Thursday, February 09, 2012

Secret prisons, executions

In Australia, the issue of off-the-book prisons, hidden from the Red Cross and others, is in the news. Tony Eastley (AM on Australia's ABC, link is audio and text) explains, "There are claims this morning that Australia played a key role in the potentially illegal detention of Iraqi prisoners of war. The British newspaper, the Guardian, has sourced a US military document that says an Australian SAS squadron of 150 men was 'integral' to the operation of a secret facility, known as H1, in Iraq's western desert in April 2003. The revelations are the first to suggest that the Australian military was directly involved in so-called 'black sites'." Ian Cobain wrote the Guardian article ("RAF helicopter death revelation leads to secret Iraq detention camp") which reported on a 2003 secret prison and how at least one prisoner, Tanik Mahmud, died while the RAF was transferring him to the secret prison (he was apparently killed on the helicopter ride). Emily Bourke (Australia's ABC) summarizes, "The Guardian report says an SAS team manning a roadblock in Iraq's desert arrested and detained a group of 64 men during a sweep for "high-value" members of Saddam Hussein's regime. The paper says the men were listed as being detained by US personnel because a single American soldier was attached to the SAS unit manning the roadblock."

Dylan Welch (Goondiwindi Argu) observes:

The revelation has led to an Australian human rights organisation investigating such secret prisons to claim that the Australian military might have been complicit in war crimes by handing detainees over to the so-called ''black site'' known as H1.
The revelations - which the Defence Department last night denied, saying it was only ''providing security'' when the detainees were handed over - would be the first time the Australian military has been implicated in the black sites.

In other news, Aswat al-Iraq reports, "A leading al-Qaeda Commander, of Saudi nationality and holding the post of Military Emir (Prince) of al-Qaeda in northern Iraq's city of Mosul, has been sentenced to death by the Central Iraqi Criminal Court, according to a statement from within the High Judicial Council on Wednesday." The government of Iraq has been on a major killing spree of late. Already having a 'legal' system that's a joke throughout the world wasn't enough for the Iraqi government and now they apparently want to be seen as having a backward and brutal 'legal system' far beyond their practice of forced confession. Human Rights Watch issued the following this morning:

(Washington, DC) – Iraqi authorities should halt all executions and abolish the death penalty, Human Rights Watch said today. Since the beginning of 2012, Iraq has executed at least 65 prisoners, 51 of them in January, and 14 more on February 8, for various offenses.
“The Iraqi government seems to have given state executioners the green light to execute at will,”said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The government needs to declare an immediate moratorium on all executions and begin an overhaul of its flawed criminal justice system.”
Human Rights Watch is particularly concerned that Iraqi courts admit as evidence confessions obtained under coercion. The government should disclose the identities, locations, and status of all prisoners on death row, the crimes for which they have been convicted, court records for their being charged, tried, and sentenced, and details of any impending executions, Human Rights Watch said.
A Justice Ministry official confirmed to Human Rights Watch on February 8 that authorities had executed 14 prisoners earlier in the day. “You should expect more executions in the coming days and weeks,” the official added.
According to the United Nations, more than 1,200 people are believed to have been sentenced to death in Iraq since 2004. The number of prisoners executed during that period has not been revealed publicly. Iraqi law authorizes the death penalty for close to 50 crimes, including terrorism, kidnapping, and murder, but also including such offenses as damage to public property.
Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because of its inhumane nature and its finality. International human rights law requires that, where it has not been abolished, the death penalty be imposed only in cases for the most serious crimes in which the judicial system has scrupulously complied with fair trial standards, including the rights of the defendant to competent defense counsel, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and not to be compelled to confess guilt.
Criminal trials in Iraq often violate these minimum guarantees, Human Rights Watch said. Many defendants are unable to pursue a meaningful defense or to challenge evidence against them, and lengthy pretrial detention without judicial review is common.

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