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Torture and Prison Abuse


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Rice Fails to Clarify US View on Torture (December 8, 2005)

Although US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asserts that Washington's treatment of detainees does not violate international law, she does not clarify its policy on torture and rendition. Human rights groups criticize Rice's "unclear" comments regarding the use of banned interrogation techniques and the existence of worldwide secret detention centers. This article questions US commitment to international law in the treatment of terrorism suspects following Rice's statement that "any policy will sometimes result in errors." (Los Angeles Times)

Reports of Secret US Prisons in Europe Draw Ire and Otherwise Red Faces (December 1, 2005)

The general public and human rights groups in Europe express anger over reports indicating that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) used European airports to secretly transfer terror suspects. These groups are also suspicious that their governments either knew about these operations or approved them. Embarrassed by their governments' possible complicity in these "illicit" activities, European prosecutors have begun to investigate those reports. (New York Times)

Cheney 'May Be Guilty of War Crime' (November 30, 2005)

Lawrence Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, accused Vice-President Dick Cheney of committing war crimes related to prisoner abuse. Referring to two US Justice Department memos that list "permissible" interrogation techniques, Wilkerson singles out Cheney for his responsibility in the treatment of prisoners. The White House keeps the contents of these memos secret, which according to critics include techniques that violate "all national and international" laws regarding the treatment of detainees. (Guardian)

CIA Whitewashing Torture (November 21, 2005)

Central Intelligence Agency Director Porter Goss justified the CIA's interrogation techniques as "professional" and "legal." However, both international and US law prohibit techniques like "waterboarding" in which the officials keep the detainee's face under water to produce the sensation of drowning. The Bush administration states that the CIA should use "unique and innovative" means in interrogations, as long as "the victim" is a non-US citizen held abroad. (Human Rights Watch)

Senate Approves Limiting Rights of US Detainees (November 11, 2005)

The US Senate approved an amendment to cut off the habeas corpus petitions by detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The Supreme Court granted these petitions in 2004 to allow detainees to challenge their detention in federal courts. Opponents of this amendment accuse the Senate of "stripping courts of jurisdiction" over terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay. (New York Times)

Report Warned on CIA's Tactics in Interrogation (November 9, 2005)

The inspector general of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) John L. Helgerson argues in a report that a list of 10 interrogation techniques used by the CIA officials on terrorism suspects "went well beyond" the limits authorized by the US military. Helgerson's report questions the Bush administration's view that the international treaty banning ill-treatment of terror suspects does not apply to CIA interrogations abroad. The Agency claims that it is following the legal interrogation procedures "at this time," but refuses to comment on past practices. (New York Times)

CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons (November 2, 2005)

This Washington Post article questions both the legality and morality of the CIA's worldwide secret detention centers. Not only are the CIA's covert procedures on the treatment of detainees illegal in the US, they are also illegal abroad, if the host countries are party to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This article provides background to the CIA's "covert prison system," authorized by US President George Bush following the 9/11 attacks.

Guantanamo Desperation Seen in Suicide Attempts (November 1, 2005)

Jumah Dossari, a Guantanamo Bay detainee, attempted to commit suicide during his lawyer's visit to the prison. His suicide attempt and the widespread hunger strike are the only "effective" means for detainees to protest their treatment at Guantanamo, states Dossari's lawyer. Human rights organizations and the UN demand more access to the facility and question Washington's refusal to grant them private access to detainees. (Washington Post)

Bush Administration: Treaty Outlawing Torture Doesn't Apply Beyond US Soil (October 29, 2005)

According to this OneWorld article, a US government report to the UN Human Rights Committee conveys the idea that the ill-treatment of detainees in "US military custody abroad is and should be legal." Although the US is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that outlaws torture and inhuman treatment, Washington argues that the ICCPR does not apply beyond US soil. The treaty, however, states that its jurisdiction includes places where the member state has "effective control," like the military prison in Guantanamo and bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dozens of Abu Ghraibs (October 25, 2005)

The UN Human Rights Committee examines US compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The committee mainly focuses on the Bush administration's treatment of terrorism suspects in military prisons and increased use of worldwide secret detention centers. Human rights groups criticize Washington's failure to provide information on the number of detainees, their treatment and the legal basis of their detention in those secret centers. (Inter Press Service)

CIA to Avoid Charges in Most Prisoner Deaths (October 23, 2005)

Although the US Justice Department received reports of detainee abuse by CIA officials at military prisons, the department does not intend to bring any charges against these officials. Cases include ill-treatment of prisoners, deaths resulting from intense beating, and torture during interrogations. This New York Times article questions whether the Justice Department's reluctance to prosecute those CIA officials implicated in the abuse is another way of disregarding international law and basic human rights.

Guantanamo Hunger Strikers Shirk Tubes (October 19, 2005)

At Guantanamo Bay, lawyers for the hunger-striking detainees revealed that US guards use large feeding tubes as "torture objects." Lawyers report that guards forcibly insert and remove the "dirty" nasal tubes that make detainees "vomit blood and experience intense pain." Although prison officials claim that they treat prisoners "humanely," they admit they do not know the procedures regarding the feeding tubes. (Associated Press)

US, UK, Iraq Counter-Terror Laws Erode Rights (October 10, 2005)

A UN legal expert argues that US, UK and Iraqi counter-terror measures undermine international human rights standards. The expert warns that the proposed anti-terror laws in Britain, the treatment of terrorism suspects in detention centers by the US officials, and the power of the Iraqi Special Tribunal to "impose death penalty" violate basic human rights. The expert also adds that while governments need to cooperate in their fight against terror, their policies should uphold the rule of law. (UN Press Release)

Senate Moves to Protect Military Prisoners Despite Veto Threat (October 6, 2005)

The US Senate passed an amendment to ban inhuman treatment of terrorism suspects by US troops at detention centers around the world. The amendment aims to establish a "clear and consistent standard" about the detention and interrogation of prisoners under US custody. While the amendment proposes that the US authorities should use a "new Army field manual" at detention centers, opposition among Senate Republicans and the White House argue that the Manual does not offer "practical" procedures in the "current war environment." (New York Times)

In New Book Ex-Chaplain at Guantánamo Tells of Abuses (October 3, 2005)

James J. Yee, a former Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo Bay, writes about the abuses at the prison camp in his book "For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire." Yee argues that military officials constantly reminded Guantánamo guards of the 9/11 attacks, and emphasized that combat was still going on. Yee comments that these "emotional slogans" aimed to provoke anger against the detainees. (New York Times)

New Accounts of Torture by US Troops (September 25, 2005)

Human Rights Watch reveals more cases of prisoner abuse by US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other detention centers. According to soldiers' accounts, high-ranking military officers knew about the systemic abuse, and never briefed soldiers on the Geneva Conventions. This report not only shows clear "leadership" problems within military units, but it also argues that the Bush administration's decision to question prisoners "harshly" leads to increased human rights violations.

UN Human Rights Body to Scrutinise US Abuses (September 20, 2005)

The UN Human Rights Committee has called on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to submit reports of human rights abuses by the US in the aftermath of 9/11. These reports include investigations of the USA Patriot Act's effects on both US nationals and non-nationals, and the treatment of terrorism suspects in detention centers around the world. Despite the fact that NGOs have detailed information on these abuses, the alleged violations remain "coated with a veneer of righteousness" by Washington. (Inter Press Service)

Guantánamo Prisoners Go on Hunger Strike (September 18, 2005)

A second hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay threatens the lives of more than 200 detainees at the prison camp. The first strike ended on July 28, 2005 when the camp authorities promised to respect the Geneva Conventions and improve the conditions at the prison. However, prisoners and their spokespersons continue to condemn the conditions in the camp, maltreatment of prisoners (including desecration of the Koran), and the detention of individuals for long periods of time without formal charges. As one detainee told his attorney "I'm dying a slow death in this place as it is. I don't have any hope of fair treatment, so what have I got to lose?" (New York Times)

Destination Cairo: Human Rights Fears over CIA Flights (September 12, 2005)

This Guardian article documents the UK's logistical support for the CIA abductions of terrorism suspects who fall under the "extraordinary rendition" policy. The CIA uses British airports to move suspects from one country to another where torture is common, without any court hearing or extradition process. This rendition policy leads to extreme mistreatment of suspects and it violates international law. Britain's complicity illustrates how counter-terrorism operations around the world can breach the most basic human rights.

Chinese Detainees Are Men Without a Country (August 24, 2005)

The US government still detains 15 Chinese Muslims in Guantanamo Bay even after it decided in late 2003 that they would be released. Prison authorities still treat these people as prisoners: they sometimes shackle them and neglect to inform their relatives about their situation. In addition, the government did not even notify these men for several months that they had been acquitted. While the Bush administration uses the "wind-up power," the power that gives the government the time necessary to decide what to do with detainees at the end of a conflict, these men pay a heavy price "by being in Guantanamo for doing nothing wrong." (Washington Post)

Secret Detention Centres (August 4, 2005)

US authorities held the two Yemenis, Salah Nasser Salim 'Ali and Muhammad Faraj Ahmed Bashmilah, in secret detention for over 18 months without any charge. According to their account, after the Jordanian intelligence services tortured them in Jordan for four days, US guards held them in unknown underground jails in solitary confinement for over one and a half years without seeing daylight, mostly shackled and in handcuffs. This article questions whether the detention of these men without charge and with no chance of communicating with their families or lawyers is "just one small part of the much broader picture of US secret detentions around the world." (Amnesty International)

Two Prosecutors at Guantanamo Quit in Protest (August 1, 2005)

Major John Carr and Major Robert Preston, two air force prosecutors at Guantanamo Bay, accused fellow prosecutors of "ignoring torture allegations, failing to protect exculpatory evidence and committing criminal misconduct towards detainees." Although the Defense Department argues that they investigated the allegations and found no evidence of unlawful proceeding, the prosecutors' criticisms of the detainee treatment reveals the lack of "professionalism" and "full and fair trial" in the prosecution office at Guantanamo Bay. (Wall Street Journal)

The Theater of Cruelty (July 18, 2005)

On the anniversary of the Abu Ghraib abuse story, The Nation finds continuities between the incarceration practices of European colonialists and US policies today. From the massive growth in the US overseas prison network, to fascination with the breaking of supposed cultural taboos of inmates, the US military has much in common with the British as they expanded their military domination of Asia. However, new is the lack of purpose in the abuse, and the way the US government not only justifies the means with the ends, but has the let the means become an end in themselves.

Returning to Life (July 18, 2005)

British-born Muslim Moazzam Begg gives an extensive interview to AlterNet on his three years as an "enemy combatant," a prisoner of the US in Kandahar, Bagram and Guantanamo without rights or trial. Released earlier this year, he remains remarkably reasoned and calm in discussing his experience. From witnessing military police kill two detainees, to the interrogators who beat and tortured him into signing a false confession, his story makes uncomfortable reading. Among his more unsettling recollections is the common sentiment he heard expressed by prisoners, that "they weren't terrorists before they came in, but they certainly will be when they leave."

Military Lawyers Fought Policy on Interrogations (July 15, 2005)

Top military lawyers, three "Judge Advocate Generals," expressed serious concerns with the Pentagon's new policy on prisoner interrogation techniques back in 2003. They believed the tactics approved would contravene longstanding military practice, leaving excessive room for interpretation, and causing public outrage. They also considered that the interrogation methods proposed by the strategy and highlighted in recent investigations were inconsistent with the Geneva conventions. (Washington Post)

Abu Ghraib Tactics Were First Used at Guantanamo (July 14, 2005)

Although denying that such practices constitute torture, the US military has released another internal investigation into interrogations at Guantanamo which strongly indicates that aggressive tactics were institutionalized and authorized at the highest level. Refusing to label such incidents as leashing or sexually humiliating detainees as ‘abuse,' the report nonetheless confirms they did occur at Guantanamo, and that soldiers working later at Abu Ghraib justifiably believed these techniques were approved by their superiors. (Washington Post)

Psychologists Warned on Role in Detentions (July 6, 2005)

The American Psychological Association has released a report responding to accusations its members have helped interrogators at Guantanamo "break" prisoners. Charged with setting ethical boundaries for doctors in such conditions, the report only condemns "torture," not participation in coercive interrogation, or advising officials on how to increase an individual's stress levels. (New York Times)

Protecting Rights after Guantanamo (July 1, 2005) 

Closing Guantanamo Bay might reduce the reports of US abuse, but it could also result in the government transferring detainees to similar or worse conditions in military prisons throughout the world. US courts have won jurisdiction over the Guantanamo prisoners, and could give them due process. This would be a better way to protect their rights than shipping them off to face unknown fates in foreign or secret detention elsewhere, writes the San Diego Union Tribune.

Arrested Development (June 29, 2005) 

This New York Times op-ed calls on the US to stop the detention and abuse of children in its prisons across the world. Juvenile detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo may number in the hundreds or thousands, with some as young as 8 years old subjected to "the same mistreatment as adults." Cut off from their families, without charge or trial, there exists "substantial testimony of torture of children."

Torture and Accountability (June 28, 2005)

The Nation asks why there has not been any investigative commission into the prisoner abuse and torture scandal at Abu Ghraib, and offers some suggestions for how the US democratic system could best hold its highest public officials accountable for these policies. Citing the 1996 War Crimes Act, this article raises the serious possibility of prosecution under US criminal law for those in government involved in "nose-thumbing" at the Geneva Conventions and accountability.

UN Experts Cite Guantanamo Torture Reports (June 23, 2005)

UN human rights experts have renewed their call for the US government to permit them to check conditions at Guantanamo Bay, citing "information, from reliable sources, of serious allegations of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees, arbitrary detention, violations of their right to health and their due process rights." Since the US has failed to give the UN a clear explanation for such allegations, and has not responded to "repeated requests" for access, the investigators decided to make their concerns public, reports Associated Press.

Doctors and Interrogators at Guantanamo Bay (June 22, 2005)

Military doctors assisted interrogators in creating and refining coercive interrogation techniques designed to induce high stress levels and play on detainees' fears, says an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. In a likely violation of professional ethics codes, medical professionals not only violated patient confidentiality, but helped to design techniques interrogators used to put prisoners in a state of acute distress.

US Moral Authority in "Free Fall", Senators Warn (June 20, 2005)

With a subsidiary of US oil giant Halliburton winning a 30 million dollar contract to build a new permanent prison at Guantanamo, any claim to US moral authority is in danger of collapse. Despite multiple US senators picking up on recent reports from human rights groups condemning the Bush administration's detention practices, it seems that the defense department intends to make the facility permanent. Such added damage to the already difficult ethical reputation of the US may be equally long lasting. (Inter Press Service)

Allies Resist America Taking Away Their Terrorism Suspects (June 20, 2005)

Italy is just one of the US allies showing resistance to Washington's "spiriting away" of terror suspects. At least three countries have taken steps against the "extraordinary rendition" program of the CIA, where suspects are seized either on foreign soil or in the US itself and then transferred to third countries for questioning and possible torture. (Associated Press)

We Are All Complicit - But What Can We Do About It? (June 18, 2005)

Robert Fisk gives a searing indictment of western governments' use of torture, and suggests that "if our government uses information drained out of these creatures, it is we who are holding the whips." From rendition to third countries routinely using the most vicious and revolting interrogation methods, to murder in US custody, Fisk lambastes the way western leaders justify and excuse their immorality, as well as the complicity of their citizens. (Independent)

Soldier Sues over Guantanamo Beating (June 18, 2005)

A US military policeman is suing the Pentagon for $15 million after fellow MPs at Guantanamo beat him senseless in a "botched training drill." After volunteering to portray an "unruly" detainee, and believing that the MPs involved in the "extraction drill" knew he was a US soldier, Spc Sean D. Baker was left with a traumatic brain injury and forced to medically retire. A five-man "internal reaction force" "choked him, slammed his head several times against a concrete floor and sprayed him with pepper gas," ignoring his screams until his orange prison jumpsuit was pulled off in the struggle, revealing his military uniform. The Pentagon has not punished or disciplined anyone for the assault. (Los Angeles Times)

Lawyer Says Military Tried to Coerce Detainee's Plea (June 16, 2005)

According to this New York Times article, US military authorities tried to ensure that the first Guantanamo detainees to go on trial would plead guilty, thus legitimizing "the process and…the evidence used as a basis for imprisoning and charging the prisoners." One detainee's Navy lawyer argues that the military at Guantanamo engaged in blatant coercion: he claims he was called to represent his client only on the condition that he would "negotiat[e] a guilty plea to an unspecified offense."

Critics of Guantanamo Urge Hill to Intervene (June 16, 2005)

US Congress has been "too passive" in accepting the Bush administration's claim that running Guantanamo "is the province of the executive branch and the military,"say key lawmakers. "It's really the job of congress" to determine how captured foreign suspects should be treated. At a time when the administration is claiming that "legally, [detainees] can be held in perpetuity," critics increasingly call for the Hill to take its head out of the sand and accept its responsibility to intervene.(Washington Post)

Fear as Foreign Policy (June 16, 2005)

According to TomPaine, the Bush administration's foreign policy follows Machiavelli's dictum that it is "far safer to be feared than loved." The White House finds no embarrassment in evidence of abuse in US custody, nor violent engagements in Iraq. Washington wants foreigners to be aware of what happens if you're "against us." "Gruesome disclosures serve a purpose: to create the kind of visceral fear abroad about the United States that the administration can exploit in its global "war on terror."

Some Held at Guantánamo Are Minors, Lawyers Say (June 13, 2005)

According to lawyers representing detainees, the US military has "sought to conceal the precise number of juveniles" at Guantanamo Bay. While human rights groups and the ‘United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of Their Liberty' classify a juvenile as one under eighteen, the US military holds that only those under sixteen are minors. Admitting that its age records are only estimates, since detainees "don't come with birth certificates," authorities deny the lawyers' claims that they are still holding those captured as juveniles. (New York Times)

Torture's Part of the Territory (June 7, 2005)

Naomi Klein suggests that supporters of the Iraq war should take a lesson from a straight talking French general in epic movie "The Battle of Algiers" and admit "there is no nice, humanitarian way to occupy a nation against the will of its people." In the absence of consent to its occupation, like the French in Algeria, the US leadership is using the only alternative tool to govern Iraqis: fear. "Unwanted regimes…rely on torture precisely because they are unwanted." While the US remains in Iraq, the reliance on morally outrageous methods of control will continue, and to pretend otherwise is pointless. (Los Angeles Times)

Rights Group Leader Says US Has Secret Jails (June 6, 2005)

The director of Amnesty International accuses the US of maintaining "an archipelago of prisons around the world…into which people are being literally disappeared." Following a vicious exchange of words between Amnesty and the outraged White House, individual US senators on both sides of the house are weighing in, calling for the closure of Guantanamo and possible hearings on abuse. (CNN)

The Old Late Friday Media Trick: Pentagon Admits Koran Abuse (June 3, 2005)

Following the controversy over alleged desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo, the Pentagon's own investigation confirms five out of nine cases. Released quietly, after media working hours on a Friday night, the report proves that guards and interrogators defiled the Muslim holy book on multiple occasions, including splashing a copy with urine. Associated Press picks up on the buried admission.

Witness to Abuse (June 2005)

The US Justice Department abused a federal "material witness" law, imprisoning 70 men suspected of terrorist involvement for up to a year without due process, a joint Human Rights Watch and American Civil Liberties Union report says. The department "relied on false, flimsy or irrelevant evidence to secure arrest warrants for the men," many of whom had no information relevant to a crime, and thrust them into "a Kafkaesque world of indefinite detention without charge."

Stripping Rumsfeld and Bush of Impunity (May 31, 2005)

With growing evidence that the US government sanctions torture, abuse and war crimes, the Progressive asks, "where is the accountability?" From President George W. Bush to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the case for indicting individual administration officials on such charges is increasingly strong. Yet holding US officials criminally responsible would require domestic prosecution, and is thus a political impossibility - "the only option for justice…seems to be to rely on officials of other governments to apprehend our own."

Gitmo Detainees Say Muslims Were Sold (May 31, 2005)

Individuals "sold into capture" accuse the US of handing out thousands in bounty payments for random Muslim prisoners. "Just like someone catches a fish and sells it", tribunal testimonies allege the US encourages the selling of supposed al-Qaeda fighters into US custody, creating a dangerous market in Arab lives. (Associated Press)

Give Rumsfeld the Pinochet Treatment, Says US Amnesty Chief (May 25, 2005)

In an unusually outspoken speech, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA William Schulz sharply criticized Washington's failure to address US officials and top officers' responsibility in torture cases. Schulz called on the Pentagon to allow an independent investigation and urged foreign governments to arrest any US official who enters their territory - including President George W. Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA Director George Tenet - for trial on prisoner treatment that violates the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention against Torture. (Inter Press Service)

In US Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths (May 20, 2005)

The US army's confidential "Bagram File" describes the horrific death of an Afghan prisoner whose American interrogators largely believed he was innocent. Despite this, both guards and interrogators tormented Mr. Dilwar so severely that the coroner likened him to someone "run over by a bus." Details of this and other deaths in the report paint a disturbing picture of routine and obvious torment "driven by little more than boredom, or cruelty, or both."(New York Times)

US Tells UN It Remains Opposed to Torture, Abuse (May 7, 2005)

In a report to the UN Committee on Torture, Washington reaffirmed its commitment to outlawing torture, drawing specific attention to punishment of US troops who abused detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Human rights groups criticized the report for not discussing the CIA's practice of sending detainees to countries where interrogators engage in torture. (Washington Post)

The Stain of Abu Ghraib (April 29, 2005)

The Abu Ghraib prison scandal of 2004 "was only the tip of the iceberg," says this TomPaine article. The US government has not fixed the problems but rather responded much like an authoritarian government, denying overarching policy flaws and placing blame on lower-ranking "rogue actors." The author warns that such actions will increase worldwide criticisms of the US and invite other governments to disobey international law as well.

Pentagon Officials Consider Reforming Military Tribunals (March 28, 2005)

The Defense Department has proposed several changes to the Guantanamo Bay military tribunals, including treating detainees more like US military members subjected to courts-martial. However, the debate over the rights of terrorism suspects remains contentious, and US Vice President Dick Cheney's opposition to changes in the tribunals could prevent any such reform. (New York Times)

Goss Says Interrogations Lawful (March 18, 2005)

In his testimony to the US Senate Armed Services Committee, CIA Director Porter Goss claimed that "we don't do torture." Goss and other White House officials defended the CIA's rendition tactics as useful for producing information and said they always got "assurances" that foreign governments would not torture detainees. However, Goss refused to specify whether interrogators had broken the rules in the past, saying only that he could "elaborate" in a closed session of the hearing. (Associated Press)

US Military Says 26 Inmate Deaths May Be Homicide (March 15, 2005)

A Pentagon report reveals that at least 26 prisoners have died while under US custody in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2002. The US government continues to deny that such deaths result from administration policy or the fault of high officials. But human rights critics, noting that only one death occurred at Abu Ghraib, worry that the high number of deaths signals a broader problem with detainee abuse and an "overall failure" to hold perpetrators accountable. (New York Times)

Deportation Case Focuses on Definition of Torture (March 11, 2005)

Post-9/11 change in US torture policy has muddled humanitarian law and denied immigrant protection against deportation, says the New York Times. US President George Bush's directives narrowed the definition of torture to specific intent to inflict severe pain, not merely the infliction of severe pain," and several immigrants face deportation to home countries that sanction torture. Case by case rulings have proven inconsistent, and human rights activists question the Bush administration's denial of torture and the CIA's secret treatment of terror suspects as immigrants remain in limbo.

Pentagon Clears Top Personnel, Policies in Abuses (March 10, 2005)

Another report on detainee abuse frees top officials from blame for mistreatment at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other US bases. Though the report cites "missed opportunities" for policy change, it fails to address issues such as the CIA's role in interrogations and rendition practices. The report was also Pentagon-sponsored, and Human Rights Watch criticizes the government for still failing to establish an independent investigation. (Reuters)

China, Others Criticize US Report on Rights (March 4, 2005)

Foreign newspapers and governments accused the US State Department of employing a "double standard" in its annual report on human rights, calling attention to CIA rendition practices, Abu Ghraib, and other prisoner abuse cases not mentioned in the report. The Chinese government dismissed the punishment of US soldiers at Abu Ghraib as "legal window-dressing" while Amnesty International's USA director compared the report's country listing as a "Yellow Pages for the outsourcing of torture." (Washington Post)

Rumsfeld Sued Over Torture in Iraq and Afghanistan (March 1, 2005)

According to the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should take the blame for detainee abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq. The two human rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit based on evidence beyond what the media revealed about Abu Ghraib, which implicates Rumsfeld for approving and having knowledge of torture and abuse. Critics say Rumsfeld had "command responsibility," a doctrine that places blame on high-ranking officials if their orders could violate national or international law. (Inter Press Service)

Aboard Air CIA (February 28, 2005)

Newsweek investigators have uncovered flight records of a second plane secretly operated by the CIA for rendition. These records further confirm that the US intelligence agency sent detainees to Syria, Egypt and Jordan, where interrogators engage in torture and other harsh methods. Omitting concerns of international law, US officials even claim that "public backlash" has disrupted the usefulness of such methods.

Outsourcing Torture (February 14, 2005)

US government-approved "rendition" has existed since at least 1995, yet the harsh practice of extraditing terrorist suspects to countries with lenient interrogation laws has intensified so much since 9/11 that even former interrogators question its use. The Bush administration contends that international law does not apply to "enemy combatants," allegedly tortured with little evidence of their guilt. As more cases of torture come to the surface, the New Yorker says these detainees, hidden from society and invisible to the courts, have fallen victim to "the law of the jungle."

United Nations Human Rights Experts Express Continued Concern about Situation of Guantanamo Bay Detainees (February 4, 2005)

The UN Human Rights Commission-appointed Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has released a statement detailing "serious concerns" with the status of US-held detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The group questioned the inhuman treatment, legality of US detention policy, and lack of clarity, independence and equality in judicial processes, while calling on the US to uphold international law "lest the whole cause of the international fight against terrorism be compromised." (UN Press Release)

Pentagon's Guantanamo Courts Ruled Illegal (February 1, 2005)

In June 2004, the US Supreme Court said Guantanamo detainees could challenge their detention in independent tribunals, which the Pentagon later created in order to maintain jurisdiction. A US federal judge ruled in January that detainees could not file suits in US courts, but a second judge has decided that the Pentagon's tribunals fail to meet due-process requirements and are therefore unconstitutional. The Bush administration "respectfully disagree[s] with the decision," further demonstrating its willingness to sidestep the law in the "war on terrorism." (Inter Press Service)

Court Puts Off Guantanamo War-Crimes Case (January 19, 2005)

When a US federal judge ruled that Guantanamo military tribunals violated the Geneva Conventions, former Osama bin Laden driver Salim Hamdan's lawyers asked the Supreme Court to take the case given its important implications: to what extent do the Geneva Conventions and due process apply to alleged terrorists? By declining to take the case, the Supreme Court delays war crimes trials at Guantanamo for at least a year, says the Christian Science Monitor.

Abu Ghraib, Darfur: Call for Prosecutions (January 13, 2005)

The slaughter of Darfur civilians by the Sudanese government and US-approved torture and prisoner abuse in Iraq, Guantanamo and Afghanistan constitute two of the worst human rights violations of 2004, says Human Rights Watch (HRW) in this press release on their 2005 World Report. HRW comes down hard on the world for inaction in Darfur and chides the "dominant and influential" US government for defying basic human rights, which "undermines the law itself and invites others to do the same."

Gonzales Defends His White House Record (January 7, 2005)

In his US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Alberto Gonzales claimed torture "would not be tolerated" by the Bush administration. However, the Attorney General nominee refused to clarify his position on a memo that controversially authorized presidential power over torture methods, and said he had to "get back to" senators on whether torture was legal under certain circumstances. Gonzales also acknowledged that the White House will likely push for formal reinterpretation of the Geneva Conventions "to better wage its war on terrorism." (Washington Post)

Long-Term Plan Sought For Terror Suspects (January 2, 2005)

The Bush administration plans to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely, either in new Guantanamo Bay prisons that "allow inmates more comfort and freedom" or in US-built prisons abroad that would be monitored by the US State Department. The detainees, just as those held in secret CIA detention facilities, would have no access to lawyers or the Red Cross. These proposals, rather than "rendering to justice," simply clear the way for more human rights abuses in the administration's "war on terror." (Washington Post)

A Devil's Island for Our Times (December 28, 2004)

This Nation column deems the US prison at Guantanamo Bay as a "massive torture chamber any deranged dictator would envy." The author, who points out that no alleged terrorists have been convicted, asks why are the supporters of these international law violations—namely US President George Bush and top US military commanders—not on trial for war crimes?

FBI Agents Allege Abuse of Detainees at Guantanamo Bay (December 21, 2004)

US Department of Defense personnel at Guantanamo Bay allegedly impersonated FBI agents and practiced interrogation methods which, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, "can only be described as torture." The FBI complains that the impersonators gained no additional information and compromised prosecution of detainees. (Washington Post)

At Guantanamo, a Prison within a Prison (December 17, 2004)

According to this article, the CIA keeps several alleged high-level military detainees locked up in an off-limits prison wrapped in a veil of mystery. Witnesses report that the US constantly uses the prison complex for interrogations of suspected al Qaida terrorists. (Washington Post)

Lawsuit Against Rumsfeld Threatens US-German Relations (December 14, 2004)

Under German legislation that allows for universal jurisdiction, New York's Center for Constitutional Rights and Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association filed a lawsuit against US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials liable for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. The Pentagon warns that "frivolous lawsuits" would put the countries' relations at risk, and Rumsfeld threatens to boycott the annual Munich security conference if the lawsuit advances. (Deutsche Welle)

Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo (November 30, 2004)

The International Committee of the Red Cross issued its strongest statements yet in confidential reports to the US government on physical and psychological abuse of Guantánamo Bay detainees. The organization also pointed to "a flagrant violation of medical ethics," as doctors and medical personnel shared information on detainees' vulnerabilities with interrogators. Meanwhile, the US continues to deny prisoner abuse or ethical violations, claiming the interrogations have provided "valuable information in the war on terrorism." (New York Times)

US Faces Criticism In British Gov't Human Rights Report (November 11, 2004)

In an official government report, Britain criticizes the US for disrespecting the human rights of British nationals detained at Guantanamo Bay for suspected terrorist activities. The report compares US human rights policies to those of "repressive nations" such as North Korea and Zimbabwe. (Agence France Presse)

'Bin Laden Driver' Hearing Halted (November 9, 2004)

A US federal court at Guantanamo Bay has stopped trial proceedings for Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama Bin Laden's driver, tried for terrorism as an "enemy combatant." A judge calls for determining whether the Geneva Conventions apply to him as a war criminal instead. The events signify a major drawback for the Bush administration, which set up the military commissions to try "terrorists." (BBC)

Guantanamo Tribunal Lacks Basic Knowledge of Law (November 6, 2004)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) labels US ad hoc military hearings for Guantanamo Bay detainees as "fatally flawed" and apparently confused "about key legal concepts." As a solution, HRW calls on the US to bring the prosecutions before federal or martial courts.

UN Report Slams Tactics Used in War on Terror (October 28, 2004)

Without singling out any country, the United Nations Special Rapporteur denounces methods used in the "war on terrorism," condemning torture as unjustifiable in all circumstances. The Rapporteur recommends that the UN expand the definition of torture in order to include harsh interrogation practices. (New York Times)

Four Ex-Detainees Sue Rumsfeld, 10 Others (October 28, 2004)

Former Guantanamo ex-detainees sued top US military officials for violating national and international human rights laws in what could become a landmark case of the Alien Tort Claims Act. US officials say they upheld all legal obligations, even though the Bush administration has said the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the Afghan conflict. The ex-detainees cite "top secret memos" made public after the prison abuse scandals among the evidence against the officials. (Boston Globe)

How US Rewrote Its Laws on Terrorism (October 25, 2004)

US laws drawn up shortly after 9/11 meant to administer "swift, unmerciful justice" to captured terrorists have not resulted in a single prosecution to date. New York Times attributes this lack of action by the Bush Administration to a "secretive and contentious process" outside the boundaries of international law.

Three Guantanamo 'Judges' Removed Due to Pentagon Bias (October 23, 2004)

The US attempts to improve the reputation of the military panel for Guantanamo Bay prison by removing three of its six members. The developments follow accusations by human rights groups and defense lawyers that the panel lacks impartiality. Critics are not satisfied, claiming that the changes make "little difference." (Independent)

The United States' "Disappeared:" The CIA's Long-Term "Ghost Detainees" (October 2004)

The US government violates the most basic legal norms in treating detainees and prisoners suspected of terrorism. The US has mistreated, humiliated, and tortured them in detention centers and has refused to disclose their whereabouts to their families, lawyers, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. This Human Rights Watch report offers a detailed overview of the "disappeared" detainees' case, and identifies provisions of international law that outlaw the practice.

Goodbye, Geneva: It's Time to Rewrite the Laws of War (August 24, 2004) 

Two reports on detainee abuses and two lesser-known reports on collective arrests and torture in Iraq strongly indicate changing methods of war. Both the US and its "enemies" defend their illicit actions "on grounds of necessity." Their use of "unconventional war tactics" raises questions about the applicability of international law in modern-day warfare. (Slate)

Prison Abuse Panel Doesn't Go Far Enough: Independent 9/11-style Commission Needed (August 24, 2004)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls for the replacement of the US-appointed four-member prison abuse panel. It claims that the panel does not criticize the US government for approving the interrogation techniques involving torture, used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. The new commission proposed by HRW would "hold hearings, have full subpoena power, and be empowered to recommend the creation of a special prosecutor to investigate possible criminal offenses."

'Sham' Reviews Begin for Detainees at Guantanamo ‘Hell' (August 4, 2004)

The US has established "Combatant Status Review Tribunals" at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, reacting to the Supreme Court ruling that prisoners have the right to challenge their detention. Detainees are not provided with legal counsel, and false confessions obtained under torture are admissible as evidence. The Center for Constitutional Rights calls the hearings a "sham" and "just another attempt to keep Guantánamo a lawless enclave." (NewStandard)

Shocking Prisoner Abuses Are Revealed (August 4, 2004)

A new report, assembled by British and US lawyers and released by the Centre for Constitutional Rights, details the "brutal yet carefully choreographed regime" of torture and sexual abuse in the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The report is based on testimony provided by three British men who were imprisoned at the camp. (Independent)

Hamdi, Padilla, and Rasul vs. Rumsfeld and Bush (June 29, 2004)

Mainstream media are reporting that the Supreme Court decision affirming the right of Guantanamo Bay detainees to file petitions challenging their detention represents a major victory for advocates of civil liberties. Dissenting from this view, lawyer Elaine Cassel argues that the ruling is in fact a victory for the US administration, paving the way for the continued "despotic" treatment of terrorism suspects. (Civil Liberties Watch)

'They Said This Is America. . .' (June 23, 2004)

With international attention focused on the Iraq prison abuse scandal, the media have ignored the network of nineteen detention centers that the US operates in Afghanistan. This extensive investigation into the treatment of Afghan prisoners reveals widespread abuse, indicating "that what has been happening in Abu Ghraib is not an isolated occasion… but part of an apparent strategy of interrogation that was in place long before the invasion of Iraq." (Guardian)

Bush Claimed Right to Waive Torture Laws (June 23, 2004)

The Bush administration released hundreds of pages of internal documents, intending to show that torture was not authorized at the highest levels of government. However, the memos show that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld authorized harsh treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees including nudity, intimidation using dogs, and forcible shaving of heads and beards, and that President Bush claimed the authority to "suspend" the Geneva Conventions. (Associated Press)

Report Says US Has 'Secret' Detention Centers (June 17, 2004)

As the US-Iraq prison scandal unfolds, Human Rights First reports that the US is holding thousands of suspects in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The military refuses to disclose the locations of about half of its detention centers, operating a "secret system of off-shore prisons beyond the reach of adequate supervision, accountability of law." (Reuters)

An American in The Hague? (June 10, 2004)

According to the doctrine of "command responsibility," US officials might be legally responsible for the torture in Abu Ghraib prison and other war crimes. The article suggests that if the US refuses to accept for itself the same standards of international law that it applies to others, it will have difficulty prosecuting foreign war criminals in the future. (New York Times)

Pentagon Report Set Framework for Use of Torture (June 7, 2004)

In a March 2003 report, Bush administration lawyers outlined how international treaties forbidding torture "might be overcome by national-security considerations or legal technicalities." It suggested several possible defenses against the charge of torture, including the "Nuremberg defense" of following the orders of a superior, and argued that the US President has absolute authority to "set aside the laws." (Wall Street Journal)

The Roots of Torture (May 24, 2004)

After 9/11, legal advisors to the US government argued that international treaties do not apply when fighting the "War on Terror." The Bush administration reinterpreted the Geneva Conventions "to allow tougher methods of interrogation" at Guantanamo Bay. Looking to Guantanamo as a model, the Pentagon later adopted similar techniques of abuse and humiliation in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. (Newsweek)

Memos Reveal War Crimes Warnings (May 17, 2004) 

A January 2002 memo submitted by the Bush administration's top lawyer Alberto Gonzales, warns that US officials risk prosecution for war crimes for using new and unorthodox measures in the "war on terrorism." Gonzales urged the White House to declare that Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners are exempt from the Geneva Convention. (Newsweek)

US Guards 'filmed beatings' at Terror Camp (May 16, 2004)

Videos of US soldiers torturing detainees in Guantanamo Bay demonstrate that brutality against detainees is becoming "an institutionalized feature of America's war on terror." The videos also rebut US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's continuous insistence that the abuses were the work of a few rogue soldiers and not a systemic problem. (Observer)

Brutal Logic (May 11, 2004) 

When the US ratified the UN Torture Convention in 1994, the Senate noted that its "consent" was "subject" to acceptance of its own definition of "torture." For over a decade the US army has conducted interrogations with a lose definition of torture, keeping a "lawyer on hand during interrogations, for quick decisions on the degree of physical or mental pressure allowed." (Village Voice)

Enemy Combatants' Finally Before Supreme Court (April 26, 2004)

The citizenships of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay should not determine whether they receive a fair trial or not. The US Constitution's Bill of Rights does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens, but extends its protection in universal language, to "'persons', 'people' or 'the accused'." (Inter Press Service)

Cuba Withdraws Guantanamo Resolution (April 22, 2004)

Cuba withdraws a resolution, introduced in the UN Commission on Human Rights, calling for an investigation on torture, judicial independence and arbitrary detention in Guantanamo Bay. The Cuban ambassador Jorge Mora Godoy motivated the decision saying that US "threats and blackmail" had sapped support for the measure. (Mercury News)

American Justice for America's prisoners (April 21, 2004)

The US Supreme court will hear oral arguments as to whether the US government can hold foreign detainees in Guantanamo Bay without charges nor hearings. Meanwhile, the Bush administration argues that foreign detainees, who are non-citizens, have no constitutional rights and no standing in US courts. (International Herald Tribune)

Yemeni's Attorney Tries to Halt Tribunals (April 8, 2004)

A military defense lawyer is challenging the legality of the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay under US and international law. He argues that the tribunals unconstitutionally target only aliens and not US citizens. (Washington Post)

Maybe None of Them Are Terrorists (March 31, 2004)

If the fiasco of the phantom weapons of mass destruction has taught us anything, it is that those who hide behind intelligence may have bad motives, bad intelligence – or both," comments the Guardian. As many detainees are held on questionable grounds, some CIA officers wonder whether Guantanamo is of any help in the "war on terror."

States Must Respect Rights in Territory They Control US Cannot Deny Rights Protection to Detainees at Guantánamo (March 30, 2004)

The UN Human Rights Committee calls on states not to violate their international human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by outsourcing detention centers. This Committee's interpretation applies to US bases at Guantanamo, where prisoners have been detained without regard to the requirements of international human rights law. (Human Rights Watch )

US Using 'Terrorist' Methods Over Guantanamo Prisoners: Former Hostage Terry Waite (March 5, 2004)

Former hostage Terry Waite, held by Islamic terrorists in Lebanon for five years, argues the US has adopted "terrorist methods" in its treatment of Guantanamo Bay inmates. (Agence France Press)

US Military Lawyers Criticize Guantanamo Trials (February 25, 2004)

Military lawyers for foreign suspects held at Guatanamo Bay insist the military tribunal system is unfair and antiquated, and lacks the modern judicial "checks and balances" designed to ensure an unbiased trial. (Reuters)

US Charges Two at Guantánamo with Conspiracy (February 25, 2004)

After detaining them for two years without trial, the US has finally charged two Guantanamo detainees with conspiracy to commit both terrorism and war crimes against civilians. A military defense lawyer assigned to one detainee has expressed concerns over "virtually every aspect of the military commission process" and warns he may challenge the fairness of the process in addition to the merits of the case. (New York Times)

US Agrees to Free 5 Britons, Dane from Guantanamo Jail (February 20, 2004)

Five UK and one Danish citizen will be released from Guantanamo Bay detention center, where they have been held for two years without trial. Legal experts believe they are unlikely to face any charges for terrorism offenses in their home countries; family members and other supporters still want to know why the men were detained for so long without trial. (Washington Post)

Cuba Detentions May Last Years (February 12, 2004) 

Senior Defense Department officials have confirmed they plan to detain many Guantanamo Bay inmates for years, and perhaps even permanently. The Department will set up a three-person "quasi-parole board" before which prisoners can plead their case for release. (New York Times)

Pentagon Allows Padilla to See Lawyer (February 11, 2004) 

The Pentagon has said that Jose Padilla, who has been held without recourse to legal representation for more than year, may have access to an attorney. However it also stated that such access to legal representation was "not required by domestic or international law and should not be treated as a precedent." (The Associated Press)

United Kingdom: Home Secretary's Reported Proposals -- An Aberration of Justice, the Rule of Law and Human Rights (February 2, 2004) 

Amnesty International expresses its dismay at the "small-scale Guantanamo Bay" in the UK and Home Secretary plans to introduce wider internment-like measures.

The Law of War in the War on Terror (January/February 2004) 

The US administration has arrogated to itself wartime powers that permit it to detain and even kill suspects without trial. This brazenly ignores the distinction between law-enforcement and wartime rules and threatens the most basic due process rights and procedures. The author outlines a three-part test to help determine when war rules should apply. (Foreign Affairs)

Guantanamo: Jihad's Terminus (January 24, 2004) 

A reporter on a "media tour" takes a look at life behind the bars for 660 "enemy combatant" inmates at Guantanamo Bay. The tour operator, the US Department of Defense, ensures reporters cannot communicate with, photograph or interview prisoners. (Le Figaro Magazine)

Canadian Sues US for Deporting Him to Syria for Torture (January 23, 2004) 

Representatives of Syrian-born Canadian citizen Maher Arar claim US federal officials deported Arar to Syria so that Syrian officials could interrogate him using methods, including torture, which are not legally or morally acceptable in the US. (Agence France Presse)

Guantanamo & Boeremag (January 17, 2004) 

Diana Gordon suggests US treatment of suspected terrorists bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the "justice" meted out to state enemies in apartheid South Africa. Gordon suggests reformed post-apartheid treatment of terrorist suspects in South Africa has valuable lessons for the US in its conduct of the war on terrorism. (Global Policy Forum – Opinion Forum)

United States: ICRC President Urges Progress on Detention-Related Issues (January 16, 2004) 

Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recently held talks with high level US administration officials concerning detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Kellenberger lamented the fact detainees faced "seemingly indefinite detention beyond reach of the law" at Guantanamo.

United States: Guantanamo Two Years On (January 9, 2004) 

This article examines the US administration's continued denial of due legal process for inmates at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. A British appeals court has described the Guantanomo camp as a "legal black hole." (Human Rights Watch)


From Nuremberg to Guantanamo (Winter 2003)

In the context of its "war on terror" and foreign policy more generally, the US subverts international law through political arm-twisting and selective interpretation. By using the language of the law to legitimate practices considered illegal by the international community US policies erode international norms and thus increase global insecurity. (Middle East Report)

US Fails to Block Torture Inspections (July 25, 2002)

US lost a bid to rewrite a UN plan intended to inforce the 1989 convention against torture. The US delegate to the UNECOSOC called for a vote to set aside the council's plan to establish a system of regular inspections of prisons and detention centers worldwide to check for abuses. (Los Angeles Times)

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