International criticism of war on terror persists despite Obama’s assurances

war-on-terrorOver the past week, international bodies such as the European Parliament and the UN Human Rights Committee have raised grave concerns over continuing U.S. lawlessness in its prosecution of the war on terror, and in particular the travesty of justice known as Guantanamo Bay.

In a resolution adopted last Thursday, the day of President Obama’s big speech attempting to reassure the American public and the international community about drones and Gitmo, the European Parliament noted concern for the well-being of the hunger striking prisoners at Guantanamo and especially those being force-fed. The EP expressed anxiety in particular over the mental and physical condition of the prisoners, “a number of whom have been subjected to torture or inhuman and degrading treatment.”

The European Parliament reiterated its call on the US authorities “to close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp immediately and prohibit the use of torture and ill-treatment in all circumstances” and called “for those inmates who have been cleared for release to be released, transferred to their home countries or other countries for resettlement, and for the remaining detainees to be charged in a civil court with fair trial standards.”

The body also criticized the military commissions that have been set up to try some Guantanamo detainees, as these commissions “do not meet international fair trial standards.”

It further pointed out that the continuing detention without charge or trial of these 166 men is contrary to basic principles of justice.  Arbitrary detention “is in clear breach of international law and that this severely undermines the United States’ stance as an upholder of human rights,” noted the resolution.

As British journalist Andy Worthington explained,

As far as current action is concerned, involving European countries directly, the European Parliament resolution is noteworthy for its call for the coordination of “a joint EU Member States’ initiative” not only “to urge the US President to act” on revisiting his failed promise to close Guantánamo, but also to offer to “receive additional Guantánamo inmates on European soil, especially the approximately dozen men cleared for release who cannot return to their home countries.”

Testifying at the UN Human Rights Committee today, High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that U.S. counter-terror policies are violating human rights and undermining international law. She criticized in particular Obama’s failure to close Guantanamo and admonished European nations for participating in the forced disappearance program dubbed “extraordinary rendition” by the United States.

“The United States’ failure to shut down the Guantanamo detention centre has been an example of the struggle against terrorism failing to uphold human rights, among them the right to a fair trial,” Pillay said.

She continued:

The continuing indefinite detention of many of these individuals amounts to arbitrary detention, in breach of international law, and the injustice embodied in this detention centre has become an ideal recruitment tool for terrorists. I have repeatedly urged the Government of the United States of America to close Guantanamo Bay in compliance with its obligations under international human rights law. I therefore acknowledge President Obama’s statement last Thursday outlining practical steps towards closing the detention facility, such as the lifting of the moratorium on transferring relevant detainees to Yemen. I encourage the United States to ensure that all such measures are carried out in compliance with its obligations under international human rights law. In the meantime, so long as Guantanamo remains open, the authorities must make every effort to ensure full respect for the human rights of detainees, including those who choose to go on hunger strike.

I am dismayed by the continuing failure of many European States to undertake public and independent investigations of past involvement in the U.S. renditions programme, under which terrorist suspects were captured and delivered to interrogation centres without regard for due process. Some of them still languish in Guantanamo. Last September, the European Parliament denounced obstacles that have been encountered by a number of parliamentary and judicial inquiries into this topic. Credible and independent investigations are a vital first step towards accountability, and I call on States to make this a priority.

Last July, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly – a 323-member organization comprising lawmakers from Europe, North America and Central Asia – also adopted a resolution condemning the Obama administration’s blocking of European investigations into extraordinary rendition.

Supporting the criminal investigation carried out by Polish authorities into the rendition program and welcoming attempts by British parliamentarians to ascertain the level of the United Kingdom’s involvement, the resolution “insists that the United States Government co-operates with European investigations” and “calls upon the United States to release any pertinent information to appropriate investigators.”

Needless to say, since then, the U.S. has not adequately dealt with the rendition question. A 213-page report published earlier this year by the Open Society Justice Initiative documented how the CIA conspired with dozens of governments around the world to build a secret extraordinary rendition and detention program that spanned the globe and that the United States has failed to conduct effective investigations into these policies.

To date, the U.S. and the vast majority of the other 54 governments involved have refused to acknowledge their participation, much less compensate the victims, or hold accountable those most responsible for the program and its abuses, the Open Society concluded.

In its report on the U.S. human rights situation released last week, Amnesty International criticized the lack of accountability for deaths that have occurred in secret detention by the United States.

“The absence of accountability for crimes under international law committed under the administration of President George W. Bush in relation to the CIA’s programme of secret detention was further entrenched,” lamented Amnesty, noting in particular the lack of investigations into the deaths of two men who were believed to be tortured to death in U.S. custody.

Further, Amnesty International expressed concern over the use of drone strikes by the U.S. which amount to a policy of “extrajudicial executions in violation of international human rights law.”

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2 responses to “International criticism of war on terror persists despite Obama’s assurances”

  1. нако минчев says :

    Practical measures need to be undertaken for the investigations into CIA secret prisons in Europe
    Nako MINCHEV *

    It is common knowledge that at end-January 2015 the global movement Amnesty International published a report, titled “Breaking the conspiracy of silence: USA’s European “partners in crime” must act after Senate torture report”, which throws further light upon the information gathered within the US Senate investigation into torture methods, applied by the Central Intelligence Agency, by referring to media reports on the way CIA-operated secret detention sites were run in Europe – in particular, on the territory of Lithuania, Poland and Romania. As a matter of fact, it was several years ago when it first became known that CIA tortured terror suspects not only in these countries but also on the territory of another EU Member State – namely, Great Britain. According to the Lawrence Wilkinson, former Chief of Staff to the US Secretary of State, after the terror attack of 11th September 2001 the CIA used the US military base on the island of Diego Garcia, located in the British Indian Ocean Territory, to conduct interrogations and torture terror suspects who had been abducted from various countries without any court order whatsoever.
    After the US Senate report got published, the European Parliament adopted a special resolution on 11th February 2015 in which it “expresses its deep condemnation of the gruesome interrogation practices that characterized these illegal counterterrorism operations; underlines the fundamental conclusion by the US Senate that the violent methods applied by the CIA failed to generate intelligence that prevented further terrorist attacks; recalls its absolute condemnation of torture”. The resolution also highlights the fact that “the climate of impunity regarding the CIA programme has enabled the continuation of fundamental rights violations, as further revealed by the mass surveillance programmes of the US National Security Agency and secret services of various EU Member States”. In this context, the US Government is called on “to investigate and prosecute the multiple human rights violations resulting from the CIA rendition and secret detention programmes, and to cooperate with all requests from EU Member States for information, extradition or effective remedies for victims in connection with the CIA programme”.
    The European Parliament also “reiterates its calls on Member States to investigate the allegations that there were secret prisons on their territory where people were held under the CIA programme, and to prosecute those involved in these operations, taking into account all the new evidence that has come to light”. At the same time it “expresses concerns regarding the obstacles encountered by national parliamentary and judicial investigations into some Member States’ involvement in the CIA programme, the abuse of state secrecy, and the undue classification of documents resulting in the termination of criminal proceedings and leading to de facto impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations”. Furthermore, the resolution “calls for the findings of existing inquiries relating to Member States’ involvement in the CIA programme, in particular the Chilcot inquiry, to be published without further delay”.
    Considering the above, we are unpleasantly impressed by the fact that the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) have hitherto failed to demonstrate the due will to discuss the refusal of the governmental authorities in Vilnius, Warsaw and Bucharest to investigate the multiple occasions of human rights violations, ensuing from the agreement of these countries to host the establishment of CIA black sites on their territory. Such an attitude erodes the very foundations of the European Union, weakens the belief of European citizens that their fundamental rights are truly guaranteed, divests the EU of its moral authority and discredits its allegiance to the universal human values.
    The US Senate report and the one issued by Amnesty International, unequivocally point out that the above three EU Member States, as well as Great Britain, played a key role in the implementation of this CIA “operation” on the territory of the Old Continent. Without the help of these governments the USA would not have been in the position to detain and torture people for so many years, applying such inhumane methods as waterboarding and mock execution, sleep deprivation, use of coffin-sized confinement boxes or sexual threats.
    It is high time that Europe became aware of the fact that the time for paying lip service to the condemnation of these crimes or the attempts at their covering up is over for good. The governments of Lithuania, Poland and Romania can no longer hide behind the unconvincing “national security reasons” and “state secret” arguments, thus refusing to bring to light the entire truth about their role for the torture and abduction of people in their countries. Jozef Pinior, one of the legendary leaders of the Polish “Solidarity” trade union, member of the European Parliament in the period 2004 – 2009 and of the Parliamentary committee on secret CIA prisons in Europe, now a Polish senator, points out: “The information in Washington Post about the fact that Polish intelligence services received USD 15 million to “host” a secret CIA prison in the country compromises the entire Polish state which should elucidate this issue as quickly as possible. This unquestionably confirmed the grimmest hypothesis that under Leszek Miller Poland turned into a “banana republic” to the USA. Another deplorable fact is that our national services have contributed in no way whatsoever to the disclosure of this conspiracy. This is an extremely disgraceful situation. The Polish state, the judicial system and the Government should publish the investigation findings as soon as possible. Otherwise we are going to become Europe’s laughing stock. It turns out that we while we give lessons in democracy to countries like the Ukraine, we take money from the US to allow them to practice illicit torture of people on our territory”.
    In its turn the Bulgarian Government should state its official support for the appeal of Amnesty International and the European Parliament and urge the authorities in Vilnius, Bucharest and Warsaw to undertake an immediate and full investigation of this case and to prosecute those involved in the tortures. Let us be reminded that most of the victims of these malpractices are Muslims and in the context of surging anti-Islam mood after the terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen it becomes even more important to find out the truth about the secret CIA “black sites” in Europe.
    • Human Rights Centre, Sofia, Bulgaria

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