Torture and Detention

Frequently Asked Questions (scroll down for article archives and further resources)

"If anyone acts like they don't know their government is torturing people on a widespread and systematic scale, they are choosing NOT to know. We have to continue to lead people to act against this -- going out to people, into classes, to institutions, and on worldcantwait.org. Too many people have learned to accept this, there is not nearly enough opposition to the revelations about these top level torture meetings -- but this is something that can change quickly if a beginning core acts with moral clarity..." -Debra Sweet, Director of World Can't Wait

Indefinite Detention and Torture Under ObamaDownload this flier

Torture + Silence = Complicity!

Act Now to Stop Torture!

Has Obama put an end to torture, rendition, and indefinite detention? Facts you need to know:

1. Obama admits Bush officials tortured, but refuses to prosecute them.

Cheney has bragged about authorizing water boarding of detainees. In January 2009, Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, that he believed water boarding was torture. Torture is a violation of Geneva Conventions. The Obama administration is, therefore, not only morally, but legally, required to prosecute Bush Regime officials for torture.

2. Under Obama, the U.S. is still holding detainees without charges or trial.

During the campaign Obama declared habeas corpus to be “the foundation of Anglo-American law.”Habeas corpus is your right to challenge your detention. It is a 900-year- old right. Without habeas corpus there are no restraints on a government’s powers to detain and punish.

Contrary to his rhetoric, the Obama administration is continuing the Bush Regime’s policies of denying prisoners habeas corpus rights and has even adopted the same arguments made by Bush. In February 2009, the Obama administration declared in Federal Court that it would not grant habeas corpus rights to detainees in U.S. custody in Bagram, Afghanistan.

In March 2009 Obama’s Justice Department claimed that Guantanamo prisoners who were detained before June 2008 had no habeas corpus rights. On May 21, 2010 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Obama administration, holding that three prisoners who are being held by the U. S. at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot challenge their detention in U.S. courts.

3. Don’t be fooled just because Obama isn’t using the term “enemy combatant”

The Obama administration will no longer use the term “enemy combatant,” but it’s a change in name only: in the same court filing in which it made this announcement, Obama’s Justice Department made clear that it would continue to detain prisoners at Guantanamo without charge. As the NY Times put it:

[T]he [Obama] Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, Obama’s executive orders do not ban indefinite detention. In addition, at his confirmation hearing, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder said: “There are possibly many other people who are not going to be able to be tried but who nevertheless are dangerous to this country… We’re going to have to try to figure out what we do with them.” Holder suggested prisoners could be detained for the length of their war of terror which, as we know, has no set end point.

4. Guantanamo is still open. The prison at Bagram is growing and torture is being committed.

According to Reuters, abuse of prisoners worsened shortly after the election of Obama:

Abuses began to pick up in December 2008 after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.”

Earlier this year Scott Horton reported in Harper’s Magazine on three murders of detainees in 2006 at Guantanamo that the military tried to cover up as suicides. More is coming out about torture at Bagram Detention Center in Afghanistan. Recently Andy Worthington reported on the detention and torture of three teenagers in his article, “Torture and the ‘Black’Prison,” or What Obama is Doing at Bagram (Part One).”

On June 7, 2010 Chris Floyd of Empire Burlesque wrote that under the Bush Regime medical personnel experimented on detainees to prove that the techniques used did not constitute torture. The chilling history of Nazi medical experimentation on those in concentration camps lurks in this revelation. (http://chris-floyd.com/articles/1-latest-news/1976- echoes-of-mengele-medical-experiments-torture-and- continuity-in-the-american-gulag.html)

This is a violation of Geneva Conventions and there is evidence that these experiments are going on under Obama.

5. Obama is continuing rendition.

During his confirmation hearing, new CIA director Leon Panetta made it clear the Obama administration will continue rendition. Rendition is the practice of kidnapping somebody in one country and shipping them to another country for detention. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), said “Rendition is a violation of sovereignty. It’s a kidnapping. It’s force and violence…Once you open the door to rendition, you’re opening the door, essentially, to a lawless world.”

Obama supporters have attempted to draw the distinction between this practice and “extraordinary rendition,” defined as the practice of transferring somebody to another country knowing that they will be tortured. During his confirmation hearing, Leon Panetta said that under the Bush administration, “There were efforts by the CIA to seek and to receive assurances that those individuals would not be mistreated.” So Panetta is embracing the practices of the Bush Regime by continuing rendition!

Panetta then added, “I will seek the same kind of assurances that those individuals will not be mistreated.” (emphasis added)

Articles on Torture and Detention:

John Yoo and The Senate Torture Report

Ralph E. Stone | August 22, 2014

John Yoo authored the Torture Memos used to justify torture of human beings by the Bush Administration

Professor John Yoo stepped away from his lectern at the UC Berkeley School of Law to send an e-mail to the San Francisco Chronicle criticizing the forthcoming Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) torture report saying that if "torture was used and it didn't work, she [Senator Dianne Feinstein] is flat wrong." Yoo claimed the report failed to maintain "bipartisanship" that "will undermine its conclusions."

Read more...

Detainees Held at Bagram Air Base Without Charge for Ten Years Transferred to Yemen

International Justice Network | August 26, 2014

New York, NY. The International Justice Network (IJN) is delighted to announce that two of its clients,Fadi al-Maqaleh and Amin al-Bakri, have been released from Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, were they had been imprisoned without charge for over a decade. On the evening of August 25, 2014, the U.S. government transferred the two Yemeni nationals to the custody and control of the Yemeni government.  The transfer is the first time that a detainee has been transferred from U.S. military custody to Yemen since 2010.

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NEWS FLASH: Obama Admits the Obvious

Dennis Loo | August 2, 2014

Yesterday Obama admitted that the US government “tortured some folks.” Obama’s comments are sparking alarm among reactionaries and praise from liberals that he’s admitted what virtually the whole world already knows.

As Amanda Carpenter, Ted Cruz’s speechwriter, for example, tweeted:

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Six Reasons Why UC Berkeley Should Investigate John Yoo Instead of Honoring Him - Or, Silence is Complicity

Sharon Adams | July 22, 2014

John YooJohn Yoo, currently on the faculty of the Berkeley Law school at the University of California, is the primary author of the torture memos. Yoo is less well known as the sole author of legal memos authorizing the President's Surveillance Program (PSP), allegedly justifying warrantless wiretapping of US citizens.

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Guantánamo Detainee Reveals Escalating, Brutal Punishment of Hunger Strikers

Reprieve | May 13, 2014

A prisoner in Guantánamo Bay has revealed to his lawyers the increasingly brutal punishment meted out to detainees peacefully protesting their indefinite detention via hunger strike.

Emad Hassan wrote in a letter to his lawyers:

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Phony Justice in a Phony War

L. Michael Hager | April 30, 2014

Once again the legitimacy of the judicial process at Guantanamo is called into question, this time by the interference of a US government agency. The New York Times of April 19, 2014, reported that "two weeks ago, a pair of FBI agents appeared unannounced at the door of a member of the defense team for one of the men accused of plotting the 9/11 terrorist attacks." They asked questions about the legal teams for some of the accused terrorists due to stand trial before the military commissions - courts designed to provide the appearance, but not the substance, of a fair trial. The FBI's "covert inquiry" was a serious breach of attorney-client privilege, showing that even the government disdains the process.

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“You are completely destroyed”: Testimony on Torture from Shaker Aamer’s Medical Report at Guantanamo

Jeff Kaye | April 14, 2014

On April 7, 2014, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident still held at Guantanamo, and his attorneys filed a habeas petition (PDF) asking for his release due to chronic health problems that can not be treated at Guantanamo. The worst of these problems apparently stems from PTSD from the torture Shaker has endured since he was captured by the Northern Alliance, then turned over to the Americans on Christmas Eve, 2001.

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Gravely Ill, Shaker Aamer Asks US Judge to Order His Release from Guantánamo

Andy Worthington | April 15, 2014

Last Monday, lawyers for Shaker Aamer, 45, the last British resident in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, asked a federal judge to order his release because he is chronically ill. A detailed analysis of Mr. Aamer’s mental and physical ailments was prepared by an independent psychiatrist, Dr. Emily A. Keram, following a request in October, by Mr. Aamer’s lawyers, for him to receive an independent medical evaluation.

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Nine Years of Hunger Strikes and Force-Feeding at Guantánamo: A Declaration in Support of Emad Hassan by Clive Stafford Smith

Andy Worthington | March 16, 2014

Emad HassanLast week, I wrote an article, “Guantánamo Prisoner Force-Fed Since 2007 Launches Historic Legal Challenge,” about Emad Hassan, a Yemeni prisoner who is challenging the US authorities’ self-declared right to force-feed him, following a ruling in February by the appeals court in Washington D.C., allowing legal challenges to go ahead and reversingrulings made by lower court judges last summer, who believed that their hands were tied by Bush-era legislation preventing any legal challenges to the running of Guantánamo.

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Long-Cleared Algerian Prisoner Ahmed Belbacha Released from Guantánamo

Andy Worthington | March 16, 2014

I’m delighted to report that Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian prisoner, has been released from Guantánamo. It’s always good news when a prisoner is released, and in Ahmed Belbacha’s case it is particularly reassuring, as I — and many other people around the world — have been following his case closely for many years. I first wrote about him in 2006, for my book The Guantánamo Files, and my first article mentioning him was back in June 2007. I have written about his case, and called for his release, on many occasions since.

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