United States torture flights and Britain


From daily The Guardian in Britain:

New light shed on US government’s extraordinary rendition programme

Online project uncovers details of way in which CIA carried out kidnaps and secret detentions following September 11 attacks

• The Rendition Project interactive
• CIA rendition flights explained

Guantánamo Bay, Cuba

Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Abu Faraj al-Libi, one of the detainees there, was allegedly seized in Pakistan in 2005, flown to Afghanistan, switched to another aircraft and taken to the US base via Romania. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty

A groundbreaking research project has mapped the US government’s global kidnap and secret detention programme, shedding unprecedented light on one of the most controversial secret operations of recent years.

The interactive online project – by two British universities and a legal charity – has uncovered new details of the way in which the so-called extraordinary rendition programme operated for years in the wake of the September 11 attacks, and the techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to avoid detection in the face of growing public concern.

The Rendition Project website is intended to serve as a research tool that not only collates all the publicly available data about the programme, but can continue to be updated as further information comes to light.

Data already collated shows the full extent of the UK’s logistical support for the programme: aircraft associated with rendition operations landed at British airports more than 1,600 times.

Although no detainees are known to have been aboard the aircraft while they were landing in the UK, the CIA was able to refuel during operations that involved some of the most notorious renditions of the post-September 11 years, including one in which two men were kidnapped in Sweden and flown to Egypt, where they suffered years of torture, and others that involved detainees being flown to and from a secret prison in Romania.

The database also tracks rendition flights into and out of Diego Garcia, in the Chagos Islands, and suggests that flight crews enjoyed rest-and-recreation stopovers on the Turks and Caicos Islands. Both are British overseas territories.

The Rendition Project is the result of three years of work, funded by the UK taxpayer through the Economic and Social Research Council, by Ruth Blakeley, a senior lecturer at the University of Kent, and Sam Raphael, a senior lecturer at Kingston University, working with Crofton Black, an investigator with the legal charity Reprieve.

“By bringing together a vast collection of documents and data, the Rendition Project publishes the most detailed picture to date of the scale, operation and evolution of the global system of rendition and secret detention in the so-called war on terror,” said Blakeley.

Raphael said: “The database makes a major contribution to efforts to track CIA rendition flights, and provides the clearest picture so far of what was going on. It also serves as an important tool for investigators, journalists and lawyers to delve into in more detail.”

Black added: “The Rendition Project lays bare the inner workings of the logistics network underlying the US government’s secret prison programme. It’s the most accurate and comprehensive resource so far published.”

The data includes details on 11,006 flights by aeroplanes linked to the CIA’s rendition programme since 2002. Of those, 1,556 flights are classed as confirmed or suspected rendition flights, or flagged as “suspicious”, depending on the strength of the supporting evidence surrounding each.

The researchers have also confirmed 20 “dummy” flights within the data: flight paths logged with air traffic controllers, but never taken. Instead, the planes took a different route to different airports along the way, to pick up or drop off a detainee. About a dozen more flight paths are marked as possible dummy flights.

The website also weaves together first-hand testimony of detainees of their mistreatment within the secret prisons; the layout and conditions of the facilities; the movements of detainees across the globe; and documents that detail outsourcing to corporations that offered logistical support, from flights to catering and hotel reservations. In some cases, it is unclear whether the airline companies would have been aware of the purpose of the flights.

The project also brings to light new information on the methods used to avoid detection of rendition flights, particularly as journalists became aware of the programme. The project highlights “tarmac transfers” – occasions on which two planes involved in rendition met on remote airfields. The researchers believe these occasions were used to transfer detainees from one plane to another, making their rendition route far more difficult to track.

Among the prisoners who appear to have been switched from one aircraft to another in this way is Abu Faraj al-Libi, who is currently being held at the Guantánamo detention camp in Cuba. After being captured in Pakistan in May 2005, he appears to have been flown to Afghanistan, where he was switched to another aircraft and taken to Bucharest.

Poland CIA torture scandal continues


This video says about itself:

Secret prisons in Europe, finds EU special committee

Apr 12, 2012

http://www.euronews.com/ Secret detention centres and an organised system supporting the CIA’s rendition programme were in place in several EU countries, according to the findings of European Parliament special committee.

A report investigating allegations of human rights violations claims arrangements existed in Lithuania, Romania, Poland, Denmark, Finland and Britain.

The European Parliament organised hearings with NGO’s and human rights institutions to gather additional data about the alleged complicity of some EU member-states’ governments in the CIA’s rendition programme.

“Nothing has been done in member states to truly investigate and get to the bottom of the problem. There is an obligation not only not to torture or to be an accomplice in torture. But there is an obligation to investigate, to ensure accountability,” said Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the World Organisation Against Torture.

Many of the inquiries conducted in recent years by member states have been classified.

Those findings were not made available for the follow up report that the European parliament is preparing. The report’s author says a joined up approach is imperative.

Acknowledging the failures or difficulties members states have had in tackling the problem, the European Union should take this issue into its own hands so that finally, the information can become freely accessible,” said Hélène Flautre, MEP and rapporteur for Civil Liberties Committee.

From Inter Press Service news agency:

Poland Cornered Over Its Secret Prisons

Friday, March 8, 2013 – 09:21

WARSAW, Mar 08 (IPS) – A Polish official investigation into the existence of a secret CIA prison on its territory is being stalled, according to official sources, while pressure on the country to tell the truth mounts.

Various public sources, from Dick Marty’s 2007 Council of Europe report to the recent Globalising Torture study of Open Society Foundations, claim Poland hosted a secret CIA prison used in the extraordinary rendition programme from the end of 2002. Under this programme, the U.S. detained and interrogated terrorism suspects in Europe.

Evidence comes from official sources. The 2004 CIA Inspector General report, which discusses CIA’s treatment of prisoners thought to be linked to Al-Qaeda in the period 2001-2003, details the case of Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, alleged leader of Al-Qaeda in the Persian Gulf and suspected of organising the bombing of warship USS Cole. Seventeen US servicemen were killed in the attack on the ship in the Yemeni port Aden in October 2000.

According to the report, by November 2002 Al-Nashiri had been detained by the CIA and enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT) were applied on him “through to 4 December 2002.” A heavily redacted further section reads, “two waterboard sessions in November 2002 after which (…) Al-Nashiri was compliant. However, after being moved (…) Al-Nashiri was thought to be withholding information.”

These fragments show Al-Nashiri was moved immediately after Dec. 4 to a new location, where EIT were applied on him again.

Poland seems to be this new location. Documents disclosed by the Polish Border Guards to the Polish Helsinki Foundation show that flight N63MU landed at Polish Szymany airport on Dec. 5, 2002, coming from Thailand (where CIA prisoners were thought to have been taken at first) via Dubai with eight passengers and four crew members; it left Poland with only the four crew.

No other flights – but N63MU to Poland – on which Al-Nashiri could have been moved have been discovered: “We have comprehensive data for 200-300 planes suspected or known to have done renditions – all U.S. registered private jets,” Crofton Black, investigator at UK NGO Reprieve, told IPS. “Having surveyed all these planes, it does appear there is no other relevant movement from Thailand on or around Dec. 5.” Black, however, adds that relevant flights might still be discovered.

In addition to such evidence (which can be brought for other terrorism suspects too), officials from governments and intelligence services of various countries, including Poland and the U.S., interviewed by UN and EU bodies, NGOs and journalists, point to the fact that the Polish site was key to the CIA scheme.

Those sources continue to speak under the condition of anonymity because both Poland and the U.S. refuse to officially reveal details about how rendition functioned.

In Poland, a prosecutors’ investigation started in 2008 has recently taken a dubious turn.

Until a year ago, the investigation was conducted by the Warsaw prosecutors’ office, under two successive prosecutors. In 2011, Poland’s main daily Gazeta Wyrbocza reported that the first prosecutor reached the point of asking legal experts about the implications of Poland hosting a site where foreign agents tortured prisoners.

In 2012, Polish media reported that the second prosecutor assigned to the case told Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, Poland’s head of intelligence services between 2002 and 2004, that charges would be brought against him for violating international law by allowing the unlawful detention of prisoners in Poland. Siemiatkowski confirmed the charges.

After this news came out, the case was moved to Krakow.

Mikolaj Pietrzak, the Polish lawyer for Al-Nashiri, has won the right to be updated on the investigation since his client was granted victim status by Polish authorities in 2010. Pietrzak told IPS that he had enjoyed good cooperation with the Warsaw prosecutors, having even been granted access to the entire file (including to classified information) by the second investigator. Since the case moved to Krakow, he has seen solely non-classified information and only after significant pressure from his side.

“It is extremely irregular that a case be shifted to three different prosecutors,” Pietrzak said. “And the fact that in the last year nothing has gone forward apparently is a very sad statement about the investigation.”

Piotr Kosmaty, a Krakow prosecutors’ office spokesperson, confirmed to IPS that the case which was supposed to be finalised this February has received a set extension, but the new timeline is not public.

According to Adam Bodnar, head of the legal division at Helsinki Foundation, “all the steps to prolong the investigation are meant to avoid making a formal and conclusive decision in this case.”

“This is a hot potato situation for Polish prosecutors and politicians,” Bodnar told IPS. “They cannot just redeem Poland, that would cause an outcry, but pressing charges against Siemiatkowski or Leszek Miller (former prime minister of Poland between 2001 and 2004) is also impossible in the current political configuration. So they try to prolong it as much as possible.”

Yet sweeping this case under the rug might be impossible for Poland.

Al-Nashiri opened a case against Poland at the European Court of Human Rights, and lawyers for Abu Zubaydah, the first “high value detainee” in the CIA programme who was also allegedly brought to Poland on the same N63MU flight, are preparing a similar case.

According to Pietrzak and Bodnar, even if Poland does not disclose any information to the ECHR (it has refused to do so until now), there is enough evidence to prove the country violated the Geneva Conventions, for not having offered protection to these individuals on its soil and for allowing them to be transferred to the U.S., where they are vulnerable to the death penalty.

Pietrzak, who has at one point seen the full file of the Polish investigation, claims: “This case is going to be very difficult to overturn, becase there is a lot of evidence, and you simply cannot pretend that what is there in the prosecutors’ file doesn’t exist.”

The lawyer says that in case the Polish investigation is closed with no result, as a representative of a victim he has the procedural right to appeal in front of a Polish court. In that case, he can bring all the confidential information he has seen as evidence.

Fifty governments in global torture


This video from the USA says about itself:

Sep 29, 2006

Based on incorrect information, Canadian ‘renditions’ victim Mahar Arar was kidnapped by U.S. authorities and sent to Syria to be tortured. Arar explains why he told the torturers the lies they wanted to hear.

By Joshua Hersh in the USA:

Extraordinary Rendition Report Finds More Than 50 Nations Involved In Global Torture Scheme

Posted: 02/04/2013 11:14 pm EST  |  Updated: 02/05/2013 11:24 am EST

WASHINGTON — The U.S. counterterrorism practice known as extraordinary rendition, in which suspects were quietly moved to secret prisons abroad and often tortured, involved the participation of more than 50 nations, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Open Society Foundations.

The OSF report, which offers the first wholesale public accounting of the top-secret program, puts the number of governments that either hosted CIA “black sites,” interrogated or tortured prisoners sent by the U.S., or otherwise collaborated in the program at 54. The report also identifies by name 136 prisoners who were at some point subjected to extraordinary rendition.

The number of nations and the names of those detained provide a stark tally of a program that was expanded widely — critics say recklessly — by the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has been heavily condemned in the years since. In December, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, condemned the CIA’s detention and interrogation efforts as “terrible mistakes.”

Although Bush administration officials said they never intentionally sent terrorism suspects abroad in order to be tortured, the countries where the prisoners seemed to end up — Egypt, Libya and Syria, among others — were known to utilize coercive interrogation techniques.

Extraordinary rendition was also a factor in one of the greatest intelligence blunders of the Bush years. Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan national and top al Qaeda operative who was detained in Pakistan in late 2001, was later sent by the U.S. to Egypt. There, under the threat of torture, he alleged that Saddam Hussein had trained al Qaeda in biological and chemical warfare. He later withdrew the claim, but not before the U.S. invaded Iraq in part based on his faulty testimony.

When he came into office, President Barack Obama pledged to end the U.S. government’s use of torture and issued an executive order closing the CIA’s secret prisons around the world.

But Obama did not fully end the practice of rendition, which permits the U.S. to circumvent any due process obligations for terrorism suspects. Instead, the administration said it was relying on the less certain “diplomatic assurances” of host countries that they would not torture suspects sent to them for pretrial detention.

This decision, the OSF report concludes, was tantamount to continuing the program, since in the absence of any public accounting, it was impossible to measure the accuracy of those “assurances.”

Without any public government records to read, Amrit Singh, the OSF’s top legal analyst for national security and counterterrorism and the new report’s author, turned to news reports, the investigations of a global network of human rights organizations, and the proceedings of a handful of foreign courts that have investigated their own countries’ practices.

What Singh saw was a hasty global effort, spearheaded by the United States in the months after 9/11, to bypass longstanding legal structures in order to confront the emerging threat of international terrorism.

Singh condemned the consequences of that effort in the report’s introduction. “By enlisting the participation of dozens of foreign governments in these violations, the United States further undermined longstanding human rights protections enshrined in international law — including, in particular, the norm against torture,” she wrote.

“Responsibility for this damage does not lie solely with the United States,” Singh added, “but also with the numerous foreign governments without whose participation secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations could not have been carried out.”

The list of those nations includes a range of American allies (Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany) and familiar Middle Eastern partners in the messy fight against radical Islam (Jordan, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates). Their alleged levels of participation vary widely, from countries like Poland, which agreed to host CIA black-site prisons, to nations like Portugal and Finland, which merely allowed their airspace and airports to be used for rendition flights.

A few of the nations involved, such as Australia and Sweden, have begun a process of public accounting and compensation for their roles in the process. Others, including Italy and Macedonia, have recently become embroiled in trials of local officials and CIA agents in absentia over their actions.

This story has been updated with links to the Open Society Foundations report, released Tuesday.

See also here.

Compensation for Tony Blair torture victim


This video is called Tony Blair meets Colonel Gaddafi in Libya.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Torture victim given £2.2m

Thursday 13 December 2012

A Libyan dissident forcibly returned to Tripoli in 2004 to face imprisonment and torture has accepted over £2 million in compensation in a settlement with the British government over its role in his illegal rendition.

Ministers have agreed to pay £2.23m compensation to the family of Sami al-Saadi but have not admitted liability.

Mr Saadi was forced aboard a plane in Hong Kong along with his wife and four young children in a joint British-US-Libyan operation.

In Tripoli he was imprisoned and tortured by the Gadaffi regime.

Evidence of Britain’s involvement emerged after the regime fell last year.

CIA correspondence with Libyan intelligence, discovered by Human Rights Watch in Tripoli, states: “we are … aware that your service had been co-operating with the British to effect [Mr Saadi's] removal to Tripoli … the Hong Kong government may be able to co-ordinate with you to render [Mr Saadi] and his family into your custody.”

The operation followed Tony Blair‘s “Deal in the Desert” with late dictator Muammar Gadaffi, which saw Britain agree to help track down and hand over his opponents.

Mr Saadi said: “My family suffered enough when they were kidnapped and flown to Gadaffi’s Libya.

“They will now have the chance to complete their education in the new, free Libya. I will be able to afford the medical care I need because of the injuries I suffered in prison.

“I started this process believing that a British trial would get to the truth in my case. But today, with the government trying to push through secret courts, I feel that to proceed is not best for my family.

“I went through a secret trial once before, in Gadaffi’s Libya. In many ways, it was as bad as the torture. It is not an experience I care to repeat.”

Reprieve legal director Kat Craig said: “We now know that Tony Blair’s ‘Deal in the Desert’ was bought with ugly compromises.

“Perhaps the ugliest was for MI6 to deliver a whole family to one of the world’s most brutal dictators. There needs to be a full and fair inquiry into these issues, and it ought to get started right away.”

A second Libyan, Abdul Hakim Belhaj, who also suffered rendition and torture, will continue to pursue legal action against the British government.