Monthly Archives: January 2006


European Head of Counter-terrorism Criticises Impact of US Policies on Torture and Rendition

From The Financial Times

European governments must take a principled stand on the issue of human rights as a key part of the global strategy for combating terrorism, Gijs de Vries, the European Union’s counter-terrorism co-ordinator, said on Thursday.

He told a seminar organised by the Centre for European Reform that, while he had ‘no doubt’ violent extremists and terrorist recruiters could be beaten, an essential tool of the strategy had to be ‘winning the battle for hearts and minds’, and engaging the support of moderate Muslim opinion worldwide.

‘We need to engage with them [Muslims] on the basis of the values we share: respect for human life, respect for democratic standards, respect for individual liberty and dignity.’ He went on: ‘This means that our policies to combat terrorism must respect the rights and values we have pledged to defend, including the rights of prisoners.’

While he used his speech to refer also to the improved co-operation on intelligence and law enforcement between European governments and the US, Mr de Vries’s central comments underlined the extent to which alleged mistreatment of prisoners and the US strategy of rendition has provoked tension between the EU and the US.

Mr de Vries was pressed by delegates to comment specifically on the US strategy. He said: ‘If you look at the affect Abu Ghraib, Guant’namo and the policy of [extraordinary] rendition [has had] on public opinion, it is quite clear that it has been negative.’

His comments came as the UK government was accused of ignorance about the true nature and number of requests for rendition by the US following the leak of an official memo expressing uncertainty about the scale and legality of the practice of transporting terrorist suspects.

Tony Blair, UK prime minister, faced opposition demands that he seek immediate answers from Washington as to whether the US used British airspace or airports with or without the authorisation of the UK government. Mr Blair was advised by the British Foreign Office that officials were concerned there could have been more requests for rendition than previously revealed. ‘The papers we have unearthed so far suggest there could be more such cases,’ officials advised in the leaked memo, whose authenticity was confirmed by the government.

The memo also warned that the practice of rendition would rarely be legal under UK law. But the document did not contain the kind of specific information on abductees and flight records that has led authorities in Spain, Germany and Italy to start judicial investigations into the CIA’s activities.

Last week Dick Marty, the Swiss politician who is heading the main pan-European investigation into rendition, said he had no doubt the CIA had maintained illegal prisons in Europe, although he had yet to produce any clear proof. Next week he will present an update on his investigation to the Council of Europe, the 46-member human rights organisation.

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Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative

The Center for Congressional Rights has launched the Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative to “spearhead the fight to seek justice for the hundreds of men and minors who have languished at Guant’namo for more than three years and to seek redress for the abuse and torture many have suffered at the hands of military interrogators and private contractors there, at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, in Afghanistan and at secret detention facilities around the world.”

Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative

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“I am prepared to go to court and I am prepared to go to prison to oppose war and the erosion of our rights”

Milan Rai, Maya Evans’ co-demonstrator, is belatedly charged with “organising” the demonstration for which she was prosecuted late last year. Will he become Blair’s latest Prisoner of Conscience?

Press release from Justice Not Vengeance

FIRST CHARGE FOR ‘ORGANISING’ UNAUTHORISED DEMONSTRATION OPPOSITE DOWNING ST

Today, Thursday 19 January 2006, Milan Rai, 40, became the first person to be charged with organising an unauthorised demonstration in the vicinity of Parliament under the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act. The maximum penalty for this charge is 51 weeks imprisonment.

Rai, author and activist with the anti-war group ‘Justice Not Vengeance’ (JNV), was arrested on 25 October last year for organising the demonstration that led to the conviction of Maya Evans, also of JNV (2).

He was not charged then. The Crown Prosecution Service have delayed a

decision, citing problems with the CCTV footage of the incident. (Maya Evans was convicted without the benefit of such footage.)

Rai and Evans were arrested opposite Downing Street, while they held a two-person ceremony of remembrance, reading the names of Iraqi civilians and British soldiers who have died in the illegal occupation of Iraq (3).

Rai, who recently spent two weeks in Lewes prison for an anti-war

protest, said: ‘We should not have to ask permission to remember the

dead. I am prepared to go to court and I am prepared to go to prison to oppose war and the erosion of our rights.’

ENDS

Notes:

1. Milan Rai is the author of 7/7: The London Bombings, Islam and the

Iraq War (Pluto, due in April 2006)

2. Maya Evans was convicted on 7 December 2005 of taking part in an

unauthorised demonstration in the Designated Area

3. See www.j-n-v.org for further details.

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LEAK OF THE WEEK: Leaked memo reveals UK government strategy to deny knowledge of detention centres

From The Guardian

The government is secretly trying to stifle attempts by MPs to find out what it knows about CIA “torture flights” and privately admits that people captured by British forces could have been sent illegally to interrogation centres, the Guardian can reveal. A hidden strategy aimed at suppressing a debate about rendition – the US practice of transporting detainees to secret centres where they are at risk of being tortured – is revealed in a briefing paper sent by the Foreign Office to No 10.

The document shows that the government has been aware of secret interrogation centres, despite ministers’ denials. It admits that the government has no idea whether individuals seized by British troops in Iraq or Afghanistan have been sent to the secret centres.

Dated December 7 last year, the document is a note from Irfan Siddiq, of the foreign secretary’s private office, to Grace Cassy in Tony Blair’s office. It was obtained by the New Statesman magazine, whose latest issue is published today.

It was drawn up in response to a Downing Street request for advice “on substance and handling” of the controversy over CIA rendition flights and allegations of Britain’s connivance in the practice.

“We should try to avoid getting drawn on detail”, Mr Siddiq writes, “and to try to move the debate on, in as front foot a way we can, underlining all the time the strong anti-terrorist rationale for close cooperation with the US, within our legal obligations.”

The document advises the government to rely on a statement by Condoleezza Rice last month when the US secretary of state said America did not transport anyone to a country where it believed they would be tortured and that, “where appropriate”, Washington would seek assurances.

The document notes: “We would not want to cast doubt on the principle of such government-to-government assurances, not least given our own attempts to secure these from countries to which we wish to deport their nationals suspected of involvement in terrorism: Algeria etc.”

The document says that in the most common use of the term – namely, involving real risk of torture – rendition could never be legal. It also says that the US emphasised torture but not “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”, which binds Britain under the European convention on human rights. British courts have adopted a lower threshold of what constitutes torture than the US has.

The note includes questions and answers on a number of issues. “Would cooperating with a US rendition operation be illegal?”, it asks, and gives the response: “Where we have no knowledge of illegality, but allegations are brought to our attention, we ought to make reasonable enquiries”. It asks: “How do we know whether those our armed forces have helped to capture in Iraq or Afghanistan have subsequently been sent to interrogation centres?” The reply given is: “Cabinet Office is researching this with MoD [Ministry of Defence]. But we understand the basic answer is that we have no mechanism for establishing this, though we would not ourselves question such detainees while they were in such facilities”.

Ministers have persistently taken the line, in answers to MPs’ questions, that they were unaware of CIA rendition flights passing through Britain or of secret interrogation centres.

On December 7 – the date of the leaked document – Charles Kennedy, then Liberal Democrat leader, asked Mr Blair when he was first made aware of the American rendition flights, and when he approved them. Mr Blair replied: “In respect of airports, I do not know what the right hon gentleman is referring to.”

On December 22, asked at his monthly press conference about the US practice of rendition, the prime minister told journalists: “It is not something that I have ever actually come across until this whole thing has blown up, and I don’t know anything about it.” He said he had never heard of secret interrogation camps in Europe. But Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, recently disclosed that Whitehall inquiries had shown Britain had received rendition requests from the Clinton administration.

In 1998, Mr Straw, then home secretary, agreed to one request, but turned down another because the individual concerned was to be transported to Egypt. He agreed that Mohammed Rashed Daoud al-Owhali, suspected of involvement in the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, could be transported to the US for trial via Stansted, according to the briefing paper. Owhali was subsequently given a life sentence.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, which has demanded an inquiry into allegations of British collusion in rendition flights, said she was “deeply disappointed” by the memo. “The government seems more concerned about spinning than investigating our concerns,” she said. She has written to Mr Straw saying the government must now give its full support to the inquiry conducted, at Liberty’s behest, by the chief constable of Greater Manchester, Michael Todd.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesman, said Mr Blair had fully endorsed Ms Rice’s statement, yet the prime minister had clear advice that it might have been deliberately worded to allow for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. “I am submitting an urgent question to the speaker and expect the foreign secretary to come to parliament to explain the government’s position,” he said. “Evasion can no longer be sustained: there is now overwhelming evidence to support a full public inquiry into rendition.”

Andrew Tyrie, Conservative MP for Chichester and chairman of the parliamentary group on rendition, said last night: “All the experts who have looked at Rice’s assurances have concluded that they are so carefully worded as to be virtually worthless. Relying on them, as the government appears to be doing, speaks volumes”. He said his committee would pursue the issue.

Update: An interview on BBC radio this morning with the editor of the New Statesman and the chair of the parliamentary committe on extraordinary rendition can be heard here Radio interview

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Human Rights Watch: torture and mistreatment have been a deliberate part of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism strategy

Human Rights Watch said yesterday that new evidence demonstrated that torture and mistreatment have been a deliberate part of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism strategy, undermining the global defense of human rights. U.S. partners such as Britain compounded the lack of human rights leadership by trying to undermine critical international protections.

This analysis is contained in their: Human Rights Watch World Report 2006

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Craig Murray to Testify at Bush War Crimes Commision in New York

From New York Indymedia

An unprecedented citizens’ tribunal will hear testimony from international expert witnesses and whistle-blowers on war crimes and crimes against humanity alleged against the Bush administration.

Witnesses at the Tribunal include: former commander of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray who exposed the use of information gathered through torture, former arms inspector Scott Ritter, ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern, Dahr Jamail (journalist who has reported extensively from Iraq), Guantanamo prisoners’ lawyer Michael Ratner, Katrina survivors, former State Department officer Ann Wright, among many more.

January’s hearings will be the second and final session of the Commission. Indictments from the first session were formally delivered to George W. Bush at the White House on January 10. Bush’s staff would not receive the indictments at the gate, saying that the president “will not accept any materials from the public.” As TV cameras rolled, a hazmat squad was called in by White House personnel to remove the envelope.

The indictments are based on moral, political, and legal grounds, and are undertaken in fulfillment of the Commission’s Charter: “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….” The Bush White House has been invited to testify at the Tribunal in its defense.

Friday, January 20, 5pm and Saturday, January 21 at 10am, Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive

Sunday, January 22 at 1pm, Columbia University Law School, 116th & Amsterdam Avenue

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Landmark Speech by Al Gore Cites the Tashkent Telegrams

A landmark speech by ex Vice President Al Gore yesterday called for the defence and preservation of the US constitution, an end to executive abuse, and compliance with international law. Referring to the issue of extraordinary rendition and torture he cites the work of Craig Murray. His quote is taken from the Tashkent Telegrams, documents that the British Government has strived to keep from public access.

“The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals in foreign countries and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture.

Some of our traditional allies have been shocked by these new practices on the part of our nation. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan – one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons – registered a complaint to his home office about the senselessness and cruelty of the new U.S. practice: “This material is useless – we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful.”

The full text of the speech is given below:

“Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern that America’s Constitution is in grave danger.

In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.

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Torture exportation hides behind ‘extraordinary rendition’

By Salman Rushdie, from The Register Guard

Beyond any shadow of a doubt, the ugliest phrase to enter the English language in 2005 was ”extraordinary rendition.”

To those of us who love words, this phrase’s brutalization of meaning is an infallible signal of its intent to deceive. ”Extraordinary” is an ordinary enough adjective, but its sense is being stretched here to include more sinister meanings that your dictionary will not provide: ”secret,” ”ruthless” and ”extralegal.”

As for ”rendition,” the English language permits four meanings: a performance, a translation, a surrender – this meaning is now considered archaic – or an ”act of rendering,” which leads us to the verb ”to render,” among whose 17 possible meanings you will not find ”to kidnap and covertly deliver an individual or individuals for interrogation to an undisclosed address in an unspecified country where torture is permitted.”

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US terror strategy illegal – expert

From The Scotsman

US policies in the war on terror are contravening international laws on human rights, a top European investigator says.

“The strategy in place today respects neither human rights nor the Geneva Conventions,” said Dick Marty, the head of a European investigation into alleged CIA prisons in Europe. “The current administration in Washington is trying to combat terrorism outside legal means, the rule of law.”

Marty, a Swiss politician leading the probe on behalf of the Council of Europe, said there was no question that the CIA was undertaking illegal activities in Europe in its transportation and detention of prisoners. “The question is: Was the CIA really working in Europe?” Marty said. “I believe we can say today, without a doubt, yes.”

The Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg, France, began its investigation after allegations surfaced in November that US agents interrogated key al Qaida suspects at clandestine prisons in Eastern Europe and transported some suspects to other countries via Europe.

New York-based Human Rights Watch identified Romania and Poland as possible sites of secret US-run detention facilities. Both countries have denied involvement. Marty said that European countries had “a fairly shocking attitude” toward US policies, and that attention should not be focused solely on Romania and Poland.

“All the indications are that this ‘extraordinary rendition’ was already known about,” Marty told a news conference in the Swiss town of Burgdorf, referring to the CIA programme of transferring terrorism suspects to third countries where some allegedly were subjected to torture.

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Alleged CIA detentions: PACE President welcomes European Parliament investigation

Strasbourg, 13.01.2006 – Ren’ van der Linden, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, today welcomed the proposal that the European Parliament create a temporary committee to investigate the allegations of secret CIA detentions in Europe.

“I am pleased to note the European Parliament’s support for Mr Marty’s activities and their wish to liaise and co-operate as closely as possible with our enquiry,” said Mr van der Linden, adding that Mr Marty shared this view. “Indeed, members of the European Parliament have already twice attended meetings of our Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. In addition, we will be inviting them to participate in the Assembly’s debate later this month. The fact that the European Parliament will be adding its efforts to those of our Assembly underlines the political importance of the enquiry and the necessity for common action.”

“I would like to repeat that it is in everyone’s interest ‘ including that of national governments in Europe and the USA ‘ to co-operate in discovering the truth of this affair, in order to prevent such violations of the international rule of law occurring in future,” continued Mr van der Linden.

The Assembly began its enquiry on 7 November last year, in the immediate aftermath of the original allegations. Since then, its Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has discussed the issue on three occasions. Following these meetings, requests for co-operation have been made to the national parliaments of all 46 Council of Europe member states, the US government (an Observer State of the Council of Europe), Eurocontrol (responsible for European air traffic management) and the EU Satellite Centre, along with Javier Solana, Secretary General of the Council of the EU.

The Assembly will be debating the issue on 24 January, during its plenary session in Strasbourg. This work complements the requests made by the Council of Europe’s Secretary General to the governments of member states.

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Straw under fire for refusing CIA flights inquiry

By Catherine MacLEOD in The Herald

CRITICS gave the government a rocky ride in parliament over its refusal to mount a judicial inquiry into claims that the US has used UK airports to fly terror suspects abroad for torture.

In a written statement, Jack Straw, foreign secretary, disclosed that the UK had refused a US request in 1998 to refuel a flight carrying detainees en route to the US. In December, he had told MPs that another request had been refused, while two others had been approved when Bill Clinton was in the White House. To little avail, he repeated assurances that a trawl of Foreign Office records had found no record of any requests for extradition rendition flights to pass through the UK.

In the Commons, MPs demanded that the government should set out the grounds on which it judges the flight requests, but Kim Howells, foreign office minister, was unmoved.

Nick Clegg, the LibDems’ foreign affairs spokesman, maintained the government had doubts about the US policy, whatever its public protestations. He said: “The ambiguity of the government’s position on this clandestine practice of extraordinary rendition seems to deepen with every answer given. “Clearly (Mr Straw’s answer) indicates that the government, at least behind the scenes, had much graver doubts about this clandestine practice than it has been prepared to give so far. Why were these flights refused?”

Mr Howells dismissed Mr Clegg’s objections as anti-US sentiment. He argued that the LibDems were employing typical tactics to throw mud at the Bush administration in the hope some of it might stick. He said: “This government is opposed to torture, it does not torture anyone, nor would we ever put up with any other administration torturing individuals. We will watch this very carefully as we always have done.”

William Hague, shadow foreign secretary, sought assurance that the rendition through the UK leading to torture in a third country had not taken place, and Mr Howell was adamant that the government would never co-operate in any operation involving torture.

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LEAK OF THE WEEK: Swiss intelligence whistleblower releases documentary evidence of CIA torture prisons

The Swiss government has acknowledged the authenticity of a fax leaked to the newspaper SonntagsBlick which appears to confirm the existence of secret CIA interrogation camps in Romania, Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria.

From Swiss Info

A government spokesman said the fax in question intercepted by the Swiss intelligence services included information that was already known publicly but which had yet to be verified.

He refused to give any more details, beyond saying that the cabinet had condemned the leak to the press.

Justice Minister Christoph Blocher said he supported transparency but added that secret documents should remain classified.

On Sunday the newspaper made the intercepted document public, saying the fax was received by the Egyptian embassy in London and that it supposedly confirmed the existence of detention centres.

The message was picked up by the secret service’s Onyx satellite listening system on November 10, just three days after the Council of Europe launched its investigation into allegations that the CIA has been running secret interrogation centres in Europe.

The Egyptian fax stated that 23 Iraqi and Afghan citizens had been transferred to a Romanian military base near the port of Constanza for interrogation purposes. It added that similar detention centres had been set up in Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria.

Ueli Leuenberger, a Green Party member of parliament and expert on human rights, criticised the government’s failure to act on the intelligence.

“The information should have been handed over to Dick Marty [Swiss head of a Council of Europe investigation into the alleged prisons],” Leuenberger told swissinfo.

“The government should also have issued a formal protest to the United States government. It’s precisely because the cabinet didn’t act that the leak occurred.

“These [CIA] violations only encourage those who disregard international law,” he added.

Marty told French-language radio that he “regretted that the occasion was not seized to deplore the use in Europe of undercover methods to combat terrorism”.

“We don’t hesitate to criticise human rights abuses when they take place in Cuba, Tunisia or Myanmar,” he continued.

“But when it comes to a powerful ally, we are so careful that it borders on subservience.”

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office and military prosecutors are investigating a possible breach of official secrets by the SonntagsBlick editor as well as two journalists at the newspaper.

Publishing a secret document can be a violation of Swiss law punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

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Rendition Flights: Ministers will not be able to avoid the scandal for ever

The Guardian looks forward to future Parliamentary action to hold ministers to account on rendition flights and comments on the current state of inactivity.

“In Britain, there is nothing, despite an absolute duty imposed on the government by its domestic and international legal obligations to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Ministers appear to have something to hide and the issue will not go away.”

By Richard Norton-Taylor in The Guardian

As they contemplate the future leadership of their respective parties, MPs returning to Westminster from their holidays insist there is another issue that they will not be distracted from. That is the government’s attitude, still to be satisfactorily explained, towards America’s practice of “extraordinary rendition” – flying Islamist suspects to secret camps where they are likely to be subjected to torture.

An all-party parliamentary group set up to probe the issue is preparing a number of moves this month to get to the truth. The group is chaired by Andrew Tyrie, Conservative MP for Chichester, who has two deputies – Chris Mullin, the former Labour Foreign Office minister, and Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman and candidate for his party’s leadership. They are determined to get answers to questions that ministers and officials have been so reluctant to provide. The Council of Europe is also on the warpath.

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When Moonbats attack…

Channel Four News

The blogosphere has played a key role in developing the story surrounding the UK government’s alledged involvement in rendition and torture in the War on Terror. J.J. King reviews the progress online.

Not Leaking, But Blogging

What to do if you can’t get your damning documents picked up by the mainstream media? The answer, it seems, is to take it to the blogs — from whence, if the story has ‘legs’, it may eventually get dragged into the press.

That is precisely what has happened in the case of Craig Murray , former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan. Murray lost his position after he defied a Foreign Office prohibition on publishing documents concerning the UK’s use of information obtained by rendition and torture (inlcuding, incidentally, boiling alive) in the War on Terror.

On Murray’s request, bloggers reproduced his documents online , making further suppression practically impossible. The mainstream, now assured that it was not breaking a story that might cause it trouble, ran the Murray story in due course.

The ‘Moonbat Craze’

Murray may have a book to promote , but that doesn’t make a rightwing blogger like Michelle Malkin look any more convincing when she calls the furore around his published telegrams a ‘Moonbat Craze’ . The documents on offer may not quite be the ‘Smoking Gun’ Murray claims, but they are certainly significant.

Whereas the Bush regime tacitly condoned torturous methods in February 2002, when it indicated the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to captured members of al Qaeda and Afghanistan’s Taliban, the UK had taken no such public stance. In fact, as blog BlairWatch points out , the government has been holding steadfastly, if increasingly unbelievably, to the line that they knownothing about Extraordinary Rendition or torture used to obtain information for the War on Terror.

As a result of Murray’s blog publication, such claims now appear ‘superlatively disingenuous’, as John Lettice puts it for The Register . ‘In order to sustain the “see no evil” policy in the face of these,’ the telegrams appear to show, Lettice argues, ‘Jack Straw must presumably also now claim to have been entirely unaware of what one of his own ambassadors was telling him, repeatedly and at some considerable length.’

Comment: There appears to have been some confusion over what constitutes the “smoking gun” proving that Jack Straw lied over the government’s use of information extracted under torture. Perhaps the clearest example is Jack Straw’s response to a constituent during his April/May 2005 re-election campaign:

Constituent: “This question is for Mr Straw; Have you ever read any documents where the intelligence has been procured through torturous means?”

Jack Straw: “Not to the best of my knowledge… let me make this clear… the British government does not support torture in any circumstances. Full stop. We do not support the obtaining of intelligence by torture, or its use.”

Straw claimed that he had “not to the best of my knowledge” read any document based on torture-tainted intelligence, yet Craig Murray had sent back memo after memo pointing out that the intelligence coming into London from Uzbekistan was torture-tainted.

Craig Murray was even verbally informed by his Foreign Office superiors that Jack Straw wanted him to know he’d lost sleep over the issue. Straw’s claim that he hadn’t “to the best of my knowledge” ever seen any torture-tainted documents appears to have been a lie.

NB – Craig Murray was Britain’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 until he was removed from his post in October 2004. He resigned from the Foreign Office in February 2005. Click here for a full timeline

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Impeach Blair, says General Sir Michael Rose

Sir Michael Rose, the retired British army General who led United Nations forces in Bosnia has called for Tony Blair to be impeached for taking the country to war in Iraq on false grounds. Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, he said that Blair must not be allowed to “walk away”, and must be held accountable in order to deter future politicians from making the same mistakes. Asked whether he believed his views were shared by senior officers still serving in the army, Rose suggested that a “debate” had been going on.

You can listen to the interview here Radio interview (Real Player)

See also: Blairwatch – General Sir Michael Rose calls for Blair to be Impeached

The campaign for impeachment is online: ImpeachBlair.org

Update (10/01): Many mainstream papers are now running with this story. A quote from the Guardian

“…people have seen their political wishes ignored for reasons that have now proved false. Nor has there been any attempt made in parliament to call Mr Blair personally to account for what has transpired to be a blunder of enormous strategic significance,” he writes.

It should not be surprising that “so many of the voters of this country have turned their backs on a democratic system which they feel has so little credibility and is so unresponsive”.

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Andijan amnesia? India to train Uzbek army with British “observers” present

Earlier this year, the scandal-hit British government was embarrassed by revelations that UK troops had trained the Uzbek army in “marksmanship” months before they gunned down more than 700 peaceful demonstrators in the now-infamous Andijan massacre. Now, Eurasia reports, British army officers are to “observe” (one of life’s great military euphemisms) the training of Uzbek soldiers by the Indian army.

An international delegation of officers from the Israeli and British armies is expected to observe the training of the Uzbek personnel. Officials within the Ministry of Defense in Tashkent hope that not only will such training herald a deeper security relationship with India, but will also remind Western observers of the needs still facing the Uzbek security structures, as well as conveying the political message that Tashkent can secure alternative sources of security assistance.

From Eurasia Daily Monitor

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Council of Europe backs calls for Shannon flights probe

From Ireland Online

Europe’s leading human rights body has backed calls for the Irish Government to mount a formal investigation of US military landings at Shannon Airport.

The call comes amid on-going controversy over the US “extraordinary rendition” programme that sees the CIA transporting suspected Islamic militants to secret interrogation centres around the world.

Several people detained under the programme have turned out to be innocent after allegedly being tortured for months in countries like Saudi Arabia and Syria.

Critics claim the CIA is effectively “outsourcing” torture because the practice is banned under US law.

Irish peace activists say planes involved in the programme have landed at Shannon on numerous occasions, but the Irish Government says it accepts US assurances that no prisoners were on board any of the flights.

The Irish Human Rights Commission has said the Government has a duty to conduct a proper investigation rather than simply accepting such assurances.

The 46-nation Council of Europe, set up to safeguard human rights and democracy on the continent, has now backed this stance, saying the issue should concern all Irish people.

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Whitehall unconfidential: the censors are on the run

The Guardian writes on how powerless Tony Blair has become to stem a tide of embarrassing disclosures, including the Tashkent Telegrams.

“Another renegade ex-ambassador, Craig Murray – forced out of his job in Uzbekistan for objecting to British/US complicity in torture – is defying the same act with impunity. Over the New Year, he published on his website many classified Foreign Office telegrams and, in a modern touch, has ensured their circulation to more than 4,000 bloggers.”

By David Leigh in The Guardian

A series of important battles is going on between the prime minister’s men and a growing number of more junior officials over who is allowed to censor whom. Censorship attempts always have their funny side. Everyone had quite a laugh last year when Lance Price, the one-time spin doctor, defiantly published his diary entry saying that “we are devising a glasses strategy”. The short-sighted premier’s new specs were to be laid “accidentally” on his desk and a friendly profile-writer allowed to spot them. But Blair wanted Calvin Kleins, while Alastair Campbell thought an NHS pair would play better. Sir Gus O’Donnell, the cabinet secretary, subsequently pronounced of these disclosures: “Making money out of private conversations is wrong” – which, considering the circumstances, was even more amusing.

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