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Tribunal reveals more torture and abuse in Guantanamo, Other US Prisons

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Testimony Offers Glimpse Into Secretive Prison


LONDON (May 30) - One Guantanamo prisoner told a military panel that American troops beat him so badly he wets his pants now. Another detainee claimed U.S. troops stripped prisoners in Afghanistan and intimidated them with dogs so they would admit to militant activity.

Tales of alleged abuse and forced confessions are among some 1,000 pages of tribunal transcripts the U.S. government released to The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit - the second batch of documents the AP has received in 10 days.

The testimonies offer a glimpse into the secretive world of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where about 520 men from 40 countries remain held, accused of having links to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime or Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. Many have been held for three years.

Whether the stories are true may never be known. And it wasn't immediately clear how many abuse allegations had been logged from the tribunals or how many of them had been investigated. Dozens of complaints have surfaced from detention missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo, but the government couldn't offer a breakdown Monday.

One detainee, whose name and nationality were blacked out like most others in the transcripts, said his medical problems from alleged abuse have not been taken seriously.

"Americans hit me and beat me up so badly I believe I'm sexually dysfunctional. I don't know if I'll be able to sleep with my wife or not," he said. "I can't control my urination, and sometimes I put toilet paper down there so I won't wet my pants."

"I point to where the pain is. ... I think they take it as a joke and they laugh."

The tribunal president promised to take up the man's medical complaint, but in five pages of questioning, never brought up the alleged abuse.

The panel members were charged with determining whether the men were enemy combatants - not with investigating abuse allegations, said a military spokeswoman, Navy Capt. Beci Brenton. She said tribunal members are supposed to forward abuse allegations to the Joint Task Force running the detention mission, which then forwards them to U.S. Southern Command in Miami.

In a statement Sunday, the Pentagon said many of the men have been trained to lie. U.S. troops treat detainees humanely and "U.S. policy condemns and prohibits torture," the statement said, adding that authorities take claims of abuse seriously.

Since its construction three years ago after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the prison camp at Guantanamo has come under scrutiny by critics who contend it has outlived its usefulness, producing scant intelligence information and stoking anti-American hatred.

The government had refused to provide the bulk of the testimonies made during the hearings unless reporters traveled to the remote base in eastern Cuba. It was only after the AP's lawsuit and the tribunals that ended in January that the government released dozens of transcripts.

The tribunals were hastily established after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Guantanamo prisoners could challenge their detentions before U.S. courts, dealing a blow to the government's argument that as foreigners on foreign soil they had no legal recourse.

With only four men charged to date and military trials stalled because of appeals in U.S. courts, it may be even longer before the fate of the prisoners is sorted out.

The enemy combatant tribunals ended with 38 of 580 detainees ordered released, with more than 20 freed so far. Now the U.S. military is conducting review board hearings to determine whether the prisoners hold valuable intelligence information or if they present a threat.

About half of the detainees refused to attend the enemy combatant hearings, where they were represented by military-appointed lawyers. Although they were not allowed their own attorneys, some of their testimonies have been entered as evidence in the U.S. court cases.

The ones who attended seemed eager to tell their stories - the first chance for many aside from talking with prison guards and interrogators.

One man claimed he was working with the Americans and the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance.

"I was working with you and now I am here, and I see those people here that I helped capture in Afghanistan," said the purported former commander, adding he fears if he's ever released to his country he will be killed because of information he has provided to the Americans.

Stories of false accusations abound. One prisoner said he was in Afghanistan to buy heroin so he could sell it to open a nightclub in Europe, another said he was a goat herder - while others said they offered false confessions to their captors to make alleged abuse stop.

A 24-year-old detainee said he confessed to giving a militant group the names and serial numbers of security personnel assigned to Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai but "I said this under torture." He described how an American interrogator "threatened me with a gun to my mouth, to try to make me say something."

The tribunal president asked him about the alleged torture, established it was purportedly carried out at a U.S. facility in Kabul by an American, then moved on to other questions.

Another Muslim prisoner from Uzbekistan talked of abuse he had suffered and how he was given a Bible - not a Quran.

The testimonies also brought up allegations that interrogators - hastily recruited after the Sept. 11 terror attacks - may have manipulated the confessions.

"When I was in the Kandahar prison, the interrogator hit my arm and told me I received training in mortars," a man said, referring to the U.S. detention camp in western Afghanistan where the Taliban rose to power.

"As he was hitting me, I kept telling him, no I didn't receive training. I was crying and finally I told him I did receive the training. My hands were tied behind my back and my knees were on the ground and my head was bleeding. I was in a lot of pain. ... At that point, with all my suffering, if he had asked me if I was Osama bin Laden, I would have said yes.

"What is my crime? Because of the United States, my hand is handicapped. I can't work."

Another man alleged that U.S. troops stripped the prisoners of their clothes in Afghanistan and bullied them into saying things the Americans wanted to hear.

"Americans were beating us really hard, and they had dogs behind us and they said if we didn't say this, they would release the dogs," he said.

The tribunal president made no comment and moved on to the next question: Where were you born?

While most of the prisoners denied the accusations that led to their imprisonment, some freely admitted joining the Taliban but wanted to be charged and tried for their alleged crimes.

"It seems like you are keeping and detaining innocent people," said one detainee, accused of asking Afghan soldiers for guns to fight Americans.

Although detainees sought to call witnesses from abroad to vouch for them during the tribunals, many requests were rejected as irrelevant and approved witnesses didn't appear because requests to their government to track them down got no response, according to the transcripts. In more than 3,500 pages of testimonies, the only witnesses are other detainees.

"All the rules in the United States and in the world, the person is innocent until you prove he is guilty, not innocent. But here, with Americans, the detainees are guilty until proven innocent," one detainee complained.

One prisoner told the tribunal that some of his fellow detainees at Guantanamo are sick and elderly. "I found my brothers being tortured in Kandahar and here," he said.

He compared his detention at Guantanamo to the 1998 Hollywood movie "The Siege," in which Arabs are indiscriminately hunted down and detained in New York City after a terrorist attack.

"I was shocked, thinking am I in that movie or on a stage in Hollywood? Is this really happening? Sometimes I laugh at myself and say when does that movie end?" he says.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Paisley Dodds, Associated Press bureau chief in London, has covered the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since it opened in 2002. AP writers Michelle Faul, Frank Griffiths, and Alexandra Olson in Puerto Rico and Peter Prengaman in Haiti contributed to this report.

05/30/05 14:35 EDT

Do you believe prisoners are unjustly being held at Guantanamo?

Yes 52%

No 39%

Unsure 9%

Total Votes: 21,166


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Captives told to claim torture

By Rowan Scarborough


An al Qaeda handbook preaches to operatives to level charges of torture once captured, a training regime that administration officials say explains some of the charges of abuse at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

The American Civil Liberties Union last week posted on its Web site 2002 FBI documents regarding accusations from suspected al Qaeda and Taliban detainees at the detention center. The organization had won a court decision that forced the administration to release scores of e-mails between agents who had interviewed captives.

U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the prison, is investigating interrogation techniques at "GTMO," as the naval base in Cuba is called, as well as the FBI-conveyed, unsubstantiated complaints. The U.S. Justice Department inspector general has begun a separate probe.

One investigator, Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood, said last week that the most explosive charge so far -- that guards flushed the Koran Muslim holy book down a toilet -- is not true. The Pentagon tabbed Gen. Hood to conduct a probe into how Islam is treated at the prison in the aftermath of a since-retracted report by Newsweek on the Koran claim.

U.S. officials think the Koran story -- told by a detainee who did not see the purported event -- might be part of an al Qaeda campaign to spread disinformation.

"There have been allegations made by detainees," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters. "We know that members of al Qaeda are trained to mislead and to provide false reports. We know that's one of their tactics that they use. And so I think you have to keep that in mind."

In a raid on an al Qaeda cell in Manchester, British authorities seized al Qaeda's most extensive manual for how to wage war.

A directive lists one mission as "spreading rumors and writing statements that instigate people against the enemy."

If captured, the manual states, "At the beginning of the trial ... the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by state security before the judge. Complain of mistreatment while in prison."

The handbook instructs commanders to make sure operatives, or "brothers," understand what to say if captured.

"Prior to executing an operation, the commander should instruct his soldiers on what to say if they are captured," the document says. "He should explain that more than once in order to ensure that they have assimilated it. They should, in turn, explain it back to the commander."

An example might have occurred in a Northern Virginia courtroom in February.

Ahmed Omar Abul Ali, accused of planning to assassinate President Bush, made an appearance in U.S. District Court and promptly told the judge that he had been tortured in Saudi Arabia, including a claim that his back had been whipped. He is accused of meeting there with a senior al Qaeda leader.

Days later, a U.S. attorney filed a court document saying physicians had examined Ali and "found no evidence of any physical mistreatment on the defendant's back or any other part of his body."

Larry Di Rita, spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said two Guantanamo commanders told him that al Qaeda detainees are experts in circulating false charges among the more than 500 fighters captured in Afghanistan.

"There are elements within the detainee population that were very effective at getting other detainees agitated about the Koran by making allegations," Mr. Di Rita said. "They particularly focused on the practice of their faith and the Koran being kept from them. So people should not be surprised when detainees come out and make these kinds of allegations. It causes the reactions we've seen."

He added, "None of this is meant to excuse the situation we found when individuals were unfortunately abused at Abu Ghraib. That was wrong."

There already has been one Pentagon review of accusations of abuse at Guantanamo. Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III, the Navy inspector general, released a report in March that found three substantiated closed cases of "minor" abuse in 24,000 interrogations -- one assault and two female guards' making sexually suggestive gestures to detainees.

"It bears emphasis that the vast majority of detainees held by the U.S. in the global war on terror have been treated humanely and that the overwhelming majority of U.S. personnel have served honorably," Adm. Church wrote.

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May 27, 2005, 8:04 a.m.

Amnesty Unbelievable

The human-rights organization plays anti-American politics.

By David B. Rivkin Jr. & Lee A. Casey

Amnesty International’s 2005 “Report†on worldwide human rights was released this week, and its contents have justly outraged Americans who support U.S. efforts in the war on terror — including the Washington Post which noted that Amnesty had “lost its bearings†and joined “in the partisan fracas that nowadays passes for political discourse.†Among other things, the report accuses the United States of “war crimes,†and openly compares the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with the Gulag Archipelago. In addition, the executive director of Amnesty International USA has called on foreign governments to seize and prosecute American officials traveling abroad, just as a Spanish judge attempted to prosecute former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998. In fact, the report says much more about the nature of Amnesty International — and the agenda of similar left-wing nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) — than it does about the human-rights record of the United States.

The Rule of Amnesty Law

First and foremost, Amnesty’s report is emphatically not an honest assessment of American compliance with international law. Rather, it is an assessment of how well the United States complies with Amnesty International’s political and ideological agenda — equivalent to the grading of individual members of Congress by domestic advocacy groups. This is obvious from the report’s three fundamental measures of a good human-rights record, which are applied to every included state: (1) whether the death penalty has been retained; (2) whether the International Criminal Court treaty has been ratified; and (3) whether the U.N. Women’s Convention, and its Optional Protocol, has been ratified. All of these criteria involve controversial political issues where there is fundamental disagreement between right and left and — from Amnesty’s perspective — George Bush’s America fails on all counts. This, of course, is what you would expect, since the president is a conservative, elected by increasingly conservative American voters.

With respect to the war on terror, Amnesty’s principal complaint is that “[h]undreds of detainees continue to be held without charge or trial at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.†This, of course, is the installation that Amnesty’s secretary general, Irene Khan, characterized as “the gulag of our times.†Khan is either profoundly ignorant of the actual gulag, where Communist regimes “re-educated†political dissidents through murderous hard labor, starvation diets, and exposure to the elements, or engaging in highly improvident hyperbole. It is most likely the latter. (As the Washington Post editorialized, the “modern equivalent†of the gulag can be found not at Guantanamo Bay, but in Castro’s Cuba, North Korea, China and, until recently, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.) In a calmer moment, Khan might reflect that comparing American policies with which she disagrees to genuine atrocities committed by some of the most vicious and repressive regimes in history effectively trivializes the actions of those regimes.

We're At War

Of course, the men held at Guantanamo Bay are not political dissidents. They are captured enemy combatants. Under the laws of war, they can be detained until the conflict, or at least actual hostilities, are concluded. This has been the practice of the United States, and of every other major power in Europe and elsewhere, for centuries. It is not illegal; it is not immoral. In fact, this rule is one of the first and most important humanitarian advances made in warfare. The right to detain is the necessary concomitant of the obligation to give quarter on the battlefield, to actually take prisoners alive.

To be fair, Amnesty International knows this. (Indeed, it restated the traditional rule in the report’s chapter on Morocco, which notes that the rebel Polisario Front was obliged “nder international humanitarian law†to release its government prisoners when hostilities ended in 1991.) What Amnesty is really saying is that, in its view, America’s fight against al Qaeda is not an armed conflict, to which the laws of war apply, but a criminal-enforcement matter where the rights to a speedy, civilian trial are applicable. This is evident in the report’s description of the Guantanamo detainees as individuals “held without charge or trial . . . on the grounds of possible links to al-Qa’ida or the former Taleban government of Afghanistan.†Despite the fact that the vast majority of detainees at Guantanamo were captured on the battlefield, in arms against the United States or its allies, this “criminal enforcement†view is widely held on the Left. It is also a historical and legally incorrect.

The American military was deployed against al Qaeda, and its Taliban allies, in accordance with a specific congressional authorization (dated September 18, 2001) for the use of force. As the Supreme Court recognized as early as the 1798-1801 “undeclared†or “quasi†naval war with France, the United States can be at war without a formal declaration. In addition, as the Court also ruled — in cases dealing with Indian tribes — the United States can be at war with a non-state. Both of these rules are fully consistent with the requirements of international law. States can be engaged in an “armed conflict†with non-state actors.

Indeed, Amnesty’s insistence on applying a criminal-law model to captured al Qaeda and Taliban members is particularly ironic, since similar advocacy groups, like the International Committee of the Red Cross, spent much of the later 20th century promoting rules that applied the laws of war to non-state actors, albeit with special privileges and advantages for irregular forces. Their goal at the time was precisely to avoid the criminal trial and punishment, including imposition of the death penalty, on captured members of “national liberation movements.†For its part, the United States properly resisted efforts to grant special privileges to guerillas and terrorists. It remains fully entitled to rely on the customary law of war in combating al Qaeda — and in classifying that group as “unprivileged†or “unlawful†combatants who do not qualify for prisoner of war (POW) status upon capture.

POW status, as defined in the 1949 Geneva Conventions, requires treatment — in terms of food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention — on a par with the detaining power’s own armed forces, along with an array of other privileges designed to make captivity as pleasant as circumstances permit. Captured unlawful combatants are not entitled to POW status because such men are associated with groups that do not comply with even the most basic law of war requirements — such as the prohibition on targeting civilians. They do not enjoy special privileges under the Geneva Conventions, although customary international law provides that they must be treated humanely. That, of course, is exactly what President Bush ordered — clearly and unequivocally.

To be sure, his orders have not always been obeyed. There have been instances of prisoner abuse, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. The armed forces are a human institution and, like any such institution, there are flaws. That is why we have an elaborate and highly responsive military-justice system. Investigations are ongoing, prosecutions have been brought, and some individuals have already been punished. In fact, the record of human-rights compliance so far compiled by the United States Armed Forces in the war on terror has been exemplary. Tens of thousands of individuals have been captured and processed by American forces. There have been a few hundred allegations of abuse, and only a few dozen documented cases.

Playing Politics

In light of this record, suggestions, like those made by Amnesty International and its U.S. executive director, that American officials should be prosecuted for war crimes are gratuitous, and show the left at its very worst — at its most willing to criminalize political and policy differences. This is especially true with respect to Amnesty’s claims that the “US administration had sanctioned interrogation techniques that violated the U.N. Convention against Torture.†In fact, the administration has “sanctioned†only the use of stressful interrogation methods, such as standing, hooding, and sleep deprivation, at a level which does not constitute “torture,†under either the U.N. Convention or U.S. law.

As Amnesty International knows, the U.N. Convention defines “torture†as “severe pain or suffering.†That means that there is some level of pain and suffering, which is not severe, that does not constitute torture. So long as coercive interrogation methods do not cross that line, and are not otherwise “cruel, inhuman or degrading,†they are lawful. What constitutes “cruel, inhuman and degrading†treatment is not defined in the treaty. The meaning of these terms depends very much on the situation and individuals involved. The European Court of Human Rights, in a case dealing with British interrogation of IRA terrorists, concluded that a series of stress methods — including hooding, stress positions, loud noise and sleep deprivation — did not constitute torture, and were “inhuman†only when used together.

Overall, these are difficult exercises in line drawing, and reasonable minds can certainly differ. In discussing this question, however, the administration’s opponents — especially among the “human rights†community — distinctly fail to recognize or acknowledge that there are humanitarian imperatives on both sides of this question. The United States turned to the use of stressful interrogation methods because non-stressful methods were not producing the intelligence necessary to protect American forces, and especially American civilians at home, against attack by a group that has made plain its purpose and intent to kill as many American civilians as possible. This is the “security†interest that Amnesty International, and other NGOs, decry as having undercut human rights and civil liberties. They simply do not consider that the defense of the American population, and the vindication of each individual’s right to live without the threat or actuality of terrorist attack, is their problem — and it is time they did.

Like too many other NGOs, Amnesty is trapped in a 20th-century mindset where the greatest threat to individual life and liberty stemmed from the actions of sovereign governments. That is simply no longer the case. Although the world remains full of repressive regimes, the most immediate threat to the civilian population in the United States and other democracies comes from pan-national terrorist movements who deliberately target non-combatants as a means of achieving their ends. Amnesty International, like other NGOs, must accept — and start to address — this new set of circumstances.

In the meantime, Amnesty International should reflect that its extravagant and unfounded claims that the United States has violated international law, and that its officials should be the subject of criminal prosecution, work to undercut its own mission. Amnesty claimed that “[w]hen the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity and audacity.†In fact, it is Amnesty International, and similar NGOs, who have granted that license. They have done this by failing to distinguish clearly between American interpretations of international law, including the Geneva Conventions and Torture Convention, with which they may disagree as a policy matter, and actual illegal conduct. It is hardly surprising that repressive regimes claim that the United States has violated the law, thus permitting them to follow suit, when groups like Amnesty persistently state that American policy at Guantanamo Bay is illegal even though this is simply not true.

— The authors are partners in the Washington, D.C. offices of Baker & Hostetler LLP. They served in the Justice Department under President Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and are members of the U.N. Sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. The views here expressed are their own.

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:lol3: :lol3: :lol3:

Amnesty International


Regional overview 2004

Respect for human rights remained an illusion for many as governments across the Americas failed to comply with their commitments to uphold fundamental human rights. Widespread torture, unlawful killings by police and arbitrary detention persisted. The US-led “war on terror†continued to undermine human rights in the name of security, despite growing international outrage at evidence of US war crimes, including torture, against detainees.

Democratic institutions and the rule of law were at risk throughout much of Latin America. Political instability – fuelled by corruption, organized crime, economic disparities and social unrest – resulted in several attempts to bring down governments. Most were by constitutional means but some, as in Haiti, by-passed the democratic process.

Political armed groups and criminal gangs, principally those engaged in drug trafficking, had an increasing impact on people’s fundamental rights. Poverty and discrimination affected millions of people, particularly the most vulnerable groups – women, children, indigenous people and Afro-descendant communities.

Positive developments were seen in the vigorous campaigns maintained by human rights defenders, who held both governments and armed groups to account, in defiance of harassment and persecution. Courts in several countries gave rulings that brought closer the prospect of bringing to trial military and political leaders responsible for massive human rights violations in previous decades.

National security and the ‘war on terror’

The blatant disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law in the “war on terror†continued to make a mockery of President George Bush’s claims that the USA was the global champion of human rights. Images of detainees in US custody tortured in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq shocked the world. War crimes in Iraq, and mounting evidence of the torture and ill-treatment of detainees in US custody in other countries, sent an unequivocal message to the world that human rights may be sacrificed ostensibly in the name of security.

President Bush’s refusal to apply the Geneva Conventions to those captured during the international armed conflict in Afghanistan and transferred to the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, was challenged by a judicial decision in November. The ruling resulted in the suspension of trials by military commission in Guantánamo, and the government immediately lodged an appeal. The US administration’s treatment of detainees in the “war on terror†continued to display a marked ambivalence to the opinion of expert bodies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and even of its own highest judicial body. Six months after the Supreme Court ruled that the federal courts had jurisdiction over the Guantánamo detainees, none had appeared in court. Detainees reportedly considered of high intelligence value remained in secret detention in undisclosed locations. In some cases their situation amounted to “disappearanceâ€.

The “war on terror†and the “war on drugs†increasingly merged, and dominated US relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. Following the US elections in November, the Bush administration encouraged governments in the region to give a greater role to the military in public order and internal security operations. The blurring of military and police roles resulted in governments such as those in Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Paraguay deploying military forces to deal with crime and social unrest.

The US doubled the ceiling on the number of US personnel deployed in Colombia in counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics operations. The Colombian government in turn persisted in redefining the country’s 40-year internal conflict as part of the international “war on terrorâ€.

Conflict, crime and instability

Civilians continued to be the principal victims of political violence. The human rights situation in Colombia remained critical, its civilians targeted by all sides in the conflict: the security forces, army-backed paramilitaries and armed opposition groups. Despite an agreed ceasefire and demobilization of some combatants, paramilitary forces were again responsible for widespread abuses. Security policies introduced by the government drew civilians further into the conflict.

Further evidence of spill-over from Colombia’s internal war was seen in neighbouring countries. Frequent border skirmishes were reported in Venezuela and Ecuador, where the number of Colombians seeking refuge grew.

Political polarization and instability continued to affect Venezuela for much of the year. Levels of violence and protests diminished briefly after a referendum failed to unseat President Hugo Chávez, but the death of a high-profile special prosecutor in a car bombing raised fears of renewed political violence.

Long-standing instability in Haiti reached crisis levels after a military uprising toppled the government of President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Political violence and widespread human rights violations persisted, despite the presence of a UN military and police force. The severe loss of life and structural damage caused by a hurricane in September exacerbated instability and the breakdown of the rule of law, hampering distribution of international aid.

In a report on Guatemala, the UN warned that failure to bring about effective social, economic and political reforms could promote conflict.

Public protests against violent crime, particularly kidnapping, spread throughout Latin America. Crime levels remained high in Mexican and Brazilian cities, and in parts of Central America where poverty combined with the easy availability of weapons and the legacy of civil wars. Governments responded with tougher legislation, which sometimes violated constitutional and human rights safeguards. Vigilantism and mob lynchings of suspected criminals were reported in countries including Guatemala, Mexico and Peru, where confidence in the security forces continued to evaporate.

Impunity for human rights violations

Despite setbacks, efforts across the region to combat impunity for gross human rights violations in previous decades continued to gain momentum.

A series of rulings and actions based on international jurisdiction showed that military and security chiefs whose forces were responsible for human rights violations could no longer escape trial. An Argentine court issued an international warrant for the arrest of former Paraguayan President Alfredo Stroessner for his alleged involvement in human rights violations committed under Operation Cóndor, a joint plan to eliminate opponents by military governments of the 1970s and 1980s in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. Spain’s Supreme Court confirmed that the Spanish justice system had jurisdiction to try former Argentine navy officer Adolfo Scilingo for human rights violations under the military government of 1976-83. More than 20 years after the alleged crimes, a former Honduran intelligence chief faced a civil action in the US courts brought by relatives of Hondurans tortured and killed in the 1980s.

National courts also made significant, if slow, progress in shedding light on past human rights violations. The Chilean Supreme Court lifted former President Augusto Pinochet’s immunity from prosecution, allowing proceedings to be opened against him for human rights violations during Operation Cóndor.

In Brazil, the Supreme Court ordered the federal government to open files on the military operations against armed opposition groups in the region of Araguaia, state of Pará, during the military dictatorship. These may enable relatives finally to locate the bodies of victims of military actions.

Military and police courts continued to claim jurisdiction, despite recommendations by international human rights bodies. In Bolivia, the military initially rejected a Constitutional Court ruling that officers charged with offences against civilians should be tried in civilian courts. In Peru and Colombia, cases of human rights violations continued to be transferred to military courts in spite of rulings by the respective Constitutional Courts that they had jurisdiction only over offences committed “in the line of dutyâ€. In Ecuador, police courts still claimed jurisdiction in cases involving abuses by police agents although the authorities had given assurances that they would be heard by civilian courts.

Trial before civilian courts was no guarantee of justice, however. In Colombia, against all the evidence, charges were withdrawn against former General Rito Alejo del Río, indicted for forming illegal paramilitary groups responsible for human rights violations in the 1990s.

The USA continued to pressure governments throughout the region to sign unlawful immunity agreements shielding US personnel from surrender to the International Criminal Court. Of 12 countries that had refused to sign, 10 had some military aid suspended as a result. In November the US Congress threatened to cut off development aid to countries that refused to sign.

Death penalty

The USA continued to flout international human rights standards by inflicting the death penalty on child offenders, people with mental disabilities, defendants without access to effective legal representation, and foreign nationals denied their consular rights. In 2004, 59 executions were carried out by a capital justice system characterized by arbitrariness, discrimination and error. Scheduled executions of a number of child offenders were stayed pending a Supreme Court ruling on the case of a death row prisoner aged 17 at the time of the crime.

No judicial executions were carried out in the Caribbean, but the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council – the final court of appeal for most of the English-speaking Caribbean – reopened the possibility of a resumption of executions in Trinidad and Tobago by overturning a decision that the mandatory death penalty was unconstitutional. It ruled that mandatory death sentences for capital murder violated the Jamaican Constitution, and ordered new sentencing hearings for Jamaica’s death row inmates. It also ruled that the mandatory death penalty was constitutional

in Barbados.

Economic, social and cultural rights

Economic indicators improved in Latin America after a prolonged period of stagnation. However, growth was insufficient to significantly affect poverty levels. Extreme disparities in wealth, and in access to basic rights such as education, health, water and electricity, continued. Inequalities were persistently driven by race and ethnicity, particularly for indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, who are among the poorest in the region.

According to a UN study on the spread of HIV/AIDs, the Caribbean is the second most affected region in the world. Social attitudes such as homophobia and stigmatization are cited by the UN among factors contributing to the spread of the epidemic.

Severe political violence and instability in Haiti exacerbated the long-standing denial of basic rights, including access to health services as the breakdown in health provision reached crisis proportions.

Disputes over land and labour conditions on plantations continued to fuel protracted conflicts and human rights violations in countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala and Paraguay. Both protesters and police officers were killed as claims for access to land by landless peasant families brought them into conflict with large landowners backed by the security forces or hired gunmen.

By the end of 2004, Central American governments and the Dominican Republic had approved a free trade agreement with the USA. Civil society groups raised concerns about the lack of guarantees on labour rights, on protection of the environment and on continued access to affordable medicines. In December, 12 South American countries signed an agreement to create a political and economic regional bloc.

Violence against women

Women and girls remained at serious risk of human rights violations across the Americas. The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women – which marked its 10th anniversary – had received more ratifications than any other treaty on human rights in the region. Only Canada and the USA had failed to ratify. However, its provisions were largely ignored by governments across the region, and gender-related violence against women remained endemic in the home and the community.

A UN report on the state of the world’s cities stated that Latin America had the highest risk of all types of sexual victimization, with approximately 70 per cent of reported incidents described as rapes, attempted rapes or indecent assaults. Despite efforts by the Mexican authorities, there were further killings of women in the state of Chihuahua, and the horrific brutality that characterized killings of women in Guatemala gave cause for growing international concern.

Women were particularly vulnerable in situations of conflict. In Colombia, all parties to the conflict subjected women and girls to sexual violence, including rape and genital mutilation. They were targeted to sow terror, wreak revenge on adversaries and accumulate “trophies of warâ€.

There was a growing awareness of the impact of people trafficking in the Americas on human rights, particularly of women and girls. According to a study by the Organization of American States, over 100,000 men, women and children were “trafficked†across Latin America and the Caribbean each year, 80 per cent of them women and most for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

Human rights defenders

Human rights activists across the Americas campaigned vigorously to hold governments and armed groups to their obligations to respect international and domestic human rights standards.

Women’s rights activists were acclaimed in Colombia for their work for thousands of innocent victims of conflict and for the meaningful involvement of women in peace negotiations and the political process. Indigenous activists in Ecuador championed their community’s rights to defend their livelihoods during disputes over the extraction of natural resources. Despite public hostility and prejudice, the work of Jamaican and Honduran sexual rights activists to promote equal rights and HIV/AIDS prevention was increasingly recognized and supported by human rights organizations at the international level.

The difficulties and dangers faced by activists in the Americas ranged from intimidation and restrictions on travel, to unfounded accusations of “terrorist†links or other violent activities, arbitrary detention, false criminal charges, and even death. Activists working locally on rural poverty and development, often in isolated areas, and journalists covering issues such as corruption were killed in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.

On the international stage, governments gave commitments to support the work of human rights activists. However, some undermined the integrity of these pledges by tolerating slanderous statements by high-ranking government officials against those working for human rights. Appeals by women’s rights activists for the authorities to examine their concerns and proposals seriously were frequently dismissed

or ignored.

Only one government, Brazil, responded to a request by both the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders and by AI for governments to draft, publish and make operational plans to implement the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Regional initiatives

During the European Union/Latin America and Caribbean Summit in May, AI highlighted its concerns about the use of the judicial system to persecute human rights defenders. Delegates from AI’s International Secretariat and from AI sections in the region attended the Americas Regional Social Forum in Quito, Ecuador, in August. In the same month, AI also participated in the III Human Rights Defenders Consultation in São Paulo, Brazil.

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Rights group denounces U.S. Guantanamo detention camp

From staff and wire reports

LONDON — Amnesty International castigated the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay as a failure Wednesday, calling it "the gulag of our time." The rebuke was the human rights group's harshest yet of American detention policies.


Amnesty urged Washington to shut down the prison at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where about 540 men are held on suspicion of links to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime or the al-Qaeda terrorist network. Some have been jailed for more than three years.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Amnesty's complaints were "ridiculous and unsupported by the facts." He said allegations of prisoner mistreatment are investigated. "We hold people accountable when there's abuse. We take steps to prevent it from happening again. And we do so in a very public way for the world to see that we lead by example," McClellan told reporters.

In its annual report, Amnesty, which campaigns for international human rights, accused governments around the world of abandoning human rights protections. But one of the biggest disappointments was the United States, Amnesty said, "after evidence came to light that the U.S. administration had sanctioned interrogation techniques that violated the U.N. convention against torture."

"Guantanamo has become the gulag of our time," Amnesty Secretary-General Irene Khan said as the London-based group issued a 308-page annual report that accused the United States of shirking its responsibility to set the bar for human rights protections.

The use of the term gulag refers to the system of prison camps in the former Soviet Union designed to hold political prisoners.

The prison camp at Guantanamo holds enemy fighters captured on the battlefields of Afghanitsan and Iraq, according to the Pentagon.

It has been in the spotlight over the past year since the FBI cited cases of aggressive interrogation techniques and detainee mistreatment. No instances of torture were cited. The U.S. government also has been criticized for not charging or trying prisoners who are classified as enemy combatants, or fighters who are note uniformed combatants and thus not covered by legal protections like prisoners of war get under the Geneva Conventions.

The Defense Department said in a statement that "the detention of enemy combatants is not criminal in nature, but to prevent them from continuing to fight against the United States in the war on terrorism."

The Pentagon also said that it continued to evaluate whether detainees should be sent home and that review tribunals "provided an appropriate venue for detainees to meaningfully challenge their enemy combatant designation. This is an unprecedented level of process being provided to our enemies in a time of war."

Amnesty, which has been refused access to the prison, has criticized U.S. detention policies instituted after the 9/11 attacks, but its new report takes a harsher tone. It accuses Washington of trying to "sanitize" abuse of detainees and failing to give prisoners legal recourse to challenge detentions.

The report also takes aim at recent abuse allegations that have surfaced in FBI documents and prisoner testimonies, echoing concerns from the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Red Cross said last week it had told U.S. authorities of detainee allegations that the Koran, Islam's holy book. had been desecrated.

According to FBI interrogation reports obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, detainees complained to FBI agents as early as 2002 that American soldiers were desecrating the Koran. In more than 300 pages of reports of interviews with detainees released Wednesday, FBI agents recorded numerous detainee allegations of Koran desecration that led to what one agent called an "uprising" on July 19-20, 2002.

The documents also reveal that detainees went on hunger strikes and planned mass suicides in 2002 and 2003 because they believed U.S. soldiers had mishandled the Koran and had mistreated prisoners while they exercised their religious beliefs. Such allegations are not new, but they haven't been corroborated.

On Jan. 19, 2003, the military officials at Guantanamo Bay issued a memo, instructing soldiers to "avoid handling or touching" the Koran "whenever possible." But allegations of Koran desecration continued to be raised months later.

Amnesty's report also criticized:

  • •Sudan, for violating human rights last year during the conflict in its Darfur region. At least 180,000 people have died, many from hunger and disease, and about 2 million have fled their homes to escape fighting among rebels, militias and troops.
    •The African Union and the international community for not taking action on Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe's party has been accused of rigging elections, repressing opponents and ruining the economy.
    •Israel, for allowing its soldiers to operate outside international law by using torture, destroying property and obstructing medical assistance in the West Bank and Gaza.

It also condemned Palestinians for targeting civilians.

Contributing: Toni Locy in Washington; the Associated Press


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is it me or liberals have finally found a group of people in Cuba whom they think deserve to be rescued?

How sad!

:rofl::rofl::rofl: ...fucking outstanding............

Good to have you back obby....this shithead destruction may be the most ignorant, brainwashed, Michael Moore turd we have seen yet.......

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