Goldman Sachs, the economy, torture, human rights, and war – a collection of thoughts (Part 2)

24 Nov

Here’s Part 2:


When it comes to torture, war and human rights, the United States recently unveiled its extended Afghanistan prison at Bagram airbase. Clara Gutteridge, an investigator on secret prisons for human rights organization, Reprieve, told Al-Jazeera that while the U.S. claims that this prison is supposed to more open and transparent, the government refuses to release a list of names of prisoners who are Bagram and none of them have access to a lawyer. However, she does says, “But one thing that the US government is saying is that Afghan prisoners in Afghanistan have less rights than any other prisoner which just seems absurd.”

Unlike its Guantanamo counterpart, this prison is not going to be shut down. In fact, the U.S. spent around $60 million expanding the prison wing. The Al-Jazeera report also points out:

“Omar Dighayes, a former detainee at Bagram and Guantanamo Bay, said the Bagram prison resembled a concentration camp.

‘People were beaten, dragged, tortured in it. There were high places where guards stood with guns. It was a hard, difficult place,’ he told Al Jazeera.

But he said he doubts the newly refurbished Bagram prison will improve conditions for its detainees, one of which includes his brother-in-law, whom Dighayes says was recently ‘badly beaten’ inside Bagram.

‘I don’t think it’s the facilities which make the difference, it’s the treatment of people inside.

‘Everybody who worked in Bagram – from the American side – will tell you that the things I’m describing did happen. People from the military intelligence [and] people from the FBI have spoken about the barbaric treatment at this facility.’

But General Mark Martins, who runs detention operations at the airbase, said the US military was improving its treatment of detainees and had learnt many lessons since occupying the country in 2001.

‘Detention, if not done properly, can actually harm the effort. We are a learning organisation … we believe transparency is certainly going to help the effort, and increase the credibility of the whole process,’ Martins said.”

Yet, Obama still refuses to hold torturers and other war criminals accountable. However, other countries have taken steps to do such a thing.

In reaction to revelations that Lithuanian intelligence agencies allowed the presence of secret CIA prisons during the Bush era, the Lithuanian government is investigating this matter to see if crimes were committed, which would lead to prosecution if such took place.

“Valdas Adamkus, who was president when the CIA prison was reportedly in operation, from 2004 until 2005, said he had no personal knowledge of the covert program. But he raised the possibility that Lithuanian security officials could face prosecution if the reports are confirmed.

‘If this actually did occur, and it is grounded with proof, we have to apologize to the international community that something like this went down in Lithuania,’ he told the Baltic News Service. ‘And those who did it,’ he added, ‘in my eyes are criminals.’

In neighboring Poland, prosecutors in the capital of Warsaw have opened a criminal probe into reports that the CIA operated a prison for al-Qaeda suspects near a former military air base. No charges have yet been filed.

Dainius Zalimas, a legal adviser to the Lithuanian Defense Ministry, said the existence of a covert prison would violate both Lithuanian statutes and international human rights conventions that the government signed. If firm evidence is gathered by the Parliament, he said, prosecutors would be obliged to open a case and could target both Lithuanian and U.S. officials.

‘From a legal point of view, it would mean that Lithuania, along with the United States, was contributing to quite serious violations of human rights,’ said Zalimas, who is also a law professor at the University of Vilnius.”

Glenn Greenwald wrote a very sarcastic piece on this event.

Lithuania is not the only country to investigate the criminality of U.S.-led War on Terror policies. The United Kingdom, America’s ally on the other side of the Atlantic, is doing the same thing. After new claims surfaced that British soldiers tortured and sexually abused Iraqi detainees, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense launched an investigation. Jason Leopold wrote a good report on this issue (published November 14, 2009) in

“The allegations by former Iraqi detainees include one in which a 16-year-old Iraqi boy claims he was raped by two British soldiers on an army base. One of the victims has likened the alleged abuse to the torture and sexual humiliation that took place in Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison, which was run by US forces.

The Ministry of Defense confirmed it is probing 33 cases of sexual abuse and torture.

But in a letter sent to Britain’s Ministry of Defense, Phil Shiner, the attorney representing the Iraqis who leveled the charges, said he has it ‘on good authority that there are hundreds of cases that are going uninvestigated.

‘If you are an Iraqi and terrible things have happened to you then how would you know that we have a judicial system in this country to deal with it? My guess is that many of them will remain buried.'”

The Independent released an article on the same issue.

In addition, a photograph sent to The Independent which claims to show Iraqi civilians being severely mistreated by British soldiers in violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions. The incident is going to be investigated by a public inquiry. The recent Independent article points out hours after the picture was taken “the four men were transferred to a UK-run detention camp where they were badly beaten and where 20 other civilians were murdered by British soldiers.”

“Lawyers for the men say the photograph, held by the Army since May 2004 but only disclosed this year, supports evidence of the routine abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

The covering of a prisoner’s face and rear handcuffing on the ground is a breach of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions which prohibits the humiliating and degrading treatment of detainees.

When this is done to support interrogations, as in this case, it also contravenes Article 31: prohibition of physical and moral coercion. It is also a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the Army’s own rules on the hooding of prisoners

Last night, Lord David Ramsbotham, a former commander of the British Field Army and a former chief inspector of prisons, said he believed the picture showed inhuman and degrading treatment. He told The Independent: ‘There can be few people who have not been sickened, and saddened, by the images of Iraqi citizens being subjected to what is well described as inhuman and degrading treatment, at the hands of certain British soldiers.

‘Sickened because this is not the kind of treatment associated with a nation that calls itself civilised; saddened because it besmirches the reputation of the British Army, so carefully preserved by so many people in many different circumstances,’ he said…

Geneva Conventions

*Hooding, cuffing and forced to lie in stress positions in the sun:

Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits the humiliating and degrading treatment of detainees.

*Article 31 of the Conventions prohibits physical and moral coercion techniques used to support interrogations.

*Article 3 of the European Conventions on Human Rights bans inhuman and degrading treatment.

The Army’s own rules forbid hooding of prisoners and handcuffing their arms behind their back on the ground.

Covering the faces in this way restricts breathing, and to all intents and purposes, is the same as hooding. Its use in May 2004 contradicts the assurances given by the Armed Forces minister in 2004 and General Brims in 2006 to the Parliamentary Joint Human Rights Committee that hooding/face covering had been effectively outlawed.

*Handcuffing to the rear restricts breathing, has been known to lead to deaths in custody and renders a prisoner unable to break his fall if pushed.”

View the entire Genevan Conventions (first, second, third and fourth)here and the European Convention on Human Rights here.

Not only are the British investigating allegations of torture but also the legality of Great Britain’s role in invading Iraq in March of 2003. Both Al-Jazeera and The Guardian reported that leaked British government documents reveal that the British government was making military plans to invade Iraq as early as February of 2002, which contradict former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s claims during that time when he said the U.K. was not preparing to invade Iraq. The Guardian points out:

“Military commanders are expected to tell the inquiry into the Iraq war, which opens on Tuesday, that the invasion was ill-conceived and that preparations were sabotaged by Tony Blair’s government’s attempts to mislead the public.

They were so shocked by the lack of preparation for the aftermath of the invasion that they believe members of the British and US governments at the time could be prosecuted for war crimes by breaching the duty outlined in the Geneva convention to safeguard civilians in a conflict, the Guardian has been told…

Blair had in effect promised George Bush that he would join the US-led invasion when, as late as July 2002, he was denying to MPs that preparations were being made for military action. The leaked documents reveal that “from March 2002 or May at the latest there was a significant possibility of a large-scale British operation”.

Documents leaked in 2005 show that, almost a year before the invasion, Blair was privately preparing to commit Britain to war and topple Saddam Hussein, despite warnings from his closest advisers that it was unjustified. They also show how Blair was planning to justify regime change as an objective, despite warnings from Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, that the ‘desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action.’

And that is correct. For one country to invade another country without the authorization of the United Nations Security Council or without the justification of self-defense from an imminent attack, is an act of aggressive war. The act of aggressive war (or war of aggression) is a violation of Principle 6 of the Principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal (which outlaw “crimes against peace” which is defined as “(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).”), Articles 1 and 2(4) of Chapter 1 of the UN Charter (Article 1 calls for “the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace”, and Article 2(4) states that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”), other international treaties the U.S. is a party to (most notably the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 outlawing war as an instrument of foreign policy) and customary international law (see the International Court of Justice judgment in Nicaragua v. United States of American (1986)). Since Iraq did not possess stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, had no connections to 9/11 or al-Qaeda (thereby posing no imminent threat to American national security) and the United Nations Security Council did not authorize the United States to invade the country, the war in Iraq is a clear case of aggressive war. As the Nuremberg Tribunal Judgment stated, “War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

And what is the United Kingdom doing about this? Is the British government refusing to hold anyone accountable for war crimes and crimes against peace and humanity under the insidious cloak of pragmatism and wanting to “move forward”? Not quite. The British government is actually investigating these issues, including Great Britain’s role in the Iraq War. I highlight this because if a very important U.S. ally is willing to investigate such matters than so should the United States.

To conclude Part 2, I’ll point out how Big Oil is benefitting from the war in Iraq. Last year, Royal Dutch Shell partnered with Iraq’s state-owned South Gas Co. in a joint venture that could give Shell a 25-year monopoly on production and exports of natural gas in southern Iraq. In addition, ExxonMobil, a few weeks ago, became the first U.S. oil company to sign an oil-production contract with the government of Iraq. Antonia Juhasz goes more in-depth into Big Oil’s role in the war in Iraq in her article published on AlterNet.

This concludes Part 2.


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