Mohammad Karim Abedi, a member of the Iranian Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, announced last week that Iran will launch an English news group, The Human Rights News Agency, to publicize human rights violations in the west. Today, Chairwoman of the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament (Majlis) Zohreh Elahian told Fars News Agency, that human rights violations from countries such as the United States and Britain are grave. She called on Iranian NGO's to increase publicity around these violations.
On May 13 Amnesty International published a report on the United States, which summarized:"Forty-six people were executed during the year, and reports of excessive use of force and cruel prison conditions continued. Scores of men remained in indefinite military detention in Guantánamo as President Obama's one-year deadline for closure of the facility there came and went. Military commission proceedings were conducted in a handful of cases, and the only Guantánamo detainee so far transferred to the US mainland for prosecution in a federal court was tried and convicted. Hundreds of people remained held in US military custody in the US detention facility on the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. The US authorities blocked efforts to secure accountability and remedy for crimes under international law committed against detainees previously subjected to the USA's secret detention and rendition programme."
Amnesty expressed concern at the "Impunity" granted criminals in the US, pointing out "There continued to be an absence of accountability and remedy for the human rights violations, including the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance, committed as part of the USA's programme of secret detention and rendition."
In the light of President Obama's visit to Europe this week, I would like to take the opportunity to suggest some reading. It is an extraordinary document, a report compiled by Swiss politician Dick Marty for the Council of Europe: "Alleged secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers involving Council of Europe member states".
The full text, which has been available online for years, details CIA rendition flights within Europe. According to this report, several European countries facilitated the transfer of detainees to torture camps.
The report also lists a military facility in Stare Kiejkuty, Poland, and nearby Szymany airport as detainee drop off points (see page 17 f.). In the light of a current Polish criminal investigation into alleged CIA rendition flights to and from Szymany, a recent complaint against Poland at the European Court of Human Rights, and President Obama's visit to this country I urge everybody to have a look at this document. It clearly lists information on flights and dates of arrivals.
Many news outlets around the world reported about these rendition flights. On Stare Kiejkuty, these articles might be of interest:
It seems that it was very easy for journalists and Dick Marty to get hold of evidence; one is left wondering why the investigation in Poland is proceeding at a snail's pace.
The Polish press has been keeping the topic in the public's perception over the past years.
Please also take a moment to look up the coordinates 53.631111, 21.078889 on a satellite map of your choice. Various accounts speak about an isolated building in the woods near a military facility which is surrounded by a wall. Can you spot it?
Updated information from Khadr's legal counsel states that the Supreme Court dismissal this morning related to a years old appeal from Khadr that was actually disallowed last fall by the terms of his plea deal, which ordered "he must dismiss all presently pending action."
“As part of his pre-trial agreement, he had to dismiss his claim against the government,” said his US military defense attorney Lt.-Col. Jackson. “Once the claim was dismissed, and the government accepted the dismissal, they still keep the caption (or heading) of the case as Khadr vs. Obama (as a way to keep the process) consistent, but he’s no longer a plaintiff on that.” Khadr's request for review was bundled with several other requests from other Guantanamo prisoners.
The request for clemency still stands and may be heard this week.
The US Supreme Court denied Guantanamo inmate Omar Khadr's request for clemency today. While a majority voted against granting the petition, Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor "indicated that they wanted to review the case." Courthouse News opines "Monday's contribution affirms the appearance that the court will defer to the mostly conservative D.C. Circuit on Guantanamo detention matters. The justices have not decided a detainee case in nearly three years."
Dennis you always say that I have an obligation to show the world what is going on down here and it seems that we've done every thing but the world doesn't get it, so it might work if the world sees the US sentencing a child to life in prison, it might show the world how unfair and sham this process is, and if the world doesn't see all this, to what world am I being released to? A world of hate, unjust and discrimination! I really don't want to live in a life like this. - Omar Khadr in a letter to defense attorney Dennis Edney.
Omar Khadr was the first child soldier to be charged with a war crime since world war two. The non-existent crime that he was charged with, “murder in violation of the law of war” can be summed up as: It is legal for US soldiers to kill children. It is a war crime for children to kill US soldiers.
After eight years of delays while the US government searched for a possible crime and changed courts and judge, Omar found himself in front of a military tribunal with seven military officers who decided his fate ought to be another forty years of imprisonment. (For a sentence of ten years or more, six of the seven jurors had to agree.) Human Rights Watch said of the fifteen officers selected as potential jurors, All of the 15 indicated that Khadr's age held no significance for the case. ... An Air Force Captain said that in his opinion, a child would need to be as young as five or six to avoid adult courts if accused of a homicide.
The plea deal
Canadian defense attorney Dennis Edney is involved in four of the cases we are currently covering. WL Central has received updates from him on three of them.
Moazzam Begg, a high profile advocate for Guantanamo inmates and international lecturer and author, was denied board on a direct Air Canada flight from London to Toronto on the grounds that the plane could possibly be diverted to the US where Begg is on a no-fly list. Begg, a British citizen, was imprisoned in Guantanamo for three years and released in 2005 with no charge. Edney had invited him to Canada to speak.
You were attempting to get him a flight over the north pole to avoid the excuse of a possible diversion into US air space - has there been any response from the Canadian authorities on that?
We have attempted to get clarification from Canadian authorities to state whether they would challenge his entry if he took a flight over Greenland so no fear of being close to U.S. airspace - with no clarification.
Who exactly have you spoken to in the Canadian government or Air Canada regarding this policy?
We have spoken to people at the Canadian High Commission and I have asked Moazzam to go to the London office to get an official response why he was not allowed to fly.
He was to attend 3 conferences in Toronto/ Montreal and Edmonton.
Abdullah Khadr, older brother of Omar, won against the Canadian government's appeal on May 6. The Canadian government was arguing in support of the US government who are trying to extradite Abdullah based on testimony obtained under torture. Edney represents both Khadrs.
Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who was held at Guantanamo Bay for three years with no charge, was barred from boarding an Air Canada flight to Toronto today. Omar Khadr's defense attorney, Dennis Edney, had invited Begg to speak at a conference on fear and justice in Toronto on Saturday as well as other events in Quebec and Edmonton later this week.
The Canadian Press reports that the Canadian High Commission refused permission on the basis the plane could be re-routed to the U.S. Edney contacted the high commission and was told to contact the US embassy. Edney told the Toronto Star that a Canadian foreign affairs official informed him that Begg was denied entry due to a “U.S. policy.”
Begg was released from Guantanamo Bay in 2005 and is one of the most high profile advocates for the people currently imprisoned there. He wrote a book, Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim's Journey To Guantanamo and Back (ISBN 0-7432-8567-0), is a director of Cageprisoners, and has given many interviews and lectures, written articles, and appeared as a commentator on BBC's Panorama, BBC's Newsnight, PBS's The Prisoner, Al-Jazeera's Prisoner, Taking Liberties, Torturing Democracy, and National Geographic's Guantanamo's Secrets, traveling throughout the world to do so. He has never been charged with anything. He was released by the US.
"There would be virtually no political blowback domestically for the Conservative Party if the government chooses to pursue an appeal, making this a strong likelihood.”
The above statement from US State cable #09OTTAWA629 sums up the last decade of Omar Khadr’s life. The Canadian government, under the last three prime ministers, two Liberal and one Conservative, have done nothing about the plight of a tortured fifteen year old Canadian boy imprisoned with no trial in the world’s most notorious torture camps. They have contributed nothing to his education, nor to his emotional or psychological welfare. They have expressed no concern for his well being. They have not requested his repatriation, nor have they requested that the illegal and amoral conditions of his confinement be improved. (Read a summary of the conditions here.) US State cable 09STATE11937 describes a February 5, 2009 meeting between French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and US Secretary of State Clinton, where the French Foreign Minister requested that the US review his case, but there is no similar suggestion from the country with a legal obligation to defend him.
Omar Khadr (centre in the picture at left) was born in Toronto, Canada on September 19, 1986. His father was an Egyptian born Canadian who ran charities to provide food and education for orphans, and was an old friend of Osama Bin Laden. His mother was a Canadian of Palestinian descent. Omar spoke four languages fluently. When he was 15, his family sent him to accompany a group as a translator. The US military identified that group as Al Qaeda.
In July 2002, US Special Forces attacked the camp where he was staying. When US military entered the site, Omar was buried face down under rubble, blinded by shrapnel and crippled. Another man was beside him. US military documents say a US militant stood on top of Omar's body before realizing that someone was buried beneath. The first US fighter to arrive on the scene shot the man beside Omar dead and then shot Omar twice in the back, leaving two large exit wounds in his chest and chunks of his chest and shoulder ... blown out. He was somehow identified as being the son of his father, either before or after a second US militant prevented the first from shooting him again. He was consequently captured instead.
Julian Assange Says Whistleblowers “Heroes,” WikiLeaks Played “Significant Role” in Recent Arab Uprisings As He Accepts Sydney Peace Prize
Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, was awarded the Sydney Peace Model at the Frontline Club in London. The award was given to recognize his work for “greater transparency and accountability of governments.” @Asher_Wolf covered the event on Twitter.
Assange said, “WikiLeaks is the most scrutinized organization per capita in the world,” and that he was in “the absurd situation of receiving the Sydney Peace Prize in London whilst wearing a surveillance device” around his ankle. He noted that the submission site for WikiLeaks is being re-engineered as a result of “sabotage and website attacks.” Also, Assange acknowledged that coverage of releases from WikiLeaks could devolve into newspapers attacking each other.
Below is video of Assange accepting the medal:
Edited podcast now posted.
This week's podcast features Michael K. Busch, who teaches international relations at the City College of New York, where he is also program coordinator at the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies. He has been covering the Gitmo Files in detail. He has also covered released cables on his site WikiBlogged, and he is listed as a resource in the back of Greg Mitchell's published book, "Age of WikiLeaks," which you can purchase in print on Blurb.com or in e-book form off of Amazon. [Follow him on Twitter @michaelkbusch]
On the program, we discuss the killing of Osama bin Laden in the context of the Pakistan Cables that one media organization, The Hindu (in India), covered extensively. We also talk about the files Busch has covered extensively and what his thoughts are on the release in general. And, the show discusses the Journal's newly launched SafeHouse, a WikiLeaks-imitation website it hopes "sources" will "leak" to like "sources" have leaked to WikiLeaks. [For more on this, WL Central coverage can be found here.]
This article was originally posted on Foreign Policy in Focus.
By Michael Busch
The story of Yasser Talal Al Zahrani offers one of the most mysterious, and ultimately tragic, narratives in the “Gitmo Files” published by WikiLeaks this past week. The son of “a senior official in the Saudi Interior Ministry, reportedly holding the rank of abid, or brigadier,” the seventeen-year-old al Zahrani reportedly left home, having just completed the eleventh grade, “after hearing that sheiks from neighboring [sic throughout] towns were saying jihad in Afghanistan (AF) was a religious duty.”
He first travelled to Karachi, Pakistan, financing “the trip himself with saving he had earned selling perfumes to hajj pilgrims.” In Karachi, al Zahrani hooked up with a man named Saria al Makki, who travelled with him to Konduz, Afghanistan.
In Konduz, detainee was taken to a place called the Taliban Center. He spent one month training under an individual named Khair Allah on the use of the Kalishnikov rifle, the Makarov pistol, hand grenades, and in field training. The detainee was then assigned a guard position at a second line post between Konduz and Taloqan.
The American Taliban fighter, John Walker Lindh, remembered Abu Ammar distinctly, in part because he was little more than a kid when they fought together in Afghanistan.
The recent Canadian election has been the topic of much foreign news coverage, with pundits trying to explain why liberal-minded Canada has given a majority to the most right leaning party in its history, what exactly the New Democratic Party is, and why on earth Canada turned its back so firmly on its 'traditional ruling party', headed by a man described in the Guardian as "known to the British as a fine writer, historian and BBC talking head, who had returned to Canada to lead the Liberals". Embassy Magazine wrote an astoundingly condescending piece about Canada's lack of interest in foreign policy which contained the following:
Given Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff's background, many had expected him to campaign on foreign policy. And at the start of the campaign he did try to frame the election around the question of ethics, especially the tenor of Conservative foreign policy. ... But ... Mr. Ignatieff failed to inspire with this foreign policy-tinged message. In fact, the more he talked about it, the less traction he seemed to be getting with centrist or progressive voters. ... At one point, the Liberal leader's frustration became quite evident, with Mr. Ignatieff wondering why Canadians were not latching onto the many controversies that had dogged the Conservatives before the election. Mr. Ignatieff's plea that Canada should regain its international standing was a version of this idea that the country should be undergoing some soul-searching prior to voting. But with his historic low, it appears Canadians weren't up for that sort of deep think.
On May 4, Mr. Colangelo, a Senior attorney at US-based Dorsey and Whitney LLP, and a consultant with Human Rights Watch was bared entry into Bahrain. Authorities cited his need for a visa, because of the "kind of work" he does, although Colangelo has frequently travelled to the country on various business matters with no prior incident.
In February, Mr. Colangelo spoke at a press conference at Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) in Manama. Mr. Colangelo has also represented Bahraini who were Guantanamo detainees.
HRW has released an 89-page report stating that Bahrain needs to take "urgent steps to end torture and ill-treatment of security suspects during interrogation. The report also called on the government to promptly investigate all torture allegations and prosecute security officials suspected of abusing detainees" (Source; Saudi News Today).
Bahrain's ongoing crackdown has escalated since February, targeting every level of society with fewer and fewer outside observers allowed into the country. See WL Central's ongoing coverage of Bahrain: May, April, March 1 through 21, March 22 through 31, and February.
I spoke last night EST with Mr. Colangelo, while he was on a stop over in Paris, en route back to the Unites States from Bahrain.
Why were you going to Bahrain?
I have been involved with issues concerning Bahrain for a number of years. It began with representing the Bahraini who were detained at Guantanamo, and more recently I have worked as a consultant with Human Rights Watch on domestic Bahrain issues.
Hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo Bay are known to have engaged in hunger strikes at the prison in protest of conditions and their prolonged confinement without trial. A recent report from Jason Leopold of Truthout.org details how, as of March, detainees continue to participate in hunger strikes with the hope that the conditions of their detention will improve or so they will no longer have their basic due process rights violated.
Detainees first began to engage in hunger strikes in 2002. The hunger strikes had a definite impact. The strikes from 2002 to 2005 effectively changed the dynamics in the prison. Former detainee Binyam Mohamed said there was no law and a colonel was saying, “’I do what I like’ but after the hunger strike – the big hunger strike of 2005 – they actually started implementing some kind of law that we knew about.” But, come 2006, the prison began to force feed detainees that were striking and would force tubes down detainees’ throats in a manner that successfully convinced many of the detainees to end their resistance.
Hours ago, WikiLeaks sent out a tweet noting the US had suspected or known since 2008 that Osama bin Laden might have been living in Abottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed by a US black ops team, JSOC, in a pre-dawn raid on Sunday. The note begs a few questions.
Why was this detail missed when the New York Times, McClatchy Newspapers, Washington Post, and NPR put together coverage? How did this detail not become a headline on The Guardian’s or the Telegraph’s website?
Does it have anything to do with the way the media organizations searched the files? Or, was this small detail in one of the files not covered because of the fear that it might jeopardize efforts to track down bin Laden? Is it possible the New York Times met with the Pentagon and was urged to omit this detail?
The section that is getting attention comes from Abu al-Libi’s leaked detainee assessment report:
Update: Edited podcast is posted.
The long-awaited release of the Guantanamo Files. More than 10,000 cables in the Cablegate release now posted—2000 of them from Canada and just out before the country's election. The Grand Jury beginning to issue subpoenas in its investigation of WikiLeaks. The media getting an out-of-the-ordinary tour of Ft. Leavenworth with the consent of the Department of Defense.
There was much to talk about this week.
With so much to discuss, Trevor Timm, the person behind the Twitter account @WLLegal, joined the program to talk about the latest news on WikiLeaks. Timm helped to make possible a great Personal Democracy Forum event called, “WikiLeaks & the Law" just over a month ago. [Go here for video of the full panel.] He also appeared on the show just over a month ago.
To listen to the recorded "This Week in WikiLeaks" podcast, click on the widget below:
Co-authored by Alexa O'Brien
WL Central's Heather Marsh spoke this week to Dennis Edney, the Canadian defense counsel for Guantanamo inmate Omar Khadr. Following is an excerpt from the interviews.
Photo credit: Colin Perkel / The Canadian Press
Have you read the Wikileaks release ... the Guantanamo file on Omar Khadr?
Do you have any observations on that?
Of course. I do. What is it that I should say about that? Well, the one thing that is striking is how unreliable the evidence is to keep people in Guantanamo Bay. So much of the evidence relied upon and detaining people in Guantanamo Bay is second-hand hearsay, unreliable, and not the kind of evidence that would stand up in any court of law, proper court of law.
What a lot of people got ... or a lot of the media got out of Omar Khadr's report is that he was being treated not so much as a criminal, but as an intelligence asset because of his family.
Which is quite ... Absolutely. And what does it suggest? What intelligence does a fifteen year old boy have? What it was is that he was being held there because of his father. So, that's what they were looking for ... information about his father ... and so, his son has been left to rot in Guantanamo Bay because the Americans want to know about the father.
The Telegraph has released a new searchable database where you can sort through all Guantanamo detainees by nationality, current situation (released or still in Guantanamo) and at last, "Type of Detainee" which will tell you if they are Extremist, Innocent or Terrorist. If only the US Department of Defense had used this database years ago.
While most will be pleased to know that no 'Terrorists' have been released, there are 15 of them apparently in Guantanamo, all awaiting trials which are apparently no longer necessary. Abdul Qadir Yousef Hussein is declared innocent but still in Guantanamo. All of the other innocent detainees have, in the Telegraph's judgment, been released.
Polish public broadcaster TVP reports that an investigation into alleged secret CIA prisons on Polish territory may have yielded first results. According to a source, Polish investigators have evidence on the exact date prisoner Abu Zubaida was transferred to and from Szymany airport. He is said to have arrived in December 2002 and departed in September 2003.
Files recently released by Wikileaks may help to shed light on the fate of various other prisoners, in particular Abd al Nashiri. Warsaw prosecutor Robert Majewski confirmed that all relevant files will be translated and taken into account.
Read more on TVP.
For other WL Central coverage on the topic please see here.
“We are getting into classified and unclassified. All this is just about me proving what I did. If I did the things I did, I would admit that I did. Things I didn’t do, I will say clearly I didn’t do them. But if the Tribunal is saying there are more classified things, classified information – they have to prove that – I am not asking to see the witnesses, if you have any. I need just their names to prove that your documents are true. I think this is not justice; it is not right. It hasn’t been witnessed in the whole human history. If you base your judgments or the accusations against me on classified information, then there is no need to continue. Let’s just stop it right here.” – Faris Muslim al-Ansari, Guantanamo Detainee (ISN #253) at his Combatant Status Review Tribunal in September 2004
Seventeen years old when captured in December 2001, Fais Muslim Al Ansari (ISN:253) went before a tribunal and had his status as an enemy combatant reviewed. In his testimony, it is apparent al-Ansari, who at the time was twenty years old, understood the injustice of the system he was being subjected to at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. This understanding likely led him to participate in a hunger strike with over one hundred other detainees, many of which would be force fed as they attempted to protest detention conditions and their inability to adequately dispute their continued detention.