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UN Secretary-General and Torture Experts Issue Statements on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
23 years ago, on June 26, 1987, the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment came into force, and since its 11th anniversary, on June 26, 1998, it has been commemorated as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
A long-cherished dream of those who opposed the use of torture under any circumstances, the Convention followed up on the prohibition against the use of torture in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948, which declared, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” 23 years ago, Article 2.2 of the Convention Against Torture made clear that the torture prohibition is absolute, declaring, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
Maybe it was because June is "Torture Awareness Month", but when the wrenching image of an oil drenched pelican (taken by Associated Press Photographer Charlie Riedel) as a result of the BP oil spill appeared in our Star Tribune newspaper earlier this month, anti-torture activist Diane Steen-Hinderlie quickly spotted this connection and created the above collage.
Seymour Hersh says that Dick Cheney headed a secret assassination wing and the head of the wing has just been named as the new commander in Afghanistan.
In an interview with GulfNews, (the Persian Gulf's largest daily English language newspaper published from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates) on May 12, 2009 Pulitzer prize-winning American investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, said that there is a special unit called the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that does high-value targeting of men that are known to be involved in anti-American activities, or are believed to be planning such activities....
Most of what General McChrystal has done over a 33-year career remains classified, including service between 2003 and 2008 as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, an elite unit so clandestine that the Pentagon for years refused to acknowledge its existence.
On July 22, 2006, Human Rights Watch issued a report titled "No blood, no foul" about American torture practices at three facilities in Iraq. One of them was Camp Nama, which was operated by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), under the direction of then Major General Stanley McChrystal. Read more.
By Kathy Kelly
Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
U.S. Constitution Amendment I
An old cliché says that anyone who has herself for a lawyer has a fool for a client. Nevertheless, going to trial in Washington, D.C., this past June 14, I and twenty-three other defendants prepared a pro se defense. Acting as our own lawyers in court, we aimed to defend a population that finds little voice in our society at all, and to bring a sort of prosecution against their persecutors.
Jun. 14, 2010 The RCMP has conducted a four-year investigation called “Project Prism” that could lead to Canadian criminal charges of torture against American and Syrian officials, Maher Arar and his lawyer said Monday.
Arar revealed he is pinning some hope on the investigation after the top U.S. court on Monday refused his petition to sue the United States for his 2002 detention on false allegations of terrorism and forced removal to a prison in Syria where he was tortured.
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT - Kyrgyzs Burning Uzbeks Alive
Ever wonder what it's like to be set on fire? Step in front of the US military's "pain ray" Active Denial System and find out! It has recently been deployed to Afghanistan, but "has not been used operationally," yet.
Wired's Danger Room blog asked a spokeswoman from the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate whether reports of the pain ray being deployed to Afghanistan were true. She said that it was not currently being tested. She then denied that the pain ray makes the recipient feel like they're burning alive, but that "It's an intolerable heating sensation. Like opening up an oven door." Sounds great.
From Danger Room:
For years, the military insisted that the Active Denial System - known as the "Holy Grail" of crowd control - was oh-so-close to battlefield deployment. But a host of technical issues hampered the ray gun: everything from overheating to poor performance in the rain. Safety concerns lingered; a test subject had to be airlifted to a burn center after being zapped by the weapon. (He eventually made a full recovery.) And then there were concerns about "the atmospherics" - how the locals might react - when they learned that the United States had turned a people-roaster on ‘em. "Not politically tenable," the Defense Science Board concluded. Read more.
What we brought to the Iraqi People, as we have others, for no reason, and what we'll once again walk away from, as we have others, not just the present mental issues but the present to long lasting physical results, happening to many at any time even those yet born, of occupations!!
Todd Essig published this over at True Slant: Torture after 9/11 is a dark stain on the profession of psychology. On June 16, 2010 Dr. Jim L. H. Cox, a psychologist in Texas, filed a cleansing formal ethics complaint against James Elmer Mitchell.
While the story of Mitchell has previously been well told in Vanity Fair, Salon, and Democracy Now (among others) yesterday’s complaint still makes for a chilling read. Read the formal complaint filed with the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists Against Dr. James Mitchell.
Excerpts: ...During World War II, licensed doctors engaged in experimentation in Nazi concentration camps. As Robert Lifton noted in his book "Nazi Doctors," not only did doctors use human subjects for perverse, pseudo-scientific study, they worked with the Gestapo to develop and refine information extraction techniques by experimenting on Auschwitz inmates. This grave misuse of medical knowledge grossly distorted a profession designed to ease suffering, not to create it.
Lifton described the step-by-step process that drew otherwise ethical doctors into this evil. Spurred by social and political pressures, they became implicated in the medical experimentation. Lifton calls this the “socialization of evil.”
The Nuremberg laws were intended both to prevent the suffering of future human subjects and the harm done to doctors by co-opting them in violations of the law and their ethical obligation....
The Israeli high court affirmed that the elimination of inhumane treatment of detainees is “the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it." It said also that "Although a democracy must fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand.”
Of course, it’s not just our history as Jews that compels us to condemn torture in all its manifestations but also our values as Americans. The issue of torture touches on core moral principles of concern to the American Jewish community, principles that go to the heart of both American and international humanitarian values, as well as to the very essence of democracy. Read more.
June 14, 2010 Today, following the announcement by the U.S. Supreme Court that it had refused to hear the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) case on behalf of Canadian citizen and rendition victim Maher Arar against U.S. officials for their role in sending him to Syria to be tortured and detained for a year, Mr. Arar made a startling announcement. According to Mr. Arar and his attorneys, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has been conducting a criminal investigation into U.S. as well as Syrian officials for their role in his rendition to torture.
Andy Worthington,British Journalist & War Criminal Watch advisior's, two-part article on Obama and Torture in Bagram
What is Obama Doing at Bagram? (Part 1) Torture and the "Black Prison
By Andy Worthington
For eight and a half years, the US prison at Bagram airbase has been the site of a disturbing number of experiments in detention and interrogation, where murders have taken place, the Geneva Conventions have been shredded and the encroachment of the US courts — unlike at Guantánamo — has been thoroughly resisted.
In the last few months, there have been a few improvements — hearings, releases, even the promise of imminent trials — but behind this veneer of respectability, the US government’s unilateral reworking of the Geneva Conventions continues unabated, and evidence has recently surfaced of a secret prison within Bagram, where a torture program that could have been lifted straight from the Bush administration’s rule book is still underway.
At least seven years too late for these two, but the ICC has approved new language to make 'wars of aggression' a prosecutable offense by adopting a new resolution. Under the administration of President George W. Bush, the United States had virtually no involvement with the ICC.
WASHINGTON — A judge has acquitted two dozen anti-torture activists who were arrested at the U.S. Capitol.
Members of Witness Against Torture were arrested at the Capitol on Jan. 21 as they called on President Barack Obama to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison.
Their trial on unlawful entry charges was held Monday in D.C. Superior Court. Most of the activists wore black shirts as they sat in the courtroom for their bench trial.
Judge Russell Canan granted a motion for judgment of acquittal, dropping charges against all 24 defendants after federal prosecutors presented their case.
Jeremy Varon, a spokesman for the group, said they consider it a victory for free speech.
Twenty-Four Anti-Torture Activists Acquitted in Trial for Protest at the US CapitolCalling for Guantanamo's Closure and the Investigation of Deaths at the Prison
By Dave Lindorff
By Dave Lindorff
What does it say about the the American government, its president, and its military today, that the the largest military/intelligence organization in the history of mankind has launched a global manhunt for Julian Assange, head of the Wikileaks organization? And what does it say about corporate American journalists that they attack the only real journalist in the White House press corps, when she alone has shown the guts to speak truth?
The Hunt for Julian Assange
Nazi and imperial Japanese doctors performed horrific human experiments on unwilling subjects. At Auschwitz and other death camps, Josef Mengele, Carl Clauberg, Herta Oberheuser, Karl Brandt, Aribert Heim and others conducted ones involving freezing temperatures, toxic chemicals and gas, sterilizations, high altitudes, radiation, electroshock, starvation, amputations, bone, muscle and nerve transplants, and numerous other atrocities called crimes of war and against humanity at Nuremberg.
At its infamous Unit 731, Japanese doctors and scientists did their own, involving vivisections, germ and other forms of biological warfare, toxic chemicals, and other atrocities causing severe pain, disease and certain death. Yet in 1945, General Douglas MacArthur agreed secretly with Dr. Shiro Ishil to turn over 10,000 pages of human experimentation information in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Justice for their victims was denied.
Today and since the early 1950s, CIA operatives conducted physically harsh and psychologically crippling mind control experiments, turning human beings into mush, a topic this writer addressed earlier, accessed through this link.
In addition, for decades, CIA and other US agencies experimented illegally with human subjects, including:
Former UN weapons inspector and ex-head of MI5 to appear as witnesses at Chilcot inquiry to discuss intelligence over WMDs
11 June 2010 The former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and ex-MI5 director general Lady Manningham-Buller have been called before the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war.
Also among the 35 new witnesses to be questioned in July, made public in a list today, are the former deputy prime minister John Prescott, ex-defence secretary Bob Ainsworth and two previous heads of the army, General Sir Mike Jackson and General Sir Richard Dannatt.
The review, chaired by Sir John Chilcot, is investigating Britain's role in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and also its post-war involvement up until July 2009. The review broke up on 8 March for the election.
June 9th, 2010
Torture is still happening, says Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez of black sites around the world that the Obama administration has yet to close down. Sanchez was the highest-ranking Latino in the U.S. Army when he retired in 2006, after having been commander of ground forces in Iraq during a critical period of the war--and during the period when abuses at Abu Ghraib occurred. Since his retirement, he has called for a truth commission to investigate torture, and, he says, "Americans need to face up to" what happened there.
This US Mengele type program is so shocking that even The New York Times is calling for an investigation.
6-7-10 NYT Editorial: Doctors Who Aid Torture
From The New York Times
Disturbing new questions have been raised about the role of doctors and other medical professionals in helping the Central Intelligence Agency subject terrorism suspects to harsh treatment, abuse and torture.
The Red Cross previously documented, from interviews with “high-value” prisoners, that medical personnel helped facilitate abuses in the C.I.A.’s “enhanced interrogation program” during the Bush administration. Now Physicians for Human Rights has suggested that the medical professionals may also have violated national and international laws setting limits on what research can be performed on humans.
To read the full report, Evidence of Human Subject Research & Evaluation in the "Enhanced" Interrogation Program - A White Paper by Physicians for Human Rights, go to:
Follow directions to download a PDF version of the report
Physicians for Human Rights Issued the Press Release Denouncing the Horrendous Breach of Ethics and Morality.
A broad coalition of human rights, health, and religious groups filed a formal complaint today with the US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) against the Central Intelligence Agency. This action is in response to new revelations by Physicians for Human Rights that the CIA allegedly engaged in illegal human subject research and experimentation on detainees as part of Bush-era interrogation practices. The CIA has denied the allegations and has refused to investigate evidence of experimentation presented by Physicians for Human Rights in a report entitled Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the “Enhanced” Interrogation Program. The report is available at http://phrtorturepapers.org/?p=430
The following groups have joined the OHRP complaint so far:
Twenty-Seven to Go on Trial for Protesting the Obama Administration’s Failure to Close Guantanamo, Plan for Indefinite Detention, and Refusal to Prosecute Torture
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, June 14 twenty-seven will face trial stemming from arrests at the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 2010 — the date by which President Obama had promised the closure of the Guantanamo detention camp. The human rights activists will hold a press conference outside the courthouse defending their protest, condemning the Obama administration’s continuation of Bush policies, and explaining their use in court of the “necessity defense.” The press conference will be held Monday, June 14th at 8:30 am, across from the Federal District Courthouse (333 Constitution Avenue, NW).
On January 21, twenty-seven people dressed as Guantanamo prisoners were arrested on the steps of the Capitol holding banners reading “Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives.” Inside the Capitol Rotunda, at the location where deceased presidents lie in state, fourteen activists were arrested performing a memorial service for three men who died at Guantanamo in 2006. Initially reported as suicides, the deaths may have been — as recent evidence suggests — the result of the men being tortured to death (see Scott Horton, “Murders at Guantanamo, March 2010, Harpers).
“The continued operation of the prison camp at Guantanamo is unacceptable,” Matthew W. Daloisio of Witness Against Torture. “If Guantanamo was a foreign policy liability and stain on the rule of law on day one of the Obama presidency, it surely is eighteen months later.”
“The deaths at Guantanamo show how barbaric US policies have been,” says Helen Schietinger, a defendant in the trial. “We are still waiting for accountability for those who designed and carried out torture policies under President Bush. Obama can’t restore the rule of law if he doesn’t enforce the law.”
Does Obama Really Know or Care About Who Is at Guantánamo?
By Andy Worthington | Truthout
The recently released Final Report of President Obama's Guantánamo Review Task Force was supposed to provide a cogent and definitive analysis of the status of the remaining 181 prisoners, given that it took 11 months to complete and involved "more than 60 career professionals, including intelligence analysts, law enforcement agents and attorneys, drawn from the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies within the intelligence community."
Sadly, however, the end result - although valid in many ways - also revealed institutional caution, credulity regarding the contributions of the intelligence services, an inability to address fundamental problems with the legislation that authorized President Bush's detention policies in the first place and a willingness to bend to the demands of political expediency. Read more.
Has the United States Kidnapped and Tortured This Man? Probably, But How Would We Know? Whom Do We Ask?
Mystery of Iranian Nuclear Scientist and the Duelling YouTube Videos
Aljazeera English reports on the two contradictory videos that have surfaced, in one of which Dr. Shahram Amiri, an Iranian nuclear scientist, maintains that he was kidnapped while on pilgrimage to Mecca and is being held against his will in Arizona (an irony, since he would then be an involuntary illegal alien in a state that seems to mind the latter). The second video, also put up at YouTube, contradicts the allegations the first.
WaPo cites retired CIA sources who allege that it is not US practice to kidnap people. But there is such a practice, and it is called rendition, and some allies such as Italy are angered that we do it on their soil. Another CIA source says that if Amiri were imprisoned by the US in Tucson, he wouldn’t be free to contact people by video.
There are many scenarios that can explain this odd turn of events.
1. The first video alleging kidnapping is an Iranian government forgery
2. The first video is valid but the second one is a US government operation
High-value detainees captured during the Bush administration's "war on terror," who were subjected to brutal torture techniques, were used as "guinea pigs" to gauge the effectiveness of various torture techniques, a practice that has raised troubling comparisons to Nazi-era human experimentation. according to a disturbing new report released by Physicians for Human Rights, an international doctors' organization.
PHR, based in Massachusetts, called on President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and the US Congress to launch investigations into the role of physicians and psychiatric experts in the monitoring and assessments of the brutal interrogations.
"Health professionals working for and on behalf of the CIA monitored the interrogations of detainees, collected and analyzed the results of [the] interrogations, and sought to derive generalizable inferences to be applied to subsequent interrogations," said the 27-page report, entitled "Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the 'Enhanced' Interrogation Program." "Such acts may be seen as the conduct of research and experimentation by health professionals on prisoners, which could violate accepted standards of medical ethics, as well as domestic and international law. These practices could, in some cases, constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity." Read more.