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.

Torture in Guantanamo Bay, new book


This video says about itself:

Guantánamo Diary Trailer – exclusive video clip read by Dominic West

16 January 2015

Watch a short clip from our upcoming documentary about Guantánamo Diary, a book written by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who has been a prisoner at the US detention facility for 14 years.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Guantánamo Diary exposes brutality of US rendition and torture

Memoir serialised by Guardian tells how Mohamedou Ould Slahi endured savage beatings, death threats and sexual humiliation

Spencer Ackerman in New York and Ian Cobain in London

Friday 16 January 2015 18.15 GMT

Memoir serialised by Guardian tells how Mohamedou Ould Slahi endured savage beatings, death threats and sexual humiliation

The groundbreaking memoir of a current Guantánamo inmate that lays bare the harrowing details of the US rendition and torture programme from the perspective of one of its victims is to be published next week after a six-year battle for the manuscript to be declassified.

Guantánamo Diary, the first book written by a still imprisoned detainee, is being published in 20 countries and has been serialised by the Guardian amid renewed calls by civil liberty campaigners for its author’s release.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi describes a world tour of torture and humiliation that began in his native Mauritania more than 13 years ago and progressed through Jordan and Afghanistan before he was consigned to US detention in Guantánamo, Cuba, in August 2002 as prisoner number 760. US military officials told the Guardian this week that despite never being prosecuted and being cleared for release by a judge in 2010, he is unlikely to be released in the next year.

The journal, which Slahi handwrote in English, details how he was subjected to sleep deprivation, death threats, sexual humiliation and intimations that his torturers would go after his mother.

After enduring this, he was subjected to “additional interrogation techniques” personally approved by the then US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. He was blindfolded, forced to drink salt water, and then taken out to sea on a high-speed boat where he was beaten for three hours while immersed in ice.

The end product of the torture, he writes, was lies. Slahi made a number of false confessions in an attempt to end the torment, telling interrogators he planned to blow up the CN Tower in Toronto. Asked if he was telling the truth, he replied: “I don’t care as long as you are pleased. So if you want to buy, I am selling.”

Slahi’s manuscript was subjected to more than 2,500 redactions before declassification, ostensibly to protect classified information, but with the effect of preventing readers from learning the full story of his ordeal. The book is being published with all the censor’s marks in place, and the publishers – Canongate in the UK and Little, Brown in the US – hope they will be able to publish an uncensored edition when Slahi is eventually released.

Although one federal court has ordered his release on the grounds that the evidence against him is thin and tainted by torture, Slahi has been languishing in a form of legal limbo since December 2012 after the justice department entangled the case in an unresolved appeal. Several US officials have indicated that he is unlikely to be released this year. One, who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity as he had not been cleared to do so, said getting Slahi out of Guantánamo was not a priority. “Our focus is acutely on the individuals who have been approved for transfer,” he said. Slahi is not among them.

Slahi describes the toll the abuse has taken on his body and mind: “I started to hallucinate and hear voices as clear as crystal. I heard my family in a casual familial conversation … I heard Qur’an readings in a heavenly voice. I heard music from my country. Later on the guards used these hallucinations and started talking with funny voices through the plumbing, encouraging me to hurt the guard and plot an escape. But I wasn’t misled by them, even though I played along.” ‘We heard somebody – maybe a genie!’ they used to say. ‘Yeah, but I ain’t listening to him,’ I responded … I was on the edge of losing my mind.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has launched an online petition calling for Slahi’s release. Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s national security project, said: “Mohamedou Slahi is an innocent man whom the United States brutally tortured and has held unlawfully for over a decade. He doesn’t present a threat to the US and has never taken part in any hostilities against it.

“We’re asking the government to put an end to Mohamedou’s years-long ordeal by not contesting his habeas case and releasing him without delay. We hope everyone moved by Mohamedou’s story of abuse and unlawful detention will join us in seeking his freedom.”

The 44-year-old travelled twice to Afghanistan in the early 1990s. There, he swore allegiance to al-Qaida and joined the fight against the Soviet Union-backed regime in Kabul. He says he severed all connection with the group in 1992.

But after 9/11 he was detained on suspicion of being involved in an unsuccessful plot to bomb Los Angeles international airport while living in Canada in 1999. No evidence has been found to support the allegation, other than his own forced confessions. In 2004 a military lawyer refused to play any further part in the prosecution on the grounds that the evidence against him was the product of torture.

The chief military commissions prosecutor in the mid-2000s, Air Force colonel Morris Davis, later said he could not find any offence with which to charge Slahi.

The detainee’s lawyer, Nancy Hollander, said: “Mohamedou has never been charged with anything. The US has never charged him with a crime. There is no crime to charge him with. It’s not that they haven’t found the evidence against him – there isn’t evidence against him. He’s in what I would consider a horrible legal limbo, and it’s just tragic: he needs to go home.

“Mohamedou’s book takes us into the heart of this man the US government tortured, and continues to torture with indefinite detention. We feel, smell, even taste the torture he endures in his voice and within his heart. It is a book everyone should read.”

Publisher Jamie Byng said Slahi’s account was one of the most significant books Canongate would ever publish. “It’s a gracious, brutal, humbling, at times funny, but more often enraging, and ultimately heartbreaking testimony by a truly gifted writer. And all of his many international publishers hope that by bringing his story to the wider world we can play a part in ending his wrongful and barbaric imprisonment.”

Slahi’s memoir is published on the heels of a landmark US Senate study into CIA torture, and arrives as Republicans in Washington have redoubled their efforts to block Barack Obama from fulfilling his vow to close Guantánamo. The president is determined to reduce the detention centre’s population during 2015: on Wednesday, five more detainees left Cuba for Oman and Estonia, the latest in a flurry of post-election transfers. This leaves 122 inmates at Guantánamo. Among them is Shaker Aamer, a Saudi-born British resident. David Cameron was expected to raise Aamer’s plight with Obama during talks in Washington on Friday.

However, British ministers have raised his case at least 15 times in the last five years, according to statements to parliament. In the past, US diplomats have said privately that they are not convinced the British government is serious when it says it wished to see Aamer returned to the UK, where he could be reunited with his British wife and four children.

Though his captors have long since ceased treating Slahi as a security threat – he is said to inform on other detainees, and lives in a separate facility where he is allowed to garden – the US insists it has legal justification to deprive the Mauritanian of his freedom. Lt Col Myles Caggins, a defense department spokesman, said: “We continue to detain Mohamedou Slahi under the Authorisation for the Use of Military Force of 2001 (AUMF) as informed by the laws of war. He has full access to federal court for review of his detention by United States district court via petition for writ of habeas corpus.”

Guantanamo Diary is published on 20 January. To buy a copy for £15 (RRP £20), visit bookshop.theguardian.com or call the Guardian Bookshop on 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p on online orders over £10. A £1.99 charge applies to telephone orders.

CIA torture report, new investigation


This video from the USA says about itself:

Should Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & CIA Officials Be Tried for Torture? War Crimes Case Filed in Germany

19 December 2014

A human rights group in Berlin, Germany, has filed a criminal complaint against the architects of the George W. Bush administration’s torture program. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has accused former Bush administration officials, including CIA Director George Tenet and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, of war crimes, and called for an immediate investigation by a German prosecutor.

The move follows the release of a Senate report on CIA torture which includes the case of a German citizen, Khalid El-Masri, who was captured by CIA agents in 2004 due to mistaken identity and tortured at a secret prison in Afghanistan. So far, no one involved in the CIA torture program has been charged with a crime — except the whistleblower John Kiriakou, who exposed it. We speak to Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and chairman of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, and longtime defense attorney Martin Garbus.

From the site of the Freedom of the Press Foundation in the USA:

Support the Bureau of Investigative Journalism‘s new project investigating the CIA torture report

January 8, 2015

By Trevor Timm

Today, we’re launching our first crowd-funding campaign of 2015—in support of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s new reporting project on the Senate’s recently-released report on CIA torture.

The Bureau, which is partnering with the Rendition Project and long-time torture and secret prisons researchers Crofton Black and Steve Kostas, will be using the Senate’s report as a launching-off point to investigate many of the questions left unanswered due to heavy-handed censorship by the CIA and White House.

While the Senate released the executive summary of the torture report, there are still over 6,000 pages of the main report that remain classified. Even in the summary that was released, many names, dates, and places remain redacted. This project will seek to fill in many of these holes still left in the story.

For example, one of the immediate questions is what has happened to the 119 people who were put through the program? The Bureau has analyzed the list of names in the report and measured them against the people known to have been held in secret prison sites. There is a crossover of about 60 names, which means that about half of the people who went through the program are not known.

Who are they and what has happened to them? This is just one of the questions the CIA torture investigation project will attempt to answer.

We’ve partnered with the Bureau before on a previous crowd-funding project. In 2013 we raised over $25,000 to fund their “Naming the Dead” project, which aims to identify and catalog every single victim—militant or civilian—of American drone strikes in Pakistan.

Since then, the Bureau has become the go-to source on tracking covert drone strikes for media outlets around the world, and we hope this project will have similar success.

Rachel Oldroyd, managing editor of the Bureau said:

The use of black site prisons and the enhanced interrogation techniques were a dark period for the CIA. Years of research by journalists and NGOs brought some of the actions into the public light, but even those people who had dedicated years to investigating the secret program were shocked by what appeared in the summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report. The report has provided a much greater understanding of the program, but it has raised many unanswered questions. It is vital that the public are given a full view of what went on and as importantly what happened to those prisoners who were put through the program.

You can go here to donate.

CIA torture report: An interactive timeline of who’s who in government: here.

The new Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, sent a letter last week to the White House demanding the Obama administration return all copies of the full report on CIA torture whose executive summary was made public last month: here.

Petition initiated by two former UN Assistant Secretaries-General, UN Humanitarian Coordinators for Iraq: Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday. On 9 December 2014, the US Senate released its CIA torture report. The investigation confirmed what globally has been known for many years: the US Central Intelligence Agency and US-outsourced national authorities in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere have been involved in an extensive range of torture applications: here.

A federal judge is demanding that the government explain, photo-by-photo, why it can’t release hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of pictures showing detainee abuse by U.S. forces at military prison sites in Iraq and Afghanistan: here.