Monthly archives: January 2006

100th British soldier killed in Iraq

From BBC Online

A British soldier has been killed in an explosion in southern Iraq, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

The soldier, from the 7th Armoured Brigade, died as result of injuries sustained after a blast in Basra province, the ministry said.

Other soldiers injured in the incident are receiving treatment at the Shaibah medical facility.

The death brings the number of British personnel to have died in Iraq to 100 and is the second fatality this week.

For previous discussion of the true extent of British casualties go here and here.

Vigils and protests are being organised across the UK to mark this event.

Please see here for further details.

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London bombings survivor Rachel North on the government’s refusal to acknowledge the causes of terrorism

“Clean Skins”, by Rachel North

The Government cannot afford to say that Iraq and the bloody aftermath have gifted those who recruit and train these young men with a PR strategy that keeps making more willing martyrs, soldiers, jihadi warriors. The hideous irony – that the ‘War on Terror’ has only made more terror, fear and has generated many more terrorists – dare not be mentioned.

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Commission of inquiry into Bush war crimes and crimes against humanity to release preliminary findings

From Not in our name

WHERE: National Press Club, Washington, DC

WHEN: February 2 at Noon

The International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration met in New York City the weekend of January 20th through the 22nd to work towards fulfilling its mandate: “When the possibility of far-reaching war crimes and crimes against humanity exists, people of conscience have a solemn responsibility to inquire into the nature and scope of these acts, and to determine if they do in fact rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

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The McCain Amendment and Other Stories

By Phillip Watts in Revolution Online

The McCain/Graham-Levin Amendment Legalizes Torture

In December the infamous McCain “anti-torture” amendment was signed in to law as part of a Defense Appropriations bill. But in reality “anti-torture” amendment and the negotiations behind it – ends up legalizing torture ‘ including setting new legal precedent. It not only makes it more possible for the US to utilize torture ‘ it insures prisoners at Guant’namo have no habeas rights ‘ the right to come before a court to determine the lawfulness of their imprisonment.

In the media John McCain was painted as standing up to Bush and bringing “reason” to the issue of torture. While McCain has voiced differences with the Bush Administration on torture, when the amendment was finally signed into law what was brought to light was the unity McCain ultimately has with the Bush torture program. As previously pointed out in Revolution, “McCain and Bush announced that they made a deal that gave both of them what they wanted: torture without worry about prosecution, and with deniability.”


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What Degree of UK Complicity? Martin Scheinin on Extraordinary Rendition

Martin Scheinin

Martin Scheinin is the UN Human Rights Commission’s special rapporteur on human rights and counter terrorism. He was interviewed on BBC radio on Monday regarding UK involvement in the CIA extraordinary rendition flights scandal and the misleading of parliament by a Foreign Office minister. Encouragingly, he thinks that the ongoing investigations by the Council of Europe and the EU parliament will lead to the full truth gradually emerging.

You can listen to the interview here Radio interview

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Amnesty International: ‘The issue now is what will be done about it’

From Amnesty International

Amnesty International’s reaction to the Council of Europe’s report on renditions and black sites:

Publication of the Council of Europe’s interim report on the issue of extraordinary renditions and secret detention centres in Europe is a step towards uncovering the truth about the extent to which US agents are carrying out renditions and related practices in Europe. However it makes clear that serious questions still need to be answered by a number of European governments.

The report recognizes that there is ‘a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of ‘relocation’ or ‘outsourcing’ of torture’ ‘. What is needed now is the cooperation of all countries to ensure that they actively look at what is happening within their territory which may facilitate torture and take appropriate action.

‘European countries have the duty to fully collaborate in the investigations of gross human rights violations committed in their own territory. Not cooperating with those investigations is tantamount to collaborating with the abuses,’ said Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Regional Programmes.

Amnesty International supports the call of Dick Marty, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly Rapporteur, for a full committee of inquiry, with extensive investigatory powers.

‘The allegations that secret detention centres have existed in Europe, as Dick Marty has pointed out, come from varied and credible sources. Not even the US government has denied their existence. The issue now is what will be done about it,’ said Claudio Cordone.

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UK Parliamentary Group on Rendition Meets to Discuss the Next Move

By Hannah Strange from UPI

Politicians and human rights groups are ratcheting up the pressure on the British government to investigate reports of U.S. rendition flights passing through its territory, after the Council of Europe said European governments almost certainly knew of the “illegal” practice.

Members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rendition met with representatives from leading human rights groups in Westminster Wednesday to discuss what steps to take to force an investigation, to which the government has so far been resistant.


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The ‘missing’ laptop

As you know, I gave evidence on Tuesday in Strasbourg before the Council of Europe Inquiry into Extraordinary Rendition. My evidence was on the willingness of the CIA to obtain information extracted under torture by foreign intelligence agencies, as the basis of the extraordinary rendition programme. I also provided documentary evidence of British government collusion with the CIA in obtaining torture intelligence.

On return from the Council of Europe, my suitcase has disappeared, including all my documents and notes and my laptop computer.

In dealing with the intelligence services, particularly in a situation which makes them hostile to you, there is a real danger of occasional paranoia. But it is a strange coincidence that on this particular occasion my computer and notes disappear, and a couple of factors make it stranger.

I flew Strasbourg to Paris Orly then Paris Orly to London City. This did not involve any change of terminal and there were a clear two hours between flights.

On arrival at London City, when my bag did not arrive, I went to the luggage desk to report it. The gentleman there affected surprise, waited for a while for the conveyor to clear, and then was taking down the details, including my name and the baggage check number. I spotted a handwritten piece of paper tucked under the keyboard of his computer – on which was already written my name and baggage check number. I challenged him on this, and he said that he had already received an email telling him my luggage was not on the plane.

Of course I wondered why he had not told me this, and why we had gone through the charade of waiting for the carousel to clear, and then asking me for details which he already had written down in front of him. Indeed, as he remained in front of his computer all the time, why would he have to copy down the email from his computer screen at all, and then lodge it under his computer, when he could just read the email off the screen?

When I returned home, I called the central Air France luggage number, and they told me that my suitcase had been located at Orly and was booked on the 7pm flight into London City. When it did not arrive, I phoned them again. They said that it had not been put on that flight, and was being held at the airport so it could not be rebooked on another flight. They could not tell me why it was being held, or who I might speak to about it.

An innocent explanation is not impossible, but it seems to me that the most probable explanation of these events is that the papers and computer of a witness to a Council of Europe inquiry have been intercepted by one member state, possibly acting in collusion with another State or States.

It is of course in the nature of such actions that it is difficult to prove, but I think the circumstances are such as to justify the CofE speaking to the French and British Ambassadors to make plain that the intimidation of witnesses before Senator Marty’s inquiry will not be accepted. They might ask them for a direct assurance that their employees have not intercepted or opened my baggage on the way back from Strasbourg, other than any search by customs etc not capable of being construed as in any way related to the subjects on which I gave evidence at the Council of Europe.

Craig Murray

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Secret Memo on British Involvolment in CIA Flights Now Available

The Newstatesman has published the full version of the secret Foreign Office memo on British involvement in US rendition flights.

As Tony Blair prepared to face Commons questions about British involvement in early December, his officials asked the Foreign Office for a briefing document. The resulting memo, signed by Irfan Siddiq, a private secretary at the Foreign Office, and addressed to Grace Cassy, assistant private secretary at No 10 Downing Street, paints an astonishing picture.

Extraordinary rendition, it declares bluntly, “is almost certainly illegal”, and if Britain co-operated with an illegal act of this kind, “such an act would also be illegal”.

The PDF file of the memo can be read here

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‘Gangster US’ accused over torture: Britain accused of particular complicity

By David Rennie in The Telegraph

An investigator for Europe’s leading human rights watchdog accused America yesterday of “gangster tactics” in its war on terrorism, notably the illegal transfer of terrorist suspects to countries likely to torture them.

Dick Marty, a Swiss senator, told the Council of Europe that the US, with European complicity, had shipped possibly more than 100 suspects to countries where they faced torture.

“The entire continent is involved,” Mr Marty told its parliamentary assembly. He presented colleagues with an interim report dominated by newspaper cuttings and buttressed with evidence from an Italian inquiry into the alleged 2003 kidnapping by the CIA of a radical Egyptian cleric, Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, in Milan.

Mr Marty said it was “highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware” of such abductions. He accused Britain of particular complicity on the basis of a leaked secret memo from Sir Michael Wood, the chief legal adviser to the Foreign Office. In the 2003 memo Sir Michael asserted that there was no legal barrier to using foreign intelligence obtained under torture.

The document was handed to Mr Marty and the Council of Europe by Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who has become a fierce critic of British foreign policy. Giving evidence to the Strasbourg assembly, he said that, as envoy in Tashkent after September 11, 2001, he read CIA intelligence, shared with MI6, derived from torture sessions.

Later he said Britain was “much more deeply implicated” than other European nations in CIA extraordinary renditions, or the transfer of detainees outside normal judicial channels.

Several British members of the assembly, which gathers MPs from 46 countries, criticised Mr Marty’s report.

Michael Hancock, a Liberal Democrat, said it needed to have “more substance. . . many of the issues are clouded in myth and a desire to kick America.” Denis MacShane, the former Europe minister, said the report had “more holes than a Swiss cheese”.

The Council of Europe, which is independent of the European Union, was set up in 1949 as a guardian of human rights in Europe.

See also The Times: Britain accused of turning blind eye to torture flights

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No10 dismisses ‘rendition’ report


Number 10 has dismissed an official report into CIA ‘rendition’ flights and detentions in Europe, saying it contains “no new facts”.

European governments almost certainly knew about the secret American practices, according to the study conducted by Swiss MP Dick Marty for the Council of Europe. He concluded that ‘renditions’ in Europe were likely to have involved “more than a hundred persons in recent years”.

His report, however, largely appeared to be a summary of information already in the public domain, including media quotes attributed to unidentified sources. Number 10 said the prime minister had “no view” on the report.

“From what I have heard, it has no new facts therefore there are no new views,” added Tony Blair’s official spokesman..

Marty said that hundreds of CIA-chartered flights “have passed through numerous European countries”.

“It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware,” he argued. And the report said there was “a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of ‘relocation’ or ‘outsourcing’ of torture”.

Marty said the outstanding questions “require plain, honest answers”.

He added that evidence from Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, “appear to be damning for the UK authorities, which seem to have knowingly continued to make use of information obtained under torture and supplied by the Uzbek intelligence services, thereby encouraging the practice of torture”.

But in a sign that claims of secret CIA prison camps, claimed to have been based in Poland and Romania, are not proven, Marty said: “At this stage of the investigations, there is no formal, irrefutable evidence of the existence of secret CIA detention centres in Romania, Poland or any other country.

“Nevertheless, there are many indications from various sources which must be considered reliable, justifying the continuation of the analytical and investigative work.”

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US “outsourced” torture, European investigator says

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) – The United States flew detainees to countries where they would be tortured and European governments probably knew about it, the head of a European human rights investigation said on Tuesday.

But Swiss senator Dick Marty said in a preliminary report for the Council of Europe human rights watchdog that he had found no irrefutable evidence to confirm allegations that the CIA operated secret detention centers in Europe.

His report kept pressure on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency over the charges that it flew prisoners through European airports to jails in third countries, but Washington denied any wrongdoing and critics said the report contained nothing new.

“There is a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of ‘relocation’ or ‘outsourcing of torture’,” Marty told the 46-nation Council, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg.

“It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware.”


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Council of Europe Publish Interim Report on CIA Detention Centres

Dick Marty

“The Council of Europe publish an interrim report this morning “It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware of the ”rendition” of more than a hundred persons affecting Europe, according to Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty, whose interim assessment was made public today in an information memorandum. Citing statements made by American officials and others, Mr Marty also said there was ”a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of ”relocation” or ”outsourcing” of torture”. He welcomed the arrival yesterday of detailed information he had requested from Eurocontrol and the EU’s Satellite Agency. The Parliamentary Assembly will hold a debate on this question today at 10 am.”

The information memorandum is available as a PDF or HTML file

The committee also held an exchange of views on suspected abductions on European soil, and alleged illegal transport of detainees from or through Europe to countries where the persons are at risk of torture, with:

– Craig Murray, former United Kingdom Ambassador to Uzbekistan

– Professor Manfred Nowak, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture

– John Sifton, Human Rights Watch, New York

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Biggest Terrorist Of All?

By Jeremy Pikser in Yahoo News

On Friday night I had the pleasure of seeing a truly great and courageous American, Harry Belafonte, make opening remarks at The Commission on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration held at Riverside Church in New York.

Belafonte, who several years ago got mainstream punditry all upset by calling Colin Powell a house slave, has shaken things up again by calling George W. Bush “the world’s greatest terrorist.”

It didn’t take long for the right wing “patriotic” yahoos to call for his scalp. How dare he?! It’s outrageous! It’s treasonous! But has anyone stopped to ask… is it true?

The reasonably conservative estimate of civilian deaths caused by Bush’s unprovoked attack on the sovereign state of Iraq (defined by the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal to be the highest of all war crimes) is 100,000. On a straight mathematical basis, that would be equal to one Twin Tower attack every month for close to three years. Think about that. Think about how we would feel if such a thing were to come to pass on American soil. Then try to think how Iraqis in particular, and Arabs in general must feel about what has been unleashed by George Bush.

If the other leading contender for the title is Osama Bin Laden, I would say Bush wins the title of “the greatest” hands down.

But don’t take my word for it, and don’t go the crude measure of simple body count mathematics. Don’t take Harry’s word for it, either. Instead, check the testimony given to the Commission by former Marine and UN arms inspector Scott Ritter, Former US diplomat to Afghanistan Ann White, former UK Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Craig Murray, and Brig. Gen Janis Karpinskiy former commander at Abu Graib as well as other highly qualified and knowledgeable experts which make a compelling legal case that the Bush regime is not only wrong, but criminal, in it’s policies in regard to Iraq, torture, the environment, and world health policy.

The Bush Commission

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MPs accuse Straw over misleading them over ‘rendition’

The lies are catching up with him…

From The Observer

The Foreign Secretary has been formally challenged by a parliamentary committee to explain why he twice gave them misleading answers during inquiries over the secret transport of terrorism suspects around Europe.

The Labour chair of the powerful Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has written privately to Jack Straw, amid deep irritation from members over his testimony on extraordinary rendition – the spiriting away of foreign citizens without the normal extradition process, which critics argue may lead to torture.

Last October, Straw denied to the committee that Britain had received any requests for rendition. In fact, as he conceded in a parliamentary statement less than six weeks later, it had received three in 1998 and approved one. Appearing before the committee in December, Straw ridiculed claims of British involvement in the interrogation of Pakistani terror suspects arrested in Greece as ‘nonsense’, only to confirm three weeks later that British intelligence officers were present, although abuse is denied.

The row comes ahead of an interim report from the Council of Europe into claims that the US has ‘rendered’ suspects in Europe.

Paul Keetch, a Liberal Democrat member of the committee, said it was ‘unacceptable’ that Straw had had to correct himself twice, while Labour member Eric Illsley said he was ‘cheesed off’ with the Foreign Secretary describing allegations as nonsense, only to find out from newspapers that they were true.

Straw also admitted that while foreign flights to military airbases normally require clearance from the Ministry of Defence, American planes have a ‘block agreement’ to come and go freely. This might help explain a leaked memo from Straw’s office, disclosed last week in New Statesman magazine, advising Downing Street to ‘avoid getting drawn on detail’.

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Foreign Office Minister Misled Parliament Over UN Meeting on Extraordinary Rendition

By Marie Woolf in The Independent

Pressure over the use of British airports for secret CIA torture flights increased dramatically yesterday after it emerged that a Foreign Office minister misled Parliament over a meeting between the UN and UK civil servants about the issue.

The Independent on Sunday has learnt that Lord Triesman, the Foreign Office minister, misled peers when he told the House of Lords that no such meeting had ever occurred.

But Martin Scheinin, the UN Human Rights Commission’s special rapporteur, travelled to London to hold meetings with Home Office and Foreign Office officials between 21 and 22 November last year. He raised concerns about the issue of “extraordinary rendition” – the policy of moving terror suspects to countries that use torture – and is so concerned following the lack of disclosure that he is writing to ministers.


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Bush Commission Hears Evidence

From NY Newsday

A former general in charge of the Abu Ghraib prison during the 2004 abuse scandal there and England’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan were among several people to speak out against the Bush administration’s handling of the “War on Terror” Saturday at an anti-war hearing at Manhattan’s Riverside Church.

Craig Murray, ousted as Britain’s ambassador to Uzbekistan after he criticized the use of intelligence gained through torture, said Uzbek security forces supplying interrogation findings to the CIA used torture “on an industrial scale.” In two cases he said he documented that people were boiled alive.

“I would rather die than to have [innocent people] tortured to save my life,” Murray said, drawing applause from the crowd of more than 500 people.

His appearance followed a Friday radio interview in which he said, “We’re not talking about marginal definitions of torture. The U.S. knew this was happening and encouraged it by being prepared to accept and give credence to the results of it.”

Murray said in its quest to secure increasingly scarce oil and gas supplies, President George W. Bush is fanning anti-American sentiments in the Islamic world. “They are making America a much more dangerous place,” he said.

The hearing was held by a panel calling itself the Bush Crimes Commission, which has issued “indictments” against Bush and others for what it says are crimes against humanity perpetrated in America’s prosecution of the Iraq war. The commission, which has no legal standing, said it had invited the Bush administration to rebut the allegations.

A White House press officer declined comment Saturday.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski said photographs of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison “opened a huge door on” America’s mishandling of the war, and that soldiers trained to handle prisoners of war were ill-suited for running Iraq’s civilian prisons.

Karpinski also said as many as 85 percent of the Iraqi detainees there were “guilty of nothing,” but were not released because interrogators “were afraid of releasing the next Osama bin Laden.”

The commission was organized by Not In Our Name, a New York-based activist group formed to challenge American military actions abroad, and alleged Bush administration erosions of civil liberties at home.

Beginning with a session in October and again on Friday, it has elicited testimony from legal scholars, Iraq veterans, former diplomats and activists. A final hearing is scheduled tomorrow at Riverside Church.

Many of the those who attended Saturday said it was persuasive to hear former insiders criticize the war. Bob Parsons, an auto worker from Detroit, said, “It’s incredibly moving for people who have served for so long to stand up and say what is really going on.”

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No Rendition Flights Through the UK Since 911?

Channel 4 news report

With Jack Straw issuing a denial of any CIA rendition flights passing through the UK since 9/11, Jon Snow interviews the head of Liberty about the curious mismatch between CIA rendition flight activity and UK records.

Click here to watch the news report

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Democracy Now: Craig Murray on why he Defied the UK Foreign Office by Posting Classified Memos

Craig Murray was interviewed on Democracy Now on Thursday, prior to testifying at the Bush Commission in New York this weekend.

“We spend the hour with the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. The British government has stopped the publication of his book. In a Democracy Now exclusive, Murray tells why he defied the British Foreign Office by posting a series of classified memos on his website. Murray was fired as ambassador to Uzbekistan after he openly criticized the British and U.S. governments for supporting human rights abuses under the Uzbek regime.”

The interview can be watched here

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