Macedonia convicted of aiding CIA with torture of prisoners

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | DECEMBER 14, 2012

On Thursday Macedonia became the first European country to be found guilty for collaborating with the U.S. in the so-called secret CIA flights and for hosting secret CIA torture sites. The Strasbourg Court said the country was guilty for aiding the CIA to torture a German citizen of Lebanese descent who was mistaken as a terrorist.

The European Court of Human Rights has established that Khaled el Masri was tortured after his arrest on December 31, 2003 and before being delivered 23 days later to the CIA, which sent him to a prison camp in Afghanistan where he remained for 6 months.

Macedonia broke up four articles of the European Convention of Human Rights, according to the Court, which places special emphasis on the third article, which prohibits torture and therefore condemns the country to pay the complainant € 60,000 in damages.

The country also violated the right to liberty and security, respect for private and family life and the right to an effective remedy, according to the judgment. Macedonia not only practiced torture with El Masri but gave him to the CIA knowing that he risked further torture, said the ruling.

“This sentence deserves to be described as historic: it is the first conviction in an international court of the practice of illegal transportation of detainees and the CIA’s secret detention,” said the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Jean-Claude Mignon.

This pan-European body, which brings together 47 States of the Old Continent, whipped these shady practices that emerged after the attacks of September 11, 2001, in a report by Swiss senator Dick Marty in 2006, in which he detailed that 14 European countries collaborated in these illegal practices.

Amnesty International, meanwhile, saw the ruling as “a milestone in the fight against impunity” and a first step to convict other countries who also collaborated with the CIA.

The Human Rights Court validated the testimony of El Masri, born in 1963 and living in the German city of Ulm, who said he was mistaken for a terrorist when he arrived in Skopje on December 31, 2003 for sightseeing.

There he was arrested by the Macedonian authorities, who took him to a hotel room, There, he was held for 23 days without any legal help, interrogated in English  — a language he did not speak properly — and isolated from all external contact. This, he says put him in a permanent a state of distress.

But his ordeal had just begun, because 23 days later he was handcuffed, hooded and taken to the airport, where he waited a group of CIA agents who subjected him to harsh torture while in custody of Macedonian authorities. “The Macedonian government’s responsibility is accepted in regard to acts committed on its territory by agents of a foreign state,” said the statement issued by the Court.

El-Masri was beaten, stripped and sodomized with an object, reads the statement. These forms of torture “were used with premeditation in order to provoke El-Masri severe pain and suffering to obtain information from him. The Court considers that torture,” say the judges.

While the Court issued this statement, in the United States, the Senate intelligence committee has officially concluded that CIA interrogations were ineffective. “The report is the most detailed independent examination to date of the agency’s efforts to “break” dozens of detainees through physical and psychological duress, a period of CIA history that has become a source of renewed controversy,” reports the Washington Post.

In the case of El-Masri, he was sedated and placed in an aircraft. After a stopover in Baghdad, the plane landed in Afghanistan, where El-Masri was detained in a detention center and kept in a small concrete cell. They suffered further torture and made two hunger strikes before May 28, 2004, five months after his arrest, when he was transferred to Germany.

Visibly affected by torture, and weighing 18 kilos less than before, El Masri filed a complaint that year and since then has struggled to make European and U.S. authorities recognize the mistake made by the CIA.
One of the most important elements in the trial of Macedonia as an accomplice of the CIA was the testimony of the country’s Interior Minister at the time of the facts, who confirmed the arrest of El-Masri and his surrender to the CIA.

In a similar case, the British government settled a case with Sami al Saadi, a Libyan dissident by paying him 2.2 million pounds (2.7 million euros) after he was secretly handed over to the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in 2004. The Libyan was captured with the help of the British intelligence service MI6. Saadi claimed he was tricked by MI6 and the CIA, taken to Libya and tortured while he was there.

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U.S. judge denies two Americans the chance to sue Donald Rumsfeld

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 9, 2012

A federal appeals court rejected Wednesday that two American citizens have the right to sue former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for the torture that they allegedly suffered in Iraq by members of the U.S. Army.

Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel claim that Rumsfeld and others people who are identified in the case, developed, authorized and used violent interrogation techniques against them in Iraq.

However, the court has determined that they have no right to sue Rumsfeld or any other member of the chain of command, reversing the previous decisions of other courts.

Vance and Ertel were working for a private company in Iraq at the time. They suspected that the company was involved in corruption schemes, so such schemes were reported to the U.S. authorities.

Soon after, the two were arrested by U.S. forces in Iraq and immediately taken to Camp Cropper, where they say they were subjected to physical and emotional abuse, as well as harsh interrogations.

According to their statements, months after being released without any charges being laid against them, they filed a lawsuit for unspecified damages, alleging that his constitutional rights had been violated and that those responsible for the detention and abuse knew they were innocent.

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Wikileaks Releases DoD Procedure Manual for Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | OCTOBER 26, 2012

WikiLeaks published early this morning hundreds of documents from the Department of Defense that describe the procedures established by the US government to be used with suspects detained by the American government who were sent to the prison Guantanamo Bay.

The first document to be put out is the manual of military procedures at Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay which applied to both civilian and military personnel beginning in November 2002. This manual established administrative rules, regulations and code of confinement behavior for officials.

The organization founded by Julian Assange announced through a press release that, over the next month, the website will disseminate files about the detention policy in chronological order with the directions followed by military officials for more than a decade. Today, the founder of Wikileaks is under political asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy and is seeking his extradition to South America in order to avoid persecution from the United States, Sweden and other nations that publicly seek revenge.

The documents released by Wikileaks include standard operating procedures of the detention camps Bucca and Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay and the manuals for interrogation and fragmentary orders (Fragos) on changes in detention policies.

These documents “show the anatomy of the monster created to conduct arrests after the attacks on September 11, which created a dark hole in which the law and the rights do not exist and where people can be detained without a trace and be treated at will by DoD and intelligence personnel,” said Assange in a statement.

“It shows the excesses of the early days of the war against an unknown ‘enemy’ and how these policies matured and evolved” resulting, he said, “in a permanent state of exception in which the United States is now a decade later “. That exception includes but is not limited to, the effective elimination of significant portions of the Constitution, through the partial or total suppression of the First, Second and Fourth Amendments, for example, which is now business as usual in North America.

Assange, who is in a complicated situation of asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for alleged sexual offenses, notes the historical importance of these documents, as “Guantanamo has become an example for the systematic abuse of human rights, “he added.

The organization issued several policy documents on interrogation of detainees in Iraq for the years 2004, 2005 and 2008, which revealed techniques to instill fear or emotional pressure to detainees. WikiLeaks said that “although physical violence is prohibited, in writing, a consistent policy of terrorizing prisoners, combined with a policy of destroying records, has caused abuse and impunity”.

Also due out is the “Fragmentary Order”, released after the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib (Iraq) that “eliminates the requirement to keep a record of the interrogation sessions” in certain areas of the prison.
Furthermore, while noting that interrogations carried out in the Division and Brigade Internment should be recorded, it also states that the files should “disappear within 30 days.” A policy that has been overturned by the Obama administration.

The administration of President George W. Bush (2001-2009) enabled the military base of Guantanamo (Cuba) to detain suspected terrorists — without trial — after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

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Threats, Torture and Death during land Expropriations in China

Amnesty International denounces government abuses during illegal property seizures.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | OCTOBER 11, 2012

China is one of the largest countries in the world. However, its size does not prevent the Chinese government from using force to steal property of the people whenever it see wants. Not even the rapid development experienced by the Asian giant can explain why citizens are being evicted from their houses and other properties so massively, or why the government uses brutality to take them out of their homes without paying them a fair price for them.

The Chinese government increased the number of forced evictions of people from their homes and land throughout the country just as fast as the country develops. These evictions are often done illegally. The government practice of taking people out of their properties almost always includes abuses of power and corruption, as the population gets fed up with the requests to leave. The strong discontent in the population resulted in numerous protests, as documented in the report presented by Amnesty International (AI), headquartered in London.

AI says that cases of forced evictions have increased significantly in China, because local officials collude with developers to seize and then sell the property seized, to pay government debts. The organization, citing activists, lawyers and Chinese scholars, says that evictions have increased during the construction boom that the country has experienced since launched a plan to stimulate the economy in late 2008 to address the global crisis.

Local officials often resort to the sale of land for capital to meet the goals of infrastructure construction set by Beijing. The report issued by AI includes the period between February 2010 and January 2012, details how pressures and violence are used often. The Mafia that runs this scheme resorts to sending thugs on people whose lands are to be seized, which usually results in the torture and death of the property owners.

Of the 40 cases of forced evictions Amnesty International describes on the report, nine ended in deaths when the land owners resisted. In a case, a 70 year old woman was buried alive by a bulldozer while trying to prevent the demolition of her house. The event took place in the province of Hubei.

In a separate case, police in the city of Wenchang kidnapped a baby and refused to return him to the mother unless she signed eviction documents. Some of the people who refused to leave, were sent to jail and concentration camps. Others went to detention centers which are spread all over China.

The report includes testimony from a woman from the city of Hexia, who was beaten and sterilized after she protested her having to leave. Amnesty International documented the occurrence of 41 cases of people who lit themselves on fire in an act of desperation due to the abuse which they were submitted to by the police and the thugs. These events happened between 2009 and 2012.

“The problem of forced evictions is the greatest source of popular discontent in China and is a serious threat to social and political stability,” says AI. The organization requested the end of the evictions and to guarantee that people will not be left homeless or abused because of their opposition to the expropriation process. AI does not have the complete accounting of the number of people who have been forced to leave their properties, but the organization says that there is no question that the number of victims has increased exponentially.

In China, just as it happens in most countries, the land belongs to the government or local authorities, and these entities can simply argue that the evictions are in the interest of the majority and that the projects to be developed there outweigh any property rights. In general, governments are obligated by law to pay the value of the property, but more often than not, the payments are well below the right amount. In China as it happens in other countries, a bribery system is employed to assure developers that they won’t have to pay too much for the property. In other cases, the government buys the land with taxpayer money and hands the property over to the developers, who then make millions on a small investment.

In the case of China, the call from the Chinese Communist Party to force development encouraged local authorities to use any means available to carry out that mission. The plan of the Chinese government includes the seizure of lands to build roads, factories, shopping centers and other infrastructure. The problem is in China is that government has resorted to all kinds of violent acts to kick people out without paying them what they deserve for their homes.

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CIA Tortured Gaddafi Opponents while Bush was in Office

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | SEPTEMBER 6, 2012

“We don’t torture,” said once George W. Bush when he was questioned about the use of enhanced interrogation on supposed terrorists. We now learn that members of terrorist groups supported by the United States in its effort to get rid of Gaddafi, had been tortured by the same CIA and US government before the Arab Spring began.

The U.S. allowed the abuse and rendition of Gaddafi’s government opponents, according to Human Rights Watch.

Some of the people who now occupy key positions in Libya were tortured and subsequently delivered to the Gaddafi regime during the Bush presidency, according to a report Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In its report ‘Delivered to the enemy: the United States allows the abuse and rendition of anti-Gaddafi Libyans’, the NGO cited testimony from former detainees who claim to have been subjected to waterboarding and other forms of torture where water was also used.

Most of those arrested belonged to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which for 20 years tried to overthrow the Gaddafi regime. In fact, when the conflict broke out in 2011 this faction joined the rebels in their fight against the dictator. That same group was given weapons and piles of cash to help the United States defeat Gaddafi later in 2011.

“Not only the United States gave Gaddafi many of his enemies, but also tortured several of these people,” said Laura Pitter, author of the report. “The magnitude of the abuses committed by the Bush administration seems to be much higher than initially admitted, and highlights the importance of launching a full investigation into what happened.”

CIA Documents

The report is also based on documents from the CIA and the British Secret Service that were recently released that Human Rights Watch found abandoned in the office of former Libyan intelligence chief Musa Kusa on September 3, 2011, after Tripoli was taken by rebel forces.

Interviews and documents show that after the attacks of September 11, 2011 in the United States, the government of this country with the assistance of the United Kingdom and several countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, arrested and imprisoned LIFG members who lived outside Libya without charging them with any specific offense, and then deliver them extrajudicially to the Libyan government, knowing that they would be subjected to all kinds of abuse.

The document also cites the grave abuses suffered by former members of the LIFG in two detention centers in Afghanistan that were managed by the U.S.

According to the reports seen by the NGO, the detainees claimed they were chained naked against the wall, sometimes with diapers, in completely dark cells for weeks and months and were required to maintain awkward positions for extended periods with the purpose of causing physical pain and stress.

“For three months, I was first interrogated continuously every day and then applied a different kind of torture. Sometimes water was used, sometimes not … Sometimes I was undressed and other times I was allowed to wear clothes,” related Khalid al Sharif, who said he had been detained for two years in two different U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan that allegedly were under the administration of the CIA.

Al Sharif is now head of Libya’s National Guard. One of its responsibilities is to provide security to facilities where Libya holds some of the most important prisoners captured before, during and after the conquest of Tripoli.