Pakistani freed from US torture jail in Afghanistan after ten years


This video from the USA says about itself:

“From the producer of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Who Killed the Electric Car? comes a documentary that takes a critical look at the Bush administration’s policy on torture by investigating the death of an Afghan taxi driver who, after being taken into the custody of American soldiers at Bagram Air Force Base, suffered fatal injuries at the hands of U.S. soldiers. In 2002, American soldiers accused an Afghan taxi driver of taking part in a deadly rocket attack. Five days after being handed over to the U.S. military for questioning, the man was found dead — the victim of a brutal bout of torture and abuse according to the medical examiner who inspected his body. The examiner concluded that the taxi driver’s hands had been bound to the ceiling, forcing him to stand for hours on end as his assailants repeatedly — and relentlessly — kicked him.

Compelled to finally unearth the truth about the mysterious fate of the deceased taxi driver, filmmaker Alex Gibney takes viewers on an illuminating journey from a tiny Afghani village to Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib, and ultimately the White House, to explore why the man who turned up in the morgue wasn’t the only victim to fall prey to the Bush administration’s controversial foreign policy.

By examining the sad fate of the wrongly accused, the toll that the War on Terror has taken on an exhausted United States military, and Justice Department official John Yoo’s internal memo concerning interrogation techniques, the filmmakers behind Taxi to the Dark Side encourage viewers to weigh out the issues for themselves, and never accept what’s told to them on face value. The film won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 80th Annual Academy Awards.”

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Pakistani man captured by British forces in Iraq released from US Bagram prison in Afghanistan after 10-year ordeal

Saturday 17th May 2014

Pakistani citizen Yunus Rahmatullah is released from 10-year detention by the US at Bagram airbase following a transfer from British forces in Iraq which the Supreme Court suggested could be a war crime.

A Pakistani citizen held at Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan for a decade has been released, it was revealed yesterday.

Yunus Rahmatullah was held at the US airbase for 10 years without charge, trial or access to a lawyer after his capture by British forces in Iraq and subsequent rendition to Afghanistan by British forces in 2004.

After years of government denials that Britain had been involved in rendition operations, Mr Rahmatullah’s capture by British forces was finally revealed to Parliament in February 2009 by then-secretary of state for defence John Hutton.

Despite admitting its role in Mr Rahmatullah’s illegal detention and transfer, the government refused to assist him.

As a result legal charity Reprieve and Leigh Day solicitors took action on Mr Rahmatullah’s behalf by legal action.

It was subsequently revealed that British officials were aware of a US intention to transfer Mr Rahmatullah from Iraq to Afghanistan at the time, yet did nothing to prevent it.

The Supreme Court in London suggested in 2012 that his rendition may have amounted to a war crime, stating: “The, presumably forcible, transfer of Mr Rahmatullah from Iraq to Afghanistan is, at least prima facie, a breach of article 49 [of the fourth Geneva Convention]. On that account alone, his continued detention post-transfer is unlawful.”

Mr Rahmatullah is said to be in a grave mental and physical condition as a result of his ordeal.

Reprieve legal director Kat Craig said: “After 10 years of unimaginable abuse and imprisonment at the hands the British and US forces, Yunus Rahmatullah deserves a full investigation into the circumstances of his capture.

“As its pernicious role in the worst abuses of the ‘war on terror’ continues to come to light, the British government must hold its hands up and right the wrongs of the past.”

Leigh Day solicitor Rosa Curling added: “The UK authorities transferred our client in to US custody, when it knew there was a real risk such a transfer would expose him to torture, mistreatment and abuse.

“They failed to take proper steps to try to ensure the US returned him to UK custody. To date, the UK government has refused to undertake such an investigation.”

Today in 2003: New York Times exposes torture of prisoners by US and British soldiers in Basra, Iraq: here.

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British Supreme Court accuses government of war crime


This video is called Extraordinary Rendition [Documentary about War on Terror and Guantanamo Bay / Binyam Mohamed].

From daily News Line in Britain:

Friday, 2 November 2012

UK RENDITION OF PAKISTANI ‘A POSSIBLE WAR CRIME’

The rendition of a Pakistani man by UK and US forces to Afghanistan, and his subsequent detention, has been described by Britain’s highest court as ‘unlawful’ and a possible war crime.

Yunus Rahmatullah, 29, was detained by British forces in Iraq in 2004, and rendered by the US to Bagram prison, Afghanistan, where he remains held without charge or trial to this day.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously dismissed the British government’s appeal to overturn the writ of habeas corpus issued in his case.

The court criticised the UK government for failing, on no less than three occasions, to request Mr Rahmatullah’s return.

It suggested that these failings may amount to a war crime, stating: ‘The, presumably forcible, transfer of Mr Rahmatullah from Iraq to Afghanistan is, at least prima facie, a breach of article 49 (of the Fourth Geneva Convention).

‘On that account alone, his continued detention post-transfer is unlawful.’

The UK government entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the US, which said the UK could seek his return if required, to justify his rendition.

The MoU invoked and reinforced the Geneva Conventions which the US has consistently breached when detaining prisoners of the War on Terror.

The Supreme Court therefore held that the British government should have demanded Mr Rahmatullah’s return when they found out he had been unlawfully transferred to Afghanistan, again when the Americans themselves had decided he no longer needed to be detained, and finally again when the war in Iraq ended.

The UK government have sought to argue that, despite the MoU with the US, any attempts to secure Mr Rahmatullah’s release would have been futile.

But the Court said that this argument was ‘unsupported by factual analysis’ and that ‘no evidence was proffered to sustain it’.

The Court identified this as the first time in 150 years when the US (‘a mature democracy’) has ‘dishonoured’ an extradition agreement (para. 14).

The writ of habeas corpus required the UK, as the ‘detaining authority’, to seek Mr Rahmatullah’s release from the United States authorities.

However, the United States failed to act on the writ and it was subsequently discharged.

Efforts to get the writ reinstated were lost in a majority decision in Wednesday’s judgment.

In December 2011, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision of the Divisional Court and agreed that the historic writ of habeas corpus should and can be issued in the case of Mr Rahmatullah.

British forces seized him in February 2004 during an operation against insurgents in Iraq.

The soldiers handed him over to their US counterparts under the Memorandum of Understanding covering how prisoners would be managed.

He was subsequently illegally rendered to Afghanistan.

Mr Rahmatullah was the subject of an embarrassing climbdown in 2009 by the then Defence Secretary John Hutton who had to admit that the government had previously misled the house when it said that it had not been involved in the US practice of Rendition.

In June 2010, a detention review board authorised his release, saying he posed ‘no enduring security threat’ – but he remains in detention.

Although in US custody, the UK is the ‘detaining authority’ pursuant to the 2003 Memorandum of Understanding struck between the UK and US during the invasion of Iraq and remains responsible for Mr Rahmatullah under the Geneva Conventions.

The ancient writ of habeas corpus is a right under English law that dates back to the Magna Carta.

It may be issued on behalf of any prisoner unlawfully detained so as to bring him (originally, his actual person; now more often just the facts of the case) before the High Court, and his release ordered.

Giving the lead judgment in the Supreme Court, Lord Kerr dismissed the government’s arguments that the 2003 MoU was no longer in force.

He also highlighted the contrary position taken by the government in seeking to down-play the import of the MoU in this case when in other cases it had sought to persuade to the Court to attach great weight to these inter-governmental agreements – notably in extradition cases where it has repeatedly relied upon MoUs to send individuals to countries that routinely use torture.

The Justices also debunked the government’s argument that Mr Rahmatullah was not being detained unlawfully.

‘There can be no plausible argument, therefore, against the proposition that there is clear prima facie evidence that Mr Rahmatullah is unlawfully detained and that the UK government was under an obligation to seek his return unless it could bring about effective measures to correct the breaches of the (Geneva Convention) that his continued detention constituted.’

Importantly, the Supreme Court also dismissed the government’s arguments that the Courts should not have issued the writ because it infringed on the ‘forbidden territory’ of foreign and diplomatic affairs.

In doing so, the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional right of the individual to challenge the lawfulness of their detention through the writ of habeas corpus.

As Lady Hale and Lord Carnwath put it: ‘Where liberty is at stake, it is not the Court’s job to speculate as to the political sensitivities which may be in play.’

Reprieve’s Legal Director Kat Craig said: ‘The UK government has nowhere left to turn.

‘The highest court in the country has expressed serious concerns that grave war crimes may have been committed, as a result of which a police investigation must be initiated without delay.

‘The Court has also found that Yunus Rahmatullah’s detention is unlawful.

‘Mr Ramatullah, who has been imprisoned for over eight years despite being cleared for release by the US itself on the basis that he poses no threat, must now be released immediately.’

Reprieve’s Director Clive Stafford Smith said: ‘This powerful Supreme Court decision has huge ramifications. Clearly there will now have to be a full criminal investigation.

‘But if the US has “dishonoured” its commitment to the UK in this case for the first time in 150 years, and continues to violate law as basic as the Geneva Conventions, this also throws other extradition agreements with the UK into doubt.’

Jamie Beagent, the lawyer at Leigh Day & Co representing Mr Rahmatullah, said: ‘Today’s judgment is a resounding affirmation of the principles of habeas corpus and its importance in defending the liberty of the individual from unbridled executive power.

‘The government’s attempts to row-back on centuries of constitutional development and restrict the reach of habeas corpus has been rejected by the highest Court in the land.

‘Sadly, despite the fact that in international law Mr Rahmatullah remains a British detainee and the United States does not consider him a security threat, our client remains in detention at Bagram.

‘The writ of habeas corpus now upheld by the Supreme Court failed to secure his release as the US failed to act on the writ and it was subsequently discharged.

‘We will be drawing the Supreme Court’s findings to the attention of the Metropolitan Police who are currently investigating our client’s case in relation to offences under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957.

‘We call on the government to engage with the US to bring to an end the ongoing breaches of the Geneva Conventions in our client’s case for which they are responsible.’

Reprieve, the legal charity with whose assistance Leigh Day brought this action on Mr Rahmatullah’s behalf, will continue to campaign for his release and return to his family in Pakistan.

Leigh Day will continue to assist in any way it can to finally bring Mr Rahmatullah’s incarceration to an end.

Anti-US occupation demonstration in Afghanistan


This video is called Koran Burning at Bagram Air Base Draws the Ire of Thousands.

Three thousand Afghans rallied outside the US military base in Bagram today following reports that personnel station there had burned copies of the Koran: here.

Photos are here.

Afghanistan: Dozens Wounded In Demonstrations Over Quran-Burning At NATO Base: here.

USA: Last Friday, 87 House members sent a letter to President Obama stating support for a plan to accelerate the end of combat operations in Afghanistan (as announced by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta earlier this month): here.

Bagram torture prison population growing


This video is called U S Torture at Afghanistan Bagram Army Base Pt1.

And this is Part 2.

From Salon.com in the USA:

Saturday, Jun 4, 2011 11:01 ET

The Gitmo no one talks about

By Justin Elliott

President Obama has presided over a threefold increase in the number of detainees being held at the controversial military detention center at Bagram Air Base, the Afghan cousin of the notorious prison at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. It’s the latest piece of news that almost certainly would be getting more attention — especially from Democrats — if George W. Bush were still president.

There are currently more than 1,700 detainees at Bagram, up from over 600 at the end of the Bush administration.

The situation at Bagram, especially the legal process that determines whether detainees are released, is the subject of a new report by Human Rights First. It finds that the current system of hearings for detainees “falls short of the requirements of international law” because they are not given “an adequate opportunity to defend themselves against charges that they are collaborating with insurgents and present a threat to U.S. forces.” Human Rights First also argues that cases of unjustified imprisonment are damaging the broader war effort by undermining Afghans’ trust in the military.

I spoke to the author of the report, Daphne Eviatar, a senior associate in the law and security program at Human Rights First who traveled to Bagram to observe the situation first-hand. The following transcript of our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

The [British] government has let a man languish in Bagram detention centre for seven years without charge because it claims it would be “politically embarrassing” and “futile” to ask for his release: here.

United States: Yemenis cleared for release held in Guantanamo for years: here.

Torture Accountability After All? Stephen Soldz, Truthout: “Over the last few years, as one avenue of accountability after another was closed, it looked as if the torture program would be protected as carefully by the Obama administration as it was by the Bush administration. The result, many feared, was that torture would remain an available tool of the state, to be dragged out by future administrations who could cite the lack of accountability for Bush torture by a Democratic administration as evidence of a bipartisan consensus that torture really isn’t that bad. Many human rights experts have argued that future courts, too, could view the current lack of accountability as a legal precedent, potentially further shielding future torturers. The one avenue for accountability that wasn’t closed by the Obama administration was the investigation by Department of Justice prosecutor John Durham. Durham, readers may recall, was the federal prosecutor originally tasked to investigate the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes in apparent violation of a court order. In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder expanded Durham’s mandate to include investigating incidents of detainee treatment that went beyond even those actions approved under the so-called ‘torture memos’ of the Bush Justice Department”: here.

‘To-be-released’ prisoners still in Bagram torture jail


This video is called U.S. Torture at Afghanistan Bagram Army Base Pt1.

And here is Part 2.

From Associated Press:

Detainees OK’d for release still held at Bagram

By DEB RIECHMANN

Updated: 2:05 p.m. Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Published: 11:07 a.m. Tuesday, April 5, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan — Amin al-Bakri holds a get-out-of-jail card from a detainee review board but so far it’s been useless to the former Yemeni gem salesman, who has been locked up at the U.S. military prison in Afghanistan for more than eight years.

Day upon day, 42-year-old al-Bakri wakes up behind bars at the massive U.S. detention center near Bagram Air Field. It’s the same place that CIA Director Leon Panetta says Osama bin Laden would be taken for initial questioning — if he’s ever captured.

Al-Bakri, who was never charged, is not alone.

More than a dozen detainees who were picked up outside of Afghanistan have been cleared for release by review boards but are still at Bagram, according to an estimate by Daphne Eviatar, a senior associate at Human Rights First, a nonprofit international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C.

The detainees’ lawyers suspect some are caught up in political problems between the U.S. and their home countries, including Yemen, Pakistan and Tunisia.

The Defense Department did not respond to allegations that political issues are delaying the release of detainees. Finding out exactly what’s holding up their release is difficult because their lawyers are not even privy to what evidence the government has on their clients, why they were picked up in the first place or how they ended up at Bagram.

“Amin has been there for almost a decade of his life,” said Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York who filed the latest appeal for al-Bakri’s release late Monday in a U.S. federal court in Washington. “Amin should never have been there in the first place. He has never been a threat to the United States.”

U.S. agents captured al-Bakri in late 2002 in Bangkok, Thailand, while he was on a business trip, according to his lawyers. He checked out of his hotel and was on his way to the airport to fly back to Yemen where he was planning to celebrate his 34th birthday with his wife and three children. He never made it home.

His family found out that he was alive when the International Committee of the Red Cross forwarded them a post card, in his own handwriting, from the detention facility north of Kabul. In December, Bagram detainees were moved to a new, modern prison several miles (kilometers) away from the old facility.

The Pentagon says it is working to free detainees approved for release, but it takes time. Lt. Col. Tanya Bradsher, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Defense Department in Washington, said that if a non-Afghan detainee is approved for transfer or release, diplomatic arrangements still must be made in order to repatriate the detainee to his home country or another location. The Pentagon would not say how many detainees at Bagram have been recommended for release, but still aren’t free. …

Redha al-Najar, a 45-year-old citizen of Tunisia, is another detainee whose life is in limbo.

In May 2002, Pakistani men and French-speaking men in plain clothes took him from his home in Karachi as his wife and child looked on.

During his nearly nine years in detention, the U.S. government has never charged al-Najar, according to Tina M. Foster, an attorney and executive director of International Justice Network, a New York-based nonprofit that has represented more than 30 Bagram detainees since 2006.

“His son, now 10, has grown up without a father,” she said.

USA: Holder, Obama and the Cowardly Shame of Guantánamo and the 9/11 Trial: here. And here.