Monthly archives: June 2006

World skeptical over Guantanamo Bay ruling


LONDON – Some saw the beginning of the end for Guantanamo Bay, others a vindication for Europeans who have condemned the U.S. prison camp. Still others saw a toothless ruling that will ultimately make no difference in a climate where they believe Washington is determined to have its way.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military trials for a handful of Guantanamo Bay detainees provoked a range of reactions, from jubilation to deep skepticism.

In immediate terms, the decision will simply force the United States to look for other ways to try some 10 men charged with crimes. But some people saw wider implications – predicting it could force the Bush administration to address the continued detention of about 430 others, many held for more than four years without charge.

“A lot of us remain skeptical of what this decision will actually accomplish because it only applies to the handful of men who have been charged and Bush has not respected past court decisions,” said Moazamm Begg, 37, who was held at Guantanamo for more than two years. “That said, I’m very glad to hear the news and hope it will be the beginning of the end for many of these men.”

The camp has been a delicate diplomatic issue between the United States and Europe, where Britain’s Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith said America had betrayed its own principles of freedom, liberty and justice.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had also called for the camp’s closure. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush’s closest ally in the war against terror, even called the camp an anomaly.


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Blair’s Big Brother Legacy

As the two UK by-election results last night demonstrate, Blair cannot hold on to power for much longer – but just what will his legacy be?

By HENRY PORTER in Vanity Fair

In the guise of fighting terrorism and maintaining public order, Tony Blair’s government has quietly and systematically taken power from Parliament and from the British people. The author charts a nine-year assault on civil liberties that reveals the danger of trading freedom for security’and must have Churchill spinning in his grave.

In the shadow of Winston Churchill’s statue opposite the House of Commons, a rather odd ritual has developed on Sunday afternoons. A small group of people’mostly young and dressed outlandishly’hold a tea party on the grass of Parliament Square. A woman looking very much like Mary Poppins passes plates of frosted cakes and cookies, while other members of the party flourish blank placards or, as they did on the afternoon I was there, attempt a game of cricket.

Sometimes the police move in and arrest the picnickers, but on this occasion the officers stood at a distance, presumably consulting on the question of whether this was a demonstration or a non-demonstration. It is all rather silly and yet in Blair’s Britain there is a kind of nobility in the amateurishness and persistence of the gesture. This collection of oddballs, looking for all the world as if they had stepped out of the Michelangelo Antonioni film Blow-Up, are challenging a new law which says that no one may demonstrate within a kilometer, or a little more than half a mile, of Parliament Square if they have not first acquired written permission from the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. This effectively places the entire center of British government, Whitehall and Trafalgar Square, off-limits to the protesters and marchers who have traditionally brought their grievances to those in power without ever having to ask a policeman’s permission.

The non-demo demo, or tea party, is a legalistic response to the law. If anything is written on the placards, or if someone makes a speech, then he or she is immediately deemed to be in breach of the law and is arrested. The device doesn’t always work. After drinking tea in the square, a man named Mark Barrett was recently convicted of demonstrating. Two other protesters, Milan Rai and Maya Evans, were charged after reading out the names of dead Iraqi civilians at the Cenotaph, Britain’s national war memorial, in Whitehall, a few hundred yards away.

On that dank spring afternoon I looked up at Churchill and reflected that he almost certainly would have approved of these people insisting on their right to demonstrate in front of his beloved Parliament. “If you will not fight for the right,” he once growled, “when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”


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EU members urged to admit to CIA renditions

From The Guardian (June 28, 2006)

‘ States under pressure to come clean on complicity

‘ Rights watchdog proposes new national security laws

More than a dozen European governments yesterday came under severe pressure to own up to their secret services’ role in handing over suspected terrorists to US intelligence after Franco Frattini, the EU justice commissioner, admitted for the first time that European territory had been used for “extraordinary renditions”.

As the Council of Europe, Europe’s leading human rights watchdog, voted to continue its inquiry into CIA secret flights, Terry Davis, the secretary general, proposed laws to control national security services and revised safeguards on the use of civil and military aircraft.

Mr Frattini’s intervention came as parliamentarians voted overwhelmingly to approve a report by Liberal Swiss senator Dick Marty that “named and shamed” 14 European states, including Britain, Germany and Sweden, and watched a video containing direct testimony on secret detention and torture from two survivors.


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Executive house arrest ruled unlawful: Another piece of government legislation proves not-fit-for-purpose

Judge quashes anti-terror orders

From BBC Online

A key plank of the government’s anti-terrorism laws has been dealt a blow by the High Court. A senior judge said control orders made against six men break European human rights laws. Ministers say they will appeal against the ruling.

The orders are imposed on people suspected of terrorism but where there is not enough evidence to go to court. They mean suspects can be tagged, confined to their homes, and banned from communicating with others.

Home secretary

In his ruling, Mr Justice Sullivan said control orders were incompatible with Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which outlaws indefinite detention without trial.

The home secretary had no power to make the orders and they must therefore all be quashed, he said.

Under the control orders restrictions, the suspects have to stay indoors for 18 hours a day, between 4pm and 10am and are not allowed to use mobile phones or the internet. And there are limits on who they can meet.

The judge said the restrictions were “the antithesis of liberty and equivalent to imprisonment”.

“Their liberty to live a normal life within their residences is so curtailed as to be non-existent for all practical purposes,” he said.


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Council of Europe approves anti-rendition resolution

CIA flights ‘must not reoccur’

From BBC Online

CIA flights have landed in European countries, Mr Marty says

Europe’s human rights body has called for steps to ensure terror suspects never again “disappear into thin air” from European soil.

The Council of Europe accused states of colluding with the CIA on secret flights transferring prisoners to third countries where they could be tortured.

It urged governments and parliaments in each state to hold their own inquiries.

The US admits renditions have taken place but denies that people sent overseas are subjected to torture.

“People should not be allowed to disappear into thin air, regardless of the crimes of which they accused,” said Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis.

“If we want to be safe we must be fair.

“The only effective measures against terrorism are those which stop more terrorists than they help to recruit.”


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Benefit event for Flight-Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith

Writer John Pilger is the latest addition to A NIGHT OF CONSCIENCE on Wednesday 28 June for Flight-Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, now serving an eight month sentence in Cheltenham Prison for refusing to fight an illegal war in Iraq.

Tickets are still available for this event which aims to raise funds to help pay the ‘20,000 legal costs imposed on Malcolm. People are coming from all over the country, so moved have they been Malcolm’s refusal to be deployed to Iraq, the first serving officer to do so.

A NIGHT OF CONSCIENCE will be introduced by Tony Benn. Appearing with John Pilger, will be comedians Mark Thomas and Mark Steel, composer Michael Nyman, film director Ken Loach, playwrights David Edgar and Caryl Churchill, actors Simon Callow and Janet Suzman, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and many others from film, stage, television and politics.

Further details can be found here

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BBC parrots Police untruths over rendition protests

Having spent so much energy denying all knowledge of the procession of CIA torture flights passing through UK airports, it was perhaps only natural that the UK government would also seek to deny the existence of the protests against such flights. What’s more surprising is that the BBC seems to be faithfully toeing the party line.

“‘No show’ for rendition protests”, declares today’s BBC headline, claiming that “Demonstrations at Edinburgh and Prestwick failed to materialise.”

“Evidently I hallucinated the whole thing”, says Craig Murray, who joined yesterday’s demonstration at Edinburgh airport. As this report from Indymedia shows, the protest was highly visible, and the Police were well aware that it was going on.

UPDATE – by the magic of the memory hole, the BBC has now corrected its story, but the original has been helpfully archived here.

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Germany: Challenge to Ruling on Uzbek Ex-Minister

“The decision also failed to acknowledge that a number of prominent individuals, including Theo van Boven, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture who visited Uzbekistan in late 2002, and Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Tashkent, had made clear their willingness to serve as witnesses in the case.”

From Human Rights Watch

(Berlin, June 22, 2006) ‘ Germany’s new federal prosecutor should reverse a decision not to open a criminal investigation into former Uzbek Interior Minister Zokir Almatov’s responsibility for crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said in a legal brief challenging the refusal. The new federal prosecutor, Monika Harms, took office this month, succeeding Kay Nehm.

‘This is a unique opportunity to correct an unconscionable decision and show the world that Germany pays more than lip service to international justice,’ said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. ‘The Uzbek victims deserve their day in court, and the new prosecutor can ensure they get it in Germany.’

Prosecutor Nehm’s refusal to investigate came in response to a complaint filed in December 2005 by Uzbek victims of torture and survivors of the May 2005 massacre of unarmed civilians in the Uzbek city of Andijan. Assisted by Human Rights Watch, they asked Germany to invoke its universal jurisdiction laws and pursue a criminal investigation into Almatov’s responsibility for these crimes.


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Titanic Express published today

Titanic Express, a book about the search for truth following a brutal murder in Burundi is published today. Written by Richard Wilson, a long time supporter of the Craig Murray campaign and contributor to this web site, it details his personal experinces following the loss of his sister and his quest to track down her killers.

The book has been reviewed in the Times, Telegraph, and (with a hatfull of errors) the Daily Mail.

For a synopsis and information on online ordering go here.

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‘Why is my sister’s killer feted at peace talks?’

The newly published Titanic Express has been reviewed by a number of papers. We post below a piece from The Telegraph.

By Thomas Harding

The brother of a British voluntary worker killed in an ethnic cleansing campaign in Africa has accused the authorities of appeasing the organisation that he claims was behind the attack.

Charlotte Wilson was among 21 bus passengers who were lined up alongside a road in Burundi in December 2000 and casually raked with gunfire by the Forces for National Liberation, an extremist Christian group.

Agathon Rwasa, the FNL’s leader, is not only at liberty but has been feted in peace talks in neighbouring Tanzania despite leading an organisation whose members have allegedly massacred thousands, including Miss Wilson.

Richard Wilson accused the Foreign Office of “washing its hands” of his sister’s killing and has called for an international arrest warrant to be issued for Rwasa.


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Bosnia confirms illegal handover of Algerians

ISN SECURITY WATCH (Monday, 19 June 2006: 09.48 CET) ‘ Bosnia and Herzegovina formally has acknowledged to the Council of Europe that it allowed US forces to seize six Algerian-born men and transfer them to Guantanamo even after a local court acquitted them due to lack of evidence.

Bosnia is the only one of the council’s 46 members to acknowledge it had breached the European Convention on Human Rights by participating in an extrajudicial seizure of individuals by the US.

The Council of Europe’s human rights committee has accused more than 20 countries of colluding with the CIA’s controversial “extraordinary rendition flights” and secret prisons.

On 7 June, the committee released a report saying that “European states played an active or passive role in the network run by the CIA and were not unwitting victims of the operation.’

The report named Poland and Romania for running secret CIA prison. It also said Germany, Turkey, Spain, and Cyprus were “staging points” for illegal CIA rendition flights. Ireland, Britain, Portugal, Greece, and Italy were named as being “stopovers” for flights involving the illegal transfer of detainees. The report named Sweden, Bosnia, Britain, Macedonia, Germany, and Turkey in connection to illegal CIA activities in relation to specific individual cases.


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The US embassy memo: Why the media silence?

Yesterday we posted an article on the US Iraq Embassy memo, published by the Washington Post, that exposes the mis-match between Bush’s upbeat and misleading assessment and the grim reality on the ground.

Media Matters comments on the striking lack of covergae by mainstream media.

The memo can be read here(PDF)

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US military honoured in secret by Britian

From The Observer

The government has been secretly awarding honours to senior figures in the US military and foreign businessmen with lucrative public sector contracts. The Observer has obtained a Foreign Office list detailing all non-British citizens who have been awarded honours since 2003 – the first time the complete three-year dossier has been released.

It has emerged that Riley Bechtel, billionaire boss of the US-based Bechtel Corporation, which has won big transport and nuclear contracts in Britain and made a fortune from the Iraq war, was secretly awarded a CBE in 2003.

This award has never been made public either by the British government or Bechtel. At the time Jack Straw, now Leader of the House of Commons, was Foreign Secretary. Although there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing, questions are being asked about whether the Foreign Office kept the awards quiet for fear of a political backlash.


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‘Wash Post’ Obtains Shocking Memo from U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Details Increasing Danger and Hardship

By Greg Mitchell in Editor and Publisher

NEW YORK The Washington Post has obtained a cable, marked “sensitive,” that it says show that just before President Bush left on a surprise trip last Monday to the Green Zone in Baghdad for an upbeat assessment of the situation there, “the U.S. Embassy in Iraq painted a starkly different portrait of increasing danger and hardship faced by its Iraqi employees.”

This cable outlines, the Post reported Sunday, “the daily-worsening conditions for those who live outside the heavily guarded international zone: harassment, threats and the employees’ constant fears that their neighbors will discover they work for the U.S. government.”

It’s actually far worse than that, as the details published below indicate, which include references to abductions, threats to women’s rights, and “ethnic cleansing.”

A PDF copy of the cable shows that it was sent to the SecState in Washington, D.C. from “AMEmbassy Baghdad” on June 6. The typed name at the very bottom is Khalilzad — the name of the U.S. Ambassador, though it is not known if this means he wrote the memo or merely approved it.


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Guantanamo and Medical Ethics

From The Jurist

The ongoing detention without trial of over 400 individuals in the US base at Guantanamo Bay has rightly been decried as an ongoing human rights scandal by everyone from Amnesty International to the Vatican. The recent hunger strike and now the suicides of three prisoners have however raised the issue of the medical treatment of the Guantanamo detainees.

Dr. David Nicholl, a neurologist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, says that the recent hunger strike and now suicides by prisoners held by the US at Guantanamo Bay highlight the need to accord the detainees not just due legal process, but also ethical medical treatment…

Go here to read the full article.

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MPs to press ministers on torture claims

From The Guardian

The government will today come under pressure to disclose all it knows about how Benyam Mohammed, a British resident held in Guant?namo Bay, was seized in Pakistan in 2002, and the likelihood that he would be tortured when he was moved to American custody.

Mr Mohammed, 27, is accused of planning al-Qaida attacks. Following his arrest in Pakistan he was flown on a CIA rendition flight to Morocco, where he was allegedly tortured.

The Council of Europe highlighted his case in a report this month in which the UK is accused not only of allowing the use of British airspace and airports, but of providing information used during his torture. Today, the all-party group on extraordinary rendition will hear there is strong prima facie evidence of British involvement in Mr Mohammed’s seizure in Pakistan in 2002 and his subsequent secret transportation to Morocco and Afghanistan before been flown to the US camp in Cuba.

The former foreign secretary Jack Straw, told the Commons foreign affairs committee last year that while in jail in Karachi, Mr Mohammed was interviewed by a member of MI5. Mr Straw said MI5 had no role in his capture or in his transfer from Pakistan. He denied that the officer had noticed any evidence of torture, and said Mr Mohammed had not complained of ill-treatment. However, MPs say the Foreign Office has refused to cooperate with their requests for further information, according to Andrew Tyrie, Tory chairman of the group.


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Victims lose Saudi torture case

The UK Governments position on torture was made clear again earlier this week in a case concerning Britons detained and tortured in Saudi Arabia.

From The Guardian

Four men who were arrested and subjected to “severe torture” in Saudi Arabia today lost their bid to sue those responsible for their treatment. Five law lords unanimously overturned a court of appeal ruling from October 2004 that cleared the way for Sandy Mitchell, Les Walker, Bill Sampson and Ron Jones to claim damages from the Saudi government and its officials.

The Saudi government, supported by the British government, argued its agents were protected by the State Immunity Act 1978 from proceedings in Britain

The four men today said they were “devastated” by the ruling and vowed to take the case to the European court of human rights.

Solicitor Tamsin Allen, who represents Mr Mitchell, Mr Sampson and Mr Walker, said: “The House of Lords have chosen to support the rights of states, including those who torture, over the rights of torture victims.


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Bottled up: why Coke stands accused of being too cosy with the Karimovs

From the Financial Times

“At the heart of the case is the question of what obligations a multinational faces in operating in countries where human rights abuses are common and there are few legal protections.”


14 June 2006

For nearly a decade, Coca-Cola’s bottling plant in Uzbekistan was a shining example of the successful strategy that has seen the company expand into more than 200 countries around the world.

The plant on the outskirts of the capital Tashkent, set up in 1992 and run under a joint venture with ties to the family of Islam Karimov, the Uzbek strongman, was twice selected as Coke’s “bottler of the year” in its Eurasia and Middle East region and was highly profitable, with volume growth of about 10 per cent annually.

But all that began to unravel five years ago, when the marriage between Mansur Maqsudi, Coke’s main partner in the plant, and Gulnora Karimova, the president’s Harvard-educated daughter, fell apart – in recriminations that are still being felt by the couple, their children and the Coca-Cola company.


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Partners in crime: Europe’s role in US renditions

From Amnesty International

Europe’s governments have repeatedly denied their complicity in the US programme of “renditions” ‘ an unlawful practice in which numerous men have been illegally detained and secretly flown to third countries, where they have suffered additional crimes including torture and enforced disappearance.

As evidence of this programme has come to light, however, it has become clear that many European governments have adopted a ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ approach when it comes to rendition flights using their territory and that some states have been implicated in individual cases. These states include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Turkey and EU members Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK.

Without Europe’s help, some men would not now be held without charge or trial, in abusive conditions, in Egypt, Syria and Guant’namo. Without information from European intelligence agencies, some of the men may not have been abducted. Without access to Europe’s airport facilities and airspace, CIA planes would have found it harder to transport their human cargo. In short, Europe has been the USA’s partner in crime.

The impact on both the victims of renditions and their families has been devastating.

At the EU Summit 15-16 June in Brussels leaders of EU states must take a clear and public stance against renditions and at the EU-US Summit 21 June in Vienna they must ensure that the EU reiterate this stance with the USA.

To take action visit here

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