Will Trump destroy CIA torture evidence?


This video says about itself:

The Dark Prison: The Legacy of the CIA Torture Programme – Fault Lines

24 March 2016

“In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks.”

It’s been more than a year since US President Barack Obama admitted that the CIA tortured prisoners at its interrogation centres.

While the CIA has long admitted the use of waterboarding, which simulates drowning by pouring water into a person’s nose and mouth, a truncated and heavily redacted report by the Senate Intelligence Committee in December 2015 detailed other abuses that went beyond previous disclosures.

Reading like a script from a horror film, some of the techniques involved prisoners being slapped and punched while being dragged naked up and down corridors, being kept in isolation in total darkness, subject to constant deafening music, rectal rehydration and being locked in coffin-shaped boxes.

Critical to the development of the CIA’s brutal interrogation programme was a legal memo that said the proposed methods of interrogation were not torture if they did not cause “organ failure, death or permanent damage”.

Despite failing to produce any useful information about imminent terrorist attacks, the CIA meted out these and other brutal treatments for years after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

And with dozens of people having since been released without charge, and at least a quarter of them officially declared to have been “wrongfully detained“, the effects of torture live on with the victims, burned into their minds.

In this episode of Fault Lines, we explore the plight of these men struggling to overcome their harrowing experiences of torture since leaving CIA-run black sites.

By Laura Barron-Lopez, Congressional Reporter, The Huffington Post in the USA:

Senate Democrat Urges Obama To Ensure The CIA Torture Report Won’t Disappear

Ron Wyden is worried the report could be destroyed under the Trump administration if it’s not made a federal record.

12/02/2016 07:00 am ET

WASHINGTON ― If President Barack Obama wants to codify his legacy on banning the use of torture in U.S. intelligence gathering, he should declassify the 6,700-page CIA torture report and make it a federal record, according to a top Senate Democrat.

Ron Wyden, a vocal member of the Senate intelligence committee, has long urged the administration to declassify the report with necessary redactions. But now he’s pressuring Obama to make the report a document of federal record before he leaves office ― protecting it from possible destruction under a Donald Trump presidency.

With Trump heading to the White House in just under two months, the Oregon Democrat told The Huffington Post it’s “more important than ever” that the American public know what is in the full torture report.

Something Obama “can do today on this,” Wyden said, is “make sure the report isn’t destroyed and lost to history.”

“All that the president needs to do is direct that the report be a federal record under the Federal Records Act, and an agency record pursuant to [the Freedom of Information Act], and then it can be disseminated widely to appropriate, cleared agencies,” Wyden said in his Capitol Hill office on Tuesday.

On his second day in office Obama used his executive authority to ban “enhanced interrogation” techniques authorized by President George W. Bush, but his administration decided not to press charges against individuals involved in the torture program. Prompted by revelations that the CIA had destroyed videotapes of some of its interrogations, the Senate intelligence committee voted in 2009 to investigate the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. In December 2014, the Democrats on the committee released a 525-page executive summary of their findings. They concluded that the CIA’s interrogation program used techniques far more brutal than it had previously disclosed and misled the public about the efficacy of the program in producing intelligence.

The full report remains classified. Lawyers who represent detainees at Guantanamo who were previously held at CIA black sites say the executive summary of the torture report reveals only a small part of the abuse their clients endured.

The Obama administration has been less than eager to declassify the report, with agencies directed to keep their copies unopened. Even less transparency is expected from his successor. Trump, a real estate businessman with no prior government experience, said earlier this year that he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

Trump’s sympathetic stance toward torture is why Wyden thinks the president-elect wouldn’t think twice about the destruction of a report long mired in controversy.

“It seems to me ― and this’ll be the argument we’d be making to the administration ― that the president wants a legacy issue,” Wyden said. “This is something he can do today that will be very meaningful, and frankly we’re very concerned that it’s just going to get destroyed and that will be that.”

Making the torture report a federal record would not require its declassification, but making it an agency record would open it up to a Freedom of Information Act request. Even then, it can be redacted in part or full.

The report, an “exhaustive history with hundreds of footnotes,” should “at a minimum” be protected, Wyden said.

Wyden pointed to Trump’s campaign promises, the views of those he’s surrounding himself with, and comments made by his Republican colleagues as proof there’s a real threat the report could be lost forever.

In January 2015, during his first month as chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) requested that the White House return every copy of the document that had been distributed to the administration officials and federal agencies. In a letter to Obama, Burr wrote: “I consider that report to be a highly classified and committee sensitive document.”

“It should not be entered into any Executive Branch system of records,” Burr continued.

At the time, Burr also said he planned to give back a critical secret document, the Panetta Review, that underpins the entire Senate investigation into the CIA’s torture program.

Burr never got the copies of the torture report back; the White House said it would “preserve the status quo.”

But once Republicans have complete control of the federal government from the White House on down, it only follows that Burr would again request to have the last copies of the secret report returned. And what he does with them after that is pretty much up to him.

That means the fate of the infamous document would depend on individual senators like Wyden fighting to keep it in existence until it can be declassified.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who led the intel committee during the investigation and when the report was released, is also pushing for Obama to declassify the document.

She hasn’t always been supportive, however. A New Yorker report published in the summer of 2015 said Wyden, then-Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) rarely aligned with Feinstein on surveillance and tried to convince her to push for the entire declassification of the report.

“Feinstein, concerned that the information in the full report would be too inflammatory, decided that the executive summary sufficed for the time being,” according to the New Yorker.

She’s changed her mind since, and handed a letter to Vice President Joe Biden to give to Obama last week, urging him to make it public.

“The time has come to declassify the report, allow the general public to make up its own mind,” Feinstein said, according to Politico. At least, those that’ll read 7,000 pages.”

So far, the White House response has not been encouraging.

“It was not a full-throated: ‘We are gonna declassify the report,” Wyden said of recent statements coming from the administration. “So we’ve got some heavy lifting to do on that.”

In the final days of the Obama administration, Wyden says, he plans to focus on preserving the torture report so people understand what the CIA engaged in when interrogating suspected terrorists, and “that it’s contrary to our values; contrary to our laws.”

“I want to amp up the concern I have to make sure that this full report is not destroyed,” he said. “That’s all the more reason why the report ought to be put in hands of American people so that you can have a real debate about this.”

White House spokesman Ned Price didn’t comment on Obama’s plans for the report or on calls by Democratic senators for it to be declassified or made a federal record.

When Feinstein disseminated the copies nearly two years ago there were eight: one sent to the White House, two to the CIA (one for the inspector general, which was “mistakenly” deleted) and the rest to five different agencies.

The White House declined to comment Wednesday on the status of the various copies.

Jessica Schulberg contributed reporting.

On December 28, US District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered a complete copy of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2014 report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s torture program during the Bush administration to be delivered to a federal courthouse, where it is to be preserved in a safe by a judicial security officer. Lawyers for torture victim Abd al-Rahim Al-Nashiri requested this extraordinary measure on the grounds that efforts were underway within the other branches of the US government to destroy and erase every copy of the full report: here.

US Americans suspected of torture in Afghanistan


This video says about itself:

US: Ex-Detainee Describes Unreported CIA Torture

3 October 2016

A Tunisian man formerly held in secret United States Central Intelligence Agency custody have described previously unreported methods of torture that shed new light on the earliest days of the CIA program. Lotfi al-Arabi El Gherissi, 52, recounted being severely beaten with batons, threatened with an electric chair, subjected to various forms of water torture, and being chained by his arms to the ceiling of his cell for a long period.

The United States repatriated El Gherissi to Tunisia on June 15, 2015, after 13 years in custody without charges or trial. He was not provided compensation or support for his wrongful detention or the torture he endured, nor was he provided help to cope with the physical and mental harm incurred. Today he is destitute, unable to work, and experiencing the consequences of serious physical and emotional trauma he believes is a direct result of his treatment in US custody.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

International Criminal Court suspects Americans of torture of Afghan prisoners

Today, 02:53

The International Criminal Court in The Hague says the US has possibly tortured prisoners in Afghanistan. Prosecutors say that the suspicions were raised on the basis of a preliminary examination. The US military and the CIA would thus have committed war crimes.

A report states that there are indications that the military has tortured at least 61 detainees, especially in 2003 and 2004. In the same period CIA employees are said to have tortured at least 27 people in secret prisons in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Interrogation technique

The alleged crimes, according to the report, were not the work of a few individuals. It seems that the torture was part of an approved interrogation technique with which the US hoped to get “useful information“.

Prosecutors say they will soon decide whether they are going to ask for permission to do an extensive study in Afghanistan about war crimes.

The US itself is not a member of the ICC, but US citizens can be prosecuted if they have committed crimes in a country which is a member, such as Afghanistan. The question is whether it ever will come to that. Even if sufficient evidence will be provided, the very question remains whether Washington will cooperate in prosecution of its nationals by the ICC. In the past, the US has made clear that it will not accept that American soldiers may stand trial in The Hague.

U.S. President George Bush signed into law the American Servicemembers Protection Act of 2002, intended to intimidate countries that ratify the treaty for the International Criminal Court. The law authorizes the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country being held by the court, which is located in The Hague. This provision, dubbed the “Hague invasion clause,” has caused a strong reaction from U.S. allies around the world, particularly in the Netherlands: here.

Some African countries which had originally recognized the ICC are now threatening to withdraw. Because in practice the ICC prosecutes only Africans; while rich suspects from rich countries, like Tony Blair from Britain, go scot-free.

Also, there are African suspects and quite other African suspects. Bashir, dictator of Sudan, was indicted by the ICC when he had a bad relationship with NATO governments. However, in 2011 Bashir became an ally in the NATO war of regime change against Libya. And now the European Union considers him an ally in stopping African refugees from dictatorship, war and famine. So, probably Bashir will never be on trial in The Hague; unless governments of rich countries will consider he is no longer useful as an ally.

One may wonder which U.S. individuals the ICC may indict now. Only privates? Or will they be a little more courageous, and indict even corporals? Or will they be really courageous, and indict people like Bush’s Secretary of War ‘Defence’ Donald Rumsfeld or Bush’s Vice President Dick Cheney?

The first American troops left for Afghanistan in 2001 …. At the height of the mission, there were 100,000 American soldiers.

President Obama has long said all US Americans would be home at the end of his term, but he said last summer that still 8,400 soldiers will remain in the country, because of the precarious security situation.

See also here.

The International Criminal Court is investigating US war crimes. But there’s a huge catch: here.

Anti-Trump movement continues


This video from the USA says about itself:

11 November 2016

Young girl rallies crowd at a Donald J. Trump protest in Austin, Texas. “I am a child, and I cannot vote, but that will not stop me from getting heard!”

By Shannon Jones in the USA:

Anti-Trump protests continue across US for fifth day

14 November 2016

Protests involving tens of thousands continued for a fifth straight day Sunday in cities across the United States, reflecting broad popular outrage at the election of Donald Trump.

The largest demonstration was held Saturday in midtown Manhattan and drew some 25,000 people. Demonstrators began at Union Square in Lower Manhattan and ended up outside Trump Tower in Midtown. As protesters marched along Fifth Avenue they chanted, “We reject the president elect!” Protests continued Sunday with thousands gathering outside Trump Tower again.

Many protesters cited Trump’s statements demeaning woman and Muslims as well as his stated plans for the mass deportation of immigrants and the construction of a wall along the US-Mexican border. Others pointed to the popular vote totals, which showed a substantial plurality for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, although Trump gained a majority of votes in the Electoral College. …

… the protests drew the participation of wide layers of the population including workers, young people and professionals.

In Los Angeles on Saturday about 10,000 people marched from MacArthur Park and ended at the federal building downtown. The size of the crowd forced police to shut down the off ramps of several freeways.

In Las Vegas, Nevada about 1,000 people marched along the Las Vegas strip, with many carrying signs declaring, “Not my president.” Several protesters were arrested after they blocked traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard following a demonstration at the Trump Hotel.

Thousands marched through downtown Chicago Saturday with some heading for Trump Tower Chicago and others marching through the downtown Loop. Police set up barricades to keep marchers from approaching the building.

Police arrested 19 people in Portland, Oregon Saturday night after a huge crowd gathered at Pioneer Square downtown. These arrests bring the total number arrested in the city during protests to 62. A protester was shot in an incident that did not seem to be directly related to the anti-Trump demonstrations. Four were detained in relation to the shooting and two were charged.

All told, several hundred have been arrested in nationwide protests since Trump’s victory in the November 8 US elections.

Protests, some sizeable, also took place in Dallas, Phoenix, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Miami, Detroit, Washington D.C. and other cities.

In Berlin, Germany, hundreds gathered at the Brandenburg Gate, some carrying signs opposing Trump. In Mexico City a group of people gathered outside the Independence Monument.

WSWS reporters spoke to several young people attending an anti-Trump rally at Union Square in Manhattan, New York. …

Zora, age 14, is a high school student. “Although, I am not able to vote, I was for Bernie Sanders in the primaries, as was my whole family,” she said.

“I think a civil war is a real possibility. With Donald Trump in office a lot is unpredictable. He just spews out things that he thinks the population wants to hear because there are a lot of angry people in this country.

“The politicians promise you something and then they don’t give it to you. Trump’s appeal is that he is not a politician and has new views. …

Yuri stated that Trump was falsely posturing as a friend of workers. “Trump is an established capitalist, he doesn’t represent middle class and working class people. He succeeded in deceiving them.”

A WSWS reporting team also spoke with Hamaad, a tech industry worker and a former Bernie Sanders supporter who came to the vigil [in Washington D.C.] with his family. He said he was “embarrassed” at the outcome of the election. “There are some people who had economic reasons, like the promise of jobs, but from my perspective you can’t ignore his ban on Muslims and calling all Mexicans rapists,” he said.

Speaking about the economic reasons behind Trump’s vote, Hamaad said, “Minnesota and Michigan have been Democratic strongholds, but many didn’t come out to vote. The platform Hillary had just wasn’t strong enough and ignored that portion of the community.”

In San Diego at least one thousand marched in Balboa Park to protest Trump’s electoral victory. The city’s proximity to the future “wall” along the US-Mexico border and heavy immigrant population has aroused strong fears.

Cory and Matt came to show their solidarity with the rally, which was organized by the … San Diego ANSWER coalition. Cory said, “It’s never been more apparent that our immigrant brothers and sisters, and those of different religions, need our help now more than ever.”

Cory expressed disgust with the two-party system and did not show any enthusiasm for Clinton, although he did support Sanders in the primaries. He had sympathy for an independent party of the working class and with the ideas of socialism, saying, “I’m ready for a socialist.”

Gisela came to the rally to show her opposition to the selection of Trump, but was also disgusted with the campaign of the Democrats, saying, “I think we didn’t have any real candidates.” When one of the WSWS reporters explained that Clinton’s defeat was the result of mass abstention on the part of the majority of the population, she replied, “It gives you an idea of what the population thinks as a whole.”

Katya and Meagan were both shocked at Trump’s victory, saying, “It was so confusing and baffling.” They both expressed initial support for Sanders but were upset with his eventual endorsement of Clinton, saying, “I was really upset that Sanders lost. I wish Sanders would have said more about WikiLeaks. It’s hard to accept that he stopped halfway on his ‘political revolution.’ I was disillusioned.”

The extreme right-wing character of the incoming US administration came into sharper focus on Sunday when, interviewed on the news program “60 Minutes,” President-elect Donald Trump declared that he intends to imprison and deport 2 to 3 million immigrants. This followed the announcement earlier in the day of his first two administrative appointees—Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff, and, as top White House advisor, the fascist Steve Bannon, previously Trump’s campaign CEO and executive chairman of Breitbart News: here.

Of course this West Virginia official was removed after calling first lady Michelle Obama an “ape in heels.”

Within hours of Donald Trump’s victory in the US, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly became the fourth world leader to hold a teleconference with the president-elect. The pair agreed to meet on November 17 in New York: here.

Edo Conrad – +972 – In the Sheldon Adelson-funded, pro-Netanyahu, free daily newspaper Israel Hayom‘s U.S. correspondent Yoni Hirsch dedicated exactly two sentences of his article to Bannon’s appointment. Not one mention of the conspiracy theories peddled by Bannon, according to which Planned Parenthood has Nazi ties or that Hillary Clinton’s aid Huma Abedin is a spy for Saudi Arabia. Not a word on the fact that he reportedly did not want his twin daughters attending the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles because many Jewish students were enrolled there, and Bannon believes that Jews are raised to be “whiny brats.” Nothing about the fact that he was charged with choking his ex-wife Mary Louise Piccard, or that he called feminist activists a “bunch of dykes”: here.

Ben Sales – Times of Israel – “It is a perhaps growing recognition that [the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] cannot define how American Jews and American Muslims relate to one another,” said Rabbi David Fox Sandmel, the Anti-Defamation League’s director of interreligious engagement. “The shared concerns we have about prejudice, about bias, about threats of violence, about disenfranchisement — these are the kinds of things that can bring us together”: here.

Europeans could think of Donald Trump as a combination of the worst characteristics of Silvio Berlusconi and Marine Le Pen. He is personally rich, egotistic and arrogant. He’s taking an executive office to manage the biggest state budget and the most destructive military machine in the world. Plenty of other capitalist politicians, Republicans and Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, also support reactionary and pro-war politics, which are dangerous for the world. What’s different is that Donald Trump openly gives voice and a platform for anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, racist and anti-women rhetoric and thus his victory promotes a mobilization of the most bigoted segments of U.S. society: here.

This video from the USA says about itself:

Trump Eyes Bush-Era Torture Architect For CIA Head

13 November 2016

Jose Rodriguez was involved in the CIA’s Bush-era torture program, as well as covering it up. He destroyed 92 video tapes of CIA torture in the name of national security. Cenk Uygur, John Iadarola, Jimmy Dore, and Alonzo Bodden, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.

“Donald Trump may select Jose Rodriguez, one of the primary architects of the George W. Bush torture program, to run the Central Intelligence Agency, according to a law firm with close ties to Trump.

Rodriguez, the former director of the National Clandestine Service, helped developed the CIA black sites, secret prisons operated in foreign countries where interrogators used a range of torture tactics, including the use of “waterboarding,” the simulated drowning technique once used by the Khmer Rouge and Nazi agents to glean information from detainees.

At least 136 individuals were detained and tortured by the CIA. Interrogation tactics also included forced nudity, sleep deprivation while being vertically shackled, and confinement in a small box.

Rodriguez is unapologetic about his role in the program, telling 60 Minutes that “we did the right thing for the right reason,” even if it meant “going to the border of legality.”

The suggestion that Rodriguez may head the CIA was made in a post-election prediction document published by Dentons, a law and lobbying firm where Trump confidant Newt Gingrich erves as a senior advisor. Dentons was also retained by Make American Number 1, one of the primary Super PACs supporting Trump’s candidacy.”

Read more here.

‘European Union pressure causes torture of refugees in Italy’


This Ugandan TV video says about itself:

AMNESTY REPORTS HORRIFIC REFUGEE ABUSE IN LIBYA

2 July 2016

Amnesty International, the UK-based human rights organisation, has documented horror stories of migrants and refugees who faced killings, torture, rape and starvation – mostly at the hands of traffickers in Libya.

The report, released on Friday, was based on interviews with more than 90 refugees and migrants at reception centres in the Italian cities of Puglia and Sicily who had made the journey across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya over the past few months.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Amnesty: EU pressure on Italy leads to ill-treatment of refugees

Today, 00:01

The European Union pressure on Italy in the reception of refugees leads to human rights violations. That said Amnesty in a report. The organization speaks of beatings, intimidation and imprisonment.

Europe began in 2015 with the ‘hotspot’ approach. Refugees had to be identified at different locations (hotspots) in the EU. Their fingerprints had to be recorded. In the hotspots it should be decided quickly whether the refugees may remain or will be returned to their countries of origin. Because in some countries, such as Italy, there are many refugees, the applicants had to be distributed according to an EU plan to the other European countries.

Little of this plan has materialized. Last year, according to Amnesty, 150,000 people came to Italy. 1200 of them have moved to other EU countries. That should have been 40,000. “The hotspot approach has just stepped up the pressure on countries on the EU’s borders rather than lessened it,” said Amnesty. “This leads to violations of the rights of these people.” Earlier, it turned out that there are too few hotspots in Italy. Of the six ones planned, only four are open.

Many asylum seekers arriving via Italy in Europe, according to human rights organizations do not want their fingerprints taken. If they are registered, then they can be returned under the Dublin Convention, for example from the Netherlands to Italy.

People who do not want to give fingerprints are treated properly by most police, according to Amnesty. “But sometimes arbitrary detention, harassment and excessive violence is used.”

Amnesty has spoken to people who were beaten, given electric shocks or were humiliated sexually. The organization collected 24 testimonies, they were beaten in sixteen cases.

“They held my shoulders and legs firmly, squeezed my testicles with tweezers and pulled twice. It was indescribably painful”, said a man who was forced by police to remove his clothes

A 25-year-old Eritrean woman said a police officer hit her multiple times in her face, until she gave her fingerprints.

According to Amnesty, Italy under pressure from the EU also looked for ways to send more migrants back. “This has resulted in agreements with countries that commit terrible crimes,” Amnesty noted. “Eg, forty Sudanese were put by Italy on a plane back to that country. They do that while the risk per individual of human rights violations has not been studied well.”

‘British police teaching Bahraini regime to whitewash torture deaths’


This video from the European Parliament says about itself:

4 February 2016

Alyn Smith MEP speaks on the institutional reform in Bahrain and raises the case of Mohamed Ramadan who is one of five people facing the death penalty in Bahrain.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

British guns for hire ‘teach Bahrainis to whitewash deaths’

Friday 21st October 2016

BRITISH police have advised their Bahraini counterparts on how to “whitewash” deaths in custody, international human rights group Reprieve alleged yesterday.

The guidance was part of a widely criticised multimillion-pound training deal with the Gulf kingdom, where security forces routinely rely on torture and the death penalty, both banned under international law.

The revelations adds to growing concerns about the use of Britain’s police and security forces as “guns for hire” to despotic regimes.

Bahrain’s poor human rights record has been highlighted recently by the case of Mohammed Ramadan, who has been held on death row since 2014. His lawyers allege that he was tortured into making a false confession.

Reprieve, which specialises in such cases and represents Mr Ramadan, argues that an investigation into his mistreatment, launched earlier this year, has been “deeply flawed and failed to meet international standards.”

An email unearthed by Reprieve shows that senior Bahraini police officers asked Northern Ireland’s police ombudsman in January for advice on how to present its handling of police complaints.

The visit focused on investigations involving deaths or serious injuries caused by police and how to liaise with families in these cases, according to emails obtained by Reprieve through freedom of information requests.

Reprieve director Maya Foa said: “It is shocking that Britain paid for Bahrain’s police to learn how to whitewash deaths in custody.

“Bahrain’s police have tortured innocent people like Mohammed Ramadan into confessing falsely to crimes that carry the death penalty and intimidated relatives who try to complain.”

Australian torture of refugees in Nauru


This video says about itself:

10 September 2016

In 2013, Australia’s government announced a tough new policy towards refugees travelling by boat to its shores. The campaign that went with it was called, “No way. You will not make Australia home“.

Its goal was to discourage asylum seekers from entering the country “illegally” – as the government saw it.

Most were coming from countries such as Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Many refugees – having fled their homes – considered themselves stateless.

Their journeys were arduous and complex. Those from Iran, for instance, would travel first to Malaysia, where they could enter without a visa. Then they’d make their way to southernmost Indonesia, and from there they took boats towards Australia’s closest islands.

The trips typically involved people smugglers and dangerous – sometimes deadly – journeys on boats that were often overloaded and unseaworthy.

Of the boats intercepted at sea by the Australian Border Force, many were forcibly turned back to where they’d come from. But passengers on some – and all those who did make it into Australian waters – were taken into custody, then deported, flown to neighbouring countries.

There, in Nauru and on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, they are still held in what Australia’s government calls “regional processing centres”.

Nauru is a tiny 29 square kilometre island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

That small independent country – a member of the United Nations – has played a central role in the history of Australia’s refugee policies.

Nauru’s “detention centre” first opened in 2001, under a policy brought in by Australia’s conservative Liberal Party – the so-called “Pacific Solution”.

But this all changed when Kevin Rudd, from the centre-left Labour party, came to power in 2007. Rudd closed Nauru’s centre and most of the refugees were relocated to Australia.

But then as the number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat started going back up, the Labour Party’s government was forced to reconsider. The centre reopened in 2012.

Today, the island’s detention centre is home to almost 500 people, including about 50 children.

Many of them have been there for more than three years.

But what’s going on inside? Both the Nauruan and Papua New Guinean detention centres are run under a veil of secrecy, off-limits to the media and to NGOs like Amnesty International.

People working there are not allowed to talk about what they have seen. Why?

Talk to Al Jazeera sits down with former employees who have decided to break their silence to tell us about the situation inside Australia’s offshore detention centres.

Are they, as the government says, having the desired effect, by discouraging people from making dangerous journeys? But are they also, as the people we spoke to say, dehumanising and dangerous?

We spoke to Evan Davis, a teacher who used to work with children living in the Australian-run camp in Nauru. Despite secrecy provisions limiting the ability of staff to talk, he decided to share his experience.

“It struck me straight away that the place was more like a military camp, a prison, more than anything else, that was efficiently run,” he says. The children were referred to by personnel as numbers, not names, and Davis said the teachers endeavoured to make a point of learning the children’s names.

Judith Reem used to teach secondary school children on Nauru. She, herself, comes from a family of Bosnian refugees to Australia, which is one of the reasons she decided to speak out publicly. The tents where people lived, she says, were not designed for habitation, and cultural considerations, such as spaces for people to pray, were not taken into account.

Judith Reem feels particularly bad about having prepared the children for a life in Australia which was never going to happen.

“I feel, that in retrospect, I was a part of the lie, because I was teaching them conversational English for life in Australia and that just hasn’t happened,” she says. The conditions were worse than in a prison, Reem says.

“Some of the children in the camp can’t remember life before the camp because they were so little when they arrived,” she says.

“The cloak of secrecy around it [the camps] is what allows us this plausible deniability, which is hopefully a luxury I can take away.”

Jennifer Rose, a former elementary school teacher in Nauru, believes Australia needs to take a different approach when it comes to dealing with asylum seekers.

“How could you not be affected by seeing children retraumatised by a system that Australia has set up?” Rose asks.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Asylum-seekers ‘tortured’ on Australia‘s ‘Island of Despair’

Monday 17th October 2016

AMNESTY International releases a hard-hitting report today on Australia’s detention of asylum-seekers on the island of Nauru, where it says conditions “amount to torture.”

The 64-page Island of Despair report accuses the Canberra government of subjecting refugees and asylum-seekers to a cruel regime of abuse, flouting international law, in conditions which amount to torture.

It highlights cases of asylum-seekers self-harming or trying to take their own lives.

The Nauruan authorities have even arrested asylum-seekers and refugees for self-harm, the report records, leading to their imprisonment in a “prison within a prison.”

Amnesty senior director of research Anna Neistat, who managed to visit the remote island to investigate rights abuses, said: “On Nauru, the Australian government runs an open-air prison designed to inflict as much suffering as necessary to stop some of the world’s most vulnerable people from trying to find safety in Australia.

“The government of Australia has isolated vulnerable women, men and children in a remote place which they cannot leave, with the specific intention that these people should suffer.

“And suffer they have. It has been devastating and, in some cases, irreparable.

“It’s a vicious trap. People in anguish attempt to end their own lives to escape it but then find themselves behind bars, hurled into a prison within a prison.

“The Australian government’s policy is the exact opposite of what countries should be pursuing. It is a model that minimises protection and maximises harm.”

Australia has spent billions of pounds to create and maintain its inherently abusive offshore processing system.

According to the Australian National Audit Office, offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea has cost more than £350,000 annually per person.

Much of this money has been spent on companies contracted to work on Nauru, many of which have said that they will cease operations on the island.

Individual staff from some companies have become whistleblowers, even under the threat of criminal prosecution for exposing the desperate situation on Nauru.

Allowing people’s mental health to deteriorate without adequate treatment appears to be a deliberate part of the Australian government’s deterrence policy, Amnesty researchers found.

Doctors, medical staff and supporters rallied last weekend in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Cairns, Darwin and Newcastle in opposition to the Australian government’s brutal treatment of refugees. An estimated 5,000 protested in Sydney, up to 3,000 in Melbourne and hundreds in other cities. Demonstrations were held the previous weekend in Brisbane and Canberra: here.

Legislation to impose a lifetime ban on any refugees even visiting Australia passed the House of Representatives, parliament’s lower house, last Thursday. The Liberal-National government remains determined to get the bill through the Senate despite widespread public opposition to its blatant violation of international law: here.