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:

Liveblogging “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week: Days Two and Three – Radio, Film and Puncturing John Yoo’s Lies

John Yoo is a War CriminalBy Andy Worthington

Just keeping up with everything going on in “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week is hard enough, and this is in spite of the fact that my patrons at the World Can’t Wait have lined me up for as many of these events as possible on my week-long visit from London. The full schedule is here, which means that this evening (7 pm, Wednesday) I’ll be discussing writing about torture with authors Barry Eisler, Justine Sharrock and Rita Maran at University Lutheran Church, 2425 College Ave., but in the meantime I’d like to recap on the exciting events of the last two days.

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Berkeley Says No to Torture Week, Day One - Torture At Guantanamo: Effects on Detainees and Soldiers

 By Debra Sweet 

The Berkeley Says NO to Torture Week began Sunday October 10 with a book talk by Andy Worthington who wrote The Guantanamo Files:The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, and Justine Sharrock, author of Tortured: When Good Soldiers Do Bad Things
 
Even for people who have followed the US detention of men at Guantanamo, the stories of the real people involved; both those detained, and those who were part of the functioning, are eye-opening and heart-breaking.

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Secrecy Still Shrouds Guantánamo’s Five-Year Hunger Striker

By Andy Worthington 

Imagine being strapped into a restraint chair twice a day for nearly 2000 days, with a feeding tube forced up your nose and into your stomach, and liquid nutrient pumped through it. According to an Associated Press report, Abdul Rahman Shalabi, Guantánamo’s longest-term hunger striker, is “occasionally eating solid food,” but he remains seriously underweight, and has medical complications as a result of his extraordinary hunger strike, which has lasted for five years and two months.

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US Court Denies Justice to Dead Men at Guantánamo

By Andy Worthington

On Wednesday, in the District Court in Washington D.C., Judge Ellen Huvelle turned down (PDF) a second attempt by the families of Yasser al-Zahrani, a Saudi, and Salah al-Salami, a Yemeni (two of the three men who died in mysterious circumstances in Guantánamo on June 9, 2006, along with Mani al-Utaybi, another Saudi) to hold US officials accountable for the circumstances in which their family members were held and in which they died.

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Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part Two: Captured in Afghanistan (2001)

By Andy Worthington 

 
This is the second part of an eight-part series telling the stories of all the prisoners currently held in Guantánamo (174 at the time of writing). See the introduction here, and the first part here.
 
This second article tells the stories of 27 prisoners seized in Afghanistan, mostly in December 2001. A handful are reportedly significant figures in the Taliban, and most of the rest were either transferred to US custody after a massacre in a fort in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, or were seized after the Battle of Tora Bora, a showdown between al-Qaeda and US forces in the mountains near Jalalabad.

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Part One: The “Dirty Thirty”

By Andy Worthington 

This is the first part of an eight-part series telling the stories of all the prisoners currently held in Guantánamo (176 at the time of writing).
 
The 20 prisoners listed below were the first group of prisoners seized crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan in December 2001.

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On the 9th Anniversary of 9/11: A Call to Close Guantánamo and to Hold Accountable Those Who Authorized Torture

 
On the 9th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001 that prompted the launch of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror,” the closure of Guantánamo and calls for accountability for those who instigated torture and established secret prisons and imprisonment without charge or trial remain as important as ever.
 
This is especially true because, on this particular anniversary, the crimes and injustices initiated by the Bush administration are, arguably, less in the public eye than at any time in the last six years.

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First Glimpse of Guantánamo Prisoners’ Art

By Andy Worthington Guantanamo Painting

I hesitate to do anything that might create the impression that Guantánamo is a humane, well-functioning prison, because it is, of course, an experimental project in detention without charge or trial, in which the men held have no idea of when, if ever they will be released.
 
In this particular respect, it is unlike any other prison, and remains an abomination, distinct from any other facility where those held have been convicted after a trial, and are also allowed family visits.

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Shrouded in Secrecy: CIA Prisons in Poland and Romania

By Andy Worthington

On July 31, the Polish Border Guard Office released a number of documents to the Warsaw-based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, which, for the first time, provide details of the number of prisoners transferred by the CIA to a secret prison in Poland between December 5, 2002 and September 22, 2003, and, in one case, the number of prisoners who were subsequently transferred to a secret CIA prison in Romania.
 
The documents (available here and here) provide important information about the secret prison at Szymany, in north eastern Poland, and also add to what is known about the program in Romania, which has received far less scrutiny.

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Bush, Obama, and the Doctors of Torture

By Andy Worthington

Attempts to call to accountability any of the architects of the Bush administration’s torture program have so far been depressingly unsuccessful. First, any hopes that President Obama would lead the way were dashed when, even before taking office, the President-Elect declared “a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

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Bush on Waterboarding: ‘I’d Do it Again’

from Raw Story 

Speaking to a crowd in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Wednesday, former president George W. Bush told onlookers that his administration did in fact waterboard alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and suggested that his action saved American lives.

"Yeah, we water-boarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," Bush said, according to a local newspaper. "I'd do it again to save lives."

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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.