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:

Torturers R Us: Bringing Civilization to the World

By Chris Floyd 

This is when you know a regime is in on the ropes: when its security apparatchiks start the panicked, wholesale destruction of the evidence of their crimes. From the Economist:

I KNEW it was truly over when I came home to find a neighbour in a panic. He had smelled a fire nearby. We traced its source soon enough, after climbing to the roof of my building. Smoke drifted from the garden of the villa next door, where workers had recently been digging a peculiarly deep hole, as if for a swimming pool. In a far corner of the garden stood rows of cardboard boxes spilling over with freshly shredded paper, and next to them a smouldering fire.

More intriguingly, a group of ordinary looking young men sat on the lawn, next to the hole. More boxes surrounded them, and from these the men extracted, one by one, what looked like cassette tapes and compact discs. After carefully smashing each of these with hammers, they tossed them into the pit. Down at its bottom another man shovelled wet cement onto the broken bits of plastic. More boxes kept appearing, and their labours continued all afternoon.

Read more...

Rendition: America's Torturers for Hire in Egypt

This article first appeared in Revolution.

 

Torture Flights

 

At a February 4 press conference, U.S. President Barack Obama said about the Mubarak government's response to the protests, "Suppression is not going to work. Engaging in violence is not going to work."
 
Obama and other U.S. officials are now condemning the thuggish nature of the Mubarak regime—but the indisputable fact is that the U.S. has long relied on Mubarak and other oppressive regimes in the region to commit numerous savage crimes.

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Human Rights Groups Announce Bush Indictment for Convention Against Torture

Signatory States: No Immunity for Former Presidents Under Law

Contact:   Alison Roh Park, CCR, +41 774 911 023, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (English, Spanish)
                  FIDH +41 79 34 68 306 (French); ECCHR, +49 30 400 485 90 (English, German)
                  In the U.S., Jen Nessel, CCR, +212 614 6449; David Lerner, Riptide Communications, +212 260 5000

February  7, 2011, Geneva and New York – Today, two torture victims were to have filed  criminal complaints, with more than 2,500-pages of supporting material, in Geneva against former U.S. President George W. Bush, who was due to speak at an event there on  12 February. Swiss law requires the presence of the torturer on Swiss soil before a preliminary investigation can be opened.  When Bush cancelled his trip to avoid prosecution, the human rights groups who prepared the complaints made it public and announced that the Bush Torture Indictment would be waiting wherever he travels next.  The Indictment serves as the basis on which to prepare country-specific, plaintiff-specific indictments, with additional evidence and updated information.  According to international law experts at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), former presidents do not enjoy special immunity under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).

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Bush Cancels Geneva Trip in Advance of Torture Suit

5 February 2011, Geneva – Just days before George W. Bush’s scheduled arrival to Geneva, the former United States President decided to cancel his trip. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sent the following statement:

“CCR, with the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), have spent weeks preparing a 2,500 page torture case against Bush that would have been filed on Monday, February 7 – the anniversary of the day, nine years ago, when Bush decided the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to ‘enemy combatants.’ Bush was due to be in Geneva on the 12th, and his presence on Swiss territory is required for the prosecutor to take action.

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New Human Rights Watch report on torture in Egypt

The 95-page report, "‘Work on Him Until He Confesses': Impunity for Torture in Egypt," documents how President Hosni Mubarak's government implicitly condones police abuse by failing to ensure that law enforcement officials accused of torture are investigated and criminally prosecuted, leaving victims without a remedy.

"Egyptians deserve a clean break from the incredibly entrenched practice of torture," said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Division at Human Rights Watch. "The Egyptian government's foul record on this issue is a huge part of what is still bringing crowds onto the streets today."

The case of Khaled Said, a 28-year-old man beaten to death by two undercover police officers on an Alexandria street in June, dominated headlines and set off demonstrations across the country. The local prosecutor initially closed an investigation and ordered Said's burial, but escalating public protests prompted the Public Prosecutor to reopen the investigation and refer it to court. "We Are All Khaled Said" is the name of the Facebook group that helped initiate the mass demonstrations on January 25, 2011.

Read/download the report here.

The Torture Career of Egypt's New Vice President

Omar Suleiman and the Rendition to Torture Program

By Stephen Soldz

In response to the mass protests of recent days, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has appointed his first Vice President in his over 30 years rule, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. When Suleiman was first announced, Aljazeera commentators were describing him as a "distinguished" and "respected " man. It turns out, however, that he is distinguished for, among other things, his central role in Egyptian torture and in the US rendition to torture program. Further, he is "respected" by US officials for his cooperation with their torture plans, among other initiatives.

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Freed Guantanamo prisoner: "Some died under torture..."

Watch live streaming video from amnestywest at livestream.com

Omar Deghayes and Guantanamo lawyer Candace Gorman participated in this panel discussion hosted by Amnesty International at UC Berkeley on January 26, 2011. SF Bay Guardian article.

As Egyptians Call for Mubarak’s Fall, He Appoints America’s Favorite Torturer as Vice President

By Andy Worthington 

 

As the people of Egypt continue to show no willingness to tolerate any longer the 30-year dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak, no one — least of all the Egyptian people — should be fooled into thinking that Mubarak’s response, appointing intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as his Vice President, constitutes any kind of change.

As Stephen Soldz (psychoanalyst, psychologist and anti-torture activist) reports, in an incisive article for Op-Ed News (cross-posted below), Suleiman played a major role in the Bush administration’s torture program, which not only casts a bleak light on America’s relationship with the Mubarak regime, but also indicates that, for the Egyptian people, devastated by a torture regime that has lasted throughout Mubarak’s reign, Omar Suleiman is the last man that should be being groomed as a possible successor.

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Anti-Torture Activists Shut Down Two Entrances to Department of Justice

Witness Against TorturePress Release from Witness Against Torture:

WASHINGTON - January 19 - After a four hour presence at the Department of Justice this afternoon, Witness Against Torture finished its day of action by establishing an overnight vigil that will continue until 8am tomorrow morning, January 20, 2011.  

The group expected twenty-two arrests after a ceremony inviting Attorney General Eric Holder to break bread and enter dialogue with the group of fasters. At the Constitution Avenue entrance to the building, anti-torture activists read accounts of torture, sang songs and knelt in front of the entrance, effectively blockading it with orange clad bodies.  

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'I Wake Up Screaming:' A Gitmo Nightmare

Saad Iqbal MadniBy Carol Grisanti and Fakhar ur Rehman

January 19, 2011 "NBC News" -- LAHORE, Pakistan — Saad Iqbal Madni looks decades older than his 33 years when he shuffles into the room, head down and eyes averted.

"There are a lot of times I start to cry. I still feel like I am in Guantanamo," he says, his voice cracking and hands trembling. "I have memorized the torture. I wake up in the middle of the night screaming."

 

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About

World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.