the 166 prisoners still held in Guantánamo when President Obama made his speech and delivered his promise last May had been cleared for release in January 2010 by a high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, appointed by President Obama shortly after he took office in 2009. The task force reviewed the cases of all the prisoners held when the Obama presidency began, and recommended them for release, for prosecution or for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial.

Two-thirds of these prisoners were Yemenis, and another obstacle was raised to prevent their release after a airline bomb plot, hatched in Yemen, was foiled in December 2009, and, in response, President Obama issued a moratorium on releasing any Yemenis. The president only lifted that ban in his speech last May, but it had never been fair, as it constituted a blanket form of “guilt by nationality,” and there is no way that establishing a review process and then not releasing prisoners recommended for release can be regarded as anything other than a desperately cruel measure that would shame a dictatorship.

Since President Obama made his promise last May, he has appointed two envoys to assist with the closure of Guantánamo — Cliff Sloan in the State Department and Paul Lewis in the Pentagon — and 12 prisoners have been released. This is commendable, but it is just a start. 77 cleared prisoners are still held — 75 cleared for release by the task force, and two cleared for release by the new Periodic Review Boards established last year — and as long as these men are held, in such significant numbers, there can be no complacency regarding Guantánamo and the still urgent need for the prison to be closed and for this dark chapter in America’s history to be brought to an end.

It is particularly important for the Yemenis — who make up 57 of these 77 men — to be released, and to be released immediately. Not a single Yemeni has been released since President Obama dropped his ban a year ago, and it is disgraceful that everyone in a position of power and responsibility in the US seems to believe that having fears about the security situation in Yemen justifies holding men forever, despite a presidential task force — and, in two recent cases, high-level Periodic Review Boards — concluding that they should be released.

What you can do now

- Please call the White House on 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 to urge President Obama to act immediately to release the cleared Yemeni prisoners. You can also submit a comment online.

- Call Cliff Sloan at the State Department on 202-647-4000 to demand action on the release of prisoners. Tell him you’re disappointed that only 12 men have been released since President Obama’s speech last May.

Note: This article was published simultaneously here and on the website of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here – or here for the US).


- See more at: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2014/05/12/close-guantanamo-take-part-in-the-global-day-of-action-on-may-23-2014/#sthash.TVS5NpX1.dpuf

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"Films of UK army interrogations in Iraq 'show the good, the bad and the ugly'
With efforts to force a public inquiry proving unsuccessful, a cache of at least 2,626 recordings remains mostly unseen

ICC to investigate claims that British troops carried out war crimes

Ian Cobain
theguardian.com, Tuesday 13 May 2014 11.21 EDT

Describing what he witnessed in Iraq, Nicholas Mercer said: 'It's a bit like seeing a picture of Guantánamo Bay for the first time. It is quite a shock.' Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian

Not long after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Mercer, then the British military's most senior lawyer in the country, paid a visit to an interrogation centre that the army's intelligence corps had established near Basra.

He was appalled by what he saw.

Around 40 handcuffed Iraqis were being forced to squat on the ground with their hands cuffed high behind their backs. Dark blue hoods covered their heads and nearby a generator was running. Later, in a statement to the inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa, Mercer described what he saw as "repulsive" and added: "It's a bit like seeing a picture of Guantánamo Bay for the first time. It is quite a shock."

Mercer warned the interrogators that the use of hooding had been banned three decades earlier, and that it would impair the detainees' breathing. He was told, however, that the use of hoods and stress positions "was in accordance with British army doctrine on tactical questioning".

Mercer suspects the generators were intended to muffle the sound of whatever was happening inside the tents where interrogations took place.

He may well have been correct. A couple of years into the occupation, the intelligence corps began making video films of their interrogations in Iraq. At least 2,626 recordings were made, and one investigator who has watched them told the Guardian that the contained images that included "the good, the bad and the ugly".

Just a handful have been made public, during judicial review proceedings at the high court in London that lawyers brought in an attempt to force a public inquiry into the UK military's entire detention and interrogation regime during the five-and-a-half years of the occupation of the south-east of Iraq.

The films show detainees being threatened, intimidated, subjected to sensory deprivation and complaining of starvation.

One video shows a prisoner protesting that he is in pain. The interrogator shouts: "Good. I hope you die of cancer. I hope your kids die." At the end of that session the prisoner is ordered to replace the goggles and the interrogator shouts an order for a guard to take him away "for a little run". The earmuffs are replaced and the prisoner is dragged away by his thumbs.

Guards at the interrogation centre have told the Guardian that between interrogation sessions – and out of sight of the cameras – they were ordered to kick the prisoners and strike them with rifle butts while forcing them, blindfolded, around obstacle courses. They also say they were ordered to prevent prisoners going to sleep.

As the evidence mounted, the Ministry of Defence appeared increasingly nervous that the high court could conclude that the abuse was systemic, arising out of the training of troops and the instructions they had received, rather than the work of small numbers of "rogue" service personnel.

Four years ago – as part of an attempt to persuade the courts that they did not need to order a wide-ranging public inquiry – the MoD established the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) to investigate complaints from detainees.

IHAT is currently investigating 93 allegations of mistreatment involving 179 people. Nobody has been charged with any serious offence. One man was fined after he was filmed beating an Iraqi.

Some MPs complain that the absence of any charges suggests that IHAT's £35.7m budget is a waste of public money [this is the least of its problems, what it abets...]; lawyers for former detainees say the failure to prosecute is evidence that a more effective investigation is needed.

IHAT is not just examining allegations of mistreatment of detainees. The MoD admitted to the Guardian in 2010 that at least seven Iraqi civilians had died in UK military custody, in addition to Baha Mousa.

IHAT is now examining 52 allegations of unlawful killing involving 63 deaths, some of them individuals who were in custody.

The deaths include one that the Guardian examined in detail in 2011 and 12. Tariq Sabri al-Fahdawi was one of 64 men detained at a roadblock [was there a specific crime any soldier or official can recall?] shortly after the invasion and taken to a prison in western Iraq that was being run by US, British and Australian special forces. The existence of the prison was concealed from both military lawyers like Mercer, and from the Red Cross.

The men had been hooded, their thumbs were bound together, and they were being ferried to the prison aboard RAF Chinook helicopters. Fahdawi died aboard one of the helicopters, allegedly kicked to death by troops from the RAF regiment when he managed to slip out of the plastic ties around his thumbs.

The Guardian discovered that the RAF police who conducted the initial investigation waited more than a year before asking an RAF pathologist whether they should exhume Fahdawi's body. When the RAF pathologist said they should not – a decision that surprised a civilian pathologist – RAF prosecutors concluded that there was insufficient evidence to bring any charges.

Documents from the case obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and through leaks showed that the RAF police had failed even to establish the dead man's name.

Responsibility for service prosecutions has since been removed from the three armed forces and handed to the Service Prosecuting Authority, formed in 2009.

IHAT has re-investigated the death of Fahdawi, but it is unclear what conclusions it has reached. A report has been handed to the MoD, but the MoD says it will not be published [i.e. nothing that can stand the light of day...]..

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