Daily Archives: February 27, 2006


A green light for torture

From the International Herald Tribune

The Bush administration’s tendency to dodge accountability for lawless actions by resorting to secrecy and claims of national security is on sharp display in the case of a Syrian- born Canadian, Maher Arar, who spent months under torture because of U.S. action. A federal trial judge in Brooklyn has refused to stand up to the executive branch, in a decision that is both chilling and ripe for prompt overturning.

Arar, 35, a software engineer, was detained at New York’s Kennedy Airport in 2002 while on his way home from a family vacation. He was held in solitary confinement in a Brooklyn detention center and interrogated without proper access to legal counsel. Finally, he was shipped off to a Syrian prison. There, he was held for 10 months in a rat-infested underground dungeon and brutally tortured because officials suspected that he was a member of Al Qaeda. All this was part of a morally and legally unsupportable U.S. practice known as “extraordinary rendition,” in which the federal government outsources interrogations to regimes known to use torture and lacking fundamental human rights protections.

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Director Options Dismissed U.K. Diplomat’s Book

From OhMy News

Director Michael Winterbottom has taken an option on “Murder in Samarkand,” the forthcoming book by Craig Murray, a former ambassador to Uzbekistan, detailing his dismissal in October 2004 “after exposing appalling human rights abuses by the U.S.-funded regime of President Islam Karimov,” according to the publisher.

Winterbottom’s most recent film “The Road to Guantanamo” won the Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and will soon be shown in the U.K. on Channel 4 television. The new film could take at least a year to develop.

As reported in the Times Online, Murray has no objection to being portrayed in the film by Steve Coogan, better known as a comedian. “There are elements of dark comedy in the story,” says Murray, “and Steve Coogan has shown that he has quite a dramatic range.”

The book is scheduled for publication in June but has not been cleared by the Foreign Office. As reported by Blairwatch, Murray has listed some of the changes made in a version that might have been cleared. These include removing a report on GCHQ telephone intercepts, and making it clear that there is dispute over a reference to Research Analysts being “in tears over pressure brought over claims of Iraqi WMD.”

Richard Stagg, Director General Corporate Affairs, has written to Murray showing four areas of legal reasons to prevent publication. These are defamation, breach of confidence, Crown Copyright and the Official Secrets Act. In a letter of Feb. 9, Murray asks for the passages thought to be defamatory to be identified. Murray repeats his readiness to alter the text.

“The only point still at dispute, is that I have in the text that a member of Research Analysts told me that people in that Department were in tears over pressure put on them to go along with claims of Iraqi WMD. You tell me that the officer, still in your employ, now denies telling me this. I have noted in the book that I say he told me this, and he apparently says he did not tell me this. People can draw their own conclusions. I cannot see why this is such a huge problem for you, or would lead you to want to ban a book.”

Murray then asks why Crown Copyright issues would be any different from the recent memoirs by former British Ambassador to the U.S. Christopher Meyer.

The letter concludes: “Finally, you threaten me with the Official Secrets Act. I am confident I am not breaking it. And if you really want to ask a jury of twelve honest citizens to send me to prison for campaigning against torture, good luck to you.”

Action under the Official Secrets Act may follow publication in June. However, the case on the Al Jazeera memo has been very slow to get to court and no action has been taken against Peter Kilfoyle MP. As reported by Guy Adams in The Independent, Murray is ready for a legal case and would call Foreign Secretary Jack Straw as a witness. In an interview with The Bookseller he said he has “proof that the Government has been obtaining intelligence from torture, and that Jack Straw approved it.”

Any legal action would be taken as there is growing concern about the legality of U.K. government policy and support for the U.S.

In a related story, Dr. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York and formerly a High Court judge in Uganda who fled during the regime of Idi Amin, has called for Guantanamo to be closed. He objects to Tony Blair’s description of Guantanamo as an “anomaly.”

Dr. Sentamu said: “By declaring ‘war on terror’ President Bush is perversely applying the rules of engagement that apply in a war situation. But the prisoners are not being regularly visited by the Red Cross or Red Crescent, which is required by the Geneva Convention. They were not even allowed to be interviewed by the U.N. human rights group.

“In Uganda President Amin did something similar: he did not imprison suspects because he knew that in prison, the law would apply to them so he created special places to keep them. If the Guantanamo Bay detainees were on American soil the law would apply. This is a breach of international law and a blight on the conscience of America.”

Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind recently wrote in the Spectator: “As the use of extraordinary rendition has increased enormously since 2001, the obvious explanation is that the Americans have used British airports and airspace but have stopped requesting permission, and the British authorities have acquiesced. If he wants to clear the matter up, all that Mr. Straw needs to do is ask the United States for an assurance that from now on, no CIA flights landing or refueling at British airports will carry kidnapped prisoners.”

Last weekend an editorial in the Sunday Times concluded “The United States betrays its founding principles if it condones torture. Mr. Bush and Tony Blair shrug off the criticism at home but fail to address the international damage done. We are peppering ourselves with buckshot.”

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