The Islamic Post Blog

Rights Groups Still Insist on Independent Guantanamo Task Force by Khalida
March 24, 2009, 10:52 am
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, March Volume 2009, National | Tags:

(IP)- The US Defense Department task force report, which was released to the public last month, stated Guantanamo Bay is in compliance with the Geneva Convention. US Attorney General Eric Holder has, however, reaffirmed that Guantanamo Bay will be closed on schedule.
Despite assurances from President Obama of continuing the “ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism” “in a manner that is consistent with our values and ideals,” human rights groups and medical ethics committees wanted to oversee that process as it refers to the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay. The UK-based attorney advocacy group, Reprieve, wrote an open letter to the President, after reports surfaced on the task force findings, requesting additional investigations into treatment of prisoners held, specifically the 10% of the population previously ordered by federal judges to be released. The attorneys who signed the letter, counsellors for some of the men still held there, insist that their clients continue to report abuse. Some detainees allege maltreatment has been heightened in recent months.
Guantanamo Bay has varying camps depending on the level of perceived danger of an individual, ranging from a dormitory environment to solitary isolation. At least two of the men ordered to be freed remain in solitary confinement and complain of harsh force feeding. “Little is known about Camp 7, which is at a secret location at Guantanamo Bay and off limits even to military attorneys representing the men there. It houses those detainees who were formerly held at secret CIA prisons,” reported Washington Post staff writers.
The President, in an attempt to roll back Bush Administration policies which allegedly went beyond the military handbook into torture, insisted by executive order on the first day of his presidency that intelligence-gathering agencies stick to the rules of interrogation as outlined in the Army Field Manual. Yet, it has been countered by analysts that the tactics contained in the Manual itself crosses the moral boundaries Americans have come to expect of its defense forces, and hinges on the border of maltreatment, according to what is allowed therein.
Bringing to light public misconceptions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, Warren Richey of the Christian Science Monitor says perhaps many mistakenly think of prisoners of war in terms of the classic 1963 movie “The Great Escape,” based on events at Stalag Luft III, a German prisoner of war camp. “In accordance with the Geneva Conventions, the Germans housed captured Allied troops in military-style barracks,” writes Richey. “Allied POWs lived together, ate together, and were able to socialize. In the movie, one character repeatedly tries and fails to escape. Each time he is recaptured, he is sent as punishment to a solitary confinement cell. The plot line illustrates a key aspect of the protections required under the Geneva Conventions: Wartime detention may not be a form of punishment unless there is specific cause justifying punishment. “The general idea is that prisoners of war aren’t supposed to be punished,” according to Shayana Kadidal, director of the Guantánamo Global Justice Project at the Center for Constitutional Rights, in a quote presented by Richey.
On the contrary, a scarcely-reported section of the Army’s Field Manual on Interrogation “still allows the use of tactics that can constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under U.S. and international law,” writes political analyst, William Fisher. Mr. Fisher, who managed developmental programs for the US State Department under the Kennedy Administration, notes the suspect section of the Manual, known as Annex M, allows the use of sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and isolation, which is termed “separation” in the Manual.
He then cites Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) Chief Executive Officer, Frank Donaghue as claiming: “Particularly when used in combination, these techniques amount to psychological torture. The Obama Administration must close this loophole in the Army Field Manual by eliminating Appendix M, which leaves the door open to torture.”
Fisher reports that the Nobel laureate not-for-profit organization, (PHR) is calling on the task force, appointed by the president, to review U.S. interrogation and transfer policies, consult with human rights organizations as part of the review process, and ultimately revoke Annex M.
“The desire to turn the page on the past seven years of detainee abuse and torture by U.S. forces is understandable,” Donaghue said. But he noted that “President Obama, Congress and the health professions will not have fulfilled their obligation to the Constitution and medical ethics if they settle only for reform without accountability.”  Mr. Donoghue was referring to what he calls the past administration’s “weaponization” of the health professions, through the use of Behavioral Science Consultants, to inflict harm on detainees. “A war crime unto itself,” said Donaghue.
The Associated Press (AP) reported in “Doctors Blast Guantanamo Treatment as Unethical” that many physicians have refused, particularly, to participate in the force feeding of detainees, a process that may sound mundane, but in reality is far beyond what most people imagine when they think of the Geneva Convention. Force feeding involves a detainee being restrained with straps in a chair and having a tube which forces a liquid nutrition mix through the nose and down the throat. Yet Department of Defense spokeswoman at the time of the 2007 article, Cynthia Smith, claims that force-feeding is done in a humane and compassionate manner using a method that is consistent with procedures used in U.S. federal prisons.
Others disagree that force feeding is humane. The New-York based Center for Constitutional Rights told AP that the parents of two detainees, who committed suicide after being force fed repeatedly for months, are now seeking unspecified damages from the Pentagon for the “illegal detention, torture, inhumane conditions and ultimate deaths” of their sons. At the time of the suicides, Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris, then-commander of the prison, described them as “not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare.”
The Pentagon recently announced that the Obama Administration will be replacing the commander in charge of Guantanamo Bay with a senior officer who had attended high school with the president.
But even while the new oversight on Guantanamo and interagency tasks forces headed to Cuba, at the President’s behest, to assess the situation at present, The American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch, drafted a letter late last month requesting permission to “provide an outside assessment of current conditions, and as improvements are made, to credibly, independently and publicly report them to the world,” stated the letter. “Such access and reporting would further the objectives of the current Department of Defense (DoD), review and amplify the international benefits of improving conditions at the camps. Our presence itself will be welcomed as another break from the prior administration’s policies on detainees, and set an example of transparency that will help advance human rights worldwide,” it concluded.


What about the U.S. Prison System?

Such a dust storm has kicked up since the executive orders that were signed to prohibit harsh treatment to foreign prisoners, that a New Orleans journalist, Jordan Flaherty, presented the questions of domestic treatment of American citizens confined in the United States prison system:
“The torture of prisoners in US custody is not only found in military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo,” writes Mr. Flaherty. “If President Obama is serious about ending U.S. support for torture, he can start here in Louisiana.” Flaherty then listed a wide range of alleged systemic abuses perpetrated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.  He also cites prisoners being kept in solitary confinement from eight to 36 years, for fear of the spread of leftist ideas among fellow prisoners.
“While prison officials deny the policy of abuse, the range of prisoners who gave statements, in addition to medical records and other evidence introduced at the trial (for an escape attempt a decade ago), present a powerful argument that abuse is a standard policy at the prison,” states Flaherty. He then notes that several of the prisoners received $7,000 when the state agreed to settle, without admitting liability, two civil rights lawsuits filed by 13 inmates.
The US has the largest incarcerated population in the world with twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners. Louisiana has the largest percentage imprisoned out of any US state.


Women Detainees in Mosul, Iraq and Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan by Khalida
July 25, 2008, 5:04 pm
Filed under: International, July Volume II - 2008, World | Tags: , , , ,

By Muhammad Ahmad, Islamic Post Staff Writer

It has recently been revealed that a woman known only as Prisoner 650 is being held at the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. While the identity of the woman is unknown, and also Tehrik-e-Insaf say the woman could be Dr. Aafia Siddiqui who was picked up at an airport in 2003.
Former prisoners at Bagram, have attested to hearing the wrenching screams of a woman. Moazzam Begg, who was released without charges in January of 2005, said the woman he heard was next door to him.
Another man reported to have seen her.
Pakistani politician Imran Khan pledged his full support behind the Cageprisoners’ campaign to release Prisoner 650.
Begg, now back with his family, wife and children in Birmingham, revealed in his book Enemy Combatant: The Terrifying True Story of a British Muslim (Link gives Moazzam Begg’s story) in Guantanamo, how the male prisoners in Bagram had gone on  a hunger strike for six days in an effort to improve the conditions of the unidentified woman, whom they claim was treated to the same regiment of brutality and torture as themselves.
The family of Dr. Siddiqui fears the worst. It has been almost 5 years and the only word they received was a few days after the abduction when a helmeted motorcyclist appeared at their door saying Dr. Siddiqui had been detained and not to speak of the incident.
While Siddiqui could be dead, the family dreads more that she is holed up in Bagram at the mercy of unnamed global terrorists who are working through the medium of secret intelligence agencies.
Siddiqui’s three children, who were traveling with her, are also missing. Of them, there has been no word at all.
Siddiqui is not the only woman, and her children are not the only children, who has disappeared since 2001 with the onset of the war of terror.
In July of 2006, Al Moharer and Uruknet listed these names as being held in Mosul, Iraq: Khadija Ahmad Abdi, 34, detained on May 24, 2005; Raghad Mohammed Ahmad, 17, detained on June 11, 2005; Fatima Dhahir Ibrahim, 53, detained June 6, 2005; Khatar Hassan Mahmmud, 32, detained June 11, 2005; Bushra Mohammed Ahmad, 21, detained on the same date; Mahasin Mohammad Ahmad, 23, also detained on the same date in June; Azhar Abdulrahman Ali, 25, detained with her brothers when their home was raided on July 12, 2005; and Hamda Mahmmud, who was detained on June 2, 2005.
Katherine Ozment of the Boston Magazine, in her investigative report, “Who’s Afraid of Aafia Siddiqui?,” drew a fair outline of the doctor. She asserts that Dr. Siddiqui, a neurobiologist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), made the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) terrorist list in 2004, a list that civil liberties groups say has reached a landmark of one million records, or 400,000 people. While U.S. President George W. Bush is most recently engaged in efforts to corroborate all U.S. information databases for use against those on the terrorist list (mostly non-U.S. residents), the family attorney for Aafia Siddiqui told the Boston Magazine that the information contained in Siddiqui’s file in particular must have been inaccurate. She believes that it has been a case of stolen identity for the 36 year old woman, as all of her previous colleagues who were interviewed, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, sang Siddiqui’s praises.
Dr. Siddiqui was heavily involved in community outreach programs, and spent a good deal of her off time preaching, according to Ozment.
But the official record says something quite different. FBI documents allege that in the summer before September 11, 2001, Siddiqui was wheeling and dealing for al Qaeda in Libya.
Family attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp says that instead of “brokering diamond deals for Al Qaeda with murderous brutes from the killing fields of Africa,” Siddiqui was “hosting play groups [for neighborhood kids] in her apartment.”
“Aafia Siddiqui was here in June 2001, and I can prove it,” Sharp said.
But with no trial, jury, or courtroom, who will Sharp prove it to?

Despite Attacks of Conscience, Guantanamo Arraignment, Tribunals Continue (Updated June 19) by Khalida
June 17, 2008, 1:27 pm
Filed under: July Volume I- 2008, Latino/Caribe | Tags: , ,

<<Doubts. Yosri Fouda (bottom left), claimed in 2002 that although Khalid Shaikh Mohammed tries to appear the  “religious leader, or the leader of a political party…his shallow knowledge of both religion and politics” paints a different story; Top Pentagon lawyer William Haynes (middle left), who came up with a legal framework that would allow the military to ignore a law prohibiting American soldiers from engaging in torture, was initially rewarded a nomination for a life term as a federal judge, then fired upon pressure from Congress; the fourth chief prosecutor at Guantanamo to quit, Col. Morris Davis (bottom right), claims he was pressured by Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann (top) to rush the military tribunals before the presidential elections. Hartmann was disqualified from the trial recently after his impartiality came into serious question.

By Khalida Khaleel

Even without additional legislation to justify the proceedings, the tribunals are forging ahead as if the Supreme Court had not spoken at all.
The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) made their own decision in May in regards to Canadian Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr. Their ruling was based on the original decision in 2004 by the U.S. Supreme Court, which said  the Guantanamo Bay process “violates international law,” as reported by CTV. “The process in place at Guantanamo Bay at the time Canadian officials interviewed K(hadr) and passed on the fruits of the interviews to U.S. officials, has been found by the U.S. Supreme Court … to violate U.S. domestic law and international human rights obligations to which Canada subscribes,’’ the ruling said.
Jurist reported the U.S. Department of Defense as having dismissed Col. Peter Brownback, the judge presiding over the military commission trial of Khadr. No explanation was given for the dismissal, but Khadr’s defense lawyers speculated that it was  related to Brownback’s threat last month to suspend the military commission proceedings against Khadr until and unless the U.S. government submits daily records of Khadr’s detention. Khadr’s military lawyers had requested the records to corroborate allegations of abusive treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Reuters reported that at a pre-trial hearing in the Khadr case, Brownback said that the Pentagon was unhappy with his decisions in the case, and that he had “taken a lot of heat” for dismissing charges against Khadr in June 2007. Those charges were later reinstated.
Most recently, the BBC reported that defense attorney in the case Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler alleged that Guantanamo Bay interrogators were told to destroy handwritten notes in case they were called to testify on detainee treatment during the trials. He was, however, able to obtain a procedures manual which reportedly contained the torture instructions.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has “strongly” objected to a resolution passed by the Icelandic parliament on human rights abuse in the Guantanamo prison. The resolution “condemns the inhumane treatment of prisoners at the U.S. detention camp” and “urges that the camp be closed,” according to an English translation of the text, AFP reported.
“I strongly object to the notion that there are human rights violations at Guantanamo, as is suggested in the resolution,” Secretary Rice said Friday during a press conference with her Icelandic counterpart Ingibjoerg Solrun Gisladottir.
A bit of hope.Sami Al Hajj
Recently, a celebration was held in Sudan, with hundreds of well-wishers in attendance, after the release of Sami al-Hajj, an Al Jazeera cameraman, from Guantanamo Bay.

(…article continues below)


>>Sami Al-Hajj (center) with his son (left) and Wadah Khanfar (right), Al Jazeera’s director general, at al Hajj’s welcome home gathering. Officials told ABC news that al-Hajj’s claims of torture are false, calling him “manipulator” and “propagandist”. Al Jazeera photo.>>


Civil society groups and the Al Jazeera television network organised the gathering in the capital, Khartoum, to mark al-Hajj’s freedom. He addressed the attendees and said that his U.S. captors had hoped to turn him into a spy. “I was subjugated to more than 130 interrogations, 95 of them were about my work and Al Jazeera,” he told the crowd, which included Wadah Khanfar, the network’s director general. “They wanted me to betray the principles of my job and to turn me into a spy. Al-Hajj had been held for nearly six and a half years without charge or trial. He was subjected to harsh psychological and physiological torture.

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