Missing persons are a major human-rights issue in various countries. One niche of the missing persons saga is Asian nationals who went missing after 9/11, kidnapped by the world’s intelligence agencies. There are hundreds of people who went missing in the last several years from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippine, China, Thailand, and Singapore.
The relatives of these missing people are sure that their loved ones were abducted by the intelligence agencies of their countries. In Pakistan the issue of missing persons was raised in 2002 when Dr. Amir Aziz mysteriously disappeared, abducted by state-run intelligence agencies. Pakistan’s Daily Times reported:
Leading orthopaedic surgeon Dr Amir Aziz, picked up on Oct 21 over suspected links with Al Qaeda, was dramatically released in the early hours of Tuesday after being thoroughly investigated by the US FBI and the Pakistani intelligence agencies.
The missing persons issue was again highlighted when Amna Masood Janjua’s husband was picked up by an intelligence agency on July 30, 2005. The brave lady raised her voice against the powerful intelligence agencies and decided to devote herself to the cause of missing persons in Pakistan. She started her own organization for the legal and financial aid of the heirs of the missing persons, called the Defense of Human Rights.
When contacted by this correspondent, she asserted:
I know where my husband is in the illegal confinement of ISI [Pakistani intelligence], and he is in cell No. 20 in sector I-9/3 of Islamabad, where there are the offices and some residential apartments of this intelligence agency.
His detention by the ISI was confirmed by eyewitnesses to his abduction, as well by affidavits of other released detainees. Amna maintained that she wants her husband released at any cost. She commented that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has formed a commission to probe the missing persons issue and also a Joint Investigation Team, but both are powerless to summon the intelligence agencies.
The commission was formed on May 1, 2010, and 203 fresh cases of kidnapping have been reported since then.
In Pakistan the reason behind the sacking of the judiciary by the former dictator and now-exiled President General Pervaiz Musharraf was the same issue of missing persons. The court sought to recover all the missing persons who were illegally abducted by the intelligence agencies. The masses restored the judiciary of Pakistan, and now again the Chief Justice of Pakistan is encountering roadblocks in recovering the missing persons from the custody of the intelligence agencies.
Amna claims that at least 392 people have gone missing in Pakistan who are in the hands of the intelligence agencies. According to her sources, the kidnapped people are being brutally tortured and interrogated by both local intelligence agencies and the U.S. CIA. The sources confirmed that there are several people who are interrogated solely by the CIA.
Claims have also been made that there are covert CIA prisons on ships and on the islands of Indonesia — the most notorious, according to numerous Asian periodicals, being Smarata, where the CIA’s “Most Wanted” are being kept. The purpose of keeping kidnapped persons on ships is apparently to remove them from the territorial boundaries and laws of any specific country.
Internationally, for the last decade, the issue of missing persons has been in the headlines of the world media. There have been hundreds of protests launched by relatives and loved ones of these missing persons, but the international community has done nothing to help these people.
According to the United Nations’ constitution, enforced disappearance and genocide are the two major crimes against humanity; yet despite the organization’s vaunted interest in peace and justice in the world, with these particular crimes, the UN’s apathy and uselessness are overwhelming.
On the surface the UN would appear to be concerned with missing persons: It has a Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and it does hold meetings on missing persons. The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances concluded its 92nd session this past November at the United Nations office in Geneva.
The summary of the 92nd session indicates that the UN took the following actions:
During its 92nd session, the Working Group examined 23 reported cases under its urgent action procedure, 284 newly submitted cases of enforced disappearances and information on previously accepted cases concerning the following countries: Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cameroon, Chad, China, Colombia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Georgia, India, Iraq, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
The summary added, “The Working Group also examined allegations submitted by credible sources regarding obstacles encountered in the implementation of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and decided to transmit general allegations to the concerned governments.”
And it stated:
During the 92nd session, the Working Group received delegations from the Governments of Iraq, Japan, Nepal, and Rwanda to exchange views on individual cases and on the issue of enforced disappearance in general. It also met with members of the Committee Against Torture as well as with non-governmental organizations and family members of disappeared persons regarding obstacles encountered in the implementation of the Declaration in their respective countries. Members of the Working Group also held a series of informal bilateral meetings with some States with a view to enhance cooperation.
But despite all these efforts, no progress has been made in the recovery of missing persons, and all of the countries scorn the laws of the United Nations. The Working Group has failed to recover a single person that has been abducted by state intelligence agencies, including those taken by the CIA.
In fact, those seeking the UN’s aid find that the rules and methods of the Working Group are so complicated that it is difficult to even report a missing person case. The United Nations’ actions are a demonstration of doing nothing while looking busy. There is so little sway held by the UN over countries that in some countries people are afraid to even utter the name of these powerful intelligence agencies which have captured their relatives.
Malik Ayub Sumbal is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan.
In Argentina they threw leftists out of airplanes while in Chile thousands were detained in stadiums, some tortured and some killed. In Brazil and Uruguay the story was similar. When threatened by progressive forces, the elite in many countries resorted to illegal acts and certainly never felt constrained by constitutional rights.
How about Canada?
For more than three decades the RCMP ran PROFUNC (PROminent FUNCtionaries of the Communist Party), a highly secretive espionage operation and internment plan. In October CBC’s Fifth Estate and Radio-Canada’s Enquête aired shows on “this secret contingency plan, called PROFUNC, [which] allowed police to round up and indefinitely detain Canadians believed to be Communist sympathizers.”
In case of a “national security” threat up to 16,000 suspected communists and 50,000 sympathizers were to be apprehended and interned in one of eight camps across the country. Initiated by RCMP Commissioner Stuart Taylor Wood in 1950, the plan continued until 1983.
The plan was highly detailed. Police stations across the country would receive a signal to open their PROFUNC lists and apprehend said individuals. The “communists” would then be taken to “reception centres” where they would be restricted from talking and anyone attempting to flee would be shot. Eventually, the “communists” would be moved to one of the regional internment camps where their contact with the outside world would be limited to a single 1-page letter each week. Their children would be sent to live with other family members.
Thousands of officers collected information for PROFUNC at one time or another. Each potential internee had an arrest document (C-215 form) that was regularly updated with the person’s physical description, age, photos, vehicle information, housing and sometimes the location of doors they might use to escape arrest.
Only a small number of the names on the list are public, but it clearly didn’t take much to be put on it. Enquête uncovered the name of a 13-year girl who was on the list because she attended an anti-nuclear protest in 1964. Many prominent individuals were also on the PROFUNC list, including a former Manitoba cabinet minister, Roland Penner, CBC President Robert Rabinovitch, and NDP leader Tommy Douglas (who was voted greatest Canadian in a CBC poll).
Enquête focused on the presumed use of PROFUNC lists during the 1970 October Crisis when Pierre Trudeau’s government implemented the War Measures Act. The head of the Montreal police’s anti-terrorism squad when the Front de libération du Québec kidnapped two government officials, Julien Giguère, told Enquête that his department had a list of 60 suspected FLQ sympathizers that they wanted to investigate. But the federal government wanted to justify their suspension of civil liberties and their claim of an “apprehended insurrection” so the RCMP and Sureté du Québec added many names to the Montreal police list. These added names appear to have come from PROFUNC lists. In subsequent days police agencies carried out almost 4,000 raids and made 500 arrests. Many of those detained were held without charge for weeks or months.
Robert Kaplan, Solicitor General from 1980 to 1984, ended PROFUNC when he ordered the RCMP to stop whatever they were doing that blocked elderly Canadians from entering the US. Kaplan claims the Fifth Estate informed him of the program.
PROFUNC was disbanded at about the same time as the Trudeau government opened the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Certain Activities of the RCMP (or Macdonald Commission), which investigated the RCMP’s “theft of the membership list of the Parti Québécois, several break-ins; illegal opening of mail; burning a barn in Quebec where the Black Panther Party and Front de libération du Québec were rumoured to be planning a rendezvous; forging documents; and conducting illegal electronic surveillance.”
As a result of the Macdonald Commission, Ottawa reduced the RCMP’s role in security and intelligence gathering. In 1984 they created the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to carry out security and intelligence gathering work that had previously been the RCMP’s responsibility.
CSIS may not continue all of the functions of PROFUNC, but they definitely still monitor individuals based upon their political beliefs. The focus may no longer be solely on leftists. Politicized Muslims are definitely also on the list.
In recent years CSIS has been involved in the mistreatment of a number of innocent individuals. In 2003 the intelligence agency prodded Sudan to detain Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Sudanese-born Canadian citizen, who was then tortured and put through a harrowing six-year ordeal. CSIS is also largely responsible for the incarceration of more than a dozen Muslims on security certificates. These individuals (who are permanent residents, refugees or foreign nationals living in Canada) have been incarcerated without being able to see the evidence CSIS has put forward against them.
Of course, CSIS doesn’t only target Muslims. From last October to May 2010 at least seven friends of Stefan Christoff, one of Montreal’s most effective grassroots activists, were visited by CSIS agents. They arrived unannounced early in the morning and asked detailed and sometimes menacing questions about Christoff.
CSIS has also been actively spying on Aboriginal protesters. In the lead up to G8/G20 protests in Toronto CSIS was accused of trying to intimidate members of Red Power United.
Before, during and after the recent G8/G20 protests in Toronto Canada’s various security services demonstrated a flagrant disregard for individual’s civil liberties. Usually held in miserable conditions for 48 or 72 hours, about 1,100 people were picked up in the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. The vast majority of those arrested had their charges dropped because there was not a shred of evidence against them.
To protect against a plan such as PROFUNC or G8/G20 type police repression the Left needs to build a vibrant movement that doesn’t self marginalize. One way the Left can protect itself against security service attacks is to be known by as large of a segment of society as possible. We need to be seen as part of “normal” society.
Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy. For more information visit yvesengler.com.
Shaban Qarmout, a 65-year-old farmer from the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, got up early on Monday, 10 January and headed out to his farmland as he usually did, accompanied by his 22-year-old son Khaled. Their land is located about 500 meters from the boundary fence with Israel, near the Agriculture School in the town of Beit Hanoun. At about midday, as the two were working, a bullet fired from an Israeli watchtower ripped through the elder Qarmout’s chest, wounding him fatally.
Khaled Qarmout told The Electronic Intifada what happened: “My father and I were working normally, clearing some rocks from the land using a cart. At noon a number of people from a relief organization came to see my father. One of them wanted to take some pictures, but my father refused. He told them it might expose him to some danger from the Israeli military post nearby. Of course the area is dangerous, and my father was always keen to avoid any trouble with the Israelis.”
After the visitors left, Shaban Qarmout resumed his work and Khaled moved about a hundred meters away. “Suddenly I heard my father screaming, ‘Khaled!’ and I rushed to see what happened. I found him silent and blood began to drip from his mouth,” Khaled recalled.
Asked if he had observed any trouble or activity near the boundary, Khaled replied: “I kept silent, and looked around to see what was going on, but saw nothing. Then with the help of some neighboring farmers we carried my father on a bulldozer for a distance of about 300 meters until he was taken to a nearby hospital by ambulance. He died a few minutes after he was shot from the Israeli watchtower.”
At the Jabaliya refugee camp home of Shaban’s son Shaker, family members were gathered, including Shaban’s wife Umm Khaled, daughters Khulud (15), Rana (26), and daughter-in-law Umm Thaer.
Shaban Qarmout had a small house on his land, but the family left it two years ago during Israel’s winter 2008-2009 assault on Gaza and moved to Jabaliya refugee camp. Despite this, Khaled told The Electronic Intifada that he and his father continued to work their land during the past two years from the early morning until evening. According to Khaled, the Israeli soldiers at the watchtower that is close to their land know them well, yet, Khaled says, they shot his father in cold blood.
“Almost two weeks ago, my father received some financial assistance from a relief organization and he asked me to keep the small amount of money at the house on the farmland, telling me, ‘My son, maybe we will need this money some time in the future, so it is better that we keep it rather than spend it.’ He said these words as if he were aware that his destiny was awaiting him,” Khaled said, surrounded by family members in the home.
Umm Khaled spoke to The Electronic Intifada, her face pale, about what she called the “martyrdom” of her husband: “Let me tell you that my slain husband has been there in the same farmland for about 45 years and I personally spent almost half of this period with him along with our children. I am wondering why they killed him; I am sure they know him.”
One week after the Israeli assault started in December 2008, Umm Khaled recalled, the Israelis using loud speakers ordered them to leave the area, and that was when they moved to Jabaliya.
“Shaban, my husband, was a very kind-hearted father,” Umm Khaled said. “He was so kind to his children and generous towards other people. When we used to live in the house on the farm, before the war broke out, Shaban used to welcome all the relatives who used to spend some time with us among the citrus trees, to the extent that he always insisted to serve them food. May God accept him as martyr and believe me I wish I were martyred along with him.”
“My father was the kindest to me,” said 15-year-old Khulud. “I am his youngest and I never felt deprived of anything — tenderness, food, pocket money or anything else. My father used to give me whatever I wanted and always cared for me.”
Reflecting on those who took her father away from her, Khulud added, “I don’t believe there is a chance for coexistence with such killers, the Israelis! Why did they kill him? Did he shoot at them with his 45-year-old axe?”
Rana spoke of her father as she held his infant grandchild in her arms and as neighbors and relatives came to offer condolences.
“My father used to be very generous with me and his grandsons despite the fact his economic situation was not that good,” Rana said. “Every now and then, he would give me some money to spend on my children, for he knew my husband is jobless. During Ramadan, he used to invite me and my children to iftar [the breaking of the fast], showing a great deal of kindness to us.”
Umm Thaer, Shaban Qarmout’s daughter-in-law and niece, said that her uncle was like a father to her. His loss was not the first tragedy she has suffered. On 29 December 2008, her 16-year-old son Thaer Shaker Qarmout was critically wounded in an Israeli missile strike. He died of his injuries on 4 January 2009. Two friends who were with Thaer, Muhammad Madi and Tareq Afani, were killed instantly.
On the terrible day her son died, Umm Thaer remembers her uncle Shaban telling her, “Dear daughter, Thaer has gone to the best place, to paradise, and believe me, may God take us the same way he took Thaer.”
It seems that God heard Shaban and in the same month in which Thaer went to paradise, his grandfather followed him two years later.
Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.
Tonight Chris Matthews used the retirement of Joe Lieberman as an opportunity to bash the “neocons” for the Iraq war. Matthews landed on Lieberman’s disgraceful answer to Pat Buchanan’s question on Morning Joe today, saying the Iraq war was worth it because of WMD and Al Qaeda and Saddam’s threat to the region. Matthews said this was all BS. He said that Saddam posed no threat apart from his support for “Hamas.”
Obviously Matthews thinks that Lieberman was thinking about Israel’s security, not the U.S.’s security. But you still can’t say this in the MSM. You can bash the NRA over the Tucson shootings, but you can’t talk about the role of the Israel lobby in our foreign policy. You can just think about it. Like Chris Matthews.
On this note, orthodoxy and self-censorship, I’d point out that Michelle Goldberg, who interviewed me for Tablet this week (the piece is here, I hear it’s mixed, still haven’t read it, I’m weird that way) asked me if I’d been worried for my career when I started being as critical of Israel as I am. I said Yes, and it had hurt my career. Goldberg made the same point a couple years back at the 92d Street Y: “Everybody knows that if you write certain things [about Israel] you put yourself beyond the pale of certain publications. And not just the obvious ones like the New Republic. I mean you take a certain stance and you consign yourself to the loony left. I think that is maybe becoming less and less true.” Goldberg said she has been told on some occasions, “You can’t write something,” and there “is a degree of self-censorship as well.”
The other day a friend told me of his conversation with a financial journalist in the MSM who had expressed sympathy for the Palestinians. He asked her why she didn’t write about it. She said, a, I figure I’m not going to be able to help them so they’re not losing anything by my silence, and b, even though I write financial journalism, if I take a strong stand on this issue, I might be blacklisted or brown-listed by publications for any work at all… (Consigned to looniness, to quote Goldberg.)
When Walt and Mearsheimer’s book came out, they said the same thing. Many journalists came up to them privately to express agreement, but said that it was career-cyanide to speak out about it.