A recent decision to prevent the recording of security interrogation means a return to the norms of the witch trials.
The Israeli government recently made permanent a temporary order – in force for 11 years – that permits the police to avoid documenting security interrogations, Haaretz has reported (Hebrew). Regular criminal interrogations are taped; that will not be the case in matters of suspected security violations. We can safely assume that once the police are allowed not to tape an interrogation, they will not tape it. It saves resources, for starters.
The government’s decision creates a practical distinction between the rights of criminal suspects and security suspects. Criminal suspects have the right to demand, if they are prosecuted, their recorded interrogation which, theoretically, can allow them to prove their confession was forced, or that the description given by the police of what happened in the interrogation room is incorrect. It is a theoretical right because no Israeli court has ever found that such a suspect was tortured – except in very few cases, and almost always after the victims had already been jailed for quite some time.
Security suspects have no such rights. Actually, there will be no independent documentation of their interrogations. The courts will have to take the police’s word for what happened in the interrogation room. This will make it much harder for the accused to prove they were tortured. The problematic history of the police forces prompts a clear conclusion: we will soon have a secret police, whether formal or informal, composed of interrogators whose specialty will be torture.
This has several implications. First, torture leads to more false convictions. It is their function: the torturer is not looking for the truth, he is trying to extract a confession and close the file, and he is indifferent to the question of whether the broken person before him (and breaking a person is what torture is intended to do) is guilty or not. The point of torture, noted Orwell, is torture.
Secondly, such units attract sadists. That the torturer suffers more than the tortured is a myth told to sooth those of anxious conscience. Those sadists will then move on to other positions in the system, taking their unique work ethic with them. Thirdly, the use of torture degenerates the interrogator’s mind. He gets used to thinking that some pain and humiliation will obtain the desired result, and forgets how a true interrogation ought to be carried out. Should one need an example of this process, it is readily available in the abysmal record of the ISA (aka Shin Bet) in fighting Jewish terrorism. If torture is not an option, they can’t get the job done.
Fourth, and most worrying, is the fact that such units tend to expand their activities. The excuse of “public safety” is very wide indeed. After the ISA was denied the right to torture except in the case of “ticking bombs,” there was a dramatic increase in the number of interrogations designated as such – even though the public was never supplied with a full and open description of a single ticking bomb case.
The police – which have for years served as an ISA auxiliary force, with a police interrogator writing down the confession extracted by the ISA officer from a Palestinian detainee as if it was given of his free will – now claims that taping such interrogations may expose “investigative methods.” That’s true. That, however, is also true in the case of criminal investigations. This is the price of the rule of law: it allows the suspect/accused the right to defend himself against the government, and that means that, from time to time, interrogations tricks are exhausted. That’s life. Deal with it. … Full article
- Shabak tortures and ill-treats Palestinian detainees with impunity (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Military court approves illegal interrogation of a minor (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel developed over 100 torture methods against Palestinian prisoners (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- IDF Torturer Wants to Sodomize Arabs and Get Medal for It (disclose.tv)
Afghan and Iraqi Victims of Torture by U.S. Military Seek Justice From International Human Rights Tribunal
After being shut out of U.S. courts, yesterday we filed a case with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on behalf of three Afghans and three Iraqis who were tortured while held by the American military at detention centers in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Pictured above are Sherzad Kamal Khalid, left, and Thahe Mohammed Sabbar, in front of the White House during a visit to the U.S. in November 2005.)
The men are part of a group that in 2005 sued then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and three senior military officials in federal court for their torture and abusive treatment. Because that case was dismissed on immunity grounds before reaching the merits, we are taking their case to the IAHCR, an independent human rights body of the Organization of American States. Our petition, the equivalent of a federal legal complaint, asks the commission to conduct a full investigation into the human rights violations and seeks an apology on behalf of the six men from the U.S. government.
Between 2003 and 2004, the men were imprisoned in U.S.-run detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, where, the petition charges, they were subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment including severe and repeated beatings, cutting with knives, sexual humiliation and assault, mock executions and prolonged restraint in excruciating positions. None of the men were ever charged with a crime.
Because a remedy for these men has been denied in American courts, these courageous men are seeking to hold the U.S. government accountable on the world stage.
One of the victims, Ali Hussein, was only 17 years old when he was detained by the U.S. military in August 2003. He was held for four weeks at Abu Ghraib prison and other locations throughout Iraq. Hussein, who is now a law student, was shot in the neck and back before being arrested. He was denied food, water and pain medication for almost two days after he was shot.. He said that military personnel refused to provide him medical care for several hours, and when the bullets were eventually removed, the procedure was done without anesthetic. You can read more about the abuse that Hussein and the other plaintiffs suffered here.
In a statement yesterday, Hussein said, “I think that I and the many others who suffered unfairly at the hands of the American government deserve justice. We want America to admit that what happened to us was wrong and should never be allowed to happen again to anyone anywhere.”
As our petition highlights, “[t]he U.S. government’s own reports document that the torture and inhumane treatment that the petitioners were subjected to was not an aberration; on the contrary, it was widespread and systemic throughout the U.S.-run detention facilities in the two countries. These same reports also document that the torture and inhumane treatment of detainees were the direct result of policies and practices promulgated and implemented at the highest levels of the U.S. government.
Despite these reports and petitioners’ and other detainees’ credible allegations of torture and inhumane treatment, the U.S. government has failed to conduct any comprehensive criminal investigation, has not held accountable those responsible, and has not provided any form of redress to the petitioners and the many other victims and survivors of U.S. torture and abuse.”
A district court dismissed the federal case, Ali v. Rumsfeld, on the grounds that constitutional protections do not apply to foreigners in U.S. custody in Afghanistan and Iraq and that the American officials were immune from lawsuits stemming from actions taken “within the scope of their official duties.” In his March 2007 ruling, Judge Thomas A. Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia called the case “appalling,” and noted that “the facts alleged in the complaint stand as an indictment of the humanity with which the United States treats its detainees.” The D.C. appeals court upheld the dismissal last June.
The Ali v. Rumsfeld decision is not unique. It is one of several lawsuits in which victims and survivors of torture have been denied their day in American courts. These cases include Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, a lawsuit against a flight logistics company that facilitated CIA “torture flights” across the globe; El-Masri v. Tenet, a lawsuit brought by a man abducted and sent to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan; and Padilla v. Rumsfeld, a lawsuit brought by a U.S. citizen who was unlawfully detained and abused on U.S. soil (this case is currently pending appeal).
Despite U.S. court’s dismissal of these cases, that the United States tortured and abused many men in pursuit of its so-called “war on terror” is not in dispute. As Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who led the U.S. Army’s official investigation into the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal and testified before Congress on his findings in May 2004, has stated publicly: “[t]here is no longer any doubt as to whether the [Bush] Administration committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”
Although, to date, no high-ranking government officials have yet been held to account for their actions, yesterday’s filing with the IACHR seeks to do just that and to ensure that the government respects basic human rights, including the right of everyone to be free from torture and inhumane treatment.
- The Criminal in Chief (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- DOJ Wants American Contractor’s Torture Suit Against Rumsfeld Dismissed (legaltimes.typepad.com)
- Shabak tortures and ill-treats Palestinian detainees with impunity (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Even after January’s landmark Supreme Court decision cast significant doubt on the government’s ability to electronically track a person’s location without a warrant, the Justice Department continues to defend this practice. On Friday, the ACLU, along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, arguing that the government should be required to obtain a warrant based on probable cause before seizing 60 days’ worth of location information generated by an individual’s cell phone.
The appeal by the government comes after a federal district court judge in Texas held that the constitution does indeed require a warrant for such information. As long as a cell phone is turned on, it automatically registers its estimated location with the nearest cell towers as frequently as every seven seconds. This means that every person who uses a cell phone is creating a vast record of personal information, from doctors’ visits to church attendance to visits to friends’ homes.
In our brief, we urge the court to hold that the Fourth Amendment requires the government to obtain a warrant and demonstrate probable cause before obtaining cell phone location data. Most people are unaware that their every movement can be tracked through their phones, and we maintain an expectation that such information will remain private. Cell phone location data, especially data collected over a prolonged period of time, is simply too sensitive to allow the government access without proving to a judge that there’s good reason to believe it will turn up evidence of a crime.
This is the first time in years that a higher court will consider the constitutionality of this issue. By refusing to appeal lower-court decisions where a judge required a warrant, the government has avoided allowing appeals courts to make a ruling.
Unfortunately, the government believes that most people know that their cell phones are generating a near-constant record of their locations and movements, and it argues that individuals cannot reasonably expect that this information will remain private.
The government is wrong. We shouldn’t have to choose between using the modern technology that society has come to rely upon and being able to expect that our private information will remain private. Instead, our brief encourages the court to recognize that when we take our cell phone to the gym or to a political rally, we certainly don’t intend for the government to be following along.
People pray at the Titusville Courthouse on March 18, 2012, in Titusville, Florida, while demanding justice for Trayvon Martin.
Activists in several locations across the southeastern US state of Florida have rallied to demand the arrest of a neighborhood watch captain who has killed an unarmed teenager, Press TV reports.
Protesters on Monday held a demonstration outside the State Attorney’s Office in Sanford, the city in which the shooting took place.
Prosecutors in the office are reportedly to review whether to file criminal charges against George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watch captain.
Zimmerman has reportedly said that he killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager, in self-defense, a claim rejected by the victim’s family.
“A cell phone, his headphone, a pack of skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea was the only thing he had on! I can’t figure out how he’s going for self-defense,” said Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father.
The failure of the police to arrest Zimmerman has sparked a massive fury in America’s Black community, as many say Trayvon was a victim of racial profiling.
Protests were also held on the campus of A&M University of Tallahassee in Florida’s capital.
“Public safety is at risk when citizens like Zimmerman are permitted to take the law into their own hands without being arrested or sufficiently questioned on record,” said members of Florida’s Black Law Students Association Organization.
A number of additional rallies are also planned across the country this week to prompt prosecutors to push charges against Zimmerman.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Honduras on March 6 with a double mission: to quell talk of drug legalization and reinforce the U.S.-sponsored drug war in Central America, and to bolster the presidency of Porfirio Lobo.
The Honduran government issued a statement that during the one-hour closed-door conversation between Biden and Lobo, the vice president “reiterated the U.S. commitment to intensify aid to the government and people of Honduras, and exalted the efforts undertaken and implemented over the past two years by President Lobo.”
In a March 1 press briefing, U.S. National Security Advisor Tony Blinken cited “the tremendous leadership President Lobo has displayed in advancing national reconciliation and democratic and constitutional order.”
You’d think they were talking about a different country from the one we visited just weeks before on a fact-finding mission on violence against women.
What we found was a nation submerged in violence and lawlessness, a president incapable or unwilling to do much about it, and a justice system in shambles.
The crisis in human rights and governance in Honduras has become apparent to the world and is a fact of daily life within the country. In the two years since Lobo came to power in elections boycotted by the opposition, Honduras catapulted into the top spot in the world for per capita homicides — the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Global Homicide Survey found an official murder rate of 82 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010. There were 120 political assassinations in the country in 2010-2011. In the region of Bajo Aguan, where peasants are defending their land from large developers, 42 peasants have been murdered, and alongside 18 journalists, 62 members of the LGBT community, and 72 human rights activists have been killed since 2009. The Honduran Center for Women’s Rights reports that femicides have more than doubled and that more than one woman a day was murdered in 2011.
An Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report on the Honduran coup found at least seven deaths, harassment of opposition members, disproportionate use of force by security forces, thousands of illegal detentions,
systematic violations of political rights and freedom of expression, sexual violence, and other crimes, with almost no investigation or prosecution.
Despite the fact that security forces perpetrated many of these crimes, the response of the Honduran government — with the support of the United States — has been to beef up military presence. One of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, Honduras increased its military expenditure from $63 million in 2005 to $160 million in 2010. The Lobo government justifies the militarization saying that its own police forces can’t be relied on. He told us in a meeting, “We’re working on cleaning up the police but it’s going to take some years. The corruption is deep.”
The impunity with which common criminals, powerful transnational interests, and elements of the state violate the most basic principles of society with government complicity or indifference derives from the fact that the government itself is erected on the violation of those principles. The crisis in human rights and violence—as deep as it is—is but a symptom of a greater evil. When the 2009 coup was allowed to conserve power and seal itself off from prosecution, it immediately undermined governance, rule of law, and the social compact. Honduras’ constitutional crisis has now become a prolonged social and political crisis.
A Coup for Criminals
The coup d’état on June 28, 2009 was not only a criminal act. It was an act designed to benefit criminals.
When members of the armed forces kidnapped democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya and took him to Costa Rica in his pajamas, they destroyed the the fragile democracy built since the era of military dictatorships. None of the convoluted discussions of what the president had supposedly done to deserve forcible removal changed the fact that the millennium’s first coup d’état had taken place in the Americas. The OAS and every major diplomatic body in the world immediately realized that Honduras had become the symbol and the reality of the world’s new battles for democracy.
What many people don’t know is that the unraveling of the story is more tragic than the coup itself—and holds even greater lessons for global governance.. To make a long story short, the Honduran coup regime incredibly survived international embargos and diplomatic negotiations that in the end only served to extend its grasp on illegitimate power. The disturbing suspicion that the U.S. government, the historic godfather of the region, had given its blessing to the new regime became certainty when the State Department negotiated an agreement that paved the way for coup-sponsored elections without assuring the return of the elected government.
Porfirio Lobo came to power, and a nation pummeled by poverty splintered into an ungoverned free-for-all characterized by political polarization, a surge in crime, and widespread land grabs. Honduras is not a failed state. It’s a violated state.
Crime—common crime, organized crime, state crime, and corporate crime—has thrived since the coup. Drug trafficking in the country has increased. The most recent U.S. International Narcotics report calculates that 79 percent of cocaine smuggling flights from South America use landing strips in Honduras. Reports that Mexican kingpin El Chapo Guzman and others use Honduras as a hideout surface frequently. Militarization of the country has taken place alongside the spread of organized crime—a phenomenon that should provoke some reflection. But the Honduran and U.S. governments have been too busy promoting the drug war to pay attention to the correlation between militarization and organized crime.
Land grabs to transfer land and resources from small-scale farmers, indigenous peoples, and poor urban residents into the hands of large-scale developers and megaprojects have generated violence throughout the country. Many of the testimonies of violence and sexual abuse that we heard from Honduran women regarded conflicts over land, where the regime actively supports wealthy interests against poor people in illegal land occupations for tourism, mining, and infrastructure projects, such as palm oil magnate Miguel Facusse’s actions in Bajo Aguan.
The lack of investigation and prosecution for crimes — and the evidence that state forces are involved in human rights violations against opposition and “undesirable” sectors — creates a paradise for criminals and a hell for the majority of citizens.
U.S. Engagement or Complicity?
U.S. responsibility for what happened after the coup is a question that deserves far more analysis and soul-searching. By choosing not to support a return to democratic order and political healing before presidential elections, the United States helped deliver a serious blow to the Honduran political system and society. The United States has a tremendous responsibility for the disastrous situation, and the urgent question is what to do about it.
Biden stressed U.S. programs to vet police and justice officials. When we met with U.S. Ambassador Lisa Kubriskie, she insisted that continuing to fund Honduran security forces would eventually lead to reform by “engaging” with government forces.
But even if that did happen, in the meantime those government forces are murdering, raping, beating, and detaining Hondurans — with U.S. aid.
When does engagement become complicity? Citizen groups and members of the U.S. Congress have come to the conclusion that the line was crossed some time ago. So far, more than 60 members of Congress have signed a letter circulated by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) to cut off aid to the Honduran military and police, claiming that the funding of these institutions fuels the abuse.
There’s no excuse for spending U.S. taxpayer dollars on security assistance to Honduras as human rights violations pile up. No amount of money poured into these programs will change the systemic corruption and human rights violations until there’s a real political commitment to justice and reconciliation. And that does not appear to exist under the current regime.
Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program based in Mexico City. She is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.
- U.S. foreign policy backs abusive Honduran state (sfgate.com)
London has once more humiliated itself before Tel Aviv repeating “all options [are] on the table” for Iran after withdrawing support for any military action by the Israeli regime against the country.
“We both recognise the seriousness of the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear programme,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said after a meeting with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Meridor in London.
He added Britain is continuing its policy of “pressure” against Iran “while keeping all options on the table.”
Hague also welcomed the “excellent progress on trade between Britain and Israel” as well as their “growing co-operation in the high-technology sector, as reflected in the launch this week of the UK-Israel Technology Council.”
His remarks are almost diametrically opposed to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s comments last week that there is no justification for an Israeli strike on Iran.
“I don’t think as we stand today that military action by Israel would be justified,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told NBC news network on Thursday.
“I don’t think the Israelis should take that action now. We told them they shouldn’t and said we wouldn’t support it if they did. We’ve been very clear,” he added.
Indeed a paradox emerges as London officials have been saying over the past few days that they are very “clear” that they “would not support” a military strike on Iran, however, they will not at the same time rule out a military strike on the country.
Yet with Cameron directly dismissing an attack as a choice, Hague’s remarks appear as an attempt to muzzle London’s Zionist friends, as it has been common British practice over the past years.
Just on the day Cameron made the remarks in Washington, Britain agreed to a plan to strengthen cooperation across a range of technological sectors with the Israeli regime at the first UK Israel Tech Council, held in London.
The move was reminiscent of the row over Israeli spy agency Mossad’s forging British passports, which were used by an Israeli hit squad to assassinate a Hamas leader in Dubai.
It was two years ago on March 23, 2010 when The Guardian reported London had expelled a senior Mossad official at Tel Aviv’s embassy in London over the issue.
Less than two months after the passports dispute, representatives from 23 British companies from the life sciences sector attended an event in the occupied territories welcomed by the then director for UK trade and investment at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv Richard Salt.
Also on May, 2010, the then thriving Liberal Democrat leader and current British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launched another mollification attempt in an interview with the Israeli Daily Haaretz suggesting the petty issue of passports will not affect London-Tel Aviv friendship.
“Operation Cast Lead and incidents like falsifying documents in Dubai do create tension, but … British criticism of the policy of the Israeli government should not be treated as ‘anti-Israeli,’” he said.
“I think there are issues of principles at stake, which I would like us all to have a look at calmly after the elections,” he added.
The same story of taking a step against Tel Aviv only to recompense by backing off several steps ran in the case of attempts to secure arrest warrants for Israeli officials in 2010 including the then Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni.
The appeals against Israeli officials were made based on their internationally-condemned war crimes during the same Operation Cast Lead, which Nick Clegg tried to downplay.
At the time, it was Hague himself who led the wave of appeasing attempts.
“We cannot have a position where Israeli politicians feel they cannot visit this country. The situation is unsatisfactory [and] indefensible. It is absolutely my intention to act speedily,” Hague said in June 2010.
The mentioned examples are only part of the wide picture of British servility to the Israeli regime that also includes condemnation of Israeli settlement activities and at the same time praise for mutual ties with Tel Aviv.
They also raise questions whether the hierarchy of power in Britain runs through Israeli lobbies which should be kept appeased as a hidden rule of British policy.
- Obama says when chips are down I have Israel’s back (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran takes protest to UNSC over Israeli crimes (alethonews.wordpress.com)
On Friday, the US Treasury Department issued subpoenas into an investigation against over three dozen former high ranking US government and military officials for accepting large sum of money in return for lobbying for an anti-Tehran government terrorist militant group, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), known as ‘Munafiqun-e-Khalq (or People’s traitors) in Iran. The group is listed as a ‘terrorist organization’ by the State Department. Allegedly, these Judeo-Christians sold their souls to the devil for $30,000 to $160,000.
All under investigation are ‘Israel-Firsters’ belonging to the Republican, Democratic and Tea parties. The list includes former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell (Jewish) of Pennsylvania and currently MSNBC contributor, Democratic Gov. Howard Dean (Jewish) of Vermont; former Republican Homeland Security Advisor to George W. Bush and currently CNN’s resident terror expert, Frances Townsend (Jewish), Bush’s Attorney General, Michael Mukasey (Jewish), and former UN ambassador John Bolton (crypto-Jew); former Republican Mayor of New York, Rudolph Guiliani (Zionist Christian); and ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh (crypto Jew) and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton (friend of Jewish Army).
Several of these evil-doers have been advocating tirelessly to get the MEK removed from the US terrorist list. Howard Dean, Gens. Hugh H. Shelton, Peter Pace, Wesley K. Clark, James L. Jones and Rudolph Guiliani and several others went to Paris to meet MEK’s boss, Maryam Rajavi, who told these Muslim haters to urge Washington to recognize her as the President of Iran.
Both MEK and Jundallah terrorist groups are linked with Israel which has used them to destablize Iran by bombing civilian and military targets and assassination of country’s top nuclear scientists.
According to a ruling by the US Supreme Court in 2010 – a DOJ interpretation of the ‘material support’ statute, the MEK’s listing as a terror organization makes it illegal to coordinate with, provide assistance to, or take payment from the group.
Glenn Greenwald, American Jewish lawyer, columnist, author and blogger wrote in Salon recently:
“There are large numbers of people – almost always Muslims – who have been prosecuted and are now in prison for providing “material support” to Terrorist groups for doing far less than Fran Townsend and her fellow cast of bipartisan ex-officials have done with and on behalf of MEK. In fact, the US Government has been (under the administration in which Townsend worked) and still is (under the administration Rendell supports) continuously prosecuting Muslims for providing “material support” for Terrorist groups based on their pure speech, all while Fran Townsend, Ed Rendell and company have said nothing or, worse, supported the legal interpretations that justified these prosecutions“.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest political force, on Tuesday held off from backing a request for a loan from the International Monetary Fund, urging more government transparency.
The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party said it met with an IMF delegation in Cairo to discuss the loan which has raised fears of strangling Egypt’s economy to mostly Western lenders.
“The loan will be a burden on the shoulders of Egyptian people, who have the right to know how it will be spent and how it will be paid off,” its head Mohammed Mursi said in a statement.
The Muslim Brotherhood said it did not object to the IMF or assistance from abroad, but cautioned that it needed to meet Egyptian interests.
The party “would certainly accept any help from these institutions in any way that would serve public interests,” Mursi said.
The Islamist party, the largest in parliament, said the government “has not yet submitted a plan of economic measures relating to the loan” and did not say “how this loan will be used, or how it will be paid off.”
The IMF is seeking assurances from the Muslim Brotherhood that it would back the loan, diplomatic sources told AFP.
Egypt had spurned an IMF loan last year but reversed its decision amid a stalling economy.
The IMF loan has come under fierce criticism in Egypt, with many fearful that it will allow Western powers to gain control of the country’s weakened economy.
Egypt’s foreign currency reserves have fallen while the budget deficit increased due to public spending.
In addition to the IMF loan, Egypt has sought US$1 billion from the World Bank and US$500 million from the African Development Bank.