Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Secret Prisons

Secret Prisoners

Imagine a government that "disappears" people on a whim. Once you are held in custody, you really wish you were in a bathtub full of ice with a tube in your back and the proverbial cellphone with the note so you can find out you are missing a kidney. No, you are held in a straight jacket in a tiny cell with no windows, no phone calls. Your location and identity is kept secret. You have no rights to challenge your illegal incarceration, no due process, but instead get tortured until you confess to anything they want. Just think of it - Free dental visits, free proctology, free electrolosis... This same country - the beacon of "Liberty and Justice for All" wishes to spread Democracy the world over. Yes, sadly, this is my country, the US, that does this.

Fate of many CIA 'ghost prisoners' is still unknown.

By Eli Clifton
Updated Mar 16, 2007, 02:12 am

* Amnesty: Guantanamo 'the gulag of our time' (FCN, 06-08-2005)
* Farrakhan calls for delegation to be sent to Guantanamo (FCN, 05-25-2005)
* Pentagon’s Guantanamo tribunals are ruled illegal (FCN, 02-17-2005)

In this June 27, 2006 file photo, reviewed by US military officials, US Navy personnel keep guard within the fenced grounds of Camp Delta 4 military-run prison, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. President George W. Bush on Wednesday Sept. 6, acknowledged the existence of CIA prisons around the world, and said 14 high-value terrorism suspects, including the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, have been transferred from this system to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay for eventual trials. Photo: AP/World Wide Photos
WASHINGTON, (IPS/GIN) - The U.S. government should account for all “ghost prisoners” detained by the Central Intelligence Agency in secret prisons around the world, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urges.

An HRW report, “Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention,” contains detailed descriptions from a Palestinian detainee of his experience in one of these secret prisons before his release last year.

On Sep. 6, 2006, President George W. Bush said that all CIA prisoners have either been released or sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but HRW claims that many other prisoners were simply “disappeared” by the CIA.

“The question is: what happened to these people and where are they now?” said Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism director at HRW, in a statement.

Marwan Jabour, the former CIA detainee, says that a number of these “disappeared” individuals are still in CIA prisons and that he personally saw one of them, Algerian terrorism suspect Yassir al-Jazeeri, in July 2006 in custody.

The location of the missing detainees is unknown, but one possibility is that they have been moved from CIA “black sites”, U.S. prisons rumored to exist in Thailand, Afghanistan, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Armenia, Georgia, Latvia, and Bulgaria, to foreign prisons where they remain under CIA control, and face torture at the hands of U.S. or local interrogators.

In May 2004, Marwan Jabour was arrested by Pakistani authorities and held for more than a month at a “black site” in Islamabad, staffed by both U.S. and Pakistani personnel, during which time he says he was badly tortured.

In June, he was taken to a secret prison, believed to have been in Afghanistan, where the personnel were nearly all U.S. nationals.

Upon arrival at the secret prison, he says he was left completely naked for a month and a half, during which time he was questioned by female interrogators and filmed.

He was chained to the wall of his cell so he could not stand up, placed in stress positions so that he had difficulty breathing and told that if he did not cooperate he would be put in a suffocating “dog box.”

Mr. Jabour says he worried incessantly about his wife and three young daughters, but was not allowed to send a letter to reassure them he was alive during his more than two years spent in a windowless cell.

“It was a grave,” Mr. Jabour told HRW, “I felt like my life was over.”

The report not only calls attention to the trauma experienced by the detainees, but also addresses the hardships and confusion faced by the families of detainees whose husbands, fathers and sons have “disappeared.”

HRW offers recommendations for how the U.S. and foreign governments should confront the rights failures posed by the CIA rendition of terrorism suspects.

It urges the U.S. to repudiate the use of secret detention and coercive interrogation as counterterrorism tactics and permanently discontinue the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, and to disclose the identities, fate and whereabouts of all detainees previously held at the facilities operated or controlled by the CIA since 2001.

Other governments should refuse to assist or cooperate in any way with CIA detention, interrogation and rendition operations, and disclose any information that they have about such operations, HRW says.

The release of the report was accompanied by a letter to Pres. Bush, expressing the group’s concern over the use of secret prisons to hold people suspected of involvement in terrorism.

“By holding such people in unacknowledged, incommunicado detention, the United States violated fundamental human rights norms, in particular, the prohibition on enforced disappearance,” the letter states.

Although 14 CIA detained terrorism suspects were transferred to Guantanamo Bay, after Pres. Bush acknowledged the transfer and said there were no more secret CIA prisoners, the former director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, publicly acknowledged there were three dozen people in detention in April 2006, three months before Pres. Bush’s announcement.

HRW does not believe satisfactory information has been released about every person detained since 2001 in CIA prisons, states the letter.

The message to Pres. Bush concludes with a list of 16 people believed to have once been held at CIA prisons and whose current whereabouts are unknown and a separate list of 22 people who were possibly once held in CIA prisons and whose current whereabouts are unknown.

Earlier this month, the European Parliament released a report accusing Britain, Germany, Italy and other European nations of tolerating CIA flights transporting terrorism suspects to secret prisons, a practice known as “extraordinary rendition,” in an apparent breach of EU human rights standards.

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