Irish government whitewashing Bahrain human rights violations?


This video from the USA is called CNN – Bahrain security forces torture doctors, medics and patients.

From the Irish Medical Times:

Freedoms at the heart of medical education

February 18, 2015

Prof Eoin O’Brien is critical of the recent Medical Council report on RCSI-Bahrain following a recent accreditation visit, suggesting that it does Ireland an international disservice.

Education without freedom of speech is an oxymoron that I believe has just been upheld by the Irish Medical Council (IMC) and the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, on behalf of the Irish people.

With more than two million people supporting freedom of speech in Paris in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders, and supportive demonstrations throughout this country, it is timely to ask how authorities acting on behalf of the Irish public can be, in my view, so cavalier in granting what amounts to official approval of an oppressive regime.

And let’s be in no doubt but that Bahrain is a most oppressive regime, ranking 163rd out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index (Ireland ranks 16th), as a consequence of which it is off-limits to most human rights groups. In this small island about one million people are governed by a minority Sunni monarchy, which, with the economic backing of Saudi Arabia, oppresses the Shia majority who are denied the most basic of human rights.

Let us remind ourselves that what started as a peaceful protest for basic human rights in the Arab Spring of 2011 ended with more than 35 people killed and some 70 medical professionals, including 47 doctors, being arrested, with more than 150 medical workers suspended or dismissed from their jobs, and that Irish-trained surgeons and doctors Ali Al-Ekri, Bassim Dhaif, Ghassan Dhaif and his wife Zahraa Al-Sammak were among the tortured. Dr Al-Ekri remains incarcerated in a prison.

Freedom of speech

The question is this: can university education be provided in an environment that forbids freedom of speech and imprisons those who chose to exercise this fundamental democratic right? The President of the Irish Medical Council, Prof Freddie Wood, who until recently was a member of the Council of RCSI and Chairman of its Finance Committee, is, I would argue, of the opinion that freedom of expression is a prerequisite of medical education.

In a recent lecture, Prof Wood used a quote from Martin Luther King: “Our lives begin to end the day we start to remain silent about the things that matter.” The President went on to illustrate the righteous adherence of the IMC to such a principle: “All the international research shows that doctors who have issues at medical school are likely to continue with bad practices throughout their professional lives. If we can work to standardise the training experience for all doctors so that it is consistently high, we can make sure a reference for good practice is there throughout a doctor’s career.” Likewise, the National University of Ireland (NUI) (which awards degrees in Bahrain) is emphatic in emphasising the importance of freedom of speech in university education.

Dr Maurice Manning, the Chancellor of NUI, chaired a committee in 2013 that drafted a guiding document entitled Human Rights Principles and Code of Conduct for the National University of Ireland and its Member Institutions.

It should be noted that the RCSI, as a member institute, should be subject to the principles enumerated in this document, among which are: “The National University of Ireland and its member institutions have a special responsibility to ensure that… the human rights of their students, staff and associates are fully respected, regardless of the country where they are located. This includes but is not limited to freedoms that are necessary for the good functioning of a university, such as freedom of association, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination.”

It goes on to emphasise that the NUI and its member institutions must ensure that none of their activities, including partnerships they undertake with institutions in different countries, are seen as providing support for the violation of human rights.

How, one has to ask, can these Irish institutions on the one hand emphasis such laudable principles about the educational environment of medical students, and, on the other, countenance granting accreditation to RCSI-Bahrain and its associated hospitals, where torture and imprisonment of medical staff, not to say anything about suppression of freedom of speech, has been openly documented and repeatedly emphasised by medical and legal authorities?

Educators in Bahrain have also had difficulty reconciling the principles of education with the repression of basic human rights. The former President of RCSI-Bahrain, Prof Tom Collins, resigned his position because by remaining in office effectively amounted to complicity with suppressive policies of the Bahraini authorities — a resultant compromising of the very essence of higher education.

The ‘rape’ of Bahrain

Dr Mike Diboll, a former Academic Head of Continuing Professional Development at Bahrain Teachers College, University of Bahrain, and a faculty member of the University of Bahrain, who “witnessed the toxic effects of institutionalised sectarianism, the suppression of academic freedom and the violation of civil and human rights at the University of Bahrain”, has stated that: “The rape of Bahrain Polytechnic provides yet more evidence — as if more were needed — as to why no respectable international higher education institution, professional body, or accreditation agency should have anything whatsoever to do with Bahrain until fundamental social and political change has happened there.”

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the recent announcement by the Medical Council to grant accreditation to RCSI-Bahrain has appalled many doctors, who see grave implications that extend far beyond the shores of the islands of Bahrain and Ireland.

IMC Report

The IMC Report on Accreditation Inspection of Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland-Bahrain Medical School, which took place on October 13 and 14, 2014, makes, in my view, disturbing reading, not so much for the recommendations it makes, but for the facts it chooses to omit in reaching its conclusions. I am not going to concern myself with the make-up of the visiting team, but rather concentrate on their failure to make any meaningful reference to human rights and the freedom of expression — issues that cannot be ignored in the context of approving a third-level institution that purports to educate doctors to practise in multicultural environments.

The only mention of human rights in the 40-page document (apart from four documents listed as ‘Background Reading’) is reference to a review document from RCSI-Bahrain that apparently “commits RCSI-B to expressing its declared ethos, including commitment to dignity and freedom for all, though the content and process of its teaching”.

The report goes on: “A stand-alone module on human rights has been introduced, with assessment explicitly linked to student progress.”

It could be argued that the report reflects an unsuitable position taken towards the institute under inspection, rather than expressing its findings in a dispassionate and factual manner. For example, from the outset the “noble purpose” of RCSI is acknowledged, whereby it enhances “human health through endeavour, innovation and collaboration in education, research and service”.

The report repeatedly “commends” RCSI-Bahrain, examples being for the sports facilities available on campus and on the range of clubs and societies available to students, the “Careers Office, which provides guidance, support and advice” and the “calibre of the administrative staff met on the accreditation inspection”.

These are important considerations in any university where fundamental existential conditions, such as academic freedom, meritocratic decision-making, freedom of association and freedom of expression are assumed, which is not necessarily the case in Bahrain.

The report deems the clinical facilities to be acceptable, not by a rigorous assessment of the hospitals, interviewing past pupils, patients and independent reports, but instead by relying on the ability of current students to speak out and exercise their freedom of speech, which has hitherto been so assiduously denied them.

There is then the time given to the IMC visit — two working days to visit and interview personnel at the RCSI-Bahrain Medical School, the King Hamad University Hospital, and the Bahrain Defence Forces Hospital, and to assess the clinical facilities.

The report suggests an important contradiction, which needs to be reconciled, namely that while it was disappointing that the Team had been unable “to meet with a greater number of students, they found that students were aware of the purpose of the meeting and had reasonable opportunity to opt-in”. Why did so few students attend, then, if they were aware of the meeting?

The final conclusion of this flawed report is that: “The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Bahrain’s six-year Medical Programme should be approved for a period of five years under the terms of Section 88(2)(a)(i)(I) of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007.”

This recommendation is based on the fact that RCSI-Bahrain provided “an appropriate, comprehensive and pedagogically-sound education programme, which is carefully designed to meet defined educational outcomes and is based on the well established programme at the parent institution in Dublin”.

Does this imply that the visiting team from Ireland believed that the same democratic principles that pertain in Dublin also operate in the educational environment in Bahrain?

This is not too surprising, of course, seeing that it would appear they did not interview or visit any of the people involved in upholding human rights in that country.

Rather, the IMC team has chosen to concentrate on issues of technical competence rather than the relevance of ethical principles in decision making — a dangerous course as the Irish people well know, having had to pay for this dichotomy in the failure of banking regulation in this country.

Human rights

So what is the state of human rights in Bahrain today? Two examples will suffice. First, the IMC visit took place just after the women’s rights activist Ghada Jamsheer had been arrested and detained for tweeting criticism of the IMC-approved King Hamad University Hospital; she is now considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Second, my friend Nabeel Rajab, who is the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, a founder of the Gulf Center for Human Rights and a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East division’s advisory committee, is presently facing six months in prison — a sentence he is appealing — for issuing a tweet that offended the Bahraini authorities, which has warned that anyone who “offends by any method of expression the National Assembly or other constitutional institutions, the army, law courts, authorities or government agencies” will be sentenced to jail.

Allow me to speculate. Were the IMC delegation, who were selected for proven abilities and experience, aware of all this background, did they choose to ignore it, were they denied enquiry into the educational environment, did they in fact probe the issue, or did they see it as outside their remit — or none of the above? Only the IMC can say which, if any, of these explanations is correct.

Whatever the answer, as things stand at present, the IMC and the Minister of Education and Skills have done nothing to address the abuse of human rights in Bahrain, and have allowed it to continue by sanctioning an Irish educational institution in that island.

Perhaps, more importantly, they may be jeopardising the reputation of Irish higher education both at home and abroad in terms of its pursuit for and profession of truth.

Ireland has a proud tradition internationally in medicine by virtue of medical missionary work, its contributions to scientific medicine and the reputation for clinical excellence acquired over many years by dedicated doctors and nurses working at home and abroad.

The Minister has a responsibility not to see this reputation squandered. She has a further responsibility, which is that she must be assured that the IMC is acting in accord with the requirements of the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME), which the IMC is mandated to support. These standards stress that the locations for clinical tuition should be safe, and that academic freedom must be upheld so that there is “appropriate freedom of expression [and] freedom of inquiry” for both staff and students.

If the Minister upholds the decision of the IMC, which I believe conflicts with human rights standards in Ireland, then this issue may well be open to challenge.

While we in the US ate chocolates and celebrated love, Bahrain commemorated another occasion. This year, Feb. 14 marks the fourth anniversary of the most recent revolution. Unfortunately, the repression continues, and this Valentine’s Day is marked by more forceful responses to continuing protests, complete with tear gas, sound bombs and police violence against demonstrators: here.

Bahrain initiates criminal investigation into online content of opposition party: here.

CIA torturer now ‘interpreter’ at Guantanamo trial


This video by Channel 4 in Britain is called Torture -The Guantanamo Guidebook.

By Ed Hightower in the USA:

Interpreter for 9/11 defendants at Guantanamo Bay was a CIA agent

13 February 2015

On Monday, the military trials of five alleged 9/11 conspirators at Guantanamo Bay came to a temporary pause when it came to light that a court-appointed defense interpreter and linguist had previously worked at CIA “black sites” where the defendants had been detained and tortured.

According to the Associated Press, defendant Ramzi Binalshibh told the presiding judge that the interpreter seated next to him was someone that he and other defendants recognized from their earlier incarceration at secret CIA prisons before their transfer to the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Defense attorney Cheryl Bormann of Chicago represents Walid bin Attash, another 9/11 defendant who was present at the hearing Monday. She told the AP that Attash was “visibly shaken” to see an individual who “participated in his illegal torture” in the courtroom today.

“If this is part of the pattern of infiltration by government agencies into the defense teams, then the right people to be addressing this issue are not in the courtroom,” Bormann added.

Monday’s court proceedings were the first to take place since the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s torture of detainees at CIA and military facilities, including rectal feeding and other barbaric torture practices.

Four out of the five defendants at Monday’s hearing said that they were certain that the interpreter in question was present at the CIA detention site where they were held. Their lawyers suggested to the judge that the former CIA asset’s placement on the defense team was no accident, and they requested time to further investigate this.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon responded to the previous day’s revelations with an admission that the interpreter in question had in fact worked for the CIA.

“The member of the defense team referenced in previous hearings has in the past made readily available to prospective supervisors his prior work experience with the United States government, including with the CIA,” Pentagon spokesman Myles Caggins stated.

“The prosecution does not have any role in providing linguists to defense teams in military commission,” he added.

Defense attorney Bormann contradicted this claim in a statement to the AP, saying that the interpreters are part of a pool of linguists provided to the defense teams, and their resumes and backgrounds cannot be studied in detail.

“Now the question is what other infiltration has occurred and to what extent has it destroyed our ability to represent these men,” she said.

Further undermining Caggins’ claim was the statement by Jim Harrington, attorney for defendant Binalshibh, that the interpreter lied on his resume. Harrington told the Miami Herald on Tuesday evening that his team asked the interpreter whether he had “participated in any interrogation, questioning or done any work with respect to detainees. Any place. His resume denies it. It says he worked someplace else—Reston, Virginia, from 2002 to 2006.”

“We vetted him. He denied it,” Harrington said.

The fact that a CIA operative has found his way onto the defense team representing his former victims speaks volumes about the military commission process. Taken in context, the presence of a CIA spy on the defense team fits the show trial character of the proceedings as a whole, which have been discredited time and again by interference with the defendants’ right to counsel.

From the outset, the military tribunals against the 9/11 defendants were designed with two goals: first, to railroad the defendants into conviction by any means, including confessions extracted by torture; and second, to protect the gory details of US imperialist involvement with the Islamic fundamentalist terror groups that it arms and funds one day, and denounces, persecutes and destroys the next, depending on the foreign and domestic policy needs of the American ruling class at any given time.

Thus, the alleged conspirators in the terror attacks of 9/11—an event which has the hallmarks of US government involvement—were in many cases kidnapped from around the globe, held incommunicado and tortured, brought to Cuba for further torture and indefinite detention, and now face the death penalty in proceedings that make the secret court of Star Chamber seem equitable by comparison.

The commission is housed in a $12 million “Expeditionary Legal Complex,” where reporters sit behind soundproof glass, listening to the proceedings on a 40-second delay. A large red light bulb at the judge’s bench, seen in this video, illuminates when he or a security officer presses a button to mute the audio when the testimony may concern evidence of CIA torture or other “sensitive information.”

In January 2013, this muting device was activated without the judge’s say so, indicating that someone outside of the proceeding, and essentially above the law, can intervene and silence the audio feed at will. The Guardian later reported that this “outside” silencer was the CIA.

In February 2013, lawyers for the defendants complained of advanced surveillance devices in attorney-client meeting rooms hidden inside of phony smoke detectors. In April of that year, defense attorneys learned that some 500,000 internal emails had been seized by the Department of Defense.

In April 2014 Judge Pohl again put the proceedings on pause following revelations that the FBI had been secretly recruiting a member of the defense team’s security detail to be an informant. In fact, the CIA agent-turned-interpreter who was exposed at Monday’s hearing was serving as a replacement for an earlier interpreter who was also working with the FBI.

After allowing for the filing of motions on Tuesday, Judge Pohl denied defense motions to halt the case until further inquiry regarding the interpreter on Wednesday, saying that this was “premature.”

The uncovering of a CIA spy on the defense team underscores the sham character of the military commissions for the accused 9/11 conspirators. The defendants are systematically denied their Sixth Amendment right to an attorney, which is meaningless when attorney-client meetings are the subjects of surveillance. No attorney, no matter how skilled, can successfully represent a client who is being intimidated from having honest, open communication with his counsel.

These most recent developments in the proceedings, coming after the release of the Senate Intelligence Report on CIA torture, also highlight the terminal crisis of American democracy as a whole. Those who are accused of terrorism are tortured, indefinitely detained, intimidated and denied the right to counsel, while US government officials who invade countries, fund terrorism, institutionalize torture, and shred constitutional rights do not face so much as an indictment.

A FORMER Guantanamo detainee who was resettled in Uruguay appeared in neighbouring Argentina on Thursday wearing a prison-style orange jumpsuit and asked the country to grant asylum to detainees still held at the US concentration camp: here.

Guantánamo torturer previously led brutal Chicago police regime of shackling and confession: here.

A report in the Guardian has revealed that a leading interrogator at Guantanamo Bay had used torture to extract false confessions as a police detective in Chicago: here.

CIA whistleblower calls for prosecution of officials responsible for torture: here.

Former Gitmo Prisoner David Hicks Seeks Damages for Torture as Military Court Overturns Conviction: here.

After protracted legal action by former Guantanamo prisoner David Hicks, a US Military Commission Review has unanimously upheld the 39-year-old Australian citizen’s appeal against his bogus “providing material support for terrorism” conviction. The decision is yet another demonstration that the US-led “war on terror” and its associated crimes are built on lies: here.

Free Bahraini human rights activist


This video says about itself:

‘Night raids, torture, sham trials a daily reality in Bahrain’ – human rights activist

21 October 2013

In an Arab world swept away by revolutions and wars, few states have remained intact. And at what cost? Bahrain has seen protests, arrests and crackdowns on the opposition. Does stability necessarily mean political oppression in the Middle East? Why is Bahrain’s trouble off international media’s radar? We talk to human rights activist Maryam Alkhawaja, daughter of Bahrain’s renowned dissident, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who is now in jail.

From the site of the government of Norway:

Norway calls for release of human rights defender in Bahrain

News story | Published: 10.02.2015

‘The human rights situation in Bahrain has deteriorated steadily since the start of the Arab Spring in 2011. The Norwegian authorities call for the release of the Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab,’ said State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bård Glad Pedersen.

Mr Rajab, who met the political leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in September 2014, has been imprisoned several times following accusations of having publicly insulted the Bahraini authorities on social media and having participated in and encouraged unauthorised demonstrations. Following a visit to Europe to draw attention to the human rights situation in Bahrain, Mr Rajab returned to Bahrain on 1 October 2014. He was summoned for interrogation just a day after his return, accused of having insulted a public institution on social media. On 20 January, Mr Rajab was sentenced to six months in prison for his ‘crime’. The sentence has been appealed, and the appeal is due to be heard by the court on 11 February.

‘The sentence against Nabeel Rajab is another example of how difficult the situation is for human rights defenders in Bahrain. A large number of human rights activists have been imprisoned with extremely harsh sentences. Norway calls for Nabeel Rajab to be released as quickly as possible,’ said Mr Pedersen.

A Bahraini human rights activist stripped of his citizenship and rendered stateless, has told the House of Lords in Westminster that Bahrain is using the revocation of nationalities as a weapon against the opposition: here.

Bahrain monarchy violates human rights, how about Britain?


This video is called Bahrain police shooting at independent cameraman filming and reporting.

From Middle East Monitor:

Bahraini exiles test Britain’s policy on statelessness

Alastair Sloan

Monday, 09 February 2015 12:26

The Al-Khalifa monarchy in Bahrain recently stripped over 70 exiled activists of their citizenship, eight of whom live in Britain. In 2012, they did something similar, stripping 31 human rights and pro-democracy activists of Bahraini citizenship, 11 of them living in the UK. These new exiles are testing Britain’s policy on statelessness.

Bahrain’s move is particularly ironic because much of its state security apparatus is made up of mercenary enforcers and interrogators from Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Jordan. All have been given Bahraini citizenship, housing and salaries by the regime in return for their role in the torture, humiliation and shooting of peaceful pro-democracy protesters.

The Al-Khalifas use citizenship as a weapon. It is offered to those who take part in callous oppression, but remove it from citizens who call for democracy.

This latest move was choreographed carefully to coincide with the confiscation of passports from preachers and fighters associated with ISIS. Thus the authorities have conflated the two movements in a clumsy smear.

The British charity Asylum Aid has been conducting wide-ranging research into the negative impacts of statelessness, interviewing stateless persons in Britain who have been destitute for months. They have been detained by the UK immigration authorities despite evidence that they have no prospect of returning to their home country, or that they have been separated for years from their families overseas. Some have been forced to sleep on the streets. Many have seen their accommodation and support cancelled repeatedly and then reinstated. In the absence of a dedicated and accessible procedure to identify people who are stateless, they have been left in a legal limbo for years.

In a rare moment of progressive policy making, Britain has taken steps recently to address the problem of statelessness. Across the European Union, approximately 600,000 quasi-citizens are estimated to be stateless. The UK is so far the only EU member to implement substantive measures to assimilate stateless refugees, implementing a specialised asylum procedure from April 2013. Thousands of refugees are currently applying through the official mechanism, with immigration officials deciding each case carefully; it is not a straightforward process.

The British authorities must act to treat the Bahraini exiles stripped of their citizenship on the same basis as other refugees. However, as the repression in Bahrain grows worse, it is becoming increasingly clear that the British government is sticking to its commitment to support the Al-Khalifa regime. As I have reported previously elsewhere, Britain has been accused of harassing, rather than helping, such exiles, often in collusion with the Bahraini government.

In January, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond praised improvements in Bahrain’s human rights record, shortly before the Gulf state jailed its most prominent human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, for six months. His “crime” was to send an “insulting tweet”. He is currently on bail pending an appeal scheduled for later this week. In July 2014, the Guardian revealed that Hammond had sat next to the Earl of Clanwilliam, a lobbyist for the Bahraini government, at a fundraising dinner for the Conservative Party.

The parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee also lamented the government’s decision not to “bite the bullet” – its own words – by designating Bahrain as a human rights “country of concern” for 2014. “We see little or no evidence that Bahrain has made enough progress in implementing political reform and safeguarding human rights,” the committee judged. Civil society organisations described the British government’s reluctance as a whitewash.

The FCO response was short, disdainful and factually inaccurate. “On the human rights front Bahrain is by no means perfect,” it insisted, “but it is a country that is making progress and its leadership has shown a willingness to engage with the human rights challenges that it faces.”

Research by Bahrain Watch, an NGO which has been tracking progress on the Al-Khalifa government’s alleged reforms, shows that if British officials believe Bahrain to be “making progress”, they are wilfully and obstinately ignorant.

Of the 25 recommendations made to improve human rights in Bahrain after the 2011 uprising, 11 have been violated openly, six have seen no action at all, five have had no details about their progress released by the government, and three have been implemented “partially”. Not a single reform is judged to have been implemented in full.

The leader of the main opposition Al-Wefaq Party, Ali Salman, was arrested recently on what are claimed to be trumped-up charges. He was also slapped with a travel ban just as he was about to embark on “a major European tour, meeting officials, think tanks, civil society leaders, academics and media professionals.”

Despite this, Britain announced recently a significant expansion to its military assets in Manama harbour, with plans for a full-scale naval base. The Royal Navy has deployed small minesweepers out of Bahrain for some years, but when larger vessels visit the port the crews sleep on board; there are limited facilities for such ships. With a naval base, British warships will be able to deploy regularly from Bahrain. The expansion of the base will resume a long term British military presence in the area and mark the end of a 40-year Middle East policy by the government. Controversially, the Bahrain government will foot the bill for building the Royal Navy facilities, effectively buying Britain’s silence over its ongoing human rights abuses.

Britain has a patchy record on human rights, but addressing statelessness has been a more positive example of what can be done. In applying this new policy rigorously and fairly, they must include Bahraini exiles, as they would any other refugee.

UN rights experts urge Bahrain to release arrested opposition leader: here.

A newly launched Arab news channel has been suspended in Bahrain after it aired an interview with a Shia opposition leader: here.

Diego Garcia, Bush’s and Blair’s torture island


This video from Britain says about itself:

More Lies – Torture & The Special Relationship

22 February 2008

This video contains clips highlighting the denials made by the British government concerning the use of UK territory in CIA rendition “torture” flights.

By Jean Shaoul:

US official admits to UK role in rendition to Diego Garcia

9 February 2015

A senior official from the Bush administration has admitted that the then Labour British government was complicit in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition, interrogation and torture. Britain colluded in the use of the British overseas territory of Diego Garcia by the US for its criminal activities.

The admission flatly contradicts the lies and evasions of the British government. Over a period of years, the Labour government—whose first Foreign Secretary Robin Cook famously boasted that Britain would pursue an “ethical foreign policy”—including former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, denied any involvement on no less than 54 occasions.

The lies started to unravel in 2008, when then Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband said that information had “just come to light” that Diego Garcia had been used as a refuelling stop for extraordinary rendition flights on just two occasions in 2002. He still denied that any detainees had ever set foot on the island, which is leased to the US.

Since then, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has continued the lies, claiming that Britain was not involved in the rendition program. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition has issued statements that fell apart within days, refused to provide any meaningful answers to Freedom of Information requests from human rights organisations or the media, and resisted any public inquiry into the UK’s role in the horrific crimes of US imperialism.

Shortly after taking office in 2010, Cameron promised an independent inquiry into the issue. But in 2013 he reneged on that pledge in favour of a toothless inquiry by the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee that can be relied on to whitewash the government’s role when it eventually publishes its report.

The claims by Lawrence Wilkerson, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff between 2002 and 2005, add to the growing pressure on the British government to come clean on its involvement in the CIA’s rendition programme, global network of secret prisons and criminality. This includes kidnapping, illegal detention for years under the most inhumane conditions, torture, water boarding, sexual assault, sleep deprivation, forcing inmates to stand on broken limbs, and murder, for which no officials have stood trial.

Wilkerson’s claims—along with other evidence—could pave the way for a flood of litigation against the government. Last July, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Poland had actively assisted the CIA’s European “black sites” program.

Wilkerson’s information came from four well-placed CIA and intelligence sources, including a veteran of the renditions programme and an official who was “very much plugged in to what was going on at the CIA.” After he retired, he said Diego Garcia was known as a place to get things done “out of the limelight.”

While there was no permanent detention facility there, it was used as a transit location when other places were full, insecure or unavailable. “So you might have a case where you simply go in and use a facility at Diego Garcia for a month, or two weeks, or whatever, and you do your nefarious activities there.” [emphasis added]

He added that the British authorities must have been aware of what was going on, saying, “It’s difficult for me to think that we could do anything there of any duration to speak of without the British knowing—at least the British on the island—knowing what we were doing.” Furthermore, “A general theme I heard was that the British were very cooperative with everything.”

This is very similar to statements by Michael Blyth, a British Royal Marine, who was head of security on Diego Garcia in 2001-2002. He said in testimony to the High Court that while a permanent site was ruled out, the possibility of using the island “for the purpose of prisoner transfers and/or detention was raised occasionally … by US officials.”

The UN former special envoy on torture, Manfred Nowak, stated in 2008 that he had been told detainees were held on Diego Garcia in 2002 and 2003. Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star US general, also said that detainees were held on Diego Garcia, but later retracted his claim.

Swiss senator Dick Marty, who led a Council of Europe investigation into the CIA’s use of European territory and air space, said that the island had been used and that some CIA officers had helped him during his investigation.

Time magazine cited a regional intelligence officer saying that a suspected Al Qaeda terrorist known as Hambali, believed to have been involved in the 2002 Bali bombing in which 202 people died, was taken to Diego Garcia and interrogated following his capture in August 2003.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj is a Libyan dissident opposed to former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who is suing the British government and three officials for “extraordinary rendition” via Diego Garcia, where his aircraft refuelled, to Libya in 2004. His lawyers have cited documents found in abandoned government offices in Tripoli after the 2011 NATO-led invasion of Libya to topple the Gaddafi regime and install a puppet government.

A letter from the senior MI6 officer, Sir Mark Allen, to Libya’s intelligence chief Musa Kusa, shows that thanks to help from British intelligence, the CIA planned to use Diego Garcia as a stopover for rendering him and his pregnant wife to be tortured in Libya. Belhaj claims that during his more than four years in a Libyan prison he was interrogated by US and British intelligence agents.

While it has been known for decades that Diego Garcia has some kind of US detention facility, the British government turned down an informal request from the US in 2001 to use it for a Guantanamo-type facility to hold hundreds of suspected “terrorist” prisoners from Afghanistan. The official UK government position is that it never gave the US explicit permission to use the island for its rendition, detention and torture program.

Successive British governments have sought to cover up what was going on.

To cite but one of the most damaging examples: Last July, when asked in parliament about the records of flights to and from the island, Conservative Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds claimed the records were “incomplete due to water damage” in June 2014. A week later, he said the “previously wet paper records have been dried out… no flight records have been lost as a result of the water damage.”

But in September, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee was told that the papers had been “damaged [by water] to the point of no longer being useful.”

Ministers refused to answer questions raised in parliament over whether the US had sought permission to use Diego Garcia for Belhaj and his wife’s rendition to Libya.

Last August, David Miliband implied that further evidence could well emerge—and as a former Labour Foreign Secretary, he is in a position to know.

In December, it was revealed that Britain had made repeated requests that its role be struck out from the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s executive summary of its report into torture by the CIA, itself only a summary of a 6,700-page classified report. In the event, the CIA and the Obama administration insisted that all references to the participation of other governments were omitted.

Guantánamo Diary, book by tortured prisoner


Mohamedou Ould SlahiBy Tom Carter:

6 February 2015

Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, edited by Larry Siems; Little, Brown & Company, 2015

Guantánamo Diary, written by Mohamedou Ould Slahi and edited by Larry Siems, is a remarkable book that deserves the widest possible audience within the United States and internationally.

The recently published book, written by a current inmate of the infamous torture camp, contains a first-hand account of the author’s ghastly mistreatment at the hands of the intelligence agencies of the United States and their foreign accomplices. It is one thing to read about the sadistic methods employed by the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies in an executive summary of a Senate report. It is another thing to endure them from the standpoint of the eyes, ears, nose, nerves, stomach, and mind of one of the victims.

But the book is much more than a terrifying exposure of the secret US torture program. The book also contains—unexpectedly—wonderful literary passages, devastating portraits of the idiotic personalities and social types Slahi encounters among his torturers, wry humor, self-critical reflections and insights, and a humane, hopeful, and sensitive touch. This is all the more remarkable when one considers that Slahi wrote it by hand in the summer of 2005—in English, his fourth language—from a Guantanamo Bay “segregation cell.”

Slahi (sometimes spelled “Salahi”) was born in Mauritania in 1970. Apparently an exceptional student, he received a scholarship to study engineering in Duisburg, Germany in 1988. In 1991, Slahi traveled from Germany to Afghanistan to join the mujahedin movement, and while in Afghanistan he allegedly swore allegiance to Al Qaeda. However, after the central government fell, he returned to Germany and (by his own account) had no further involvement with Al Qaeda. He later spent time in Montreal, Canada working as an electrical engineer.

He was subsequently detained and interrogated by the authorities of various countries—Canada, Mauritania, the United States, and Senegal—but each time he was released for lack of evidence against him. However, in November 2001, he was asked to voluntarily report to a police station in Nouakchott, Mauritania for questioning, which he did. Then he disappeared.

Slahi was the subject of a secret, illegal “extraordinary rendition” to Jordan (in violation of the Mauritanian constitution) that was organized by the US Central Intelligence Agency. With his family completely unaware of his whereabouts, he was abducted and smuggled through the CIA’s network of illegal “black site” torture facilities before arriving in the infamous Guantanamo Bay camp, where he was tortured and where he remains to this day.

In March 2010, on a petition for habeas corpus filed by Slahi’s pro bono attorneys, US federal district judge James Robertson reviewed Slahi’s file and determined that he was innocent of the government’s accusations and should be immediately released. However, the Obama administration appealed this ruling and it was vacated by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals—notoriously stacked with right-wing, pro-intelligence judges.

“I have, I believe, read everything that has been made public about his case, and I do not understand why he was ever in Guantanamo in the first place,” writes the editor Larry Siems in the book’s introduction. At this point, as Slahi himself suggests, he is being detained for no reason other than the embarrassment his release would cause to the US intelligence agencies as well as to the Mauritanian and Jordanian governments that facilitated his illegal rendition.

The published book with redactions

A significant portion of Guantánamo Diary has been censored by the American authorities. To the publisher’s credit, all of the government’s black bars have been reproduced on the printed page, so the reader can get a sense of the extent of the redactions. The censorship is often clumsy and absurd, with names censored in one place appearing without censorship in other places. In one place, the name of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) is censored. Interestingly, the words “she” and “her” are always censored when referring to a female torturer, while male torturers are referred to as “he” and “him” without censorship. In many cases, the editor’s helpful footnotes reconstruct the missing text from other publicly available sources.

In 2003 and 2004, Slahi’s US captors tortured him at Guantanamo Bay pursuant to a “special interrogation plan” personally approved by then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The torture included long-term isolation, mock executions, sleep deprivation, and what the editor describes as “a litany of physical, psychological, and sexual humiliations.” Torturers threatened to hurt members of his family, kept him in a freezer and doused him with cold water, blasted his ears with rock music, sexually assaulted him, threatened to kill him, and repeatedly beat him within an inch of his life.

There is not space in this review to give a full account of Slahi’s torture—for that, one must read the book—but a few memorable passages can be highlighted.

At Guantanamo Bay, the guards apparently announce the impending interrogation of an inmate by shouting, “Reservation!” Each inmate is assigned a number, so “Reservation 760!” means that the interrogators are coming for Slahi. When Slahi hears the word “reservation,” he remembers, “My heart started to pound heavily because I always expected the worst.”

Suddenly a commando team consisting of three soldiers and a German shepherd broke into our interrogation room. Everything happened quicker than you can think about it. [Redacted] punched me violently, which made me fall face down on the floor.

“Motherf—er, I told you, you’re gone!” said [redacted]. His partner kept punching me everywhere, mainly on my face and my ribs. He, too, was masked from head to toe; he punched me the whole time without saying a word, because he didn’t want to be recognized. The third man was not masked; he stayed at the door holding the dog’s collar, ready to release it on me…

“Blindfold the Motherf—er, if he tries to look –”

One of them hit me hard across the face, and quickly put the goggles on my eyes, ear muffs on my ears, and a small bag over my head. I couldn’t tell who did what. They tightened the chains around my ankles and my wrists: afterwards, I started to bleed. All I could hear was [redacted] cursing, “F-this and F-that!” I didn’t say a word. I was overwhelmingly surprised, I thought they were going to execute me.

The torture continues, taking countless forms. In one episode, the guards placed Slahi in a specially prepared freezing cold room “full of pictures showing the glories of the US: weapons arsenals, planes, and pictures of George Bush.” The guards told him that he was forbidden to pray. “For the whole night I had to listen to the US anthem. I hate anthems anyway. All I can remember was the beginning, ‘Oh say can you see…’ over and over.”

Throughout the book, Slahi repeatedly asks his torturers, “Why am I here? What have I done?” They reply, “You tell me!”

In one revealing episode, upon learning that Slahi speaks German, an interrogator (context suggests German intelligence) threatens him, “Wahrheit macht frei [truth will set you free].” This is a variation on the infamous slogan erected on signs leading into the Holocaust death camps: “Arbeit macht frei [work will set you free].” In other words, the interrogator was identifying himself in no uncertain terms with the Nazis. Slahi writes, “When I heard him say that I knew the truth wouldn’t set me free, because ‘Arbeit’ didn’t set the Jews free.”

In the midst of these frightening passages—and this is one of the most incredible features of the book—Slahi manages a humane, delicate, even literary touch. Waiting for the next torture session (“waiting for torture is worse than torture”) his mind wanders over his life, the places he has lived, and the people he loves. The morning breeze from the sea displaces the sandy air over the impoverished city of Nouakchott; a muezzin sings twice in the early morning during Ramadan; a traditional Mauritanian wedding features intricate customs and intrigues; he imagines conversations with his mother over a cup of hot tea. (Slahi’s mother died on March 27, 2013, while her son was still held at Guantanamo.)

In a recurring dream, Slahi sees members of his family. He asks them, “Am I with you for real, or is it a mere dream?” His family replies, “No, you are really home!” He tells them, “Please hold me, don’t let me go back!” But he always wakes back up “to the dark bleak cell, looking around just long enough to fall asleep and experience it all again.”

Amidst descriptions of unimaginable suffering, the distinct voice of a writer emerges. Slahi describes the following scene at the conclusion of the illegal rendition flight to Amman, Jordan.

One of the guards silently helped my feet get into the truck that was parked inches away from the last step of the ladder. The guards squeezed me between them in the back seat, and took off in the truck. I felt comforted; it was warm inside the truck, and the motor was quiet. The chauffeur mistakenly turned the radio on. The female DJ voice struck me with her Sham accent and her sleepy voice. The city was awakening from a long, cold night, slowly but surely. The driver kept accelerating and hitting the brakes suddenly. What a bad driver! They must have hired him just because he was stupid. I was moving back and forth like a car crash dummy.

Guantánamo Diary can even be darkly funny in parts, such as those passages featuring Slahi’s contempt for the lazy, hopeless, American-boot-licking secret police in Mauritania and Jordan. “The funny thing about ‘Secret Police’ in Arab countries is that they are more known to the commoners than the regular police forces. I think the authorities in Arabic countries should think about new nomenclature, something like ‘The Most Obvious Police.’”

Slahi’s literary sketches of his torturers are simply devastating. “You could see that he had been doing this work for some time: there were no signs of humanity in his face,” Slahi writes of one American torturer. “He hated himself more than anybody could hate him.”

Guantánamo Diary exposes the American intelligence agencies and their foreign accomplices as sorry collections of sadists, racists, ignoramuses, and incompetents. “Of course he threatened me with all kinds of painful torture should it turn out I was lying,” Slahi says of one American interrogator. “‘You know we have some black motherf—ers who have no mercy on terrorists like you,’ he said, and as he proceeded, racial references kept flying out of his mouth. ‘I myself hate the Jews.’”

In another episode, Slahi remembers “one cowboy coming to me with an ugly frown on his face:”

“You speak English?” he asked.

“No English,” I replied.

“We don’t like you to speak English. We want you to die slowly,” he said.

“No English,” I kept replying. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction that his message had arrived. “I’m an asshole,” a torturer tells Slahi. “That is the way people know me, and I have no problem with it.” Slahi reproaches another interrogator who repeatedly uses the N-word. The interrogator explains: “N—– is not black. N—– means stupid.”

These are the same charming individuals that President Obama has repeatedly hailed as “heroes” and “patriots.”

The depraved and scatological culture of the US military is on display from the moment Slahi arrives at Guantanamo. His torturers’ vocabulary consists primarily of the F-word. In scenes reminiscent of the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs, Slahi describes how female torturers molest him, sexually humiliate him and other inmates, and attempt to have sex with him. “Having sex with somebody is not considered torture,” one female guard says mockingly. (A future war crimes tribunal may disagree.)

“What many [redacted] don’t realize is that men get hurt the same as women if they’re forced to have sex,” Slahi writes, in a heartbreakingly subtle (and heavily redacted) passage. In the book’s introduction, the editor quotes from official records indicating that at a 2005 Administrative Review Board hearing Slahi “became distraught and visibly upset” when he tried to describe his sexual abuse by female guards.

In the book’s darkest moments, Slahi struggles to retain his sanity. He frequently finds himself with confused emotions towards his captors, who spare no effort to degrade and manipulate him. Aggressively redacted passages near the end of the book appear to show Slahi connecting with several of the guards—but it is hard to tell whether these guards are sincere or whether it was all part of the “interrogation plan.” One looks forward to the day when Slahi is released and he can publish the book free from pressure and censorship.

Guantánamo Diary is also yet another confirmation of the fraud of the so-called “war on terror.” At several points in the book, Slahi writes about how his captors “offered to have me work with them.” Perhaps even Slahi does not grasp the full and sinister implications of these solicitations, which doubtless were made to other detainees as well. America’s dirty secret is that its intelligence agencies and their foreign accomplices are long-time collaborators with Islamic fundamentalist groups such as Al Qaeda, including from the 1980s in Afghanistan to the present day in Syria, Libya, and elsewhere.

As Slahi himself points out, if he is guilty of the crime of supporting Al Qaeda during the Soviet War in Afghanistan, then the United States and its intelligence agencies are similarly guilty, since at the time they gave fundamentalist militias such as Slahi’s their full support. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed that they were “freedom fighters.”

As far as Slahi’s political ideas can be glimpsed in Guantánamo Diary, they are not far from what one would expect from an individual who traveled to Afghanistan in 1991 to attend an Al Qaeda training camp. He describes his desire at the time to fight “communists.” In his view, the ongoing US “war on terror” is simply a pretext for a war of extermination against Muslims. (Given his treatment at the hands of the United States, it is hard to blame him for believing the latter.)

Slahi’s religious sentiments are a strong presence in the book, and one does not doubt that they are sincerely felt. In times of crisis, Slahi clings to his pocket Koran and prays. “During the whole procedure, the only prayer I could remember was the crisis prayer, Ya hayyu! Ya kayyum!” The guards mock him for praying: “Oh, ALLAH help me… Oh, Allah have mercy on me,” they say, mimicking his prayers. “There is no Allah. He let you down!”

Above all, Slahi’s humane sentiments—in spite of everything—are what endear him to the reader. “Human beings naturally hate to torture other human beings, and Americans are no different,” Slahi reflects. He concludes his book with a powerful address to the American people. “What do the American people think? I am eager to know. I would like to believe the majority of Americans want to see Justice done, and they are not interested in financing the detention of innocent people.”

Indeed, Slahi’s book is further evidence of grave violations of American and international law for which nobody yet has been held accountable. Guantánamo Diary deserves to feature as a prominent exhibit in future war crimes prosecutions of all the individuals with whom Slahi comes into contact in the course of the book, together with all the senior officials in the Bush and Obama administrations who presided over Slahi’s rendition and continue to block his release from Guantanamo Bay.

In an encouraging sign, the book has already risen to number fourteen on the New York Times bestseller list. There are reasons why the American political establishment has fought so hard for so long to suppress Guantánamo Diary, and these are the same reasons why the book needs to be read.

The author also recommends:

The death of Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif
[3 December 2012]

FBI files indict Bush, Cheney and Co. as war criminals
[23 May 2008]

Guantánamo torturer led brutal Chicago regime of shackling and confession: here.

Three guards at the Attica, New York maximum security prison escaped jail time as the result of a last-minute plea bargain announced on March 2. On the eve of a trial for the brutal beating of inmate George Williams, the three pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of official misconduct. Their only punishment was the loss of their prison jobs: here.