European Court of Human Rights Condemns Romania and Lithuania for CIA “Black Sites” Where Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri Were Tortured

Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, two prisoners held in secret CIA "black sites" in Lithuania and Romania, whose governments were condemned for their involvement in the "black sites" and torture in two devastating rulings delivered by the European Court of Human Rights in May 2018.

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In two devastating rulings on May 31, the European Court of Human Rights found that the actions of the Romanian and Lithuanian governments, when they hosted CIA “black sites” as part of the Bush administration’s post-9/11 torture program, and held, respectively, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah, who have both been held at Guantánamo since September 2006, breached key articles of the European Convention on Human Rights; specifically, Article 3, prohibiting the use of torture, Article 5 on the right to liberty and security, Article 8 on respect for private life, and Article 13 on the right to an effective legal remedy.

The full rulings can be found here: Abu Zubaydah v. Lithuania and Al-Nashiri v. Romania.

In the case of al-Nashiri, who faces a capital trial in Guantánamo’s military commission trial system, as the alleged mastermind of the bombing of USS Cole in 2000, in which 17 US sailors died, the Court also found that the Romanian government had denied him the right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the ECHR, and had “exposed him to a ‘flagrant denial of justice’ on his transfer to the US,” as Deutsche Welle described it, adding that the judges insisted that the Romanian government should “seek assurances from the US that al-Nashiri would not be sentenced to the death penalty, which in Europe is outlawed.” Abu Zubaydah, it should be noted, has never been charged with anything, even though the torture program was initially created for him after his capture in a house raid in Pakistan in March 2002. At the time, the US authorities regarded him as a senior figure in Al-Qaeda, although they subsequently abandoned that position. Read the rest of this entry »

Finally, Omar Khadr Leaves Guantánamo and Returns to Canada

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Eleven months late, the Canadian government has finally signed the paperwork authorizing the return to Canada from Guantánamo of Omar Khadr. A Canadian citizen, he was just 15 years old when he was seized, in July 2002, after a firefight in Afghanistan, where he had been taken by his father, an alleged associate of Osama bin Laden, and subsequently flown to Guantánamo, where he was held for the last ten years.

As a juvenile — those under 18 when their alleged crimes take place — Khadr should have been rehabilitated rather than being subjected to various forms of torture and abuse, according to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, to which both the US and Canada are signatories. Instead, the US put him forward for a war crimes trial, on the unproven basis that he threw a grenade that killed an American soldier at the time of his capture, and the Canadian government abandoned him, even though courts up to and including the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that his rights had been violated when Canadian agents interrogated him at Guantánamo. In 2010, the Court stated, “Interrogation of a youth, to elicit statements about the most serious criminal charges while detained in these conditions and without access to counsel, and while knowing that the fruits of the interrogations would be shared with the US prosecutors, offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Time is Right for Americans to Pay Attention to Human Rights Watch’s New Torture Report

Last Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a new 107-page report, “Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” which is important, even though it is depressingly familiar to those of us who have been calling for accountability for the torturers of the Bush administration ever since evidence of their crimes became apparent — first with the Abu Ghraib scandal in April 2004, and, soon after, through the leaked memo seeking to redefine torture so that it could be used by the CIA, the first of two now notorious “torture memos” written by Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, signed by Jay S. Bybee, his boss in the Office of legal Counsel, and dated August 1, 2002, which was leaked in the summer of 2004.

Seven years is a long time to wait for something — anything — resembling justice, and, of course, the Obama administration has been a thorough disappointment, allowing the damning conclusions of an ethics investigation into Yoo and Bybee’s shameful betrayal of the principles of the OLC (which is obliged to provide impartial legal advice to the Executive branch) to be whitewashed, raising “state secrets” as a blanket shield for any attempt to ask questions in court about the Bush administration’s torture program, and, most recently, deciding that just two cases of torture that exceeded the rules bent so cynically by John Yoo, and which led to the murder of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, would lead to possible prosecutions. Read the rest of this entry »

Syria: After the Brutal Torture and Murder of 13-Year Old Hamza Al-Khateeb, The Revolution Will Not Be Silenced

When the revolutionary impulses sweeping the Middle East first manifested themselves in Syria in March, no one foresaw how the movement would grow — or how violently it would be suppressed, although that was always a distinct possibility, given the manner in which the Ba’athist regime has maintained power in Syria for the last 41 years — through emergency laws (in place since 1963), a ban on all protests, and the widespread use of arbitrary detention and torture.

In the last two and a half months, protests have spread throughout the country, and have met with violent resistance, although the epicentre of resistance — the southern city of Daraa — remains the focus of the government’s worst excesses, with a death toll of at least 418 people, according to Human Rights Watch, in a report discussed below.

However, the Daraa protectorate has also become far more notorious in recent days as a result of the torture and murder of Hamza al-Khateeb, a 13-year old boy who has immediately become a symbol of the necessity for the overthrow of the Assad regime for the ever-growing number of Syrians, who, it seems, will not accept anything less than regime change as a result of the relentless brutality of the state’s response to even peaceful dissent. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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