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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Every Story Tells A Picture (REMIX)

By popular request, here is a 'remix' of the original article that places the corresponding paragraphs together - to save you from scrolling up and down the page...

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As for saving finger movements... Miles Davis and band knew all about that, so here's "In A Silent Way" to accompany your silent reading (I recommend buying a quality CD or vinyl)

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C1 to C10 = "Story #1: 'Operation Condor’"
J1 to J10 = "Story #2: 'Operation Jackdaw’"


  • Remember... Compare the paragraphs, and form a composite picture in your mind - what do you see in the picture? Is everything as it should be? As well as your eyes, try using your nose to judge whether the overall picture 'smells' right. It is also fine to follow your gut instinct.
  • Maybe you see a face in the picture, akin to a suspect in a police sketch artist's drawing? Maybe a man doing something bad in a high place? Or unhappy children? Maybe you don't see anything at all, because everyone disappeared along with the evidence of what happened?


C1. Jack Straw presided as Home Secretary during the 1998 arrest by London’s Metropolitan Police of Chile’s ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet, who was being chased internationally along with 36 others of the Chilean security state apparatus. This was triggered by an arrest warrant issued by a Spanish judge, related to atrocities that (allegedly) flowed from Pinochet’s pen during his time in office, including the internationally organised abductions, imprisonments, tortures, and temporary or permanent ‘disappearances’ of Pinochet’s opponents, among them Spanish and UK citizens (nowadays we use the catch-all ‘extraordinary renditions’ for much of this activity). The victims included children and pregnant women. The international operation involved several countries other than Chile (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay), with CIA support, and its codename was “Operation Condor”.

J1. Jack Straw presided as Foreign Secretary during a 2004 period that London’s Metropolitan Police has been investigating, and that could yet result in the arrest of Straw and others, including former MI6 senior officer Mark Allen, plus other public sector employees. This was triggered by a criminal complaint issued by London lawyers, related to atrocities that (allegedly) flowed from Straw’s pen during his time in office, including the internationally organised abductions, imprisonments, tortures, and temporary ‘disappearances’ of Libyan dictator Gaddafi’s opponents, among them UK residents and asylum-seekers (in short, ‘extraordinary renditions’). The victims included children and a pregnant woman. The international operation involved several countries other than the UK and its overseas territory of Diego Garcia (Libya, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong), with the CIA as joint leader, and its codename (unless I am corrected) was “Operation Jackdaw”.

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C2. The organisers’ intention was, in part, to silence the opposition, and to continue 'business as usual' for the dictatorships that otherwise were on the brink of war with each other (hence, the Chilean army’s corruption-investigated contract with BAE to develop a military rocket system, that first brought Pinochet to the UK in 1991 to renew the contract). President Pinochet and other South American dictators put aside their countries’ differences in order to make the deal hold.

J2. The organisers’ intention was, in part, to silence Gaddafi's opposition, and to return to ‘business as usual’ between the UK and Libya governments, who otherwise were in ongoing conflict over the 1984 shooting of PC Yvonne Fletcher in London, and the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie (hence, in March 2004 Tony Blair visited Gaddafi and closed the deal with the famous ‘handshake in the desert’, while Shell and BP secured exploration and drilling contracts with Libya, and the likes of BAE Systems negotiated other large contracts). Prime Minister Blair and dictator Gaddafi put aside their countries' differences in order to make the deal hold.

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C3. Throughout the period, Pinochet exchanged political prisoners with other countries via ‘extraordinary rendition’ operations. The head of Chile's CNI secret police, Manuel Contreras, and the other countries’ intelligence chiefs, were left to get on with it. Before his death in 2015, Contreras had been sentenced in Chile to more than 500 years in prison for his crimes. A number of other security agents in his chain-of-command have met a similar fate. Other agents, politicians and civil servants involved in “Operation Condor” have so far escaped justice, but from the moment of Pinochet’s arrest in London they were trapped in their home countries for fear of arrest while travelling, for trial in Spain or elsewhere. In the UK, the penalty for their alleged crimes is a maximum of life imprisonment (and similar penalty in other countries).

J3. Days before the Blair-Gaddafi love-in, an MI6-CIA ‘extraordinary rendition' operation delivered to Gaddafi two political prisoners, travellers whisked away from a British Airways flight by CIA agents, namely Abdel Hakim Belhadj (or Belhaj) and his six-months pregnant wife Fatima Bouchar. Several days after the Blair-Gaddafi meeting, the same arrangement delivered another set of political prisoners, this time Abu Munthir (’Sami’) al-Saadi, his wife, and their four children, the youngest a girl aged 6 years. Gaddafi’s intelligence chief Moussa Koussa was left to get on with it, in hand with his MI6 colleague Mark Allen, head of counter-terrorism at MI6 (who left to join BP in October 2004), and their CIA etc counterparts. Koussa fled Libya in 2011 for the UK, where he was warmly welcomed as a Gaddafi dissenter, and now lives comfortably in Doha, Qatar. He is not immune from prosecution, and may be the target of an extradition request, especially if Mark Allen is arrested in the UK over “Operation Jackdaw”. In similar vein, if the UK fails to prosecute, then Mark Allen and others have the problem in common that they are not immune in the UK from an extradition request, or from arrest and prosecution overseas while travelling. In the UK, the alleged crimes attract a maximum penalty of life imprisonment (and similar penalty in other countries).

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C4. In accordance with established UK law and international judicial cooperation, the Met executed the court’s warrant by arresting Pinochet, and the Crown Prosecution Service represented the prosecuting Spanish judge in order to arrange extradition ('extradition' = lawful; ‘extraordinary rendition’ = criminal). Using the legal principle aut dedere aut judicare ('if you’re not going to prosecute him, then you must extradite him to us’), other countries joined Spain in requesting extradition, especially European countries whose citizens had been victims. These included Belgium, France, Switzerland, who were represented in UK court hearings by the CPS. Between court hearings, Pinochet was considered a flight-risk, on bail and under house arrest near London, secured by 24-hour armed guard and electronic surveillance. Even if he escaped the country, he could have been arrested again for trial in another country before reaching Chile. Pinochet finally appeared less than two metres from me in the dock at Belmarsh Magistrates Court committal proceedings in December 1998. Later, the Westminster Magistrates Court set Pinochet on course for extradition, trial, and undoubted conviction in Spain. This was all underpinned by decisions of the highest UK court (the House of Lords Judicial Committee, now renamed the Supreme Court).

J4. In accordance with established UK law, and international police cooperation where required, the Met began an investigation into the allegations by questioning suspects, and is reported to have passed the file to the Crown Prosecution Service some time ago, in order to process for trial. If the CPS is unable or unwilling to bring the matter to trial, other countries with a legal interest may exercise jurisdiction via the rule “aut dedere aut judicare” ('if you’re not going to prosecute them, then you must extradite them to us’). Possibly Libya, Morocco, Malaysia, USA, Canada, etc courts would exercise this option, and so be represented in UK hearings by the CPS. Alternatively, the Prosecutor's Office of the International Criminal Court in The Hague may reach out and take over, as allowed by UK law. In such scenarios, Straw et al. may be considered as flight risks, required to comply with bail conditions pending legal transfer overseas or to The Hague, including reporting regularly to a local police station if not also subject to the 24-hour electronic surveillance of an ankle-tag. If they were to leave the UK, they could run the risk of being arrested for criminal prosecution in another country, or sued there by victims.

___________

C5. In a political manoeuvre, Home Secretary Straw used his politician’s discretionary powers to release Pinochet just as he was about to be handed over for trial. Weeks later, Straw agreed to explain this ‘get out of jail free’ decision in a private meeting that I attended with the visiting heads of the Relatives of the Disappeared of Chile, Viviana Diaz, and the Relatives of the Politically Executed, Berta Manriquez. Straw said that he had no discretion, and was required by law to release Pinochet. The law required no such thing. I knew it. Straw knew it. Viviana and Berta knew it. Still he assured us that it must be true, because otherwise Amnesty would have taken him to court immediately in order to block Pinochet’s escape, but hadn’t. It was an extraordinary slap in the face to the victims’ representatives, a disregard for their need for truth and justice from the UK, and a betrayal of common decency.

J5. In a political manoeuvre, Blair's government (and now Cameron’s) created a legal mechanism that attempts to give politicians and civil servants the discretion to lock away criminal evidence from the police, courts and victims, by declaring it to be ‘secret’... even if the people locking it away are the ones being accused, investigated by police, or sitting in court. This is ‘life imprisonment insurance’, since there is neither immunity nor time-bar in UK courts for prosecuting ‘extraordinary rendition’ crimes. Not even immunity for former Prime Ministers, or collaborators such as US agents or politicians, never mind Libyans or others. It may not be possible to extradite to the UK, or even question, collaborators such as Moussa Koussa or CIA agents, but that should not prevent the Crown Prosecution Service from doing its job of prosecuting those resident within its jurisdiction. Anything less would be an extraordinary slap in the face for child victims, a disregard for their families’ need for truth and justice, and a betrayal of recent high-level reaffirmations of Magna Carta.

___________

C6. Pinochet is reported to have pleaded to the Met’s arresting officer, DI Andrew Hewitt, that he knew nothing about the issues on the warrant. Just to keep his actual knowledge under wraps, he went on to claim memory problems, and memorably Straw declared him unfit for trial. Just as well, since Pinochet’s public statements between the 1973 coup until his 1998 London arrest, his documented oversight of the ‘Caravan of Death’ helicopter squad that swept through Chile in the weeks after the takeover, and his daily breakfast updates from his chief of secret police Manuel Contreras, all point to plenty of knowledge and authorisation. Punishment was meted out to senior officers not carrying out orders harshly enough.

J6. Straw and Blair have said publicly that they have no recollection of authorising “Operation Jackdaw”, while Mark Allen’s apparent defence is that it was authorised by his superiors (to Ministerial level). It has also been reported that Jack Straw has been shown the transcript of his telephone authorisation giving the go-ahead for the crimes. What I have never seen reported is that it is absolutely no defence to crimes against humanity that a subordinate's offence was ordered by a superior, let alone when it was authorised on the subordinate's request. If it is reasonable to presume that the correspondence between Mark Allen and the head of Libyan intelligence is not fabricated, then it is reasonable to put Mark Allen on the stand in the ordinary way, for a jury to decide in the ordinary way whether he did the acts on the indictment, and for him to try pleading ‘superior orders or authorisation’ in defence or mitigation.

___________

C7. At home in Chile by early March 2000, Pinochet realised that his legal and political impunity had cracked in his absence. Under house arrest, and deemed fit for trial by a judge, he died in 2006 before any of his cases came to judgment. By then he had been forced to give testimony to several judges, and been indicted on several counts in several cases involving atrocities and corruption. A couple of ‘truth commissions’ had established the facts and criminal responsibilities in thousands of cases of torture, murder and ‘disappearance’, allowing financial compensation and reputational rehabilitation for victims and their families. Many perpetrators had hoped for a quick-fix "Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation” social process that would then leave them alone. But the victims "Neither Forgetting, Nor Pardoning” fuelled a criminal process that gave judges the courage to send an increasing number of perpetrators to prison. Prosecutions continue until this very day.

J7. At home in the UK in May 2016, Jack Straw knows that the legal impunity via Blair era laws remains in place, in spite of the political stink. He himself has not cracked under the pressure, and will be relaxed in the knowledge that the High Court in 2016 has affirmed judicial subjugation to the secrecy-impunity laws undermining feudal Magna Carta, by the consent of our Parliament during and after the Blair era. The court kicked out a civil claim against The Foreign Office, Home Office, MI5 and MI6, brought by Belhadj and others renditioned or deported to Libya. Cameron’s July 2010 announcement of a UK ‘truth commission’, namely the ‘Gibson Inquiry’, had its plug pulled in January 2012 before it was properly underway, and there has been no second attempt. Still, the Inquiry did produce a report on its ‘preparatory work’ (that was then sat on by the government until December 2013). The report indicated that UK agents were aware of abuses by "liaison partners" (e.g. Libyan intelligence, CIA), that UK agents were involved in “some cases of rendition”, and that UK agents were aware of “inappropriate interrogation techniques". Since 2013, the victims have been left to their own devices in their search for truth and justice, neither forgetting nor forgiving. No UK prosecutions have taken place (yet), although the CPS currently is in possession of the evidence gathered by the Met Police.

___________

C8. From the day of the Coup in 1973, through the seventeen years of dictatorship, and the period after the dictatorship when potential key witnesses were still being eliminated, Pinochet’s Chile systematically targeted men, women and children for brutal treatment, even the Relatives of the Disappeared who simply wanted a loved one’s body for a funeral. Pinochet even joked on camera that there were so many mass graves because it was cheaper that way. Convictions and trials continue today in Chile for systematic abduction, torture, murder and ‘disappearance' perpetrated by Chilean civil servants and military officers who unlawfully controlled state institutions.

J8. From Lord Saville's 2010 report on the 1972 ‘Bloody Sunday’ killings, through 2016’s jury verdict on the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, and campaigns for an inquiry into ‘historic’ police abuse of miners at Orgreave that may yet bear fruit, it seems that UK state institutions have regularly set out to cover up their mistreatment of ordinary men, women and children, rather than provide truth and justice. Blair simply defends the photo of his handshake with Gaddafi mid-renditions, on the grounds that it was prudent geopolitical diplomacy. Prosecutions are denied until this very day for systematic abduction, torture and ‘disappearance’ organised from London by civil servants and elected politicians using tax payers’ money to deliver the "air cargo” (a description of the families by Mark Allen, in a 2004 memo to Libya’s head of intelligence).

___________

C9. Instead of life imprisonment, Pinochet and several of his collaborators spent most of their lives making hay under the South American sunshine. Torture survivors live today with their dark memories, mass graves continue to be exhumed, and the ‘disappeared’ remain precisely that. This is what happens when elected parliamentarians undermine democratic accountability and play second-fiddle to their military and state security charges. This is what happens when police, judges and prosecutors are co-opted, controlled, and twisted around the little finger of dictatorship.

J9. Instead of life imprisonment, Straw and other suspects intend spending their twilight years in clover, while prosecutors search for evidence where the sun doesn’t shine. The victims can come to court, but the evidence remains buried by bureaucracy and obfuscation. This is what happens when the work of our police, judges and CPS is controlled, corrupted, and shown the middle finger of a ‘secrecy’ and ‘impunity’ regime.

___________

C10. In the end, the truth came out. Still, some in Chile believe that Pinochet should have been immune from prosecution, if all he did was his patriotic and immoral duty of securing the dictatorship by organising the mass arrest, torture and disappearance of people who didn’t like him. In the Santiago office of the Relatives of the Disappeared of Chile, 10 out of 10 people know who Jack Straw is and how he duped himself into freeing Pinochet. Margaret Thatcher had tea and cake with Pinochet and condemned his house arrest in leafy Virginia Water as immoral and cruel (until he disappeared back to Chile with a last-minute gift from Thatcher in his hands that was a calculated insult to the Spanish judge and Chilean victims).

J10. In the end, the truth will probably come out, as it usually does. Still, some in the UK may believe that our own politicians and civil servants should be immune from prosecution, if all they did was their patriotic and immoral duty of securing oil, gas and other contracts by organising the abduction, torture and disappearance of children and their parents. In Liverpool, 10 out of 10 people would say that the victims of state organised violence and cover-up should never walk alone in their search for truth and justice. A jury should be sworn in, and on conviction the perpetrators justly sent to prison for life (as per Sections 134-138 of the Thatcher government’s 1988 Criminal Justice Act pertaining to torture offences committed in the UK or elsewhere). A bowl of porridge and a cup of water could be served each morning, lest they forget that they are not under house arrest, and neither were their victims.


Monday, 16 May 2016

Every Story Tells A Picture

Below I give you two short stories - each is 10 paragraphs long, drawn from real life. You will see that they are quite similar stories. Even each of the corresponding paragraphs is similar!

Compare them, and form a composite picture in your mind - what do you see in the picture? Is everything as it should be? As well as your eyes, try using your nose to judge whether the overall picture 'smells' right. It is also fine to follow your gut instinct.

Maybe you see a face in the picture, akin to a suspect in a police sketch artist's drawing? Maybe a man doing something bad in a high place? Or unhappy children? Maybe you don't see anything at all, because everyone disappeared along with the evidence of what happened?

Maybe you'd like some Inspector Clouseau theme music to accompany you?...


Story #1: 'Operation Condor’ - Impunity 

1. Jack Straw presided as Home Secretary during the 1998 arrest by London’s Metropolitan Police of Chile’s ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet, who was being chased internationally along with 36 others of the Chilean security state apparatus. This was triggered by an arrest warrant issued by a Spanish judge, related to atrocities that (allegedly) flowed from Pinochet’s pen during his time in office, including the internationally organised abductions, imprisonments, tortures, and temporary or permanent ‘disappearances’ of Pinochet’s opponents, among them Spanish and UK citizens (nowadays we use the catch-all ‘extraordinary renditions’ for much of this activity). The victims included children and pregnant women. The international operation involved several countries other than Chile (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay), with CIA support, and its codename was “Operation Condor”.

2. The organisers’ intention was, in part, to silence the opposition, and to continue 'business as usual' for the dictatorships that otherwise were on the brink of war with each other (hence, the Chilean army’s corruption-investigated contract with BAE to develop a military rocket system, that first brought Pinochet to the UK in 1991 to renew the contract). President Pinochet and other South American dictators put aside their countries’ differences in order to make the deal hold.

3. Throughout the period, Pinochet exchanged political prisoners with other countries via ‘extraordinary rendition’ operations. The head of Chile's CNI secret police, Manuel Contreras, and the other countries’ intelligence chiefs, were left to get on with it. Before his death in 2015, Contreras had been sentenced in Chile to more than 500 years in prison for his crimes. A number of other security agents in his chain-of-command have met a similar fate. Other agents, politicians and civil servants involved in “Operation Condor” have so far escaped justice, but from the moment of Pinochet’s arrest in London they were trapped in their home countries for fear of arrest while travelling, for trial in Spain or elsewhere. In the UK, the penalty for their alleged crimes is a maximum of life imprisonment (and similar penalty in other countries).

4. In accordance with established UK law and international judicial cooperation, the Met executed the court’s warrant by arresting Pinochet, and the Crown Prosecution Service represented the prosecuting Spanish judge in order to arrange extradition ('extradition' = lawful; ‘extraordinary rendition’ = criminal). Using the legal principle aut dedere aut judicare ('if you’re not going to prosecute him, then you must extradite him to us’), other countries joined Spain in requesting extradition, especially European countries whose citizens had been victims. These included Belgium, France, Switzerland, who were represented in UK court hearings by the CPS. Between court hearings, Pinochet was considered a flight-risk, on bail and under house arrest near London, secured by 24-hour armed guard and electronic surveillance. Even if he escaped the country, he could have been arrested again for trial in another country before reaching Chile. Pinochet finally appeared less than two metres from me in the dock at Belmarsh Magistrates Court committal proceedings in December 1998. Later, the Westminster Magistrates Court set Pinochet on course for extradition, trial, and undoubted conviction in Spain. This was all underpinned by decisions of the highest UK court (the House of Lords Judicial Committee, now renamed the Supreme Court).

5. In a political manoeuvre, Home Secretary Straw used his politician’s discretionary powers to release Pinochet just as he was about to be handed over for trial. Weeks later, Straw agreed to explain this ‘get out of jail free’ decision in a private meeting that I attended with the visiting heads of the Relatives of the Disappeared of Chile, Viviana Diaz, and the Relatives of the Politically Executed, Berta Manriquez. Straw said that he had no discretion, and was required by law to release Pinochet. The law required no such thing. I knew it. Straw knew it. Viviana and Berta knew it. Still he assured us that it must be true, because otherwise Amnesty would have taken him to court immediately in order to block Pinochet’s escape, but hadn’t. It was an extraordinary slap in the face to the victims’ representatives, a disregard for their need for truth and justice from the UK, and a betrayal of common decency.

6. Pinochet is reported to have pleaded to the Met’s arresting officer, DI Andrew Hewitt, that he knew nothing about the issues on the warrant. Just to keep his actual knowledge under wraps, he went on to claim memory problems, and memorably Straw declared him unfit for trial. Just as well, since Pinochet’s public statements between the 1973 coup until his 1998 London arrest, his documented oversight of the ‘Caravan of Death’ helicopter squad that swept through Chile in the weeks after the takeover, and his daily breakfast updates from his chief of secret police Manuel Contreras, all point to plenty of knowledge and authorisation. Punishment was meted out to senior officers not carrying out orders harshly enough.

7. At home in Chile by early March 2000, Pinochet realised that his legal and political impunity had cracked in his absence. Under house arrest, and deemed fit for trial by a judge, he died in 2006 before any of his cases came to judgment. By then he had been forced to give testimony to several judges, and been indicted on several counts in several cases involving atrocities and corruption. A couple of ‘truth commissions’ had established the facts and criminal responsibilities in thousands of cases of torture, murder and ‘disappearance’, allowing financial compensation and reputational rehabilitation for victims and their families. Many perpetrators had hoped for a quick-fix "Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation” social process that would then leave them alone. But the victims "Neither Forgetting, Nor Pardoning” fuelled a criminal process that gave judges the courage to send an increasing number of perpetrators to prison. Prosecutions continue until this very day.

8. From the day of the Coup in 1973, through the seventeen years of dictatorship, and the period after the dictatorship when potential key witnesses were still being eliminated, Pinochet’s Chile systematically targeted men, women and children for brutal treatment, even the Relatives of the Disappeared who simply wanted a loved one’s body for a funeral. Pinochet even joked on camera that there were so many mass graves because it was cheaper that way. Convictions and trials continue today in Chile for systematic abduction, torture, murder and ‘disappearance' perpetrated by Chilean civil servants and military officers who unlawfully controlled state institutions.

9. Instead of life imprisonment, Pinochet and several of his collaborators spent most of their lives making hay under the South American sunshine. Torture survivors live today with their dark memories, mass graves continue to be exhumed, and the ‘disappeared’ remain precisely that. This is what happens when elected parliamentarians undermine democratic accountability and play second-fiddle to their military and state security charges. This is what happens when police, judges and prosecutors are co-opted, controlled, and twisted around the little finger of dictatorship.

10. In the end, the truth came out. Still, some in Chile believe that Pinochet should have been immune from prosecution, if all he did was his patriotic and immoral duty of securing the dictatorship by organising the mass arrest, torture and disappearance of people who didn’t like him. In the Santiago office of the Relatives of the Disappeared of Chile, 10 out of 10 people know who Jack Straw is and how he duped himself into freeing Pinochet. Margaret Thatcher had tea and cake with Pinochet and condemned his house arrest in leafy Virginia Water as immoral and cruel (until he disappeared back to Chile with a last-minute gift from Thatcher in his hands that was a calculated insult to the Spanish judge and Chilean victims).


Story #2: 'Operation Jackdaw’ - Impunity

1. Jack Straw presided as Foreign Secretary during a 2004 period that London’s Metropolitan Police has been investigating, and that could yet result in the arrest of Straw and others, including former MI6 senior officer Mark Allen, plus other public sector employees. This was triggered by a criminal complaint issued by London lawyers, related to atrocities that (allegedly) flowed from Straw’s pen during his time in office, including the internationally organised abductions, imprisonments, tortures, and temporary ‘disappearances’ of Libyan dictator Gaddafi’s opponents, among them UK residents and asylum-seekers (in short, ‘extraordinary renditions’). The victims included children and a pregnant woman. The international operation involved several countries other than the UK and its overseas territory of Diego Garcia (Libya, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong), with the CIA as joint leader, and its codename (unless I am corrected) was “Operation Jackdaw”.

2. The organisers’ intention was, in part, to silence Gaddafi's opposition, and to return to ‘business as usual’ between the UK and Libya governments, who otherwise were in ongoing conflict over the 1984 shooting of PC Yvonne Fletcher in London, and the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie (hence, in March 2004 Tony Blair visited Gaddafi and closed the deal with the famous ‘handshake in the desert’, while Shell and BP secured exploration and drilling contracts with Libya, and the likes of BAE Systems negotiated other large contracts). Prime Minister Blair and dictator Gaddafi put aside their countries' differences in order to make the deal hold.

3. Days before the Blair-Gaddafi love-in, an MI6-CIA ‘extraordinary rendition' operation delivered to Gaddafi two political prisoners, travellers whisked away from a British Airways flight by CIA agents, namely Abdel Hakim Belhadj (or Belhaj) and his six-months pregnant wife Fatima Bouchar. Several days after the Blair-Gaddafi meeting, the same arrangement delivered another set of political prisoners, this time Abu Munthir (’Sami’) al-Saadi, his wife, and their four children, the youngest a girl aged 6 years. Gaddafi’s intelligence chief Moussa Koussa was left to get on with it, in hand with his MI6 colleague Mark Allen, head of counter-terrorism at MI6 (who left to join BP in October 2004), and their CIA etc counterparts. Koussa fled Libya in 2011 for the UK, where he was warmly welcomed as a Gaddafi dissenter, and now lives comfortably in Doha, Qatar. He is not immune from prosecution, and may be the target of an extradition request, especially if Mark Allen is arrested in the UK over “Operation Jackdaw”. In similar vein, if the UK fails to prosecute, then Mark Allen and others have the problem in common that they are not immune in the UK from an extradition request, or from arrest and prosecution overseas while travelling. In the UK, the alleged crimes attract a maximum penalty of life imprisonment (and similar penalty in other countries).

4. In accordance with established UK law, and international police cooperation where required, the Met began an investigation into the allegations by questioning suspects, and is reported to have passed the file to the Crown Prosecution Service some time ago, in order to process for trial. If the CPS is unable or unwilling to bring the matter to trial, other countries with a legal interest may exercise jurisdiction via the rule “aut dedere aut judicare” ('if you’re not going to prosecute them, then you must extradite them to us’). Possibly Libya, Morocco, Malaysia, USA, Canada, etc courts would exercise this option, and so be represented in UK hearings by the CPS. Alternatively, the Prosecutor's Office of the International Criminal Court in The Hague may reach out and take over, as allowed by UK law. In such scenarios, Straw et al. may be considered as flight risks, required to comply with bail conditions pending legal transfer overseas or to The Hague, including reporting regularly to a local police station if not also subject to the 24-hour electronic surveillance of an ankle-tag. If they were to leave the UK, they could run the risk of being arrested for criminal prosecution in another country, or sued there by victims.

5. In a political manoeuvre, Blair's government (and now Cameron’s) created a legal mechanism that attempts to give politicians and civil servants the discretion to lock away criminal evidence from the police, courts and victims, by declaring it to be ‘secret’... even if the people locking it away are the ones being accused, investigated by police, or sitting in court. This is ‘life imprisonment insurance’, since there is neither immunity nor time-bar in UK courts for prosecuting ‘extraordinary rendition’ crimes. Not even immunity for former Prime Ministers, or collaborators such as US agents or politicians, never mind Libyans or others. It may not be possible to extradite to the UK, or even question, collaborators such as Moussa Koussa or CIA agents, but that should not prevent the Crown Prosecution Service from doing its job of prosecuting those resident within its jurisdiction. Anything less would be an extraordinary slap in the face for child victims, a disregard for their families’ need for truth and justice, and a betrayal of recent high-level reaffirmations of Magna Carta.

6. Straw and Blair have said publicly that they have no recollection of authorising “Operation Jackdaw”, while Mark Allen’s apparent defence is that it was authorised by his superiors (to Ministerial level). It has also been reported that Jack Straw has been shown the transcript of his telephone authorisation giving the go-ahead for the crimes. What I have never seen reported is that it is absolutely no defence to crimes against humanity that a subordinate's offence was ordered by a superior, let alone when it was authorised on the subordinate's request. If it is reasonable to presume that the correspondence between Mark Allen and the head of Libyan intelligence is not fabricated, then it is reasonable to put Mark Allen on the stand in the ordinary way, for a jury to decide in the ordinary way whether he did the acts on the indictment, and for him to try pleading ‘superior orders or authorisation’ in defence or mitigation.

7. At home in the UK in May 2016, Jack Straw knows that the legal impunity via Blair era laws remains in place, in spite of the political stink. He himself has not cracked under the pressure, and will be relaxed in the knowledge that the High Court in 2016 has affirmed judicial subjugation to the secrecy-impunity laws undermining feudal Magna Carta, by the consent of our Parliament during and after the Blair era. The court kicked out a civil claim against The Foreign Office, Home Office, MI5 and MI6, brought by Belhadj and others renditioned or deported to Libya. Cameron’s July 2010 announcement of a UK ‘truth commission’, namely the ‘Gibson Inquiry’, had its plug pulled in January 2012 before it was properly underway, and there has been no second attempt. Still, the Inquiry did produce a report on its ‘preparatory work’ (that was then sat on by the government until December 2013). The report indicated that UK agents were aware of abuses by "liaison partners" (e.g. Libyan intelligence, CIA), that UK agents were involved in “some cases of rendition”, and that UK agents were aware of “inappropriate interrogation techniques". Since 2013, the victims have been left to their own devices in their search for truth and justice, neither forgetting nor forgiving. No UK prosecutions have taken place (yet), although the CPS currently is in possession of the evidence gathered by the Met Police.

8. From Lord Saville's 2010 report on the 1972 ‘Bloody Sunday’ killings, through 2016’s jury verdict on the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, and campaigns for an inquiry into ‘historic’ police abuse of miners at Orgreave that may yet bear fruit, it seems that UK state institutions have regularly set out to cover up their mistreatment of ordinary men, women and children, rather than provide truth and justice. Blair simply defends the photo of his handshake with Gaddafi mid-renditions, on the grounds that it was prudent geopolitical diplomacy. Prosecutions are denied until this very day for systematic abduction, torture and ‘disappearance’ organised from London by civil servants and elected politicians using tax payers’ money to deliver the "air cargo” (a description of the families by Mark Allen, in a 2004 memo to Libya’s head of intelligence).

9. Instead of life imprisonment, Straw and other suspects intend spending their twilight years in clover, while prosecutors search for evidence where the sun doesn’t shine. The victims can come to court, but the evidence remains buried by bureaucracy and obfuscation. This is what happens when the work of our police, judges and CPS is controlled, corrupted, and shown the middle finger of a ‘secrecy’ and ‘impunity’ regime.

10. In the end, the truth will probably come out, as it usually does. Still, some in the UK may believe that our own politicians and civil servants should be immune from prosecution, if all they did was their patriotic and immoral duty of securing oil, gas and other contracts by organising the abduction, torture and disappearance of children and their parents. In Liverpool, 10 out of 10 people would say that the victims of state organised violence and cover-up should never walk alone in their search for truth and justice. A jury should be sworn in, and on conviction the perpetrators justly sent to prison for life (as per Sections 134-138 of the Thatcher government’s 1988 Criminal Justice Act pertaining to torture offences committed in the UK or elsewhere). A bowl of porridge and a cup of water could be served each morning, lest they forget that they are not under house arrest, and neither were their victims.


Well done! But possibly you need more time to compare the corresponding paragraphs of each story? On the bright side, the 'Pink Panther' theme tune will play for 10 hours!


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

“Shhhh… Secrets”


‘It’s ‘life’, Jack, but not life as you want to serve it’


My inner lodestar shuddered recently, when a secret matter, a dark matter of considerable gravity, affected the scales of UK justice, weighting them against the unjustly treated. 

‘Secret justice’ does not allow justice to be seen to be done, and therefore does not allow us to know whether justice has in fact been done. Unless, as in this case, we know as a matter of record that international criminal injustices certainly were done - and we basically know who did them, and how, and much of it from London.

So, we know that the perps are still out there, scottie free, relying on a cover-up of serious criminal activity that really, really, needs a trial by jury. If a jury convicts, then a maximum penalty of ‘life’ imprisonment may be awarded. That’s a big incentive to perp-block a trial.

Join me as I shine a light on the dark shadow it has all cast over our island universe. 

Shhh...
["Shhh/ Peaceful" (18 mins), from "Miles Davis - In A Silent Way"... a CD or vinyl is best!]

2016:
Civil claim against Home Office, Foreign Office, MI5, MI6, Jack Straw, Sir Mark Allen

Recently, in a somewhat science-faction case in London, in the other-worldly High Court, judges set their phasers to stun, and floored five aliens who had come seeking peace through justice. The aliens' complaint was against the Home Office, Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6. The aliens' message was that over ten years ago the UK government had decided to beam them over to Gaddafi’s Libya for political imprisonment and torture, and roughed them up a bit beforehand - technically, a complaint about false imprisonment, blackmail, misfeasance in public office, and conspiracy to assault.

The High Court judges threw their case out of court. 

The reason for the jettison? 

At warped-justice speed, it had taken ten years for the men and their current lawyers to learn that the core evidence in their cases had already been considered in a bygone era, in secret at a deportation hearing of SIAC (the Special Immigration Appeals Commission) . SIAC decides whether to deport alleged ‘terrorists’ - “alleged” is important here, as the hearing should be decided on fact, not least because the men were about to be deported into the hands of Gaddafi’s head of Libyan intelligence, who conveniently labelled any dissidents as terrorists.

Security-vetted ‘Special Advocates’, appointed to replace the men’s preferred lawyers at SIAC secret hearings, were appointed on the basis that the secrets revealed to them cannot be revealed to their clients or their ordinary lawyers. While officially responsible for the client’s legal interests, a Special Advocate must not reveal anything beyond the ‘gist’ of the process to the client. Because otherwise how could it all remain secret, lawful, indeed justice as defined by the law that established this secret justice system?

Given that the above secret matters had already been considered by the earlier SIAC tribunal, albeit in secret, the men’s High Court claim was struck out, as already effectively considered via secret evidence that would remain secret. 

And so in 2016 the five aliens, now free of planet Gaddafi and expecting justice in the land of Magna Carta, instead were cast adrift by the High Court. 

The overall impact remains to be seen, since the case goes wider. The original High Court claim involved twelve claimants, bringing a number of claims: six Libyan men, the widow of a seventh, and five British citizens of Libyan and Somali origin. Their claims concern allegations of false imprisonment, blackmail, misfeasance in public office and conspiracy to assault. The claims are against MI5 and MI6, the Home Office, the Foreign Office, Jack Straw (Foreign Secretary at the time), and Sir Mark Allen (formerly of MI6). 


My Secret Thoughts

I think of it this way… Secret evidence (including evidence obtained criminally under brutal secret torture by Libyan interrogators acting by secret Memorandum of Understanding with MI5 and MI6) was heard in secret at SIAC because the government lawyers argued that the evidence should be acted upon in secrecy, for reasons requiring secrecy. After secret deliberation of the now officially secret evidence, SIAC decided in favour of the government, and in hand with the Special Advocates proceeded to keep the content of the secret deliberations a secret from the clients and their lawyers, and, of course, from other courts and the general public, and certainly from the Metropolitan Police. 

In this way, the clients’ fates were sealed, in a very bad way, even criminally so, albeit done in accordance with the law governing SIAC hearings. The classification as ‘secret’ carried over to otherwise public hearings, so that by the beginning of 2016 the High Court itself had to go into secret session to discuss it, and came out having decided that its hands and tongues were effectively tied by the earlier secrecy decision.

Where the evidence presented to SIAC was extracted under torture, it is therefore a crime internationally, and normally inadmissible in the UK. Although also potentially unreliable factually, there was no adequate procedure or resourcing for the Special Advocates to mount a serious challenge to the origins, content or quality of the evidence, on behalf of their clients.

It does not seem to have mattered that SIAC was acting upon information obtained under torture, from prisoners returned to Libya with the connivance of MI6, partly in order to provide information under torture that could be used against the UK residents, for example at a SIAC secret hearing. Neither does it seem to have mattered that such evidence was tabled at SIAC as a basis for MI5 arranging deportation of UK residents to Libya, where they in turn would be tortured.

Now out of their Libyan black holes the men are seeking justice. It was the least the High Court could do to acknowledged the men’s right to bring their case, since they and their ordinary lawyers could not have known what happened at the earlier hearings. It is not enough.

Magna Carta, read in its original Latin, would be less opaque. But then, neither Magna Carta nor its progeny were relied on here. ‘Summum jus summa injuria', you might think (i.e. ’extreme law is extreme injury’ : extreme law, untempered by equity, is not justice but the denial of it).


Revelations:
UK-Libya joint intelligence operations

The High Court in 2016 revealed that the earlier SIAC tribunal had been told of joint MI5-Libya intelligence operations, that resulted in several of the men being deported from the UK to Libya. Two other men (Abdul Hakim Belhadj and Sami al-Saadi) and their families were abducted for ‘extraordinary rendition’ to Libyan prison cells, from outside Europe via the UK stopover facility of Diego Garcia, thanks to joint MI6-Libyan intelligence cooperation, and CIA operational input. 

SIAC had heard how the Blair government began mending fences with the Gaddafi regime from 1999. Inter-state relations originally were fractured by the still-unsolved shooting of PC Yvonne Fletcher from a window of the Libyan Embassy in London, on 17 April 1984. The 1988 downing of Pan AM flight 103 over Lockerbie put Gaddafi’s Libya beyond the pale. 

This warming of government relations from 1999, peaking with Blair’s meeting with Gaddafi on 24 March 2004, included cordial joint operations of MI5 with Libyan intelligence in the UK, targeting dissidents peacefully resident here. The joint operations allegedly were unlawful, if not seriously criminal.

After the fall of Gaddafi in 2011, files recovered from the archives of the Libyan intelligence service incriminated a senior MI6 staffer, Mark Allen, in co-organising international criminal acts of abduction, torture and enforced ‘disappearance’ of two families of Gaddafi dissidents (aka ‘extraordinary rendition’). They had been abducted and returned to Libya in 2004 - one family in the lead up to, and the other in the immediate aftermath of, Tony Blair’s infamous ‘deal in the desert’ handshake with Gaddafi in a tent outside Tripoli. 

The families included the two male dissidents, their wives (one of them six-months pregnant), and four children aged 6 to 12 years. The males spent up to six years in brutal detention, until the fall of Gaddafi. The females and children spent less time in detention, but life outside prison was no picnic for them either. They were under ongoing surveillance, in danger of further maltreatment, and invariably discriminated against administratively and economically.

The files also contained an October 2002 Memorandum of Understanding, detailing a two-day meeting in Tripoli between Libyan intelligence, two named senior MI6 staff and one MI5 officer. The memo outlines their joint plans for "intelligence exchange, counter terrorism and mutual co-operation".


2016:
Prosecutions of individuals from MI5, MI6, Home Office, Foreign Office?

Still, in 2016 the victims cling on to hope. The Crown Prosecution Service, in the matter of a separate but related hearing about the criminal enterprise, may yet beam up the captains of government and their spoocks to the criminal court, for a very public prosecution (unless they can swing a secret one, or swing impunity altogether).

The treatment of the victims in the UK arguably amounted to torture or coercive threats to torture, within the jurisdiction of the English courts, by way of s.134 of the 1988 Criminal Justice Act (that defines torture and establishes a maximum penalty of 'life' imprisonment for anyone involved). It was certainly coercive, it certainly contained threats and other inducements, and it certainly appears to have resulted in some cases of torture.

The treatment of the Belhadj and Saadi family members, subjected to ‘extraordinary rendition’ while travelling internationally by public airline, certainly amounted to criminal abduction, political imprisonment, torture and enforced ‘disappearance’. All are crimes against humanity under UK and international criminal law.

The Metropolitan Police is reported to have handed over their investigation files to the CPS in the autumn of 2014. The CPS is reported to be under political pressure to drop the case. Perverting the course of justice can be achieved in a number of ways. One way is for state institutions and suspects not to hand evidence over, for example preferring to destroy or misplace it. Or to mount a long-running case of immunity through the courts ahead of any trial, and again possibly in secret sessions.

There is no immunity ‘de jure’ from a s.134 prosecution, even for MI5 or MI6 staff, although ‘superior orders’ is likely to be argued in some format by all except the Cabinet Minister involved. Extra-legal ‘de facto’ impunity from prosecution may have been organised in case a legal defence is untenable, but even this could collapse under challenge. More likely is an attempt at impunity through ‘James Bond immunity’.

‘James Bond immunity’ is the fall-back immunity defence very likely to be argued through Section 7 of the 1994 Intelligence Services Act, (the “James Bond clause”). Section 7 is meant to protect MI6 officers from prosecution for actions otherwise illegal, so long as those actions were authorised in writing by the Foreign Secretary. The protection covers civil claims as well as criminal prosecutions.


aut dedere aut judicare, capture, or ICC transfer

One weakness in the suspects’ strategy is that failure of the UK authorities to prosecute could lead to any or all of the accused being arrested as soon as they leave UK shores, by any other state party to the UN Convention Against Torture. In establishing jurisdiction for an arrest, these countries are likely to reject any immunity arguments, just as they may reject an 'amnesty law' under given circumstances. Even if named suspects do not leave the UK, other countries may use established judicial cooperation treaties to request their extradition for overseas trial, unless a UK trial is being set in motion - the principle of 'aut dedere aut judicare' ('either transfer, or put on trial').

The UK has signed up to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. This means that states interested in extradition or capture may be trumped by the Prosecutor at the ICC mounting an investigation, and ordering the immediate arrest and transfer of the accused for trial in The Hague. 

By the principle of ‘double jeopardy’, neither another country nor the ICC may try a case that has been tried already in a national court. However, they may attempt to do so if it is clear that the first trial was not a true or adequate hearing, or was simply organised to give the false appearance of a criminal process, in order to rule out the possibility of a trial in the ICC or some other jurisdiction.

Even if the accused accept that there is no immunity from prosecution for (conspiracy to) torture, it is anticipated that some may try other avenues to escape the gravitational pull of a trial date, an extradition warrant or an ICC transfer warrant. With the right knowledge, experience, contacts, it could be worth seeking a sick-bay ‘unfit for trial’ exemption. Some might try claiming that they have no long-term memory of acting badly, said memory having been lost in the space of the intervening ten years. Losing short-term memory to the extent required for exemption from trial is a bit trickier, but possible to pull off with practice, organisation, and a sympathetic or incompetent Cabinet Minister in the right place at the right time. 


The Suspects (aka “Shushshpectsh”)

The Foreign Secretary from 2001-2006, Jack Straw, has always denied wrongdoing. Apparently it’s an open secret now that, after saying publicly that it wasn’t true, and that he had no recollection of authorising such a thing, privately he was shown the official transcript of his telephone authorisation. Maybe, maybe not, to his surprise. That would mean that the offending authorisation is on file, and should be logged in the police file also, with a copy now in the hands of the CPS. 


Jack Straw, to Foreign Affairs Select Committee (13 Dec 2005):

"Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States, and also let me say, we believe that Secretary Rice is lying, there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop.”


Straw’s position of late is, “At all times I was scrupulous in seeking to carry out my duties in accordance with the law.” This may be a reference to having given what he thought was lawful authorisation, intended also to trigger ‘James Bond immunity’ for MI6. After the Libyan renditions came to light, Straw said: “No foreign secretary can know all the details of what its intelligence agencies are doing at any one time.”

Sir Mark Allen of MI6 (and of BP by six months after the Blair-Gaddafi handshake), whose memo to Gaddafi’s head of security was recovered from the Tripoli archives, has also denied wrongdoing. Of course, rather than actually denying being a malevolent spook, he may simply be saying that he acted with a Section 7 authorisation from the Secretary of State, and therefore is more of a Sir Walter Raleigh buccaneering type. None of this prevents us from speculating as to his actions or motives, or being agog at his speedy transfer to a huge salary with BP by October 2004, possibly to oversee their new Libya contract. I’ll post a photo of the handshake that sealed that deal, if one emerges.

The individual MI5 and MI6 field agents will have to wait-see, weathering the situation until it either blows over or blows up. Allegations that agents actually attended ‘torture sessions’ with questions, the answers to which may have led to the arrest and deportation of UK-based dissidents to more torture, cannot easily be dismissed by the “James Bond clause” any more than by a defence of ‘merely carrying out superior orders’.

Recent Home Secretaries appear to have maintained a wise, dignified, possibly nervous, silence in relation to MI5's alleged criminal activities.

Tony Blair has said he has no recollection at all of these matters. Who’s going to contradict him merely on the basis of his fingerprints being all over Gaddafi when sealing the deal in the desert?


Irony

It is ironic that Jack Straw, while he was Home Secretary four years earlier, in March 2000 released Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet as ‘unfit for trial’ after sixteen months under arrest in London. Pinochet and his agents were accused of abduction, political imprisonment, torture, murder and enforced ‘disappearance’. Part of this was carried out under the auspices of “Operation Condor”, a coordinated programme of ‘extraordinary rendition’ between Chile and several other countries.

Pinochet organised impunity for himself and his agents inside Chile by controlling the law-making, police, public prosecutors, judges, security and intelligence services, etc. It was necessary for the victims and their relatives to organise his London arrest, via the mechanism of an extradition warrant from a Spanish judge.

From the moment of Pinochet’s arrest in London, hundreds of other accused Chileans ceased international travel, as did possibly thousands of people in other countries. Their fear of arrest in a foreign country was realistic, now that it had been shown to be a viable alternative. It remains a viable alternative for Libyan and other victims of recent ‘extraordinary rendition’.
___________

Of course, sectors of UK officialdom would prefer the victims’ claims to be barred from proceeding in court. Instead the crimes would be rendered into mere philosophico-moral debate in the wine bars of the people. Fill your glasses, chaps and chapesses, and discuss: 

“What is wrong with a bit of Cabinet authorised abduction, torture and forced ‘disappearance’ of parents and children, if it underpins long-term UK government interests, and lucrative contracts for Shell, BP, BAE and the likes?” 

Your answers on a postcard, please, addressed to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Crown Prosecution Service, London.
___________


Let's hope the Metropolitan Police and CPS have finally got to the root of the crime, unlike Inspector Clouseau...




Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Afghan Massacre: My 10th anniversary interview on Russia Today, Thursday 1 December 2011

Ten years ago last week, the incident occurred in Afghanistan that led to Jamie Doran's 2002 film, 'Afghanistan Massacre: Convoy of Death'. The mass grave of up to 2,500 victims was never officially investigated by the Afghan or US authorities.
Recently, I gave a 10th anniversary interview for the 'Russia Today' TV channel about the massacre/lack of investigation - from home via Skype to RT's Washington office – at half-an-hour past midnight UK time, 7.30pm USA East Coast time.

The interview is at:



I know... I didn't have the camera angle/height quite right.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Kyrgyzstan: My election-day interview on 'Russia Today', Sunday 10 October 2010

Kyrgyzstan Parliamentary Elections, Sunday 10 October 2010

video

...and extract from the accompanying article on the 'Russia Today' web site...

" The elections in Kyrgyzstan are believed will bring about a long-awaited peace to the country, after it suffered heavy clashes between the Kyrgyz population and ethnic Uzbeks in the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad following the ousting of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

However, Andrew Mcentee, former OSCE observer in Kyrgyzstan, believes that a parliamentary-based government system may not lead to stability in the region.

“The curious situation is that, somehow in the political culture it is felt that while the power is being taken away from the presidency and given to the parliament, nevertheless, the prize is still the presidency. Besides, the immediate neighbors – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan – would rather see the project of creating a parliamentary-based government system fail,” Mcentee told RT. "


Saturday, 12 June 2010

MY INTERVIEW on 'RUSSIA TODAY' TV CHANNEL: Violent clashes in Kyrgyzstan

Beautiful Kyrgyzstan! Surely one of my favourite countries - not only for the scenery (see the photos of my 2007 blog post, and my 2009 blog post), but for the character and spirit of many of the people I met there during my 2007 and 2009 visits. Following Kyrgyzstan's 7th April 2010 'revolt' that saw President Bakiev flee the country to Belarus, the Interim Government set itself a 6-month timetable to complete the transition to a new national settlement. This includes elections to be held in October for a new Parliament and President. First, though, a Referendum on June 20th, to establish the conditions for the October elections.

The OSCE recently set up a ROM (Referendum Observation Mission) that coincided with my 6-week visit to Georgia for the Local Government Elections (as OSCE election observer), so I couldn't go to Kyrgyzstan this time around. However, in mid-April, I was interviewed on the TV channel 'Russia Today' about the post-revolt situation. Today, I've been interviewed again, and this time I've got a link to the interview...

video

Here's the accompanying 'Russia Today' web site article:

http://rt.com/Top_News/2010-06-11/kyrgyzstan-violence-curfew.html#

Dozens killed and injured after violent clashes in turbulent Kyrgyzstan

Published 11 June, 2010, 19:30

Edited 11 June, 2010, 23:45

An outbreak of violence in the Southern Kyrgyz city of Osh has resulted in 46 dead and hundreds injured.

Out of more than 600 who have asked for medical assistance, approximately 50 are in a grave condition.

The country’s authorities have dispatched troops to the troubled area in an effort to bring the situation under control.

Violence broke out late Thursday evening when clashes erupted between Kyrgyz and Uzbek youths and quickly spread across the whole city.

Ravaging mobs have been looting and setting buildings on fire.

Read more

A curfew and a state of emergency were quickly imposed in Osh. Armored vehicles and security forces were sent in to patrol the streets.

The troops have been given permission to bear arms against the participants of the riots in case their actions endanger the lives of civilians.

However, Itar-Tass news agency reports that, according to witnesses, those measures have failed to stabilize the situation fully.

In addition, even though security forces have the center of the city under control, gunfire is still being heard in other parts of Osh.

In a statement on a local TV channel, the mayor of Osh urged residents to remain calm. The city’s gas supply had been cut off to prevent possible fires and explosions.

International human rights lawyer and former OSCE observer in Kyrgyzstan Andrew McEntee remembers that, back in 1990, several hundred died as a result of Kyrgyz-Uzbek tension.

“Today the situation clearly is different. For some people it's an opportunity for transition, while for others it's an opportunity for frustrating the transition. There is no doubt that political actors and security services actors at local and international level are pulling the strings behind the scene trying to steer this violence as a tool for their own opportunities,” McEntee told RT.


Thursday, 7 January 2010

SENATE INQUIRY INTO 'CONVOY OF DEATH'

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Senator John F. Kerry (Democrats) is to investigate the 'Convoy of Death' and subsequent mass graves site at Dasht-e-Leili, near Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

Dasht-e-Leili (red pins), Sheberghan Prison, Sheberghan town
(Google Earth image, courtesy of Physicians for Human Rights)

The Senate inquiry comes in the wake of President Obama receiving a report about the convoy and the Dasht-e-Leili graves site, from his National Security team. In July 2009, President Obama was so concerned about war crimes allegations involving US military and local Afghan soldiers, that he instructed his national Security team to "collect the facts" and present them to him in a report. There was a positive response to this from human rights organisations, including a Physicians for Human Rights response on YouTube. However, it now seems that the hoped-for Presidential investigation into the convoy and mass graves may not take place, and the report itself will not be made public.

There is no reason to believe that the Senate inquiry is being welcomed by the White House. This means that the White House is unlikely to support the inquiry. If the Senate inquiry wishes to have sight of the White House report, it may ask for it, but may not receive it.

Physicians for Human Rights will support the Senate inquiry by submitting documentation relating to the PHR forensic team's part-excavation of the grave site in 2002. PHR personnel who took part in the site excavation will also make themselves available to Senate investigators. Jamie Doran, the producer-director of the 2002 television documentary, "Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death" (YouTube short version), will also make available his film (official site) and other archive materials, and personal knowledge of the incident. Ditto yours truly.

More on this as the Senate inquiry gets under way.

Monday, 4 January 2010

U.S. JUDGE ORDERS DEFENSE DEPARTMENT TO HAND OVER 'CONVOY OF DEATH' EVIDENCE

On 30th December, in a hearing related to the Dasht-e-Leili 'Convoy of Death', a US federal judge criticised the Department of Defense (DoD) for its weak response to a Freedom of Information request by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). The judge ruled that DoD agencies should have searched for, and handed over, relevant documents existing between 1st November 2001 and now, rather than merely documents existing in November and December 2001.

The ruling gives a boost to the efforts of PHR and others, in our claim that US government agencies have been suppressing evidence relating to war crimes. The suppressed documents may corroborate claims that the bodies of up to a couple of thousand prisoners were buried in a mass grave site at Dasht-e-Leili in northern Afghanistan, at the end of 2001.

The DoD agencies, including Central Command and the Defence Intelligence Agency must comply with the ruling by no later than April.

Here's a report of the hearing from the Maryland Daily Record:

http://mddailyrecord.com/2009/12/30/federal-judge-orders-dod-to-supply-taliban-papers/

December 30, 2009

Federal judge orders DoD to supply Taliban papers

By Brendan Kearney <brendan.kearney@mddailyrecord.com>

Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

The U.S. Department of Defense did not adequately respond to a human rights group’s Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the American investigation of a Taliban mass grave in northern Afghanistan, a federal judge in Baltimore ruled Wednesday, representing a “substantial” victory for government transparency advocates.

The U.S. Central Command, a DoD component agency known as CENTCOM, must now conduct a temporally broader search for internal documents related to the Dasht-e-Leili gravesite, and the Joint Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency must submit to U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett certain documents it had previously turned over to the Physicians for Human Rights only in redacted form.

Judge Bennett, who is handling the Washington, D.C., case because the district court there is overworked, otherwise ruled for the government defendants, determining that they had performed a reasonably thorough search and that they offered legitimate reasons for redacting portions of the relevant documents.

The decision, which comes during a presidential administration that has promised to be more forthcoming in response to FOIA inquiries, offers a series of important reminders, according to Eugene R. Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

“It’s a substantial victory, and it’s a reminder of the importance of FOIA,” said Fidell, who has submitted many FOIA requests to the Defense Department with “uneven” results and teaches at Yale Law School. “It is a reminder that we have someone looking over the government’s shoulder to enforce transparency. … It’s a reminder that the federal court helps the government turn square corners.”

Nathaniel Raymond, who has led the Physicians for Human Rights investigation into what happened at Dasht-e-Leili in late 2001, said the plaintiff organization is “heartened” by Bennett’s decision, “but the proof is in the pudding with what the Department of Defense produces.”

“We still don’t fully know what the U.S. knew, when they knew it, and how they knew it,” Raymond said. “But what we do know is this: Department of Defense personnel, namely the Special Forces teams on the ground … were operating with Northern Alliance forces at the time of the massacre.”

A Pentagon spokesman said only that the “DoD will review the ruling and take the appropriate action.”

The events underlying the lawsuit allegedly occurred in the months following the post-9/11 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the ouster of the ruling Taliban.

According to media reports, several thousand Taliban fighters surrendered to the Northern Alliance, an anti-Taliban coalition in Afghanistan, after a battle in Konduz. The defeated Taliban were then transported, in sealed cargo containers, 200 miles to a Northern Alliance prison in the city of Sheberghan, according to Bennett’s memorandum opinion.

During the journey, approximately 1,000 of the prisoners died of asphyxiation and were allegedly buried in a mass grave in nearby Dasht-e-Leili, according to the opinion. Raymond said he has seen State Department documents that have “a redacted three-letter intelligence agency” reporting an even higher body count.

Investigators from the Physicians for Human Rights, a Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit composed of health care professionals devoted to investigating alleged human rights violations, learned of the gravesite in January 2002 from Taliban prisoners at Sheberghan, according to a lengthy report in Newsweek magazine in August of that year.

Since then, the PHR has had only limited success in learning about the official American government investigation. It sued in February 2008 after the defendant agencies did not respond adequately to its June 2006 FOIA request. DOD, the State Department and the CIA have since provided approximately 60 documents to the PHR, some of which were heavily redacted.

In his 34-page opinion, Judge Bennett examined each defendant agency’s search procedures and explanations for what was not disclosed as laid out in their representatives’ affidavits. Most were “sufficiently detailed” or “not unreasonable under the circumstances,” he found, but with respect to the temporal scope of the search, the defendants interpreted PHR’s request “far too narrowly.”

“While the underlying events occurred in November and December of 2001, PHR have clearly requested all records ‘pertaining to’ or ‘relating to’ the underlying events, including any subsequent investigations,” Bennett wrote.

And in ordering the Defense Intelligence Agency to submit unredacted documents, Bennett found that division’s explanations for why their documents were exempt from disclosure “clearly deficient.”

CENTCOM must conduct its new search — from Nov. 1, 2001 to present, rather than just November and December of 2001 — then produce all responsive and non-protected information and renew its motion for summary judgment by April.

The Joint Staff must submit its September 2002 U.S. Space Command Situation Report and the DIA must, by February, submit two intelligence reports it claims contain code words and names of international organizations with which the DIA shared intelligence in one instance and geocoordinates and an evaluation of a classified source in the other.


Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Interview on DEMOCRACY NOW!


DEMOCRACY NOW! is "A daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on nearly 800 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the U.S."
Following the posting of my blog comment on the renewed interest (Obama's) around the war crimes/mass grave that I investigated in Afghanistan in 2002, today I did a live interview on the issue for the New York-based TV/radio channel DemocracyNow!
After the first couple of shaky seconds, I got my act together (I thought I was there to talk about war crimes only, not Gen. Dostum's return from Turkey!). The whole Afghanistan segment lasts almost half-hour in total, and I'm roughly in the middle, after footage of the mass grave, Obama interview, etc.

Here's the video, after the DEMOCRACY NOW! intro:

Eight Years After Orchestrating Massacre at Dasht-e-Leili, Afghan Warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum Returns to Afghanistan to Campaign for Karzai

Dostum-web One of Afghanistan’s most feared warlords has returned to Afghanistan just days before its presidential election. General Abdul Rashid Dostum is one of several warlords who have allied with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is seeking a new term. Karzai is hoping Dostum’s return will help attract ethnic Uzbek voters. Dostum’s return to prominence in Afghanistan comes despite his role overseeing a 2001 massacre at Dasht-e-Leili that left at least 2,000 Taliban POWs dead. He’s also had extensive ties with the US and was formerly on the CIA payroll. We speak with international human rights lawyer, Andrew McEntee.



[if you have problems viewing the video, other viewing options are available here ]
TRANSCRIPT of the VIDEO (optional!)

"SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: One of Afghanistan’s most feared warlords has returned to Afghanistan just days before its presidential election. General Abdul Rashid Dostum is one of several warlords who have allied with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is seeking a new term. Karzai is hoping Dostum’s return will help attract ethnic Uzbek voters.
On Monday, Dostum addressed a rally in the northern Afghan city of Sheberghan. His message of support for Karzai also contained a warning to his opponents.
    GEN. ABDUL RASHID DOSTUM: [translated] We are hopeful. We are determined. Playing with General Dostum is playing with a million human beings. Playing with General Dostum is playing with a storm. Playing with General Dostum will be tough and will create anger. God willing, we will establish a party in Afghanistan which will be bigger and stronger within six years, and this party will be able to respond to your demands. And this is what you and your martyrs deserve.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Dostum’s return to prominence in Afghanistan comes despite his role overseeing a 2001 massacre at Dasht-e-Leili that left at least 2,000 Taliban POWs dead. He’s also had extensive ties with the US and was formerly on the CIA payroll.
Last month, New York Times reporter James Risen revealed the Bush administration blocked at least three federal investigations into the alleged war crimes committed by Dostum. Risen spoke about his findings on Democracy Now!
    JAMES RISEN: The evidence was overwhelming that something had happened and that it was the responsibility of the Bush administration to look into this or at least to push for an international investigation, because Dostum had been on the CIA payroll, was part of a US-backed alliance that was taking over Afghanistan. And what I found was, time after time, in different agencies and as far—and in the White House, Bush administration officials repeatedly ignored evidence or just decided or discouraged efforts to open investigations into the massacre.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: After the new findings came to light, CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked President Obama about opening a new investigation into the Bush administration’s alleged cover-up.
    ANDERSON COOPER: Some were suffocated in a steel container. Others were shot, possibly buried in mass graves. Would you support—would you call for an investigation into possible war crimes in Afghanistan?
    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, the indications that this had not been properly investigated just recently was brought to my attention, so what I’ve asked my national security team to do is to collect the facts for me that are known, and we’ll probably make a decision in terms of how to approach it once we have all the facts gathered up.
    ANDERSON COOPER: But you wouldn’t resist categorically an investigation?
    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think that, you know, there are responsibilities that all nations have, even in war. And if it appears that our conduct in some way supported violations of the laws of war, then I think that we have to know about that.

AMY GOODMAN: On Monday, the State Department said the Obama administration continues to gather evidence on Dostum’s alleged role in the Dasht-e-Leili massacre. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley said the US had expressed, quote, “serious concerns” to the Afghan government about Dostum’s return.
For more on this story, we’re going to London now, where we’re joined by Andrew McEntee. He is an international human rights lawyer who traveled to Afghanistan in the fall of 2002 to investigate the massacre. Andrew is also the former chair of Amnesty International UK.
Andy, welcome to Democracy Now! The significance of Dostum’s return on the eve of the Afghanistan elections to support President Karzai in his bid to be reelected?
ANDREW McENTEE: Well, I think that the significance is quite clear if you’ve ever been to northern Afghanistan, where General Dostum’s role, I think, this week is to deliver the Uzbek, ethnic Uzbek, votes for President Karzai. It’s as simple as that. And the best way of doing that is to have him back home in Afghanistan.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And you traveled to Afghanistan to investigate this massacre. Describe exactly what happened. These prisoners surrendered. They were transported. Go through the events that took place.
ANDREW McENTEE: Well, I’d like to say first that I was introduced to this issue by the filmmaker and journalist Jamie Doran, who had investigated with his film crew in northern Afghanistan in late 2001 into early 2002. And Jamie approached me in London and asked me to look at his film footage and other evidence he had to make a human rights assessment, some legal assessments, partly about culpability responsibilities, partly to help him fill the gaps in the storyline.
And very quickly after reviewing several hours’ worth of film footage of the grave site at Dasht-e-Leili, of interviews, translated transcripts of the interviews, as well, of people who had been there, people who had driven the transport, people who had actually claimed that they had killed some of the prisoners, very quickly the story held up.
What surprised me, though, was the strand which went through which is in some ways the most contentious strand, which is that there was some involvement or at least some responsibility for many of the deaths on the part of US Special Forces who were on the ground at the time, as well. And I think that when you look at the story, the story itself is big enough. More than 2,000 people in a mass grave under one incident that took place—well, it took place over a number of days, but it was one continuing incident—that is big enough in itself for any war, any series of war crimes in any country in any decade. The problem with this issue, though, has been precisely the fact that US Special Forces were on the ground and that they had command responsibility. They had command over many of the guys, the Afghan soldiers, who began the killing.
And the problem continues to be—and I full understand the problem that defense departments have and the White House has had over the years. The problem continues to be that over the days when the bodies were rolling out of these trucks in Sheberghan prison, US Special Forces could have stopped it. And the big question for me has always been, why did they not stop it? They had control over the actions of the Afghan soldiers. They were the top of the command structure, and yet they continued to let it happen. And in particular—
AMY GOODMAN: Were they there?
ANDREW McENTEE: Well, at first they denied they were there. And that was interesting, because I had seen photographs showing they were there, and there was other evidence they were there. So the storyline changed and said, well, yeah, they were there, but they weren’t there when the trucks rolled through the gates, and they weren’t there when the bodies spilled out of the backs of the trucks, and they certainly weren’t there when the bodies were being tipped into pits on the edge of the desert. And bit by bit, the evidence seems to show that in fact they were there, they did know, they must have known.
One of the keys to this is that the reason that the two, three thousand men who died were being taken from Kalai Zeini to Sheberghan prison before being sent home, because the war had finished, the fighting had finished, the reason they were being taken was that US Special Forces interrogators were still looking for al-Qaeda operatives, and they feared that some of the operatives were hiding amongst these guys. So their idea was to identify them, to take them to wherever, which ultimately would have been Guantanamo in some cases, because they were an intelligence asset. And the US special interrogators must have known in the first day, at the prison where they were stationed, that hundreds of bodies were spilling out of metal containers, dead through suffocation.
Why they didn’t then stop that in the subsequent days, when these container trucks were rolling back down to where they began to pick up another batch of prisoners and rolling back, and more were spilling out—why didn’t stop it? That, to me, is the big question. Negligence, for sure, but criminal negligence.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And finally, General Dostum himself, his role in this massacre—these were his forces—and also his connection to the United States?
ANDREW McENTEE: Yeah, well, this is where it gets a much more—a broader picture shows you the realities on the ground at the time. The whole area of Mazari Sharif and Sheberghan and so on were the vital strategic assets for the military forces on each side, so it was imperative for the allies, United States and their allies, to come in and control the area. And it was very clear from the recent history of Afghanistan that the only way you could do that is if you had General Dostum on your side.
Now, General Dostum is a character who—he flips from one side to the other. His allegiance goes depending on whether he will win if he flips his allegiance or whether he’s going to get paid more. So he was paid buckets full of dollars over a long period of time, and he was an ally. And he effectively won the war in the north and gained control of the north—Mazari Sharif, Sheberghan—for the US and their allies. And that was the importance of Dostum. And because of that military importance, everything else was overlooked.
The problem in the years since then, of course, has been that Dostum is a very contentious fellow. And I think it’s worth explaining to people that when you refer to people like Dostum as warlords, you’re not talking about a gang leader, you know, someone who lives out of a small hut and controls a village; you’re talking about someone who effectively controls a military operation, which controls a major part of the state territory. He has guns. He has armored vehicles. He has light aircraft. He has everything.
And he continues, even now, to be an important political, but also military, figure in the north of Afghanistan. And that was why it was quite important for him to be out of the country, because on the political side, he is ethnically an Uzbek. Uzbekistan borders to the north of Afghanistan. And his role for President Karzai clearly was to deliver Uzbek voters for Karzai. And the reason being that—I mean, although personally I think Karzai is going to come out in the first round of the election with the highest number of votes, what President Karzai clearly needs for his credibility is to win the presidency in the first round, which requires 50 percent of the votes cast plus one. Otherwise, it goes to a second round. And that’s why I think Dostum is back. Dostum’s job is to deliver as many votes of—from the Uzbek ethnic community in Afghanistan as possible to help Karzai reached the 50 percent plus one target.
AMY GOODMAN: Andrew McEntee, we want to thank you very much for being with us, formerly head of Amnesty International in the UK.
As we turn now to an excerpt of the documentary you referred to, Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death by the award-winning Irish filmmaker Jamie Doran, who traveled to the site of the massacres and the mass graves in 2002 in Afghanistan. The witnesses who testified in the film are unidentified and have their faces obscured. Two of them have since died. This excerpt begins with a description of how the prisoners were transported in containers.
    JAMIE DORAN: Originally loaded onto trucks at Kunduz, many of these men were crammed two to three hundred at a time into the backs of sealed containers. After around twenty minutes, the prisoners began crying out for air.
    EYEWITNESS: [translated] The weather was very hot. They put too many people inside the containers. Many died because there was no air.
    INTERVIEWER: [translated] How many containers were at Kalai Zeini when you left?
    EYEWITNESS: [translated] There were about twenty-five containers. The condition of them was very bad, because the prisoners couldn’t breathe, so they shot into the containers, and some of them were killed.
    TRUCK DRIVER: [translated] They told us to stop the trucks, and we came down. After that, they shot into the containers. Blood came pouring out of the containers. They were screaming inside.
    JAMIE DORAN: One Afghan soldier admits that he personally murdered prisoners.
    AFGHAN SOLDIER: [translated] I hit the containers with bullets to make holes for ventilation, and some of them were killed.
    JAMIE DORAN: You specifically shot holes into the containers. Who gave you those orders?
    AFGHAN SOLDIER: [translated] My commanders ordered me to hit the containers to make holes for ventilation, and because of that, some prisoners died.
    JAMIE DORAN: But this was no humanitarian gesture. Rather than shooting into the roofs of the containers, the soldiers fired at random, killing those nearest the walls. A local taxi driver had called in at a petrol station on the road to Sheberghan.
    TAXI DRIVER: [translated] I smelled something strange and asked the attendant where the smell was coming from. He said, “Look behind you.” There were three trucks with containers fixed on them. Blood was running from the containers.
AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death by the award-winning Irish filmmaker Jamie Doran, who traveled to the massacre sites. The notorious warlord Dostum has been invited back to Afghanistan on this eve of the election by the incumbent President Hamid Karzai to win—to help him win reelection. "

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