Daily archives: September 20, 2006

Military Families Peace Camp Goes Ahead

The Labour Council in Manchester had previously sought to ban the peace camp planned for this coming weekend.

From Military Families Against the War

‘Rose Gentle and Peter Brierley are pleased to announce that the Peace

Camp in Central Manchester will go ahead as planned.

The Camp will start at 3pm on Thursday 21st September and run until the beginning of the Stop the War demonstration on the 23rd. The venue for the Camp will be the Peace Gardens, St Peters Square, thanks to an agreement with Manchester City Council.

This is within sight of the Tony Blair’s luxury hotel. For over two

years now families of servicemen killed in Iraq have been seeking a

meeting with the Prime Minister. The Camp is part of their campaign.

Rose and Peter said today, ‘we would like to thank the people of

Manchester for all the support we have received from them. They have

shown to us that Manchester is truly a city of peace and we look forward to welcoming all those who wish to visit us at the Camp.’

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British soldiers tortured Iraqi civillian to death: One pleads guilty to war crimes as case continues

The court heard yesterday that captive Iraqis were beaten with iron bars, kicked, starved, and forced to drink their own urine during a catalogue of abuse which led to the death of one prisoner.

British soldier is first to admit war crime

From The Independent

A British soldier has become the first person to plead guilty to war crimes. Cpl Donald Payne admitted inhumanely treating civilians in Basra four months after the official end of the war.

But Cpl Payne, 35, formerly of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, now of the renamed Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and perverting the course of justice at the start of the first court martial of British troops accused of war crimes under the International Criminal Court Act (ICCA) 2001.

The court heard yesterday that captive Iraqis were beaten with iron bars, kicked, starved, and forced to drink their own urine during a catalogue of abuse which led to the death of one prisoner.

The dead man, Baha Mousa, 26, had 93 injuries to his body. Two other Iraqis were severely wounded in the “systematic mistreatment” meted out to them in 36 hours of incarceration, the hearing was told.

Cpl Payne’s six co-defendants pleaded not guilty to crimes relating to the death of Mr Mousa.

Among the seven soldiers in the dock in connection with the death and the alleged assaults is the most senior officer to face charges over Iraq war, Colonel Jorge Mendonca, who is accused of negligence in performing his duties by failing the halt the ill-treatment by his men.

The Military Court Centre, at Bulford Camp on Salisbury Plain, heard that the beating of the prisoners took place “for no apparent reason, sometimes, it seems, for the entertainment of others” among the British contingent.

Julian Bevan QC, for the prosecution, told the court that the case against the seven defendants centred on the alleged ill-treatment received by Iraqi civilians held for a period of about 36 hours at a temporary detention facility in Basra on 14 and 15 September 2003.


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Bush War Crimes Commission: The final verdict


An extract from the introduction is posted below:

The extraordinary Commission of Inquiry convened to consider charges that the President George W. Bush and his administration have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity has now reached a verdict: Guilty.

On wars of aggression, illegal detention and torture, suppression of science and catastrophic policies on global warming, potentially genocidal abstinence-only policies imposed on HIV/AIDS prevention programs in the Third World, and the abandonment of New Orleans before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush and his administration have been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

This verdict comes at crucial moment. As Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, emphasized at the Commission hearings: ‘We want this trial to be a step in the building of mass resistance to war, to torture, to the destruction of earth and its people. It’s a serious moment. . . . We still have a chance, an opportunity to stop this slide into chaos. But it is up to us. We must not sit with our arms folded, and we must be as radical as the reality we are facing.’

Acts of the Bush Administration have continued to reinforce this assessment. The crimes cited in the indictments have continued. We have witnessed a continuing onslaught of horrors in Iraq from the massacres in Haditha and Mahmudiya to the exposure of rapes and murders by U.S. forces. Torture continues at secret overseas sites. New Orleans still lies in ruins, much of its Black population ‘resettled.’ New evidence concerning the deadly impact of U.S. AIDS policy in Africa has come to light. New crimes have been committed such as the destruction of Lebanon with U.S. weapons and backing. And now even more serious crimes loom with open threats to launch a new war of aggression on Iran. This administration has flouted and defied the Geneva Conventions. It has arrogated to itself the right to suspend habeas corpus, engage in mass warrantless searches, and defines the powers of the ‘commander-in-chief’ to be above the law. Bush’s Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, has sought to legitimize torture and exempt those who employ torture from prosecution.

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Canada: Arar report exposes RCMP, government officials complicit in torture

From Amnesty International

Ottawa ‘ Justice Dennis O’Connor has confirmed the worst fears of Organizations with Intervenor Status at the Arar Inquiry: that Canadian officials were complicit in the torture of Maher Arar and other Canadian citizens.

‘Justice O’Connor has documented in astonishing detail how the very officials tasked with protecting the rights of these Canadian citizens failed to live up to that responsibility, and worse yet, were directly involved in passing on questions for interrogations where torture would be used,’ said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.

The report details the callous disregard for the very real likelihood that government actions would directly contribute to the torture of these Canadian citizens. In particular, there is chilling reference to an October 10, 2002 memo in which a Foreign Affairs official warns that a decision to send a line of questioning about Abdullah Almalki to Syrian security agencies might ‘involve torture.’ The RCMP chose to ignore the concern and proceeded anyway:

‘The RCMP are ready to send their Syrian counterparts a request that Al Malki be asked questions posed by the RCMP, questions relating to other members of his organization. Both ISI and DMSCUS/HOM [Ambassador Pillarella] have pointed out to the RCMP that such questioning may involve torture. The RCMP are aware of this but have nonetheless decided to send their request’ (Report of the Events Relating to Maher Arar: Analysis and Recommendations, page 209).

Intervenors welcome Justice O’Connor’s recommendation that a further process of ‘independent and credible’ review into the cases of Mr. Abdullah Almalki, Mr. Ahmad El Maati and Mr. Muayyed Nureddin be instituted (Analysis and Recommendations, page 278), and urge the government to act on this recommendation without further delay. These men have waited far too long for answers and accountability.

Organizations intervening at the Arar Commission are also pleased that Justice O’Connor says that his Interim Report should remove any ‘taint or suspicion’ that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or constitutes any threat to the security of Canada (Anaylsis and Recommendations, page 59).

Justice O’Connor is also clearly of the view that Mr. Arar is entitled to compensation and has encouraged the Canadian government to be flexible in how that compensation should be assessed, recognizing the suffering he has been through, the damage of the improper and unfair leaks, his difficulty in finding employment and the impact of the inquiry itself. Justice O’Connor has also signaled that an apology might be appropriate (Analysis and Recommendations, page 362-363).

‘The report offers a staggering catalogue of deficiencies, mistakes and even deliberate wrongdoing, all of which laid the ground for the severe abuses suffered by Mr. Arar and the other three men named in this report,’ said Neve.

Those responsible should be held accountable and the reforms recommended by Justice O’Connor should be immediately implemented in order to guard against future repeats of these tragedies.

Justice O’Connor has also recommended that Canadian agencies involved in national security investigations implement written policies prohibiting racial, religious or ethnic profiling, and training to sensitize those agencies to the realities of Canada’s Muslim and Arab communities. Intervenors urge the government to prioritize the implementation of these recommendations.

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Guantanamo’s Catch-22

By Moazzem Begg in the Herald Tribune

Moazzam Begg is a British Muslim who spent three years in U.S. detention, including two years at Guantanamo before being released in 2005.

A few months ago, I was approached by U.S. military defense attorneys, something I have grown increasingly accustomed to since my release from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

The request wasn’t from lawyers defending Guantanamo detainees. The defendant was a soldier facing several charges, including detainee abuse at a U.S. detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan. Some of the events surrounding these allegations coincided with my time there during 2002. I’d spoken to members of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command and internal investigation officers who were trying to build a case against other soldiers. So it came as a surprise when lawyers asked me if I would consider being a defense witness.

The then specialist, Damien Corsetti, didn’t mistreat me. He never interrogated me and he always passed by my cage with a smile, often stopping to talk. He even gave me books at a time when they were hard to come by. One of the books, ironically, Heller’s “Catch-22,” is described as “the classic antiwar novel of our time.” I was even allowed to bring it with me to England, where it remains on my bookshelf, next to another book from U.S. soldiers: a military issue of the Bible, in full camouflage jacket.

I often found myself discussing religion with guards and interrogators, some of whom were Christian Evangelists or Southern Baptists. I thought it important to try to explain similarities between the Bible and the Koran, as well as looking at the fundamental differences in belief and perception. Perhaps, I thought, it might help some of my captors appreciate that we all held things sacred.

Last year, when Newsweek published a report alleging the desecration of the Koran by guards in Guant’namo, I was surprised – surprised that the article had materialized so late. Many former prisoners had complained about the abuse well before, including me. However, my personal analysis of the affair was simple: The Koran may be the sacred, unadulterated speech of the Almighty to me and 1.6 billion other Muslims, but to the average soldier it is paper and ink. If, in his or her mind, it was justified to redefine the rules of engagement to include the application of torture then what of a mere book?

A Saudi still in Guantanamo, Ahmed al-Darbi, told me in Bagram that Corsetti had taken out his penis, threatened to rape him and, while pointing to his manhood, screamed, “This is your God!” I have since learned that Corsetti was called “King of Torture” by his fellow soldiers.

Darbi’s allegations were not upheld in court, so my testimony was not required. Oddly enough, there was a time when I was facing my own possible military commission, in which I intended to call U.S. soldiers as defense witnesses. I encountered hundreds of them during my years in captivity. I made friends with some of them, too. Paradoxically, some of these soldiers helped me face the years of isolation and despair as my only friends. One of them was Corsetti.

In his defense, Corsetti’s lawyer is reported to have said: “The president of the United States doesn’t know what the rules are. The secretary of defense doesn’t know what the rules are. But the government expects this Pfc. [private first class] to know what the rules are?”

Corsetti cannot escape culpability by this argument. But it does suggest that responsibility stretches higher up the chain of command. Meanwhile, we continue to pay the price because nobody knows what the rules are.

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