The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

Posts Tagged ‘torture

Pakistan Army accused of extrajudicial killings in Swat. Again.

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This video, which has been doing the rounds on the internet for over a week, allegedly depicts the Pakistani Army engaging in an extrajudicial execution of six unidentified men, purportedly in the Swat region. It was reported on blogs and Twitter, but the mainstream media was slow to pick it up, and most interestingly, so was Human Rights Watch.

Since then, it has been picked up by several agencies, and while it was also briefly linked to the Indian Army in Kashmir, most of the discussion seems in favour of declaring it the real Pakistani deal.

The New York Times report:

But American officials, who did not want to be identified because of the explosive nature of the video, said it appeared to be credible, as did retired American military officers and intelligence analysts who have viewed it.

After viewing the graphic video on Wednesday, an administration official said: “There are things you can fake, and things you can’t fake. You can’t fake this.”

Al Jazeera English has a better report that delves deeper into the video and its authenticity:

An organisation called the International Pashtuns’ Association posted the video on Facebook and says that the incident took place during the military’s crackdown on the Pakistani Taliban in the Swat valley the summer of 2009.

The uniforms and rifles appear to be consistent with Pakistan’s standard military equipment, and a former Pakistani general told Al Jazeera that while the video could not be verified, the images should be taken seriously.

“We have to take it at face value at the moment, and take it seriously,” said Talat Masood. “My view is that the CIA and ISI are in a much better position to authenticate this.”

“It looks as though they are Pakistani troops, but there are several other aspects that need to be re-checked  before we can say that it is authentic.”

Human rights groups say the video fits in with “credible allegations” they have received about the conduct of Pakistani troops. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in June that 282 extra-judicial killings by the army had taken place in the Swat region in the past year.

The AJE report also includes responses from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who also say that the video is consistent with numerous reports in the past of the Pakistani Army engaging in such executions. Indeed, both HRW and the NYT have reported it in the past.

The Pakistani Army has, predictably, denied reports and declared the video fake.

The real question is over what fallout this will cause.

Reuters says that it could threaten US aid to Pakistan and includes a quote from State Department spokesman PJ Crowley: “Human rights and the issue of extra-judicial killings has been a part of our ongoing conversation … with Pakistan.” I’d say that quote pretty much sums up the US response, an “ongoing conversation” is vague enough to indicate some sort of action, but nothing concrete or real.

Scarecrow at Fire Dog Lake sums up the inconsistency in relation to drone attacks:

But then one must ask whether there is some moral or legal distinction between what the Pakistan forces are alleged to be doing, which if true would be an egregious crime and warrant protests from all civilized nations, and what our own military teams are doing when they observe a Pakistani village or group of individuals via drone cameras and then, from targeting rooms that may be located in the US, direct the drones to bomb and kill those individuals. Because I’m having a hard time seeing a meaningful difference.

Indeed, it is difficult to find a meaningful difference. Moreover, there’s the much publicised case of Anwar al-Awlaki, and reportedly three other US citizens, all of which are in line to be assassinated by the US Army. Legal challenges to these assassinations have been blocked by the Obama Administration by invoking the State Secrets doctrine to shield it form judicial review. And, of course, there’s the ongoing protection of those involved in Bush-era torture allegations.

So is the US going to withhold aid from Pakistan or take any real action over these killings? Hell no, there won’t even be a statement of condemnation. Why? Because obviously, the Obama Administration doesn’t care. It will put sanctions on Iranian diplomats for torture, but it’s not going to censure a key strategic ally for the war in Afghanistan. In this case, American exceptionalism must, to some extent, be extended to strategic allies.

So anyone looking for something concrete to come out of this, don’t hold your breath. Instead, just wait for it to blow over, as undoubtedly it will.

Written by alexlobov

October 1, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Obama to Continue Rendition of Terrorist Suspects

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With the release of the CIA Torture Report Counterterrorism, Detention and Interrogation Activities Report on Monday, hot on its heels comes the statement from the Obama Administration that it will continue the Bush-era practice of extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects in third countries for interrogation and detention. The difference will be, apparently, that they intend to closely monitor proceedings to ensure suspects are not tortured. I am confused.

Ms. Singh [Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, who tracked rendition cases under President George W. Bush] cited the case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian sent in 2002 by the United States to Syria, where he was beaten with electrical cable despite assurances against torture.

The task force has proposed a more vigorous monitoring of the treatment of prisoners sent to other countries, but Ms. Singh said the usual method of such monitoring — visits from American or allied consular officials — had been ineffective. A Canadian consular official visited Mr. Arar several times, but the prisoner was too frightened to tell him about the torture, a Canadian investigation found. [NYT]

A step forward on interrogation techniques has also been announced, with the formation of a new multi-agency unit that will be operating as part of the FBI:

he new unit, to be called the High Value Interrogation Group, will be made up of analysts, linguists and other personnel from the C.I.A. and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies. It will operate under policies set by the National Security Council.

The officials said all interrogations would comply with guidelines contained in the Army Field Manual, which outlaws the use of physical force. The group will study interrogation methods, however, and may add additional noncoercive methods in the future, the officials said. [NYT]

While I welcome a more sophisticated and humane approach to interrogation from the US, and it sounds like it will be a vast improvement over Bush-era interrogation techniques, the announcement that rendition will continue is disappointing and confusing. Surely Obama knows that monitoring rendition in third countries can’t possibly succeed, especially not in a comprehensive way. Even if one person is tortured, that’s one person too many. It is disappointing because Obama is compromising on certain things that I don’t believe he should be compromising on. It’s understandable that, as a politician, he will need to compromise on some things, but allowing torture at the hands of famed and proven torturers should not be one.

Written by alexlobov

August 26, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Posted in US

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First Reaction: CIA torture report

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cia04report 1

The 2004 CIA internal report which released over the weekend is a disturbing read to say the least. I can’t think of a word that would be the other extreme of ‘disturbing’, because the implications of this report (on the minds of those who are even slightly convinced that criminal activities are justified) will wreak havoc.  The report is not an easy read, and I’m sure as have many others, I have been left nauseated. Despite the plethora of blacked out pages which make you feel like you’re reading an extreme version of ‘Fill in the Blanks’  the descriptions of water boarding, definitions of pain, accounts of mock executions and the variety of techniques employed by the CIA to interrogate and torture detainees is just one of the many legacies left behind of the Bush/Cheney era.

If you’re not planning to read the report in its 159 page entirety, the Guardian has a summary of the techniques here. This is not for the faint hearted – and the investigation that the Justice Department will carry out into the torture practices will not be easy to stomach either.

Written by Saba Imtiaz

August 26, 2009 at 4:03 am

Posted in US

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