Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Torture and abuse

With human rights reports, they are generally briefly, if at all noted, by the press which quickly moves on to something else so it's good to see Amnesty International's latest report, entitled [PDF format warning] "NEW ORDER, SAME ABUSES: UNLAWFUL DETENTIONS AND TORTURE IN IRAQ" and released late Sunday, continues to garner press attention. Michael Jansen (Irish Times) reports, "Iraqis are seized and detained for long periods without judicial warrants, jailed with the aim of extorting money from their families, or held on false accusations. Many have no contact with the outside world. Prisoners have no access to lawyers or are denied private consultations with lawyers. Detainees are shifted around numerous facilities scattered throughout the country, making it difficult to track them." Jennifer Hough (Irish Examiner) adds, "The methods of torture include beating with cables and hose pipes, prolonged suspension by the limbs, electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body, breaking of limbs and the removal of finger and toenails. Several detainees have died in custody, apparently as a result of torture or other ill-treatment by Iraqi interrogators and prison guards." Also weighing in on the report is the Khaleej Times' editorial board, "The Amnesty International, in its report, said that Iraqi authorities resort to use of torture to extract confessions, and also claimed that several detainees had died in prison. This ill-treatment of Iraqi and foreign nationals doesn't go well with the image of the newly-born republic, and sounds hardly any difference from the practices that were committed by the US occupation troops. Moreover, the rights organisation’s claim that local authorities have signally failed to take effective action to stop torture and punish the perpetrators, despite overwhelming evidence to its use, is condemnable." One of the prisoners is British citizen Ramze Shihab Ahmed whose wife tells Channel 4 News (link has text and video) he is being tortured.

Rabiha al-Qaasab: When they torture him, he's feel -- he's lost his feeling but they bring to him the electric things [gestures to note electric paddles] to wake him up again and to torture him again. [. . .] I hope to see him tomorrow or today, in this night. You don't know. I'm very ready for him because he is sick, he is disability. I dont believe when the counsel, he meet him and he told me they bring him on the wheel chair, I feel my heart is broken because he don't use that, He is disabled but he don't use the wheel chair.

At the US State Dept yesterday, spokesperson Philip Crowley was asked about the report. His response in full: "Well, first of all, we’re aware of the report and the serious charges contained in the report. We’ve just received it and are studying it. But in our work to build up institutions of the Iraqi Government, human rights is a critical component. Just last week, the Secretary had a meeting here with the human rights coordinator for the Iraqi Government and it is an important aspect of our ongoing work with Iraq." Deborah Haynes (Times of London via the Australian) reports, "Instead of detainees being promptly charged, brought before a court and given a fair trial, Iraqis are too often left languishing in overcrowded detention facilities. When they do happen, trials rely heavily on confession, sometimes obtained under duress, rather than physical evidence. There are also reports of corruption within the system. All of this hardly creates the sparkling image of due process that was aspired to seven years ago after British and American tanks rumbled across the border." Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes, "Amnesty urges the Iraqi government to reform its prison system in the report, but this seems unlikely at the moment, because Iraq has only had a caretaker government since the March 7 election. There is still no indication of any government being formed soon."

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and seven days with no government formed.

Today Alsumaria TV reports, "
Member in State of Law Coalition Kamal Al Saedi said that the delegation visit to Syria does not aim at normalizing the relations between the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, but to normalize the relations between the two countries. Saedi said that the Premiership nominations are an internal Iraqi issue." And they note that Iraqiya is stating it is willing to enter additional talks with the Iraqi National Alliance.

The following community sites -- plus SDS, wowOwow and Antiwar.com -- updated last night:

We'll close with this from David Swanson's "Is Anyone Dead On Your Highway?" (War Is A Crime):

It's over a decade since I last heard Ralph Nader speak in Charlottesville, Va., and I was curious to see what kind of crowd would greet him Monday evening. The answer was one of the biggest rooms on campus packed, and mostly with students, enthusiastic students who gave standing ovations, and laughed and responded throughout a 90-minute speech.
There are not many -- if any -- other speakers who can get young people in the United States to turn out for a political speech like this. And they didn't just turn out. They enjoyed being called slackers and given a swift kick in the butt. Nader was advertised as speaking on energy policy, but he opened with an ancient Chinese saying: "To know and not to do is not to know," and he never let go of that theme even when he finally did touch on energy policy.
A professor had given Nader an excellent introduction, denouncing the myth that he'd helped elect George W. Bush -- a myth you'd think wouldn't get past the initial fact that Bush was never elected.
Nader had only wanted to speak at the university, not in any other location, when planning to come to Charlottesville, and his speech was directed to students. He pointed out other myths, including those taught in law schools, such as that defendants in the United States are innocent until proven guilty or that Congress must declare war or that we have a right to habeas corpus.
Corporations are now our masters, rather than our servants, Nader said. We now have what FDR would have called fascism. We're in the midst of a corporate crime wave, and universities are not even studying corporate crime. The reason for this, Nader pointed out, is that universities are being corporatized. UVA was a perfect location at which to make this point, given its advancing merger into the military-industrial-research complex. Jefferson would be disgusted with the state of his school in that regard.
In a democracy, Nader said, the government can behave as a dictatorship 98 percent of the time, as long as it leaves you personal freedoms. But civic freedom, Cicero's "participation in power," is another question entirely.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends