Yearly Archives: 2005


Germany: Uzbek Minister Accused of Crimes against Humanity

From Human Rights Watch

Suit Filed in Germany Against Uzbek Minister Zokirjon Almatov

(Berlin, December 15, 2005) – Survivors of torture and the May 13 massacre of unarmed protesters in Andijan, Uzbekistan, filed a case on Monday in Germany calling for the prosecution of Zokirjon Almatov, Uzbekistan’s Minister of Internal Affairs, for crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said today. Almatov is in Germany receiving medical treatment.

“This case represents a unique opportunity to bring a measure of truth and justice for some of the horrors that occurred under the command of Zokirjon Almatov,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “While the victims could not safely seek justice in Uzbekistan, German law allows them to seek redress before a German court.”

German law recognizes universal jurisdiction for torture and crimes against humanity. This means that Germany can try and punish the perpetrators of such crimes, no matter where the crimes were committed, and regardless of the nationality of the perpetrators and victims.

Victims of abuse in Uzbekistan asked the German federal prosecutor to open a criminal investigation and pursue Almatov on three counts: individual crimes of torture, torture as a crime against humanity and the Andijan massacre as a crime against humanity. Crimes against humanity include widespread or systematic crimes against civilians, including murder and torture.

Human Rights Watch provided evidence to the prosecutor, supporting the

victims’ allegations against Almatov. Since the mid-1990s, Human Rights Watch has extensively documented the use of torture by police under Almatov’s command. Human Rights Watch also handed over evidence about the role of the police in the massacre of hundreds of civilians in Andijan in May 2005.

Almatov is accused of being responsible for the use of torture by police in places of pre-trial detention and in prisons, locations under his direct control.

Human Rights Watch said it is now up to the federal prosecutor of Germany to decide whether or not to open a criminal case against Almatov and pursue the matter.”The facts are there,” said Cartner. “If the prosecutor applies the law to the facts, Almatov will be arrested and tried in Germany.”

Germany has been a leader in creating accountability mechanisms for the most serious crimes under international law. The German government was a strong supporter of efforts to establish the International Criminal Court, and incorporated that court’s statute of international crimes into its own domestic law. This commitment to international justice reflects Germany’s struggle to come to terms with its own history and its recognition of the importance of bringing to justice those responsible for crimes such as mass slaughter, forced displacement on ethnic grounds and rape as a weapon of war.

“Germany has been a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court and its investigations in Africa,” added Cartner. “With the Almatov case, Germany has the chance to demonstrate its commitment by bringing justice through its own courts.”

In 2002, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture found torture in Uzbekistan to be “systematic.” Methods of torture that police use against people in detention include beatings with truncheons, electric shock, hanging people by their wrists or ankles, rape and sexual humiliation,asphyxiation with plastic bags and gas masks, and threats of physical harm to relatives.

One of the cases Human Rights Watch brought to the prosecutor’s attention was that of Muzafar Avazov, who died in August 2002 after having been immersed in boiling water in Jaslyk prison, run by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He was arrested on charges of religious extremism.

Almatov also commanded the troops who bore primary responsibility for the mass killings that marked the bloodiest day in Uzbekistan’s recent history.

On May 13, 2005, in Andijan, thousands of protesters, almost all unarmed, were surrounded by troops from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as other security forces. Without warning, these forces opened fire on the crowd, killing and wounding hundreds. Those who tried to escape were mowed down by a waiting flank of government troops or were picked off by snipers posted atop surrounding buildings. Witnesses have said that the fleeing civilians did not stand a chance against the government’s firepower.

One eyewitness to the bloodshed, who saw people shot and killed all around him, told Human Rights Watch, “It was almost impossible to survive.” He said that the day after the slaughter, police walked among the bodies remaining on the ground and asked, “Who is wounded?” When those still living answered, “I am,” the officers fired single shots at them from guns with silencers, killing them. Those who could manage it fled the scene and crossed the border into Kyrgyzstan, and eventually to safety.

“Survivors of the massacre in Andijan have been brave enough to come forward with their memories of that horrible day,” said Cartner.

“They are asking for justice, and they deserve nothing less.”

For further information and background see the following Q & A

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Complicit by Inaction: Jack Straw in ‘rendition flights’ probe

From IOL

London – Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was hit with a new probe Thursday into how much he and the government knew about alleged US “extraordinary rendition” flights of suspected terrorists.

Members of parliament dissatisfied with Straw’s previous statements on the controversial issue submitted a series of questions in the lower House of Commons and are demanding a fuller response.

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government said Monday it had found no evidence of any American requests to fly terror suspects through Britain since September 11, 2001.

It has also repeatedly stated its opposition to torture, but Blair flatly refused Wednesday to query every US government flight coming into and leaving Britain, dismissing the suggestion as “completely absurd”.

MP Andrew Tyrie, from the main opposition Conservatives, said there was a “real risk” the government could find itself “complicit by inaction”.

“Turning a blind eye becomes something more than negligence and may be shown to be unlawful,” he told a London news conference.

He also called for the Security and Intelligence Committee, made up of senior MPs to investigate issues of national security, to look into the affair, which has concerned human rights groups and several European Union countries.

Lynne Jones, a rebel MP from Blair’s ruling Labour Party, said: “The longer this goes on, the more the government is brought into disrepute.

“It would be better if the government showed it was taking this seriously and investigating properly, rather than raising smokescreens.”

The questions ask Straw to specify whether the White House was asked why detainees were transferred to countries known to commit torture and to state how many transfers took place through British airspace.

Others include whether “blanket permission” had been granted for “extraordinary rendition” flights and if Straw’s check of flight records encompassed landings at military airfields and other private facilities.

It also called for the criteria under which it would refuse access to British facilities and airspace to be published.

Washington has come under fire over the last six weeks from reports about hundreds of Central Intelligence Agency flights, suspected of carrying undeclared prisoners across European airspace, since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

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Rendition victim was handed over to the US by MI6

By Colin Brown in The Independent

MI6 officers interrogated a former UK student in Pakistan, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday. The man, a terrorist suspect, says MI6 handed him to the CIA for “extraordinary rendition” and torture .

The allegations by Binyam Mohammed el-Habashi, 27, in which he details the abuse, sleep deprivation and torture inflicted on him, were previously uncorroborated, but Mr Straw admitted for the first time that at least part of his story was true.

Reading from a brief, Mr Straw told MPs: “Mr Habashi was interviewed once in Karachi by the security services. The security services had no role in his capture or transfer from Pakistan. The security service officer did not observe any abuse and no incidents of abuse were reported to him by Mr Habashi.”

Asked whether he could confirm Mr Habashi was handed over to the Americans in Karachi, Mr Straw said: “I know nothing about it.” However, the official confirmation of Mr Habashi’s claims that he was seen by British MI6 officers while in custody in Pakistan will strengthen his legal claims that he was abused after being handed over to the US.

His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, believes Mr Habashi could be the first British resident to become a victim of extraordinary rendition by the US. He is facing trial at a military court at Guantanamo Bay, and could be jailed for life. No date has been set for his hearing.

MI6 officers interrogated a former UK student in Pakistan, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday. The man, a terrorist suspect, says MI6 handed him to the CIA for “extraordinary rendition” and torture .

The allegations by Binyam Mohammed el-Habashi, 27, in which he details the abuse, sleep deprivation and torture inflicted on him, were previously uncorroborated, but Mr Straw admitted for the first time that at least part of his story was true.

Reading from a brief, Mr Straw told MPs: “Mr Habashi was interviewed once in Karachi by the security services. The security services had no role in his capture or transfer from Pakistan. The security service officer did not observe any abuse and no incidents of abuse were reported to him by Mr Habashi.”

Asked whether he could confirm Mr Habashi was handed over to the Americans in Karachi, Mr Straw said: “I know nothing about it.” However, the official confirmation of Mr Habashi’s claims that he was seen by British MI6 officers while in custody in Pakistan will strengthen his legal claims that he was abused after being handed over to the US.

His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, believes Mr Habashi could be the first British resident to become a victim of extraordinary rendition by the US. He is facing trial at a military court at Guantanamo Bay, and could be jailed for life. No date has been set for his hearing.

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Europe will investigate CIA terror flights

By Rory Watson and Philip Webster for Times Online

Euro MPs are to launch an investigation into allegations that the United States is operating secret CIA prisons on European soil and illegally transferring terrorist suspects between countries.

The inquiry, which will begin next year and looks certain to sour relations between Washington and Brussels, was approved by the European Parliament’s political group leaders tonight after mounting pressure from backbenchers.

The investigation could embarrass Poland and Romania, which have been accused of acting as a base for interrogating terrorist suspects or as a transit point for moving them to other countries.

Any violation of human rights by an existing EU member could see it stripped of its voting rights, while Romania, a candidate country which is hoping to join the Union in January 2007, could find its accession hopes dashed.

The parliamentary inquiry, which will have three months to present its initial findings, is expected to have an unusually wide remit. It is likely be asked to examine alleged abuses such as kidnapping, false arrest or illegal transfers not just within the European Union, but also on the territory of all countries with which it is associated.

It will consider whether the activities contravene European law and the European Charter of Human Rights and assess the potential consequences of any illegal and unlawful practices. However, while its members may travel freely and will be able to request that witnesses give evidence, they will not have the power to insist they do so.

The Euro MPs will co-operate with the separate investigation headed by Dick Marty, a Swiss senator, that the 46-nation Council of Europe launched last month.

Mr Marty reported yesterday that his month-long study “reinforced the credibility of the allegations” surrounding the CIA – although he said that any prisoners formerly held in secret sites had by now probably been transferred to North Africa.

Mr Marty said that he had unearthed “clues” that both Romania and Poland were implicated, perhaps unwittingly, in the CIA’s interrogation of terrorism suspects.

“Legal proceedings in progress in certain countries seemed to indicate that individuals had been abducted and transferred to other countries without respect for any legal standards. It had to be noted that the allegations had never been formally denied by the United States,” he said.

“While it was still too early to assert that there had been any involvement or complicity of member states in illegal actions, the seriousness of the allegations and the consistency of the information gathered to date justified the continuation of an in-depth inquiry.

“If the allegations proved correct, the member states would stand accused of having seriously breached their human rights obligations to the Council of Europe.”

A leading British legal expert yesterday urged the Government to find out more about the CIA’s alleged use of British airspace to carry out renditions, saying Britain could be breaking the law if it fails to ask whether the practice leads to torture.

Simply relying on American assurances that aircraft that are being used to carry terrorists to interrogation centres and which stop over in Britain are not so called “torture flights” is not enough to comply with legal obligations, according James Crawford, professor of international law at Cambridge University.

In a legal opinion for MPs investigating the flights, Prof Crawford wrote that the question that must be asked is “whether torture is likely to take place if a person is transported, irrespective of whether or not the Government claims that the answer is no, or what its hopes or beliefs may be.

“Where governments are using public power to transfer persons at risk to a given country, in circumstances where earlier practices support credible allegations of torture in that country, mere assurances by the government, unaccompanied by other action, will be insufficent,” he concluded.

Growing unease about the CIA’s rendition programme, which is believed to have transported 3,000 terrorist suspects for interrogation around the world since 2001, has prompted investigations in Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden.

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Uzbekistan: RFE/RL Forced To Close Tashkent Bureau After Government Denies Accreditation

By Gulnoza Saidazimova writing in the Turkistan Newsletter

Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry has refused to prolong the accreditation of correspondents for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) or renew the agreement that has allowed RFE/RL to operate a bureau in Tashkent. The closure of the RFE/RL bureau in the Uzbek capital comes after a number of other prominent media organizations, including the BBC and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, were forced to pull their correspondents out of the country after security concerns.

The acting president of RFE/RL, Jeff Trimble, called the Uzbek government’s decision “yet another attack by the [President Islam] Karimov government on the basic human rights of the Uzbek people.”

Trimble said RFE/RL will continue to report accurately and objectively about events in Uzbekistan. “This unwarranted action by Uzbek authorities further erodes the already dismal state of free speech in Uzbekistan and is yet another attack by the Karimov government on the basic human rights of the Uzbek people,” he said. “While hindered, RFE/RL will not be deterred in its efforts to report accurately and objectively about events in Uzbekistan to the people of that country and throughout Central Asia and the rest of our broadcast region.”

RFE/RL has operated in Uzbekistan’s restricted media environment since

1996. It has found itself under increasing pressure from the government, however, since the brutal crackdown on protesters in the city of Andijon on 13 May.

RFE/RL correspondents covered the unrest, during which rights groups

allege that hundreds of civilian demonstrators were killed by Uzbek government forces. RFE/RL correspondents and other foreign journalists were expelled from Andijon in the following days.

“Today, we lost not only a very good professional team of journalists of Radio Liberty. The people of Uzbekistan also lost the last platform to express an alternative view on what is going on in the country.” — Galima Bukharbaeva RFE/RL journalists have long faced harassment and persecution while working in Uzbekistan. Most recently, in August, Nosir Zokir, an RFE/RL correspondent in Namangan, was jailed for six months on charges of insulting police officers. Rights activists, including Human Rights Watch, said the charges were fabricated and politically motivated. Dozens of other RFE/RL correspondents and their families in Uzbekistan have received threatening phone calls, been interrogated by security officers, had recording equipment confiscated, or been physically assaulted.

In September, during the trial of 15 men accused of organizing the Andijon unrest, Uzbek prosecutors blamed correspondents for RFE/RL as well as those of the BBC, The Associated Press, and Deutsche Welle for “assisting terrorists in an antigovernment plot.”

The most recent rhetoric came from Karimov during Constitution Day

celebrations in Tashkent last week: “Who disseminated this slander [about Uzbekistan] around the world? You have seen it yourselves. The strong rule the world these days. The one who controls media, who controls information space, and has levers to influence others, rules the world. Meanwhile, we remain so weak.”

In late October, the BBC announced that it was closing its Tashkent bureau because of the harassment and persecution of its staff. At least seven BBC journalists have fled or been forced to leave Uzbekistan, including foreign correspondent Monica Whitlock. At least two Uzbek members of the BBC’s staff have received political asylum.

“The reason really that was given by the BBC, by the World Service, was that this was done for concerns over security,” Johannes Dell of the BBC’s World Service explained. “And I think what the BBC has made clear at the time when the BBC office was closed, that over the last four months, up to the closure, effectively since the unrest in Andijon, that BBC staff in Uzbekistan were subjected to harassment and intimidation, which basically made it extremely difficult for our reporter team to report what’s happening in the country, as you would expect them to do it.”

Internews is a U.S.-based media-development organization that first began working in Uzbekistan in 1995. It was forced to close its Tashkent office in October following a yearlong battle in the Uzbek courts on charges including “conspiring to publish information and producing TV programs without the necessary licenses.”

Correspondents from the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) were also persecuted. The IWPR’s Uzbek-language website was blocked and contributors were forced to flee the country, among them country director Galima Bukharbaeva.

Speaking to RFE/RL from the United States, where she sought refuge,

Bukharbaeva called RFE/RL the last remaining platform of objective information in Uzbekistan. “Today, we lost not only a very good professional team of journalists of Radio Liberty. The people of

Uzbekistan also lost the last platform to express an alternative view on what is going on in the country,” she said. “The people lost not only a source of good information, but also a refuge, a place where they could always come and tell about their concerns and find support.”

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry said its decision to suspend accreditation to RFE/RL’s Tashkent bureau and the journalists working there was based on the fact that RFE/RL had recruited “so-called non-staff correspondents (‘stringers’) who engaged in journalistic activity without accreditation” by the Foreign Ministry, in violation of Uzbek media laws.

Peter Noorlander, however, questions the decision. He is a lawyer for

Article 19, a London-based human rights organization that focuses on the defense and promotion of freedom of expression worldwide. “If such a law exists, then it is completely in violation of international law on the right of freedom of expression,” he told RFE/RL. “If you look at other countries’ radio stations, newspapers, they use freelancers all the time, who do not need to obtain the license or who do not need to be registered. So I would say that the actions of the Uzbek government are highly questionable.”

Following the popular uprisings that brought down governments in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, Uzbek authorities have cracked down on foreign nongovernmental organizations, especially those supporting the development of democracy.

Last year, the Uzbek government expelled the Open Society Institute, which promotes free media and education programs. In September, the activities of another foreign NGO, the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), were suspended for six months for allegedly conducting activities not in line with its charter.

(Farruh Yusupov and Shukhrat Babajanov of RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service

contributed to this report.)

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Mercenaries in Iraq – Q & A from the FAC

On 23rd November, shortly before the Aegis Video of civillian shootings hit the public airwaves, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee addressed a number of questions to Ian Pearson, Minister for Trade, Foreign & Commonwealth Office with responsibility for human rights, on the activities of British mercenary companies.

Q132 Mr Keetch: There have been, as you know, Minister, a number of high profile issues resulting in British military personnel involved in abuse in Iraq, including court martials. There was also the case of the proceedings that were recently dropped against some British soldiers accused of murder in Iraq. I am aware and the Committee is aware of the rules of engagement of the British Armed Forces. Can you tell us a bit about, if you like, the rules of engagement of the British based private military companies that exists in Iraq, because it is certainly the case that there are thousands of British citizens in Iraq carrying weapons working for private military companies that are not covered by British Government rules of engagement for armed forces but, nevertheless, are doing work in that country? Does the British Government give advice to those companies as to what kind of human rights activities and security training and such that they should be doing out there?

Mr Pearson: I think that question is probably better directed at the Ministry of Defence, who are likely to have better information about this. As Minister with responsibility for human rights I would want to make sure that the human rights obligations of any individual and, indeed, any company, whether it is operating in Iraq or wherever, are closely followed, and certainly we want would want to make sure that UK companies who operate in Iraq are fully aware of their human rights obligations.

Q138 Andrew Mackinlay: I want to take you back to Paul Keech’s point when he questioned you about private security companies and you referred Paul Keech to the Ministry of Defence. Can I gently remind you that before you were a minister of foreign office the Foreign Office produced a Green Paper on the private security companies, not the Ministry of Defence. It came here to this Committee, who produced a report, and the motive was regulation: because one foresaw some of the things which Paul Keech referred to. I remember at the time taunting the Foreign Office, saying, “This is going to be pigeon holed”, and broadly they said, “My God, how can you suggest such a thing?” Is it not pigeon-holed? Is it dead? Is this parrot dead, this Green Paper on regulating private military companies because of human right considerations?

Ian Pearson: I am not cited on this, so I cannot give you an answer on that other than the general answer.

Q139 Andrew Mackinlay: You see my point, though, do not you? The fact is you are the human rights minister. It was not I who initiated it, it was during McShane’s period and Cook’s, and it was a Green Paper produced, we dealt with it at length and it is dead as a dodo. It is dead as a dodo, I put it to you, for the reasons which Keech referred to, the fact that it is too sensitive. It raises the question of rules of engagement, recruitment, where they come from, where they are going to, companies being able to dissolve themselves at arm’s length, distance, “Nothing to do with us, guv”, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Could you come back to us on this, because I am putting it to you, the Government have ducked it because it is a hot potato and it does raise serious human rights issues and you should know about it?

Mr Pearson: I am certainly not prepared to pronounce the parrot dead yet.

Q140 Andrew Mackinlay: That is good.

Ian Pearson: As I say, I do not have information to hand specifically on this. If it would be helpful I would be happy to write to the Committee on this.

Q141 Chairman: Perhaps you could inform the Foreign Secretary that we have raised this matter. He is before us in a couple of weeks’ time, so I am sure we would like something before then, if possible.

Ian Pearson: I will bring it to his attention.

Will be interesting to hear what Jack Straw had to say on that one…

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Council of Europe Finds Evidence of CIA Abductions and Secret Prisons Credible

Allegations that the CIA abducted and illegally transported terror suspects across European borders are credible, an investigator for the Council of Europe has said. Swiss senator Dick Marty has submitted a report on the claims to a meeting of the human rights committee.

“From a general point of view, the rapporteur underlined that the information gathered to date reinforced the credibility of the allegations concerning the transfer and temporary detention of individuals, without any judicial involvement, in European countries.

Legal proceedings in progress in certain countries seemed to indicate that individuals had been abducted and transferred to other countries without respect for any legal standards. It had to be noted that the allegations had never been formally denied by the United States. The rapporteur takes note of the situation and deplores the fact that no information or explanations had been provided on this point by Ms Rice during her visit to Europe.

The rapporteur urges all member governments to commit themselves fully to establishing the truth about flights over their territories in recent years by aeroplanes carrying individuals arrested and detained without any judicial involvement. The Rapporteur intends to ask the leaders of the parlementary delegations to the Assembly to take initiatives within their parliaments in order to obtain more precise information on this matter, either by putting questions to their governments or by proposing the setting up of committees of enquiry. In fact, the delegations to the Parliamentary Assembly can make use of their unique position to lobby national parliaments to shed light on the matter. Mr Marty welcomes the fact that steps have already been taken here by certain national parliaments.”

Needless to add, with the current weak and desperate attempts to deflect questions on extraordinary rendition and torture this should remain a hot topic for the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC).

In this context, the response that the FAC gets to their request for documents on British complicity in torture in Uzbekistan will be extremely interesting!

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Straw Plays Ignorant

Jack Straw was interviewed on BBC radio this morning and claimed he had no records of requests for UK airports to be used for illegal transfers of prisoners to be tortured (extraordinary rendition). When pressed, he admitted that no checks had been made by British authorities on the planes so the the lack of recorded evidence of US requests is hardly compelling, to put it mildly!

The interview can be heard here following a section on the latest Iraq poll. Radio interview

Meanwhile, Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights continues to lay down the line with further interviews over the weekend. Here, we give an extract from her speech given on Human Rights Day.

Particularly insidious are moves to water down or question the absolute ban on torture, as well as on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Governments in a number of countries are claiming that established rules do not apply anymore: that we live in a changed world and that there is a “new normal”. They argue that this justifies a lowering of the bar as to what constitutes permissible treatment of detainees. An illegal interrogation technique, however, remains illegal whatever new description a government might wish to give it.

Update (13/12): CIA flight assurances ‘worthless’

“Checking for instances of the US requesting permission is simply derisory.”

“It is crystal clear that the UK must investigate allegations that it has been complicit in torture,”

Mr Tyrie, all party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition.

Liberty press release “Few would be na’ve enough to expect a foreign power to ask specific permission to use Britain for the shameful and shadowy business of kidnap and torture. We need a proactive investigation rather than an FCO file-check”

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Ex-rendition detainee alleges British complicity in torture. CIA in “deep crisis” over US torture policy. Agents “refusing to participate” in rendition.

The Observer

An Ethiopian student who lived in London claims that he was brutally tortured with the involvement of British and US intelligence agencies.

Binyam Mohammed, 27, says he spent nearly three years in the CIA’s network of ‘black sites’. In Morocco he claims he underwent the strappado torture of being hung for hours from his wrists, and scalpel cuts to his chest and penis and that a CIA officer was a regular interrogator.

After his capture in Pakistan, Mohammed says British officials warned him that he would be sent to a country where torture was used. Moroccans also asked him detailed questions about his seven years in London, which his lawyers believe came from British sources.

Western agencies believed that he was part of a plot to buy uranium in Asia, bring it to the US and build a ‘dirty bomb’ in league with Jose Padilla, a US citizen. Mohammed signed a confession but told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, he had never met Padilla, or anyone in al-Qaeda. Padilla spent almost four years in American custody, accused of the plot. Last month, after allegations of the torture used against Mohammed emerged, the claims against Padilla were dropped. He now faces a civil charge of supporting al-Qaeda financially.

A senior US intelligence official told The Observer that the CIA is now in ‘deep crisis’ following last week’s international political storm over the agency’s practice of ‘extraordinary rendition’ – transporting suspects to countries where they face torture. ‘The smarter people in the Directorate of Operations [the CIA’s clandestine operational arm] know that one day, if they do this stuff, they are going to face indictment,’ he said. ‘They are simply refusing to participate in these operations, and if they don’t have big mortgage or tuition fees to pay they’re thinking about trying to resign altogether.’

Already 22 CIA officers have been charged in absentia in Italy for alleged roles in the rendition of a radical cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, seized – without the knowledge of the Italian government – on a Milan street in February 2003.

The intense pressure on US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week, coupled with Friday’s condemnation of the use of evidence extracted under torture by the House of Lords, has intensified concerns within the CIA. The official said: ‘Renditions and torture aren’t just wrong, they also expose CIA personnel and diplomats abroad to enormous future risk.’

Mohammed arrived in Britain in 1994. He lived in Wornington Road, North Kensington, and studied at Paddington Green College. For most of this time, said his brother, he rarely went to a mosque. However, in early 2001 he became more religious.

The Observer has obtained fresh details of his case which was first publicised last summer. He went to Pakistan in June 2001 because, he says, he had a drug problem and wanted to kick the habit. He was arrested on 10 April at the airport on his way back to England because of an alleged passport irregularity. Initially interrogated by Pakistani and British officials, he told Stafford Smith: ‘The British checked out my story and said they knew I was a nobody. They said they would tell the Americans.’

He was questioned by the FBI and began to hear accusations of terror involvement. He says he also met two MI6 officers. One told him he would be tortured in an Arab country.

The interrogations intensified and he says he was taken to Islamabad; then, in July 2002, on a CIA flight to Morocco. His description of the process matches independent reports. Masked officers wore black. They stripped him, subjected him to a full body search and shackled him to his seat wearing a nappy.

In Morocco he was told he had plotted with Padilla and had dinner in Pakistan with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the planner of 9/11, and other al-Qaeda chiefs. ‘I’ve never met anyone like these people,’ Mohammed told Stafford Smith. ‘How could I? I speak no Arabic… I never heard Padilla’s name until they told me.’

During almost 18 months of regular beatings in Morocco, Mohammed says he frequently met a blonde woman in her thirties who told him she was Canadian. The US intelligence officer told The Observer this was an ‘amateurish’ CIA cover. ‘The only Americans who historically pretended to be Canadian were backpackers travelling in Europe during the Vietnam war. Apart from the moral issues, what disturbs me is that, as an attempt to create plausible deniability, this is so damn transparent.’

According to Mohammed, he was threatened with electrocution and rape. On one occasion, he was handcuffed when three men entered his cell wearing black masks. ‘That day I ceased really knowing I was alive. One stood on each of my shoulders and a third punched me in the stomach. It seemed to go on for hours. I was meant to stand, but I was in so much pain I’d fall to my knees. They’d pull me back up and hit me again. They’d kick me in the thighs as I got up. I could see the hands that were hitting me… like the hands of someone who’d worked as a mechanic or chopped with an axe.’

Later he was confronted with details of his London life – such as the name of his kickboxing teacher – and met a Moroccan calling himself Marwan, who ordered him to be hung by his wrists. ‘They hit me in the chest, the stomach, and they knocked my feet from under me. I have a shoulder pain to this day from the wrenching as my arms were almost pulled out of their sockets.’

Another time, he told Stafford Smith: ‘They took a scalpel to my right chest. It was only a small cut. Then they cut my left chest. One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute watching. I was in agony, crying, trying desperately to suppress myself, but I was screaming… They must have done this 20 to 30 times in maybe two hours. There was blood all over.’

In September he was taken to Guantanamo Bay where he has been charged with involvement in al-Qaeda plots and faces trial there by military commission. Stafford Smith said: ‘I am unaware of any evidence against him other than that extracted under torture.’

The Foreign Office, the Moroccan Embassy and the CIA refused to comment yesterday.

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International Peace Conference Condemns Conflict in Iraq

Craig Murray spoke this afternoon at the International Peace Conference in London.

From The Scotsman

Veteran Labour politician Tony Benn opened an International Peace Conference in London condemning the conflict in Iraq as “illegal, immoral and unwinnable”.

Mr Benn said the peace movement wished to see troops withdraw from Iraq, ensure justice for Palestine, and prevent attacks on Iran or Syria. “This is the biggest political movement in my lifetime,” he said. “It represents 60% of US opinion now and the same in Britain.”

He continued: “It is a very positive movement and has support across the political spectrum.”

Up to 1,500 anti-war protesters and activists gathered for the 10-hour event being held at the Royal Horticultural Hall, Vincent Square. Mr Benn said people of all nations with the same desire for peace, had gathered at the conference, organised by the Stop the War Coalition (SWC).

Bethnal Green and Bow MP George Galloway and Craig Murray, former ambassador to Uzbekistan are to speak this afternoon. The conference is split into four sessions, the first covering the current situation in Iraq, the US and Britain, the second, campaigns by military families.

The afternoon agenda included discussions about bringing world leaders to account, before an evening session on the next steps to building an international movement.

Lindsey German, convenor of SWC, said: “This is a day of people coming together to talk about how we can take the peace movement forward. We are united in that we want to bring the troops out of Iraq and allow the Iraqi people to run their own country.”

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Torture Evidence was Used to make Case for Iraq Invasion

From The Guardian

The practice of “extraordinary rendition” was today again in the spotlight with claims that the detainee who supplied the Bush administration’s pre-war claims linking al-Qaida to Iraq did so in Egyptian custody.

Unnamed US government officials, quoted in the New York Times, said Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan, made his most specific claims after the US handed him over to interrogators from a third country.

Claims from the officials that Al-Libi later admitted to inventing the allegations in order to avoid harsh treatment backed up earlier suggestions from Colin Powell’s chief of staff at the time of the war that al-Libi was possibly tortured.

Lawrence Wilkerson, Mr Powell’s senior aide, last month told the BBC that new information had suggested al-Libi’s statements “were obtained through interrogation techniques other than those authorised by the Geneva [conventions].”

The Bush administration has been on defensive in recent weeks over the “enhanced interrogation techniques” authorised for CIA agents off US soil and “extraordinary rendition” of detainees.

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The UK did use evidence gained under torture

Referring to the Law Lords ruling and subsequent statements from the UK government:

The former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, said it was untrue the UK Government did not use information from torture…

“As long as we kept within that guideline, then if the Uzbeks or the Syrians, or the Egyptians or anyone else tortured someone and gave us the information that was OK,” said Mr Murray.

From an article in Siber New Media

For a clear analysis of the case against the governments line go here

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US Deny Red Cross Access To Prisoners

From BBC Online

The US has admitted for the first time that it has not given the Red Cross access to all detainees in its custody. The state department’s top legal adviser, John Bellinger, made the admission but gave no details about where such prisoners were held.

Correspondents say the revelation is likely to increase suspicion that the CIA has been operating secret prisons outside international oversight.

The issue has dogged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s tour to Europe.

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Massive blow to Blair-Straw torture policy – Lords rule out use of secret evidence gained through torture as grounds for detention without trial

From BBC News

Click here to listen to Craig’s comments on this breakthrough during thursday’s Simon Mayo Radio 5 Live show

Secret evidence which might have been obtained by torture cannot be used against terror suspects in UK courts, the law lords have ruled.

The ruling means the home secretary will have to review all cases where evidence from other countries might have been obtained in this way.

It is a victory for eight men who were previously detained without charge. The government says it does not use evidence it knows to have been obtained by torture.

Human rights

The ruling centres on how far the government must go to show improper methods have not been used. The Court of Appeal ruled last year that such evidence was usable if UK authorities had no involvement.

But eight of the 10 foreign terror suspects who were being held without charge, backed by human rights groups, challenged that ruling. They argued evidence obtained in US detention camps should be excluded.

The Special Immigration Appeals Court (SIAC) must now investigate whether evidence was obtained by torture, the law lords have ruled.

‘Important day’

Daily Telegraph legal correspondent Joshua Rozenberg told BBC News 24 the ruling was a “very significant blow for the government”.

He said it would not be enough for suspects simply to say the evidence against them had been obtained under torture – it was up to SIAC to investigate their claims. But if the government was not prepared to say where evidence has come from, it must find other evidence to justify their continued detention.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights pressure group Liberty, said: “This is an incredibly important day, with the law lords sending a signal across the democratic world that there is to be no compromise on torture.

“This is also an important message about what distinguishes us from dictators and terrorists. We will not legitimise evidence obtained by torture by using it in our justice system.”

Home Secretary Charles Clarke has said he would deport anyone considered a threat to national security. But the suspects have the right of appeal to SIAC.

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Rice’s claim that U.S. dosn’t torture is based on administration’s narrow definition

From Media Matters

Summary: L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post reported Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s statement that the United States “does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances,” without noting that the Bush administration’s definition of torture is at odds with international standards.

The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post all reported Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s December 5 statement that the United States “does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances,” without noting that the Bush administration’s definition of torture has been criticized as overly narrow. In contrast, The New York Times reported on December 7 that the administration’s circumscribed definition of torture is at odds with international standards. The New York Times noted that Rice’s statement has been criticized as misleading given that under the administration’s definition, U.S. interrogators are free to employ methods that fall outside of the narrow category of “torture” but that violate the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture. All three broadcast news outlets challenged directly or featured sources who challenged Rice’s misleading statement, noting that it rested on the administration’s limited definition of torture.

In a December 5 statement made before departing for a trip to Europe to meet with foreign government officials about concerns over reports of secret prisons operated on that continent by the CIA, Rice responded to recent criticisms of the United States’ treatment of detainees by saying “the United States does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances.”

In December 6 articles, two major newspapers — The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) — printed Rice’s statement but did not report that the administration’s definition of torture has been criticized by human rights groups, government officials, and members of Congress, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who authored an amendment defining torture that the White House has threatened to veto.

(more…)

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Human Rights Under Renewed Threat From Asylum and Nationality Bill

Extracts from a debate in the House of Lords on the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill (6th December). The full transcript can be found in Hansards

Baroness Stern: The new Clause 51 proposed by the Government will include within that definition acts of committing, preparing or instigating terrorism, and acts of encouraging or inducing others to commit, prepare or instigate terrorism, whether or not the acts themselves amount to an actual or “inchoate” offence. That may sound eminently reasonable until we remember, first, the definition of terrorism being used here, and, secondly, that it covers acts wherever they are committed, whether in Uzbekistan, North Korea or perhaps Burma.

I cannot do better than draw to the attention of the House the view of the Joint Committee of Human Rights on this issue:

“To redefine the scope of Article 1F(c) exclusion so as to catch anyone who has threatened damage to property as a means to political change anywhere in the world, and anyone who in the Secretary of State’s view has engaged in one of the unacceptable behaviours such as ‘justifying’ terrorism, is in our view to broaden the scope of the exclusion in Article 1F(c) in a way which is not itself compatible with the Refugee Convention”.

It seems to me, although of course I am not a lawyer, that advocating the overthrow of a repressive regime’for example, that in Uzbekistan’and supporting a move to another form of government such as democracy is enough to ensure that you will not get the protection of the United Kingdom, should you be able to flee before the secret police get you. In my view, that is a deeply shaming position for us to find ourselves in, and a long way from the haven for the Huguenots mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville.

The position is not improved by the provision in Clause 7 that requires appeals against deportation on national security grounds to be brought out-of-country. The Joint Committee considers that the failure of the new clause to preserve an in-country appeal on asylum grounds gives rise to a risk of incompatibility with the refugee convention…

Clause 53 will introduce a new test for the deprivation of a person’s British citizenship….the basis for the Secretary of State to deprive a person of British citizenship will be that he is,

“satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good”….

I have one more question for the Minister: how do the Government propose to reconcile the work of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in reviewing the definition of terrorism in the 2000 Act with the plans to use that definition straight away across such a wide range of new legislation?

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UK and Germany Agreed to Allow Visas for Uzbek Politicians

From Hansards on 1st December

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answers of 24 November 2005, Official Report, columns 2247’48W, on Uzbekistan, to the hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands), when EU Ministers plan to review the exemption of Islam Karimov and his family from the list of Uzbek officials banned from travelling to the European Union; what discussions he has had with German authorities regarding the visit of Uzbek Interior Minister Almatov; and whether Mr. Almatov is still in Germany. [33768]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The measures announced by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 3 October in relation to Uzbekistan came into force on 14 November. They clearly demonstrate the profound concern of the European Union (EU) about the situation in Uzbekistan and the EU’s strong condemnation of the refusal of the Uzbek authorities’ to allow an independent international inquiry into the events in Andizhan in May.

The Council decided to implement these measures for an initial period of one year. In the meantime, the Council will keep under constant review the measures it has implemented in the light of any significant changes to the current situation, in particular any that demonstrate the willingness of the Uzbek authorities to adhere to the principles of respect for human rights, rule of law and fundamental freedoms.

The German authorities consulted us before Almatov’s visa was issued and we agreed with their assessment that Almatov qualified for an exemption as a case of urgent humanitarian need. Our embassy in Berlin remains in contact with the German authorities with regard to this case.

The details of Almatov’s presence are a matter for the Germans.

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