British government accused of helping monarchist torturers in Nepal


This video says about itself:

Legal bid over MI5 torture guidance

A British human rights group has launching legal action against the government over guidelines the UK’s intelligence agencies on how to interrogate prisoners held overseas.

Reprieve, which represents former Guantanamo Bay detainees, says unpublished guidance from 2002 and 2004 is unlawful because it condones complicity in torture.

Alan Fisher reports from London.

(Feb 23, 2010)

From AFP news agency:

Britain accused of conniving at torture of Maoists in Nepal’s civil war

Author says MI6 assisted Nepalese army as it carried out gross human rights violations in war with Maoist rebels

Sunday 31 August 2014 04.18 BST

British authorities have been accused of funding a four-year intelligence operation in Nepal that led to Maoist rebels being arrested, tortured and killed during the country’s civil war.

Thomas Bell, the author of a new book on the conflict, says MI6 funded safe houses and provided training in surveillance and counter-insurgency tactics to Nepal’s army and spy agency, the National Investigation Department (NID) under “Operation Mustang”, launched in 2002.

Nepal’s decade-long civil war left more than 16,000 dead, with rebels and security forces accused of serious human rights violations including killings, rapes, torture and disappearances.

“According to senior Nepalese intelligence and army officials involved in the operation, British aid greatly strengthened their performance and led to about 100 arrests,” said Bell, whose book Kathmandu is released in south Asia on Thursday.

“It’s difficult to put an exact number on it, but certainly some of those who were arrested were tortured and disappeared,” he said.

Maoist commander Sadhuram Devkota, known by his nom-de-guerre Prashant, was among those captured during Operation Mustang, in November 2004. Six weeks later, he was found hanging from a low window in his cell. Officials said he had committed suicide.

Despite protests, no independent investigation was ever carried out.

British authorities helped construct a bug-proof building in the NID headquarters, created a secure radio network for communications and supplied everything from cameras to computers to mobile phones and night vision binoculars, according to Bell’s sources in the Nepalese security establishment.

“The agency also sent a small number of British officers to Nepal, around four or five – some tied to the embassy, others operating separately,” Bell said.

The officers gave the Nepalese training in how to place bugs, how to penetrate rebel networks and how to groom informers.

Bell spent about a year interviewing some 20 highly-placed sources to corroborate the details of the operation, and said a senior western official told him the operation was cleared by Britain’s Foreign Office.

A Nepalese general with close knowledge of the operation told Bell there was no doubt British authorities realised that some of the arrested suspects would be tortured and killed.

“Being British they must have thought about human rights also, but they knew exactly what was happening to them,” the general said. “The thing must have been approved at a high level.”

Bell said it was “a peculiar contradiction that while calling for an end to abuses … the British were secretly giving very significant help in arresting targets whom they knew were very likely to be tortured”.

Bell covered Nepal’s civil war from 2002 to 2007, reporting for the Economist and the South China Morning Post.

Tejshree Thapa, senior researcher at the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, told AFP: “Nepal’s army was known by 2002 to be an abusive force, responsible for … summary executions, torture, custodial detentions.

“To support such an army is tantamount to entrenching and encouraging abuse and impunity.”

Ill-treatment at Guantanamo torture camp continuing


This music video is called PJ Harvey – Shaker Aamer.

About this song:

3 August 2013

PJ Harvey has released a song to highlight the ongoing detention of the last British resident held inside the US prison at Guantánamo Bay.

The track, called Shaker Aamer was recorded by the Mercury prizewinning songwriter to help maintain pressure to have the 46-year-old, whose family live in south London, released back to Britain.

Aamer has been detained in Guantánamo for more than 11 years, despite being cleared for release in 2007, and remains imprisoned without charge or trial. He has a British wife and his four children — the youngest of whom he has never met — were all born in Britain. They live in Tooting, south London.

The British government has stated repeatedly that it wants him back in the UK and last week, under escalating international pressure, the US announced it is to restart transfers from the prison. Concerns remain, however, that Aamer might be forcibly sent to Saudi Arabia and imprisoned there instead of being reunited with his family in the UK.

Shaker Aamer

No water for three days.
I cannot sleep, or stay awake.

Four months hunger strike.
Am I dead, or am I alive?

With metal tubes we are force fed.
I honestly wish I was dead.

Strapped in the restraining chair.
Shaker Aamer, your friend.

In camp 5, eleven years.
Never Charged. Six years cleared.

They took awat my one note pad,
and they refused to give it back.

I can’t think straight, I write, then stop.
Your friend, Shaker Aamer. Lost.

The guards just do what they’re told,
the doctors just do what they’re told.

Like an old car I’m rusting away.
Your friend, Shaker, Guantanamo Bay.

Don’t forget.

© 2013 Hothead Music Ltd.

By Will Stone in Britain:

Shaker Aamer ‘beaten at Guantanamo

Thursday 28th August 2014

SHAKER AAMER has reportedly been brutally beaten at Guantanamo Bay in a savage new crackdown by US troops on inmates protesting against their incarceration without charge.

Legal action charity Reprieve said yesterday that prisoners had revealed a shocking new “standard procedure.”

Emad Hassan, a Yemeni man detained without charge since 2002, wrote that a “forcible cell extraction team has been brought in to beat the detainees.”

On Sunday Mr Aamer, the last British resident locked up in the US prison, was “beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood,” Mr Hassan said.

Guards also severely beat another detainee in an ordeal lasting nearly two hours, he added.

In a forcible cell extraction armed guards burst into a prisoner’s room and savagely drag him out — often to take hunger-strikers to be force-fed, which the UN says is a form of torture.

At one point Mr Aamer, who has been locked up without trial or charge for 12-and-a-half years, was said to have been beaten by troops eight times a day.

Reprieve strategic director Cori Crider, who is one of Mr Aamer’s lawyers, said: “Just weeks ago, the UK government dismissed our concerns about Shaker Aamer’s wellbeing, relying on US assurances about a so-called Guantanamo ‘welfare package.’

“Now we hear that Shaker, already a seriously ill man, has been beaten.

Foreign Secretary “Phillip Hammond should seek answers from the US without delay about why, instead of simply releasing Shaker, it prefers to detain and abuse him.”

Mr Aamer remains locked up in the torture camp despite being cleared for release by both the Bush and Obama administrations, spending long periods of that time shut away in solitary confinement.

An independent medical examination conducted earlier this year showed that Mr Aamer was in extremely poor health, with severe post-traumatic stress and in dire need of psychiatric care and to return to his family.

In June, former foreign secretary William Hague told Reprieve that officials were confident Mr Aamer had access to a “detainee welfare package” and that his health “remained stable.”

In a letter sent this week, Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith urged Mr Hague’s successor Mr Hammond to interrogate the US about the latest reports of beatings.

See also here.

Saving reptiles and amphibians


This video from the USA is called What’s the difference between an amphibian and a reptile? Find out in this World Book Explains video.

From Wildlife Extra:

Zoos stave off extinction for many reptiles and amphibians

A frog that doesn’t croak, the largest living lizard, and a tortoise that can live up to 100 years are just some of the species staving off extinction thanks to the help of zoos, according to a new report.

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), which promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums, has compiled a list of the top 10 reptiles and amphibians benefitting from the aid of its members in the UK and Ireland.

Dr Andrew Marshall from BIAZA’s Field Programmes Committee co-ordinated the compilation of the list with input from conservation experts based at BIAZA collections.

He said: “Zoos are part of a global conservation community. Last year, BIAZA published a report on the top 10 mammals most reliant on zoos, which highlighted the work being done to help safeguard their future. This year, we have focused on 10 prevailing examples of reptiles and amphibians.

“The list includes some fantastic species, many of which are facing a dramatic decline and are in a desperate situation in the wild.”

Strict criteria were used for the list. All the reptiles and amphibians proposed had to be associated with current field initiatives by zoos and/or essential conservation breeding in zoos.

Particular importance was given to initiatives which included a management role in the species’ conservation, rather than just providing funds. Priority was also given to species listed as threatened on the international IUCN Red List of threatened species.

“The top 10 list demonstrates the importance of zoos and aquariums not only for conservation breeding of safety-net populations, but also for their contribution to funding and management of conservation projects in the field,” said Dr Marshall, “including research, education and support for local communities, as well as protection of crucial wildlife habitats.”

TV presenter and naturalist, Nick Baker, who is supporting the top 10 campaign this year said: “Zoos and aquariums have a very important role in this whole thing … at the scariest level they are the Ark. They are where the insurance populations of these animals can be looked after and understood and studied.

“As much as BIAZA is very important in holding the Ark population, it is also very important in being that interface between these animals and the public.

“The problem with these animals is they are not furry, they do not have an instant appeal to the masses. As a consequence they can be forgotten.

“The reality is, when the zoos show them to the world they are reaching people and spreading that word and getting people to appreciate what these animals are about.”

BIAZA’s top 10 reptiles and amphibians most reliant on zoos are:

Axolotl – this Critically Endangered amphibian retains a tadpole-like appearance even as an adult and has the extraordinary ability to regenerate limbs, but it is vulnerable to water-quality changes and is Critically Endangered mainly due to high levels of pollution in its last remaining stronghold in Mexico.

This video is called Axolotl salamanders continue to intrigue researchers.

Golden mantella – These Critically Endangered frogs don’t croak! Instead males attract females by a series of clicking noises. This bright yellow frog is known for attempting to eat anything that can fit in their mouth, even if the taste is repulsive.

This video is called Golden mantella chorus.

Komodo dragon – there are fewer than 1,000 left in the wild, living on a small island off Indonesia. They are the largest living lizard with males growing up to 3m in length and weighing up to 90kg.

This video is called Massive Lizards : Documentary on Giant Komodo Dragons.

Lemur leaf frog – Due to massive habitat loss and the effects of chytrid fungus, this species’ range and its population has declined by over 80 per cent in recent years. An adult lemur frog is only 3cm to 4cm long, it could fit on the end of your finger.

This video from England is called Andrew Gray, Curator of Herpetology at Manchester Museum talking about Lemur Leaf Frog conservation.

Morelet’s leaf frog – these striking lime-green frogs with a pink or orange underbelly are rapidly disappearing as their forest habitat is destroyed. They have incredible jet-black eyes with no discernable iris, and wide webbing between their toes which allows them to parachute between trees.

This video is called Morelet’s Tree Frog.

Mountain chicken – One of the largest frogs in the world, this Critically Endangered species came by the name because it is commonly hunted for food on the islands of Dominica and Monserrat in the Caribbean. Despite its name, it lives mainly in the lowlands.

This video is called Mountain Chicken.

Orange-tailed skink – These beautiful and highly endangered skinks were discovered on Flat Island in Mauritius in 1995 where they were being preyed upon by non-native introductions such as the Indian musk shrew. The species would now be extinct if it weren’t for the help of zoos.

Ploughshare tortoise – one of the rarest land tortoises in the world and a most sought after reptile in the illegal pet trade. This Critically Endangered tortoise is endemic to Madagascar and can live up to 100 years.

This video is called Ploughshare Tortoises, Madagascar.

Round island boa – the only snake in its genus, found only on one small island off Mauritius, where it is suffereing from loss of habitat. It is one of the very few snake species that can change its colour over a 24-hour period, being darker during the day and lighter at night.

This video is called Round Island Boa.

Sand lizard – although common in other parts of the world, this is one of the UK’s rarest lizards, protected here by law, as it is in most of Europe. It is restricted to sand dunes and lowland heaths in southern England.

This video is called Sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) – Life on the tree – Animalia Kingdom Show.