Monthly Archives: April 2006


European Inquiry Says C.I.A. Flew 1,000 Flights in Secret

From the New York Times

BRUSSELS, April 26 ‘ Investigators for the European Parliament said Wednesday that data gathered from air safety regulators and others found that the Central Intelligence Agency had flown 1,000 undeclared flights over European territory since 2001.

Sometimes the planes stopped to pick up terrorism suspects who had been kidnapped to take them to countries that use torture, the investigators added.

The operation used the same American agents and the same planes over and over, they said, though they could not say how many flights involved the transport of suspects.

The investigation, by a committee looking into C.I.A. counterterrorism activities in Europe, also concluded that European countries, including Italy, Sweden and Bosnia and Herzegovina, were aware of the abductions or transfers and therefore might have been complicit.

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EU Parliament enquiry whitewash?

From the New York Times

BRUSSELS, April 20 ‘ The European Union’s antiterrorism chief told a hearing on Thursday that he had not been able to prove that secret C.I.A. prisons existed in Europe.

“We’ve heard all kinds of allegations,” the official, Gijs de Vries, said before a committee of the European Parliament. “It does not appear to be proven beyond reasonable doubt.”

But Mr. de Vries came under criticism from some legislators who called the hearing a whitewash. Kathalijne Buitenweg, a Dutch member of Parliament from the Green Party, said that even without definitive proof, “the circumstantial evidence is stunning.”

“I’m appalled that we keep calling to uphold human rights while pretending that these rendition centers don’t exist and doing nothing about it,” she said.

Many European nations were outraged after an article in The Washington Post in November cited unidentified intelligence officials as saying that the C.I.A. had maintained detention centers for terrorism suspects in eight countries, including some in Eastern Europe. A later report by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch cited Poland and Romania as two of the countries.

Both countries, as well as others in Europe, have denied the allegations. But the issue has inflamed trans-Atlantic tensions.

Mr. de Vries said the European Parliament investigation had not uncovered rights abuses despite more than 50 hours of testimony by rights advocates and people who say they were abducted by C.I.A. agents. A similar investigation by the Council of Europe, the European human rights agency, came to the same conclusion in January ‘ though the leader of that inquiry, Dick Marty, a Swiss senator, said then that there were enough “indications” to justify continuing the investigation.

A number of legislators on Thursday challenged Mr. de Vries for not taking seriously earlier testimony before the committee of a German and a Canadian who gave accounts of being kidnapped and kept imprisoned by foreign agents.

The committee also heard Thursday from a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who said: “I can attest to the willingness of the U.S. and the U.K. to obtain intelligence that was got under torture in Uzbekistan. If they were not willing, then rendition prisons could not have existed.” But Mr. Murray, who was recalled from his job in 2004 after condemning the Uzbek authorities and criticizing the British and American governments, told the committee that he had no proof that detention centers existed within Europe.

He said he had witnessed such rendition programs in Uzbekistan, but he seemed to back up Mr. de Vries’s assertion when he said he was not aware of anyone being taken to Uzbekistan from Europe. “As far as I know, that never happened,” he said.

While he was ambassador, Mr. Murray made many public statements condemning the government of President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan for its poor human rights record.

At the time, the Bush administration was using Uzbekistan as a base for military operations in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Murray, who has remained an outspoken critic of American and British policy toward Uzbekistan, has since been criticized by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain for breaching diplomatic protocol.

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Diplomat: US, UK used torture information

From ISN

ISN SECURITY WATCH (Monday, 24 April 2006: 6.00 CET)

Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has told European Parliament that British and US intelligence services had used information related to the “war on terror” obtained from tortured suspects.

“Under the UK-US intelligence sharing agreement the US and UK have taken a policy decision that they will get testimonies obtained under torture in third countries. I say that with regret and with certainty,” the Brussels-based Dtt-Net.com news agency quoted Murray as telling European lawmakers on Thursday.

The European Parliament is investigating allegations that the CIA used European airbases to transfer terror suspects to countries where they could be tortured. The Council of Europe has already concluded that the CIA flights took place with the tacit approval of EU governments.

Murray said he saw “evidence of scores of cases of torture in Uzbekistan”, including people boiled to death, photos of serious injuries, mutilation of genitals, rape of individual in front of their relatives “until they would sign a confession”.

He said the CIA and MI6 did not participate in the interrogations, but did share information obtained from them.

Murray served as ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004.

He told European parliamentarians that he had shared his concerns with the British Foreign Office, but the conclusion was reached that “we should continue to receive intelligence material obtained from confessions under torture and that this would not contravene the UN Convention against Torture”.

According to Dtt.net.com, Murray said Foreign Office legal advisor Michael Wood replied in a letter that the UN Convention against torture only forbids information obtained under torture “to be invoked as evidence in any proceedings”.

“In this way, the British formal position can be maintained when they say ‘we do not condone, use or instigate torture’,” Murray was quoted as saying.

Murray was forced to leave his post in 2004 after condemning Uzbek authorities for their poor human rights record. As ambassador to Uzbekistan, Murray had also been a vocal critic of the British and US for what he said amounted to ignoring corruption and brutality in the former Soviet republic.

Murray’s protests led him to leave the civil service.

The former ambassador said these events left a “lack of credibility of the intelligence material obtained, intended to paint the false picture that Uzbekistan opposition people were linked to al-Qaida and bin Laden”.

Regarding reports of CIA secret detention centers in Eastern Europe, Murray said he had no evidence of their existence.

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Germany Accused of Accepting Information Gained Under Torture

From Deutche Weller

A former British ambassador to Uzbekistan turned up the heat on Germany Thursday when he told a European Parliament committee that Germany had received information “most certainly obtained under torture” in Uzbekistan.

The allegations emerged when the European Parliament committee, currently investigating allegations of CIA human rights abuses made last year by human rights groups and the media, questioned former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray.

Murray’s 21-year diplomatic career came to an end two years ago, when he accused the United States and Britain of endorsing torture by using confessions obtained through torture from prisoners in Uzbekistan.

Speaking in Brussels Thursday, Murray reiterated that the CIA transported prisoners from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan to obtain confessions in former Soviet jails by using torture.

The US has acknowledged secret renditions but has denied endorsing torture.

Asked about allegations of secret flights operated by the CIA from Europe, Murray said he had no evidence proving flights from EU countries but categorically knew that flights had transported ethnic Uzbeks from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan.

Murray went on to claim that the German secret service worked in close proximity with the Uzbeks and continues to do so, stressing that he had no doubt that Germany used information “most certainly obtained under torture,” by the Uzbek secret service, and insisting that he had seen with his own eyes prisoners who had clearly been victims of brutal mistreatment.

As far as he knew, neither Americans not Europeans were actually present during torture sessions, but the information elicited was passed on both to the CIA and Britain’s MI6.

Asked by the committee at the European Parliament who, apart from the CIA and MI6, had been working together with Uzbekistan, Murray replied that the only embassy with which the Uzbeks have had full co-operation was the German embassy.

He also said he had the impression that many officials at the German embassy were very concerned by the co-operation, a conclusion he reached after “private conversations,” which he was not prepared to discuss with the committee.

German parliamentarians have demanded an immediate investigation into Murray’s claims, with one member of parliament for the Green party, Hans-Christian Str’bele, also advising that the enquiry should take place in the public eye.

Wolfang Kreissl-D’rfler of the SPD party, says that Murray’s claims raised serious questions that demanded answers.

The European Parliament’s committee has heard several cases by alleged victims of CIA secret flights. One such victim was the German citizen Khaled Al-Masri, who was flown to Afghanistan and held for several months as a terrorist suspect by the United States.

The European Union’s anti-terrorism co-ordinator says that there is no proof yet that the CIA organised secret flights and ran detention centers for terror suspects. But a group of EU lawmakers is set to travel to Washington DC in May to meet with the CIA chief Porter Goss and further investigate the allegations.

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West used information secured under torture, ex-diplomat says

From EU Observer (20.04.06)

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – A British former envoy to Uzbekistan has revealed that western secret services obtained intelligence secured under torture from foreign detainees, with MEPs criticising the EU anti-terror coordinator for spinelessness.

Speaking before the European Parliament’s temporary committee on CIA activities in Europe on Thursday (20 April), Craig Murray said that UK intelligence had obtained information from detainees tortured by Uzbek security forces. He alerted British foreign minister, Jack Straw, of the methods used by Uzbek intelligence as far back as 2003.

“There is a plenty of evidence about torture carried out in Uzbekistan and I know that foreign minister Jack Straw officially approved using the information obtained through torture,” Mr Murray said, citing a secret report from a meeting held on 3 March 2003.

The German secret service was also cooperating very closely with its Uzbek counterpart, he added, while Britain and the US had taken a policy decision to obtain intelligence under torture in other countries as well.

“I say this with great pain but with absolute certainty,” the ex-ambassador stated.

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Blair’s hopes of surviving until 2008 may rest on local elections

From The Independent

The local elections on 4 May could have a big impact on national politics and will provide a test for the leaders of all three main parties.

For Tony Blair, the battle for control of England’s town halls will be the most important local contest since he became Labour leader in 1994. The results could decide whether his party allows him to remain Prime Minister until 2008 as he apparently wishes.

Also see previous post on strategic voting in London

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Jack Straw on banning the publication of political memoirs

MINUTES OF EVIDENCE, PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION select COMMITTEE

(UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 689 – v)

Wednesday 29 March 2006

Q452 Mr Prentice: Craig Murray says that because you have an interest in all these matters, you should not be the person who has the final say, it should be an independent disinterested body of people. There is some force in that, is there not? If books are being published and they mention Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary, doing this, that or the next thing, it would be better if someone other than Jack Straw decided whether the book should be published?

Witness: Rt Hon Jack Straw, a Member of the House, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, gave evidence.

Q429 Chairman: In that case, let me start off briefly, and I apologise for the fact that we shall be interrupted. When you last came in front of this Committee you were introducing the Freedom of Information legislation and you were the purveyor of openness. My sense is that you have now come as the purveyor of closedness, that is that you take a dim view of these former diplomats and former civil servants who rush into print with their memoirs. How can one approach be reconciled with the other?

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The shooting of de Menezes: inquiry witness on a collision course

From The Guardian

Ever since the shooting dead of an innocent man who was mistaken for a terrorist, Brian Paddick has been on a collision course with the leadership of his own force. Soon after the police killing of Jean Charles de Menezes on July 22 2005, persistent allegations surfaced from within the Metropolitan police that senior officers feared within hours that the wrong man had been killed.

Within police circles, the name of Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick kept coming up as someone who might have information challenging the assertion by his boss, Sir Ian Blair, that the force was unaware for 24 hours of its fatal blunder. Investigators from the Independent Police Complaints Commission interviewed a series of senior officers, including Mr Paddick, about what they knew, and when.

Some inside the force see the decision by Met bosses to try and move Mr Paddick from his job in territorial policing as punishment for his testimony to the investigation. One senior officer said: “This is retaliation for his statement to the IPCC.” Other senior colleagues will dismiss any linkage.

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Stop in the name of the law

From The International Herald Tribune

Maher Arar, a wireless technology consultant and a Canadian citizen of Syrian origin, goes on holiday with his family to Tunisia. On his way home to Canada he transits via New York’s JFK airport. There, he is detained by U.S. officials and interrogated about alleged links to Al Qaeda. Twelve days later, he finds himself chained, shackled and flown aboard a private plane to Jordan and from there transferred to a Syrian prison.

In Syria, he is held in a tiny grave-like cell for 10 months and 10 days before he is moved to a better cell in a different prison. He is beaten, tortured and forced to make a false confession.

This is “extraordinary rendition” – the unlawful transfer of people from one country to another. It is part of the Bush administration’s “war on terror,” with other governments turning a blind eye.

Planes associated with rendition flights have landed and taken off from dozens of destinations around the world, including Britain, Germany, Jordan, Afghanistan and Albania. Flight logs and airport records show that nearly 1,000 flights directly linked to the CIA have used European airspace.

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RAF doctor: I had no choice but to refuse Iraq duty

From The Guardian

A Royal Air Force doctor who refused to be sent to Iraq after arguing that the conflict was illegal today pleaded not guilty to five charges of failing to comply with orders at a court martial.

Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, 37, said he had studied the judicial advice given to the prime minister, Tony Blair, ahead of the war and other reports about its legality before making his decision.

“As a commissioned officer I am required to consider each and every order that is given to me and I am required to consider the legality of each order in domestic and international law,” Flt Lt Kendall-Smith said in a statement to police last year.

“I have satisfied myself that the actions of the armed forces in Iraq were in fact unlawful, as was the conflict,” he said. “I believe that the current occupation of Iraq is an illegal act and for me to comply with an act which is illegal would put me in conflict with both domestic and international law.

“I have two great loves; medicine and the RAF. To take the decision I have taken saddens me greatly but I feel I have no choice.”

Prosecutors insist that Flt Lt Kendall-Smith’s defence is irrelevant. Opening the prosecution case, David Perry told the court martial in Aldershot, Hampshire, that Flt Lt Kendall-Smith, who has joint British-New Zealand nationality, had applied for early release from the RAF a month before his alleged refusal to carry out orders.

“The background to this case appears to be a sense of grievance felt by the defendant, firstly that he could not immediately resign from the RAF, and secondly that he remained eligible for deployment overseas,” Mr Perry said.

After handing in a letter of resignation in May last year, Flt Lt Kendall-Smith was told by his commanding officer that medical officers applying for early release normally had to wait about a year to leave the RAF. Later that month he was told he would be going to Iraq, the court heard.

Mr Perry said the prosecution’s case was also that the orders given to Flt Lt Kendall-Smith dated from June last year, by which point British forces were in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government, meaning their deployment could not be illegal.

Additionally, it was not Flt Lt Kendall-Smith’s responsibility to judge the legality of orders given to him, Mr Perry said.

At a pre-trial hearing last month, Judge John Bayliss ruled that at the time of the doctor’s refusal to go to Iraq, British forces had full justification to be there under UN resolutions.

The charges faced by the doctor allege he failed to comply with five lawful orders in June and July last year related to his departure for Iraq and preparations for it, such as weapons training and a helmet fitting.

The principles of the Nuremberg Charter provide the underpinning to parts of the defence case and can be read here

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Plans for Iran attack go nuclear?

Seymour Hersh publishes today in the New Yorker on the Bush adminstrations plans for war on Iran and the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons.

The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups….

A BBC interview with Seymour Hersh, in which he comments on the importance of Blair in facilitating a possible attack, can also be heard here

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Abducted imam seeks return to Italy

From ANSA.it

Lawyer confirms Abu Omar is in Egyptian jail

(ANSA) – Cairo, April 7 – A Muslim cleric allegedly kidnapped by the CIA in Milan in 2003 has asked authorities in Egypt, where he is incarcerated, to be allowed to return to Italy .

Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, who is usually known as Abu Omar, claims he has Italian citizenship and has requested legal assistance from Italy, his Egyptian lawyer Montasser el Zayat told ANSA .

Abu Omar, the former imam of Milan’s main mosque, lived in the northern city with his Albanian wife and their two children until disappearing mysteriously on February 17, 2003. At the time he was being probed by Milan prosecutors for suspected links to international terrorism .

Prosecutors say he was abducted by the CIA as part of its covert program – called ‘extraordinary rendition’ – in which suspected terrorists are transferred without court approval to third countries for interrogation .

Although Abu Omar has long been assumed to be in Egypt, this was only confirmed in recent days, when Cairo daily El Masri el Yom cited Egyptian security sources as saying that he was currently being interrogated.

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Germany’s dialogue with the Uzbek regime: a disgrace for German democracy

In light of recent developments in Germany we are reposting this article from March.

This is an excellent article from Galima Burkabaeva, which deserves to be studied.

I was continually stunned by the enthusiasm of the cooperation of German officials and Ministers with the Uzbek regime. This even included Joschka Fischer, the most sycophantic of all politicians to regularly visit Tashkent.

The British consultant and former Liberal MP Michael Meadowcroft was kicked off a German-led, EU funded consultancy programme with the Uzbek parliament for pointing out that this was a token parliament (it meets five days a year) in a one party state. The rest of the consultants were all German and seemed to have no problem at all with this. Michael pointed out to me that they were all Russian speaking East Germans. That is indeed true of most of the Germans in Tashkent in official persons, particularly in the German aid agency..

When the EU brought in travel sanctions against Uzbekistan, on the very day those sanctions came into force Germany admitted Uzbek Interior Minister Almatov, the first name on the EU banned list, for medical treatment organised by the German government.

The German Air Base at Termez is of great symbolic significance to Germany because it is the first permanent overseas base Germany established since the Second World War. How fitting then that it should be sited with a fascist regime.

I am very reluctant indeed to conclude this, but I can no longer think of any other explanation for the attitude of German politicians and officials to Karimov, except that the German establishment retains a hereditary yearning for fascism.

Craig

Germany’s dialogue with the Uzbek regime: a disgrace for German democracy

From Muslim Uzbekistan

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Guantanamo detainee claims he was handed over by the US to Morocco for torture

From The Guardian

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) – Binyam Muhammad, who has been accused of plotting al-Qaida attacks in the United States, was tortured with a scalpel after American authorities handed him over to Moroccan interrogators, according to an account provided by his lawyer.

Muhammad made his first appearance in the U.S. military courtroom in Guantanamo Bay on Thursday, charged with conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders to attack civilians and other crimes.

Wearing a long, orange collarless shirt and a black skullcap, the 27-year-old detainee told the judge that he has been tortured. He criticized U.S. authorities for getting his name wrong, claimed he was not the person they sought and bitterly suggested the court refer to him as Count Dracula.

“After four years of torture and rendition, you have the wrong person in the stand,” Muhammad said. Military documents spell his name variously as Muhammad and Mohammad. The judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, told Muhammad it was the prosecutor’s job to establish his identity during trial.

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Germany: Prosecutor Denies Uzbek Victims Justice

From Human Rights Watch

Almatov Decision Hurts Berlin’s Reputation

(Berlin, April 6, 2006) ‘ The decision by Germany’s federal prosecutor not to open an investigation against former Uzbek Minister of Interior Zokirjon Almatov for crimes against humanity will be challenged by Human Rights Watch. The prosecutor’s decision is a blow for victims in Uzbekistan and damages Germany’s reputation as a principled leader on behalf of international justice, Human Rights Watch said today.

On December 12, 2005, eight Uzbek victims of abuses, accompanied by Human Rights Watch, submitted a complaint against Almatov to the German federal prosecutor. They asked the prosecutor to open a criminal investigation against Almatov and 11 other Uzbek government officials for crimes against humanity related to the massacre of hundreds of unarmed citizens on May 13, 2005 in the eastern city of Andijan, and for the widespread and systematic use of torture. Almatov commanded the troops that bore primary responsibility for the mass killings in Andijan and, as interior minister, also oversaw Uzbek prisons and pre-trial detention facilities, where torture is routine. Four of the plaintiffs are victims of the Andijan massacre and four are victims of torture.

‘These victims have suffered horrific crimes and turned to Germany for the justice they could never find at home,’ said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director of Human Rights Watch. ‘It took tremendous courage for the victims to bring this case, so it is particularly disappointing that Germany has let them down.’

On March 31, 2006, Federal Prosecutor Kay Nehm issued his decision not to go forward with an investigation against Almatov, arguing that the likelihood of a successful investigation and prosecution was ‘non-existent,’ given that Uzbekistan was unlikely to cooperate and an investigation in Uzbekistan would be necessary. The prosecutor apparently gave little weight to the fact that hundreds of victims and potential witnesses now live outside Uzbekistan, including in Germany, Romania, Holland, and Sweden.

What is more, the prosecutor appears not to have considered that he could interview international witnesses such as the former U.K. ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, or the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Theo van Boven, who had declared their willingness to serve as witnesses in the case. As special rapporteur, van Boven issued a report in 2003 documenting the systematic nature of torture in Uzbekistan.

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Canadian juvenile boycotts Guantanamo trial

From BBC Online

A Canadian teenager accused of killing a US soldier in Afghanistan has told a Guantanamo Bay tribunal he will boycott his trial, claiming unfair treatment. Omar Khadar told a pre-trial hearing he had been kept in solitary confinement and said he would not participate until he was “treated humanely and fair”.

The 19-year-old’s defence lawyer argued the military trial rules were unclear and not based on any legal framework.

Mr Khadr is one of 10 Guantanamo detainees charged with war crimes.

“I am boycotting these procedures until I am treated humanely and fairly,” Mr Khadr said, adding he had been held in solitary confinement since 30 March.

An angry exchange followed between his defence lawyer, Lt Col Colby Vokey, and the military officer presiding over the tribunal. He complained that his client was being treated unfairly and that the conditions at the prison and the tribunal’s procedures undermined the defence team’s ability to carry out its work.

Lt Col Vokey said just as he was trying to prepare his client’s case, “they move him to solitary confinement for no apparent reason whatsoever”.

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