Cross-posted at DailyKos

   “The camp looked like the Nazi camps that I saw in films … Lying on the floor of the compound, all night I would hear the screams of others in the rooms above us, as they were tortured and interrogated.” – A Libyan on his detention in Afghanistan, Democracy Now!

They do whatever they want, don’t they. Their contempt for the U.N. has no bounds. Just days after Cherif Bassiouni — a Chicago law professor and the U.N.’s human rights investigator in Afghanistan — issued a critical report, the U.S. forced the U.N. to fire Bassiouni and to eliminate his position. From The Independent:

The UN’s top human rights investigator in Afghanistan has been forced out under American pressure just days after he presented a report criticising the US military for detaining suspects without trial and holding them in secret prisons.

Cherif Bassiouni had needled the US military since his appointment a year ago, repeatedly trying, without success, to interview alleged Taliban and al-Qa’ida prisoners at the two biggest US bases in Afghanistan, Kandahar and Bagram. … More below:

From the actual report: “[T]he Coalition forces’ practice of placing themselves above and beyond the reach of the law must come to an end.”

Below, more about what Bassiouni wrote in his report about the human rights violations of “coalition forces.”

Cherif Bassiouni, a Distinguished Research Professor of Law at DePaul University College of Law and President of the International Human Rights Law Institute (based at DePaul), has decades of experience in human rights investigation. The loss of both his expertise, and his position, to the people of Afghanistan is clearly significant, and telling about U.S. disregard for human rights in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

You may recall my March 2 diary, “Bagram to Abu Ghraib: ‘Aren’t you kind of babying them?'” Bagram is a U.S. air base in Afghanistan:

In “From Bagram to Abu Ghraib,” her March/April 2005 article, Slate senior editor Emily Bazelon — one of 22 scholars, journalists, former prisoners, advocates, lawyers, and organizers chosen as Soros Justice Media Fellows — reports:

[Chris] Mackey [a former interrogator at Bagram] says  … “[T]here was horrible incompetence at the leadership and oversight level. [The prison] was practically a Disney ride, with lots of higher-ups and officials coming through. But the common response we got was, Aren’t you kind of babying them?”

The “babying” stopped after Capt. Carolyn Wood rewrote interrogation techniques.

[F]our months after Wood and the 519th took over at Bagram, two detainees died …. One was Mullah Habibullah, a 30-year-old man … the other was a 22-year-old taxi driver … who was married and had a 2-year-old daughter. The men had been hung by their arms from the ceiling and beaten so severely that, according to a report by Army investigators later leaked to the Baltimore Sun, their legs would have needed to be amputated had they lived.

From today’s Seattle Times reprint of the Newsday article, “Human-rights critic of U.S. loses post”:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usBassiouni, a Chicago-based law professor, repeated the criticisms in a 24-page report presented at the meeting. He noted reports that “estimate that over 1,000 individuals have been detained.”

The U.S. official accused Bassiouni of grandstanding “to bolster his résumé,” and said his departure would give a greater role to the Afghan government’s rights commission [towards conclusion, see Emily Bazelon’s report on current Afghani human rights efforts, and reports].

But the Afghan commission has cited U.S. forces as a frequent obstacle to its work. Afghan officials say they have trouble getting appointments with U.S. officers to discuss human-rights cases. Also, U.S. forces bar the Afghan commission from visiting their prisons.

They admit only the International Committee of the Red Cross, which doesn’t publish its findings.

Human-rights advocates say the U.S. policies seem to come primarily from the military rather than the State Department. The Pentagon has withheld the results of its own investigation into human-rights violations at its bases in Afghanistan.

In countries with human-rights problems as deep as Afghanistan’s, “the commission normally passes a resolution to condemn the abuses and names a ‘special rapporteur’ to keep investigating them,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of the monitoring group Human Rights Watch. “But in Afghanistan, the U.S. has not wanted these mechanisms to come into play.”

Warning: This next section will seem, at first glance, rather long and perhaps tedious. It is anything but. It is actually a damning, and very brief, summation of U.S./coalition abuses.

From Section VIII (“Coalition Forces”) of the United Nations “Report of the independent expert, M. Cherif Bassiouni, on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan”:

43. In the interim report, the independent expert highlighted the special role of the Coalition forces as a role model for managing security issues and militarized authority in Afghanistan. 2 When these forces directly engage in practices that violate or ignore international human rights and international humanitarian law, they undermine the national project of establishing a legal basis for the use of force. The impact of abusive practices and the failure to rectify potential problems create a dangerous and negative political environment that threatens the success of the peace process and overall national reconstruction. The independent expert welcomes reports of an improved awareness among senior officers of past problems as well as general improvements regarding arrests, searches and seizure and troop conduct. However, an array of problems still exist, including the continuing refusal to allow the independent expert, four United Nations special rapporteurs and key domestic organizations such as AIHRC to inspect Coalition forces’ facilities.

44. The independent expert has received reports of serious violations by the Coalition forces from victims, AIHRC, NGOs and others. These acts include forced entry into homes, arrest and detention of nationals and foreigners without legal authority or judicial review, sometimes for extended periods of time, forced nudity, hooding and sensory deprivation, sleep and food deprivation, forced squatting and standing for long periods of time in stress positions, sexual abuse, beatings, torture, and use of force resulting in death. While it is difficult to confirm many of these allegations, a number of incidents have been publicly reported. Of particular significance are the cases of eight prisoners who have died while in United States custody in Afghanistan. 3 The independent expert highlights the importance of immediately investigating these and other cases.

45. Coalition forces – and, reportedly, PSC – detain individuals at American bases at Bagram, Kandahar and outposts, and are believed to hold individuals at a number of additional undisclosed locations. International NGOs estimate that over 1,000 individuals have been detained, often after being arrested with excessive or indiscriminate force. Detention conditions are reported as below human rights standards set by the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations. …

46. The independent expert has received accounts of actions that fall under the internationally accepted definition of torture. For example, a district governor from Paktia province who was assisting the Coalition forces was arrested, gagged, hooded and taken to a base in Urgun, where he was beaten, forced to stand in a stress position for a prolonged period of time, exposed to the cold, and denied food and water. He also reported the torture and sexual abuse of up to 20 other persons. When his identity was confirmed five days later, he was released, although the fate of the other detainees remains unclear. stigation by the Criminal Investigative Command led to a classified report obtained by a newspaper in the United States that recommends that 28 personnel be prosecuted in connection with the deaths of detainees held by United States forces. However, to date, prosecutions have been limited, raising questions about the interest of United States officials in investigating and prosecuting these cases. The independent expert also expresses serious concerns about the alleged transfer of some prisoners from Guantánamo Bay to Afghanistan as well as the process of informal rendition, whereby detainees are transferred to third-party countries where they are subjected to abuse and torture in clear violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. The Coalition forces’ use of distinct units that answer to different command and control structures is dangerously permeating the Afghan military and security organizations and remains a source of serious human rights violations. In general, the Coalition forces’ practice of placing themselves above and beyond the reach of the law must come to an end.

Out of Emily Bazelon’s March/April 2005 Mother Jones article, we glean these observations:

  • “it was at Bagram” — a desolate desert U.S. air base in Afghanistan — “that interrogators devised and tested the methods that would shame the United States in Iraq”
  • “Captain Carolyn Wood, a 34-year-old officer and 10-year Army veteran … rewrote the interrogation policy set by [the previous interrogation] group, adding to it nine techniques not approved by military doctrine or included in Army field manual
  • “instead of disciplining those involved” in the abuses at Bagram air base, “the Pentagon transferred key personnel from Afghanistan” to Abu Ghraib
  • had the abuses at bases in Afghanistan (there are many Bagrams there) been investigated promptly, the abuses at Abu Ghraib might have been prevented
  • “with the attention of the media and Congress focused on Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the problems in Afghanistan seem to be continuing

Even now, with the attention of the media and Congress focused on Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the problems in Afghanistan seem to be continuing. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, created in 2002 during the early stages of the transition to Afghan self-governance, has collected a total of 120 reports of abuse by coalition forces; 50 of them were made just since last May. Many of the complaints involve excessive force by soldiers during the course of an arrest. But others come from former detainees who say that soldiers stripped them naked and sexually abused them. The Afghan commission and Human Rights Watch, as well as a smaller group, the Washington, D.C.-based Crimes of War Project, have also gathered evidence on detainee abuse at American “forward operating bases” near Kandahar, Gardez, Khost, Orgun, Ghazni, and Jalalabad. Investigators estimate that in each of these places, between 5 and 20 prisoners are held at a time, compared to as many as 200 at Bagram. Bazelon article

Our government knows no shame.

But, for us, our shame knows no bounds.

UK Resident Reports Widespread Torture At Guantanamo

Meanwhile another detainee being held at Guantanamo Bay has come forward to reveal that he has been systematically tortured while in U.S. custody. A Libyan-born, British resident named Omar Deghayes said that during his time in detention he has been sodomized by U.S. guards, given electrical shocks, was nearly drowned and was treated so brutally that he was left blind in one eye. Deghayes also accuses US and Pakistani interrogators of beating him, smearing his face with human excrement, starving him of food, and withdrawing light and clothing. On his detention in Afghanistan he said, “The camp looked like the Nazi camps that I saw in films … Lying on the floor of the compound, all night I would hear the screams of others in the rooms above us, as they were tortured and interrogated.” He went on to say, “My number would be called out, and I would have to go to the gate. They chained me, and put a bag over my head, dragging me off for my own turn. They would force me to my knees for questioning. They would threaten me with more torture.” Deghayes was seized in Pakistan in April 2002 by armed local intelligence officers but his lawyer says he was detained as a result of mistaken identity. Attorney Clive Stafford Smith said of his client, “He has been treated worse in Guantanamo than any other person I have come across.”

Democracy Now!, April 25, 2005

Our government knows no shame.

But, for us, our shame knows no bounds.

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