Daily archives: December 7, 2005

The Real Definition of Torture

With the Bush administration attempting to redefine torture for the world we link here to the UN

‘Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’

Two of the most relevant articles are given below:

Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Article 3

1. No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

And yes, really, the US did sign up and ratify! (21 Oct 1994)

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Berlusconi Denies Involement in CIA Kidnap

Full article at Adnkronos International

Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has issued an indignant statement denying any involvement in the disappearance of Egyptian imam Abu Omar who Italian prosecutors say was kidnapped from Milan by CIA agents in February 2003. “I ask myself, if not even the official denials are picked up and instead are hidden under a mountain of falsities, what must we do to get it across that we had nothing to do with the kidnap of Abu Omar?” Berlusconi’s statement reads.

“I repeat, for the umpteenth time, that the government was not involved in any way in the matter, neither myself, nor my ministers, nor my undersecretaries, nor any Italian institution were ever advised or informed by anyone at all. I deny most emphatically every false version of events and I reject with disdain every attempt to falsify the truth,” the statement concludes.

Any comment Dr. Rice?

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Extraordinary and unacceptable

From The Guardian

Condoleezza Rice does not seem prepared to explain very much when she meets European leaders facing mounting pressure about the US policy of “extraordinary rendition” – flying terrorist suspects round the world to secret jails where they are allegedly tortured beyond the reach of any legal system. Broadly speaking, the message from the secretary of state as she embarked on her trip to Berlin, Brussels and points east yesterday was a blunt “trust and cooperate” on the basis that we are all in the same boat in the “war on terror”. The sovereignty of US allies is respected, Dr Rice insisted, adding that if they were failing to inform their own citizens that was a matter for them. If that clever hint is true there may be much embarrassment. The best Jack Straw could manage was to welcome her carefully-constructed denial of torture. The Foreign Office says it has “no evidence to corroborate media allegations about the use of UK territory in rendition operations.” But taken the strong circumstantial evidence about US executive aircraft owned by CIA front companies transiting this country (and Ireland) this smacks of lawyerly evasion. Is there really no information? Do British intelligence officers working with the US just look the other way or make sure no questions are asked when these aircraft (210 since 9/11) land? It will be the task of the all-party committee which began work yesterday to provide full and honest answers.

Such bland assurances will not now make this row go away – in Germany, where there are said to have been 400 rendition flights, Spain or Romania, the site of one of several alleged “black prisons”. The Council of Europe and the European Union are both investigating. Elizabeth Wilmshurst, a former FCO legal adviser, insists any illegal acts must be investigated. David Sheffer, a former US ambassador for war crime issues, blames the “warped interpretation” of international law by the US since 9/11.

Dr Rice did not deny that rendition was taking place, only that the US does not knowingly send people to be tortured. So why are “enemy combatants” sent to countries like Egypt, Libya and Syria, with such bad records in this area? Rendition is damaging in other ways: innocent people have been detained and witnesses been unavailable for trials because the US will not admit it is holding them. Fighting terrorism isn’t easy. But legality and morality have to go hand in hand. How can democracies upbraid China, Syria, Iran or Zimbabwe if “our” unacceptable human rights abuses are unchecked. Dr Rice should address these concerns and speak the truth. So must our own government.

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Germany’s victim of extraordinary rendition sues in US courts as Rice is forced on defensive

From The Independent

When Khaled al Masri took the bus from Ulm to Macedonia two years ago, his only objective was to cool off after a row with his wife.

But his troubles were only beginning. At the Serb-Macedonian border crossing he was hauled off the coach and handed over to three men in civilian clothes carrying handguns. His name – identical to one of the 11 September hijackers – had lit up a police computer.

The German citizen did not know it at the time, but he was starting out on a journey into the darkest heart of America’s war on terror. His ordeal would last five months, where, unknown to his family and friends, he would be trussed up, tortured and abused before being dumped in Albania, fearing he was to be shot.

The controversy over secret CIA flights, torture and illegal imprisonment, continues to rage across Europe. Yesterday saw the extraordinary spectacle of Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, acknowledging the CIA’s “mistake” to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

And in London, the former Law Lord and judge Lord Steyn said that “if British authorities knew the nature of these flights they would be guilty of war crimes”.

For the full article go here

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