Press TV issues statement on anchor’s detention in US #FreeMarziehHashemi

Press TV Issues Statement on Anchor’s Detention in US

Iranian English-language television news network Press TV has released a statement with regard to the detention and imprisonment of its anchorwoman Marzieh Hashemi in the United States.The statement is as follows:

PressTV would like to hereby express its strong protest at the recent apprehension and violent treatment of Ms. Marzieh Hashemi, born Melanie Franklin in the United States, who is currently serving as an anchor for the English-language television news network.

A female African-American international journalist, a mother and a grandmother, Ms. Hashemi has traveled to the United States to visit her family members, including her brother, who is suffering from cancer. She was, however, arrested at St. Louis Lambert International Airport in St. Louise, Missouri on January 13, 2019 by US police, and transferred by FBI agents to a detention center in Washington, DC.

Ms. Hashemi has told her family in a phone conversation last night that she has been subjected to violent and abusive treatment from the very onset as described below:

Ms. Hashemi is yet to be arraigned or given a reason for her detention and imprisonment. She, herself, is at a loss to know why she should ever face apprehension.

Her family members were kept completely in the dark about her situation for two straight days following the arrest.

Immediately after arrest, she was forced to remove her hijab (the head covering for Muslim women) even though the authorities knew about her being a Muslim. They allowed her only a T-shirt to wear, with her forearms being exposed against Islamic law. She was even photographed in that state.

The authorities running the detention facility have paid no heed to her religious preferences, despite her repeated protests.

She has been forced to use another T-shirt to cover her head so as to remain observant of Islamic values.

She has been denied halal food (food permissible under Islamic law), being offered only pork as meal and not even bread, which she has requested to avoid the meat. Ms. Hashemi has had nothing to eat other than a packet of crackers since her apprehension. The resulting malnutrition, compounded by cold weather conditions, has made her weak and infirm.

Her current feeble health condition necessitates urgent medical attention.

The United States government is accountable for any potential harm or hazard that would affect Ms. Hashemi’s mental or physical condition.

Accordingly, as part of the media community, we expect that all international media outlets set about relaying this affair without delay.

We, further, call for the immediate and unconditional release of Ms. Hashemi, and for the US government to apologize to both the journalist and the international media community for her treatment.

#FreeMarziehHashemi

#Pray4MarziehHashemi

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The Saudi Engine of Repression Continues to Run at Full Speed

 

David Ignatius

One hundred days after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is pressing ahead with anti-dissident campaigns and remains in regular contact with Saud al-Qahtani, the media adviser whom the CIA believes helped organize Khashoggi’s killing, according to US and Saudi sources.

The Saudi crown prince, far from altering his impulsive behavior or signaling that he has learned lessons from the Khashoggi affair, as the Trump administration had hoped, appears instead to be continuing with his autocratic governing style and a ruthless campaign against dissenters, the US and Saudi sources said this week.

“Domestically, he feels very confident and in control. As long as his base is secure, he feels that nothing can harm him,” says one American who met recently with MBS, as the crown prince is known. One of Britain’s most experienced Saudi-watchers agreed: “He’s completely un-chastened by what has happened. That is worrying for Western governments.”

MBS has been contacting Qahtani and continuing to seek his advice, according to the US and Saudi sources. A Saudi source said Qahtani had also met recently at his Riyadh home with his senior deputies from the royal court’s Center for Studies and Media Affairs, the cyber-command post he ran until shortly after Khashoggi’s death. “I’m being blamed and used as a scapegoat,” Qahtani is said to have told his former aides.

“Qahtani holds a lot of files and dossiers,” says the American who met recently with MBS. “The idea that you can have a radical rupture with him is unrealistic.” A Saudi who is close to the royal court agrees: “There’s stuff [Qahtani] was working on that he may have to finish, or hand over,” he said.

One indication that MBS hasn’t altered his Qahtani-style Internet bullying tactics is an aggressive social media campaign launched this week to attack Khashoggi and Omar Abdulaziz, a dissident living in Canada.

An Arabic hashtag on Twitter surfaced Thursday claiming to offer “Fact” about the two men’s alleged involvement in anti-Saudi conspiracies funded by Qatar. One English-language post showed pictures of the two men with the caption “Jamal and Omar: Qatar’s Agents.”

Also appearing on Twitter was a slick video titled “Qatar System Exposed,” apparently produced by a company with the same name as a Dubai-based studio. The video includes English subtitles alleging that Khashoggi was involved in a plot to “create a new destabilizing Arab Spring to unsettle Arab countries, mainly, Saudi Arabia.”

Another new video argues that The Post shouldn’t have given Khashoggi a platform as a columnist when he was also receiving editing advice on his columns from the head of the Qatar Foundation International, a Qatar-funded group based in Washington.

Ironically, the main evidence offered to support these charges of Khashoggi’s links to Qatar is a Dec. 22 article in The Post by Souad Mekhennet and Greg Miller. The Qatar Foundation link was hardly a secret; I mentioned it in a long column about Khashoggi that appeared on Oct. 12, 10 days after he disappeared in Istanbul.

Even MBS’s strongest supporters in the United States appear concerned by the new social media campaign. Ali Shihabi, the head of the Saudi-backed Arabia Foundation, commented in an email to me Thursday:

“I have no idea who is behind this new campaign, but it certainly does not seem wise.” He argued that despite a “concerted campaign funded by Qatar and others . . . the kingdom’s media organs had so far exercised great self-control since the Jamal tragedy, and I would hope that continues.”

The videos and Web postings in the new campaign all have the professional feel of modern media studios in Dubai. According to a Saudi source, Qahtani recently made two trips to the United Arab Emirates, even though he is supposedly under house arrest in Riyadh. The trips couldn’t be confirmed independently.

The Treasury Department said Nov. 15 in imposing sanctions on Qahtani that he “was part of the planning and execution of the operation” that led to Khashoggi’s death.

The American who recently visited MBS said he cautioned him that top US military and intelligence officials were weighing whether the crown prince was a dictator, like Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, nominally committed to modernization but unreliable, or a solid ally of the United States. “As long as you keep Qahtani, people will say you’re more like Saddam,” this visitor warned.

Senior Saudi officials who have discussed MBS’s continuing contact with Qahtani have urged US patience. “If I try to ban him, [Qahtani] will find another channel,” a senior prince is said to have advised the administration. Meanwhile, the Saudi engine of repression continues to run at full speed.

Source: WP, Edited by website team

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The U.S. Has Always Backed Dictators. Trump’s Support for MBS is no Different

In his steadfast support for MBS, Trump is following a long tradition of US support for Arab autocrats, which in turn is used as the reason for violent terrorist organisations to target the US

By Madawi Al-Rasheed

December 14, 2018 “Information Clearing House” –   Last week, US President Donald Trump announced that the close US-Saudi partnership will continue, even after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and a CIA report that pointed the finger at Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) as the one who ordered the killing.

A longstanding US tradition

The president’s statement cited a combination of geostrategic and economic reasons to justify continuing his close alliance with a regime that had practised utter brutality at home and abroad. Trump highlighted the lucrative financial dividends of this partnership to the US economy, based on MBS’s promise of $450bn investment, including $100bn-plus of arms purchases.

The president also asserted that Saudi Arabia was central to containing Iran’s expansion in the Middle East and achieving peace with Israel.

Despite its shockingly frank nature, the president’s statement does not represent a major departure from previous US foreign policy but rather maintains a longstanding principle of supporting Arab dictators for specific strategic and economic reasons. What is different from previous US presidents is Trump’s uncomfortably explicit calculus.

No previous US president has flagged hard cash as the rationale for maintaining close ties with and even support for the Saudi leadership.

But rhetoric aside, Trump is remaining faithful to a longstanding tradition of US foreign policy that privileges economic and strategic interests over moral and ethical issues, sometimes referred to as realpolitik.

In the past, the US has occasionally expressed concern over severe human rights violations by their proteges but few would seriously expect President Trump to be troubled by the crimes of the Saudi regime.

Even if he admits that no one should condone such a murder, he was apparently comfortable endorsing the far-from-credible Saudi explanation for what happened at the consulate. He even provided a possible exit strategy for the Saudis when he said that the murder could be the work of“rogue killers”, thus providing a potential out for MBS, the de facto head of state and the security apparatus in Saudi Arabia.

Empowering dictators

Trump’s latest statement, that business as usual with Saudi Arabia is to be maintained, even if MBS “may or may not” have ordered the murder of Khashoggi, is certainly shocking for some American audiences. But for Arabs in general and Saudis in particular, the statement was expected, to say the least.

It confirmed their strong belief that the US prefers to work with autocrats than encourage them to democratise or at least restrain themselves from suffocating their people with draconian measures ranging from detention to murder.

US support for Arab dictators has been asserted as the casus belli by the most violent terrorist organisations to target the US. Osama bin Laden’s justification for hitting the “far enemy”, namely the US that supports the Saudi regime only echoed previous slogans of Arab nationalists, socialists and pro-democracy forces that blamed the US for the excesses of their regimes.

In their logic, US support empowers dictators not only through the transfer of the technology of death, surveillance and torture, but also morally and globally.

Even Trump himself admitted that without US support, the Saudi regime will collapse in two weeks. Former US intelligence officer Bruce Riedel confirmed that without US and UK support, the Saudis will not be able to continue the war in Yemen.

The likes of Bin Laden strongly believed this narrative long before it was uttered by the US president. Consequently, his network diverted its struggle against the near enemy to the far one and precipitated a global terrorist crisis that keeps resurfacing under different names. The Islamic State group (IS) was the most recent incarnation of this phenomenon but may not be the last.

Many Americans understandably feel uncomfortable with the president’s blunt words as they cling to a myth that American foreign policy should reflect American values, especially when a high-profile murder by a close partner is concerned.

However, like so-called ‘American exceptionalism’, American values, in the form of respect of civil, political and human rights, have not been an obvious principle guiding American foreign policy in the Arab world.

Also, such values are being eroded and undermined in the US itself under the ultra-nationalist and populist rhetoric of the current president.

The wrath of the people

Previous US presidents may not have liked Arab dictators but nonetheless lent them support, often in the form of military sales and assistance. The list is long.

Many Arab autocrats had the full support of previous American administrations despite the fact that domestically they violated their own peoples’ rights, including Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Zine Abedine Ben Ali of Tunisia, King Hamad bin Al-Khalifa of Bahrain, and at one moment Muammar Qaddafi of Libya came close to being an ally just before he faced an uprising in 2011

Until his fall in 1979, the US granted the Shah of Iran its ultimate support by making him the “policeman of the Gulf” to ward off and contain the spread of communism and nationalism at the time. His dramatic fall at the hands of his own people was shocking for both the US and its Western allies.

The message to the US at the time could not have been clearer: no amount of US support can protect a dictator from the wrath of his own people when the right moment comes. In fact, the US could not even protect its own Tehran Embassy where over 50 diplomats were held hostage for 444 days, an incident that four decades later still shapes and haunts US thinking about Iran.

Yet unconditional US support had always been the privilege of Saudi monarchs. The love affair with Saudi kings is based on expediency and interest rather than passionate conviction. US support was neither shaken nor reconsidered, at least in public, even after 15 Saudi hijackers attacked the Twin Towers in New York on 9/11

The US administration at the time meandered and left it to the US media and civil society to pressure the Saudi regime to change its policy of spreading lethal religious interpretations that had inspired a whole generation of Muslims across the globe and justified terrorism.

It is a cruel irony for the victims of this attack that Trump now considers the Saudi regime an indispensable partner against terrorism.

The face of Saudi Arabia

Even if Americans are not entirely comfortable with their government’s foreign policy of complete neglect for human rights and even direct support for MBS, despite his latest murderous adventure abroad, this is as nothing compared with Saudis living under the reality of one-man rule.

As MBS became the sole face of Saudi Arabia, in control of economic, military, security and social dimensions of government, he has exhibited complete disrespect for the basic semblance of tolerance towards critics, dissidents and activists.

Saudi Arabia has hardly been a safe haven for dissent but the magnitude of MBS’s ambition to reach the top of the royal hierarchy has turned Saudi Arabia into a murderous nightmare for anyone associated with dissent.

Under his orders, potential rival princes were detained, and a nascent feminist movement was stifled and its remaining advocates imprisoned and tortured according to a recent Amnesty report. Intellectuals and religious clerics were also imprisoned.

Prisoners of Conscie@m3takl_en

SEVERE TORTURE in the prison has caused lately the death of:
Shiekh Suleiman al-Dweesh
Journalist Turki al-Jasser
We warn of a possible deterioration and a possible death of one of the female activists who were tortured and sexually harassed !

97 people are talking about this
Vague charges such as communicating with foreign agents, treason, and undermining the image of the state are mentioned as justification for detention. These charges are more reminiscent of Stalin’s terror than a benevolent monarchy that Saudi propaganda would have us believe it is.

Almost all detained Saudi intellectuals are charged with treason and of being agents of foreign governments. From Salman al-Odah to economist Essam al-Zamil and feminist Lujain al-Huthloul, the word treason looms large and may lead to the death penalty. In fact, the Saudi public prosecutor called for such punishment to be inflicted on those detainees. The infamous office of the public prosecutor is also in charge of the investigation of Khashoggi’s murder.

Seeds of terror

Being “an enemy of the state” – to use Trump’s reiteration of what Saudi officials had told him about Khashoggi – is now a common crime investigated by appointed judges who enjoy no independence whatsoever. Trump seems comfortable with such a statement. Perhaps “enemy of the state” reflects or mirrors his own thinking about anybody who criticises a president, a king or a crown prince.

Saudis know very well that US support for MBS will not waiver as they are fed on propaganda that money buys everything – from mighty fighter jets used against their poorest Yemeni neighbours, to the US president’s silence over one of the most horrific crimes committed against a journalist.

Trump will cling to MBS even if the latter becomes more burdensome. If there is a chance for so-called “American values” to become relevant to foreign policy, it is the US Congress that will have to push for a reconsideration of the age-old US support for dictators. This should spring not out of concern for the safety and security of the Saudi people, but for their own American national security.

Congress must know that under the dark and repressive cloak of MBS, the flamboyant and illusory economic plans, and the veneer of social liberalisation, the seeds of terror are sown. In the past this terror has spilled over and reached the US itself. For the present, there is little to assure the American public that it won’t happen again.

– Professor Madawi al-Rasheed is a visiting professor at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics. She has written extensively about the Arabian Peninsula, Arab migration, globalisation, religious transnationalism and gender. On Twitter: @MadawiDr

This article was originally published by Middle East Eye” 

The Bushes’ ‘Death Squads’

The Bushes’ ‘Death Squads’

George H.W. Bush was laid to rest on Wednesday but some of his murderous policies lived on through his son’s administration and until this day, as Robert Parry reported on January 11, 2005.

How George W. Bush Learned From His Father

By Robert Parry
Special to Consortium News

By refusing to admit personal misjudgments on Iraq, George W. Bush instead is pushing the United States toward becoming what might be called a permanent “counter-terrorist” state, which uses torture, cross-border death squads and even collective punishments to defeat perceived enemies in Iraq and around the world.

Since securing a second term, Bush has pressed ahead with this hard-line strategy, in part by removing dissidents inside his administration while retaining or promoting his protégés. Bush also has started prepping his younger brother Jeb as a possible successor in 2008, which could help extend George W.’s war policies while keeping any damaging secrets under the Bush family’s control.

As a centerpiece of this tougher strategy to pacify Iraq, Bush is contemplating the adoption of the brutal practices that were used to suppress leftist peasant uprisings in Central America in the 1980s. The Pentagon is “intensively debating” a new policy for Iraq called the “Salvador option,” Newsweek magazine reported on Jan. 9.

The strategy is named after the Reagan-Bush administration’s “still-secret strategy” of supporting El Salvador’s right-wing security forces, which operated clandestine “death squads” to eliminate both leftist guerrillas and their civilian sympathizers, Newsweek reported. “Many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success – despite the deaths of innocent civilians,” Newsweek wrote.

Central America Veterans

The magazine also noted that a number of Bush administration officials were leading figures in the Central American operations of the 1980s, such as John Negroponte, who was then U.S. Ambassador to Honduras and is now U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

Other current officials who played key roles in Central America include Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Central American policies at the State Department and who is now a Middle East adviser on Bush’s National Security Council staff, and Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a powerful defender of the Central American policies while a member of the House of Representatives.

The insurgencies in El Salvador and Guatemala were crushed through the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians. In Guatemala, about 200,000 people perished, including what a truth commission later termed a genocide against Mayan Indians in the Guatemalan highlands. In El Salvador, about 70,000 died including massacres of whole villages, such as the slaughter carried out by a U.S.-trained battalion against hundreds of men, women and children in and around the town of El Mozote in 1981.

El Mozote massacre. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Reagan-Bush strategy also had a domestic component, the so-called “perception management” operation that employed sophisticated propaganda to manipulate the fears of the American people while hiding the ugly reality of the wars. The Reagan-Bush administration justified its actions in Central America by portraying the popular uprisings as an attempt by the Soviet Union to establish a beachhead in the Americas to threaten the U.S. southern border.

[For details about how these strategies worked and the role of George H.W. Bush, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.]

More Pain

By employing the “Salvador option” in Iraq, the U.S. military would crank up the pain, especially in Sunni Muslim areas where resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq has been strongest. In effect, Bush would assign other Iraqi ethnic groups the job of leading the “death squad” campaign against the Sunnis.

“One Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Perhmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with discussions,” Newsweek reported.

Newsweek quoted one military source as saying, “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving the terrorists. … From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.”

Citing the Central American experiences of many Bush administration officials, we wrote in November 2003 – more than a year ago – that many of these Reagan-Bush veterans were drawing lessons from the 1980s in trying to cope with the Iraqi insurgency. We pointed out, however, that the conditions were not parallel. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Iraq: Quicksand & Blood.”]

In Central America, powerful oligarchies had long surrounded themselves with ruthless security forces and armies. So, when uprisings swept across the region in the early 1980s, the Reagan-Bush administration had ready-made – though unsavory – allies who could do the dirty work with financial and technological help from Washington.

Iraqi Dynamic

A different dynamic exists in Iraq, because the Bush administration chose to disband rather than co-opt the Iraqi army. That left U.S. forces with few reliable local allies and put the onus for carrying out counterinsurgency operations on American soldiers who were unfamiliar with the land, the culture and the language.

Those problems, in turn, contributed to a series of counterproductive tactics, including the heavy-handed round-ups of Iraqi suspects, the torturing of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and the killing of innocent civilians by jittery U.S. troops fearful of suicide bombings.

The war in Iraq also has undermined U.S. standing elsewhere in the Middle East and around the world. Images of U.S. soldiers sexually abusing Iraqi prisoners, putting bags over the heads of captives and shooting a wounded insurgent have blackened America’s image everywhere and made cooperation with the United States increasingly difficult even in countries long considered American allies.

Beyond the troubling images, more and more documents have surfaced indicating that the Bush administration had adopted limited forms of torture as routine policy, both in Iraq and the broader War on Terror. Last August, an FBI counterterrorism official criticized abusive practices at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more,” the official wrote. “When I asked the M.P.’s what was going on, I was told that interrogators from the day prior had ordered this treatment, and the detainee was not to be moved. On another occasion … the detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night.”

Despite official insistence that torture is not U.S. policy, the blame for these medieval tactics continues to climb the chain of command toward the Oval Office. It appears to have been Bush’s decision after the Sept. 11 attacks to “take the gloves off,” a reaction understandable at the time but which now appears to have hurt, more than helped.

TV World

 

George W Bush as an infant with father George HW Bush at Yale University. (George Bush Presidential Library)

Many Americans have fantasized about how they would enjoy watching Osama bin Laden tortured to death for his admitted role in the Sept. 11 attacks. There is also a tough-guy fondness for torture as shown in action entertainment – like Fox Network’s “24” – where torture is a common-sense shortcut to get results.

But the larger danger arises when the exceptional case becomes the routine, when it’s no longer the clearly guilty al-Qaeda mass murderer, but it is now the distraught Iraqi father trying to avenge the death of his child killed by American bombs.

Rather than the dramatic scenes on TV, the reality is usually more like that desperate creature in Guantanamo lying in his own waste and pulling out his hair. The situation can get even worse when torture takes on the industrial quality of government policy, with subjects processed through the gulags or the concentration camps.

That also is why the United States and other civilized countries have long banned torture and prohibited the intentional killing of civilians. The goal of international law has been to set standards that couldn’t be violated even in extreme situations or in the passions of the moment.

Yet, Bush – with his limited world experience – was easily sold on the notion of U.S. “exceptionalism” where America’s innate goodness frees it from the legal constraints that apply to lesser countries.

Bush also came to believe in the wisdom of his “gut” judgments. After his widely praised ouster of Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001, Bush set his sights on invading Iraq. Like a hot gambler in Las Vegas doubling his bets, Bush’s instincts were on a roll.

Now, however, as the Iraqi insurgency continues to grow and inflict more casualties on both U.S. troops and Iraqis who have thrown in their lot with the Americans, Bush finds himself facing a narrowing list of very tough choices.

Bush could acknowledge his mistakes and seek international help in extricating U.S. forces from Iraq. But Bush abhors admitting errors, even small ones. Plus, Bush’s belligerent tone hasn’t created much incentive for other countries to bail him out.

Instead Bush appears to be upping the ante by contemplating cross-border raids into countries neighboring Iraq. He also would be potentially expanding the war by having Iraqi Kurds and Shiites kill Sunnis, a prescription for civil war or genocide.

Pinochet Option

There’s a personal risk, too, for Bush if he picks the “Salvador option.” He could become an American version of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet or Guatemala’s Efrain Rios Montt, leaders who turned loose their security forces to commit assassinations, “disappear” opponents and torture captives.

Like the policy that George W. Bush is now considering, Pinochet even sponsored his own international “death squad” – known as Operation Condor – that hunted down political opponents around the world. One of those attacks in September 1976 blew up a car carrying Chilean dissident Orlando Letelier as he drove through Washington D.C. with two American associates. Letelier and co-worker Ronni Moffitt were killed.

With the help of American friends in high places, the two former dictators have fended off prison until now. However, Pinochet and Rios Montt have become pariahs who are facing legal proceedings aimed at finally holding them accountable for their atrocities.

[For more on George H.W. Bush’s protection of Pinochet, see Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

One way for George W. Bush to avert that kind of trouble is to make sure his political allies remain in power even after his second term ends in January 2009. In his case, that might be achievable by promoting his brother Jeb for president in 2008, thus guaranteeing that any incriminating documents stay under wraps.

President George W. Bush’s dispatching Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to inspect the tsunami damage in Asia started political speculation that one of the reasons was to burnish Jeb’s international credentials in a setting where his personal empathy would be on display.

Though Jeb Bush has insisted that he won’t run for president in 2008, the Bush family might find strong reason to encourage Jeb to change his mind, especially if the Iraq War is lingering and George W. has too many file cabinets filled with damaging secrets.

The late investigative reporter Robert Parry, the founding editor of Consortium News, broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. His last book, America’s Stolen Narrative, can be obtained in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

Top court gives israel (apartheid state) even broader powers to use torture

Top court gives Israel even broader powers to use torture

 

Nearly 20 years after it banned torture, Israel’s High Court is finding new ways to justify using physical force in the interrogation of security suspects.

Israeli activists participate in an action protesting the use of torture, 2011. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli activists participate in an action protesting the use of torture, 2011. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel’s High Court of Justice last week ruled that Israeli authorities’ torture of a Hamas suspect was not illegal and that the Shin Bet interrogators do not need to be prosecuted. The ruling also broadened and effectively removed the strict limitations imposed by a landmark decision by the same court nearly two decades ago, which carved out a “ticking bomb” exception to the prohibition on torture.

“The ruling shows that in the eyes of the High Court, physical abuse is a legitimate and perhaps even the preferable way of carrying out an interrogation in cases of national security,” said Itamar Mann, a law lecturer at Haifa University.

Shin Bet agents have for decades used torture, including moderate and severe physical and psychological abuse, to extract information from Palestinian suspects. The methods have ranged from violent shaking, beatings, sleep deprivation, long exposure to loud music, exposure to the elements, restraining suspects in painful positions for long periods, and covering suspects’ heads in foul-smelling sacks.

Israel ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in 1986, but never took the next step of actually outlawing the practice in Israeli law.

In September 1999, however, the High Court unanimously banned the use of physically abusive interrogation tactics. The ruling was widely viewed as a bold prohibition on torture and has been lauded and taught around the world. But in their historic decision, the justices also created a significant loop-hole to the prohibition: in the case of a “ticking bomb,” interrogators could avoid prosecution by invoking a necessity defense.

Twenty years later, it is clear just how much the Shin Bet has stretched that loophole. “The ruling could be seen an attempt to hide what the Shin Bet is actually doing,” added Mann.

Since 2001, when the Justice Ministry appointed a special investigator of torture allegations against the Shin Bet, PCATI and other organizations submitted over 1,100 complaints of torture. Of those, only one resulted in a criminal investigation, and it was not directly related to an interrogation.

The ruling also expanded the situations and circumstances in which the Shin Bet can use torture.

“The decision allows for the forced interrogation of any person who is tied to an armed wing of a terrorist organization, who has information about an attack that could take place at any given time, and is not willing to give up that information,” Mann said. “This is different from a ticking bomb scenario, thus casting a wide net that covers nearly every person who Israel deems an enemy combatant.”

The plaintiff in last week’s case, Fares Tbeish, a Hamas member, had hoped the court would order the Justice Ministry to reverse its decision not to open a criminal investigation into his interrogators, who he says tortured him.

Tbeish, who is being represented by PCATI and was first arrested and put in administrative detention in 2011, says the tactics Shin Bet interrogators used against him included beatings, violent shaking, humiliation, tying him to a chair in painful positions, and repeatedly moving him from one interrogation facility to another. He was later tried in court and sentenced to three years in prison.

Tbeish allegedly admitted that he had received weapons from a high-ranking Hamas member, which he then transferred over to a secret cache, but it was never established whether Tbeish knew if those weapons would be used in an imminent attack.

As a result of the interrogations, Tbeish said he had suffered bruising to his leg and eye, as well as a broken tooth. Efrat Bergman-Sapir, who heads the legal department at the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and argued the case, says that the use of torture was enough to merit opening a criminal investigation against the defendant’s interrogators, and that the lack of a ticking bomb scenario meant they should not be able to invoke a necessity defense.

In addition to asking the court to prosecute the offending Shin Bet interrogator, Tbeish and PCATI also wanted the court to close the loophole that allows for the use of torture in the first place. The very existence of internal Shin Bet guidelines — regarding the proper ways to extract information from suspects as well as how and when to invoke a necessity defense — actually lay the groundwork for using torture

The convention on torture defines the practice as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person.” In their ruling last week, the justices concluded that the tactics employed against Tbeish did not meet that definition, but were “proportionate and reasonable in relation to the danger that arose from the intelligence.”

“The court’s decision may be interpreted as a significant withdrawal from the moral and legal position established in the landmark decision on torture in 1999,” Bergman-Sapir said in a written statement. “Equally troubling is the impossible threshold set by the court against the complainant to prove that he was tortured in the interrogation room and experienced severe pain and suffering.”

The High Court had the opportunity to restate that torture, or any violation of international law, is unlawful, said attorney Bana Shoughry, who headed PCATI’s legal department between 2008 and 2015 and was involved in Tbeish’s case early on. Instead, it expanded the possible exemptions for Shin Bet interrogators who break the law, not just from prosecution, but even from an investigation. “The decision puts an end to the idea that Shin Bet interrogators will be held accountable for their actions.”

The Shin Bet has primarily used torture against Palestinians suspected of involvement in armed resistance or terrorism. “These kinds of rulings make it easier for the Shin Bet to use these practices against additional groups,” Mann concluded. “They have already been used against radical settlers, and will likely continue to permeate other parts of the legal system, beyond what we can imagine.”

israeli (apartheid state) High Court rules to allow, expand use of Torture

Israeli High Court rules to allow, expand use of Torture

By Celine Hagbard | IMEMC | November 29, 2018

In a ruling that directly violates international law and conventions against the use of torture, the Israeli High Court ruled Monday that Israeli intelligence officers were justified in their use of torture against a Palestinian prisoner. The ruling sets a precedent for the future use of torture and the expansion of such techniques used against Palestinians held in Israeli custody.

The case, which involved Palestinian prisoner Fares Tbeish, was brought to the Israeli High Court after lower courts ruled that the torture was justified.

In 2012, the case alleges, Israeli officials from the Shin Bet intelligence agency forced Tbeish into stress positions, inculding arching and tying the body in the “banana” position. They also subjected him to severe physical and mental violence, including beatings.

The ruling was made by a three-justice panel of Yitzhak Amit, David Mintz and Yosef Elron. The three judges ruled that no policy changes needed to be made, and that the current policy and practice regarding torture is sufficient.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, “In interrogating Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories, the Israel Security Agency (ISA, also known by the Hebrew acronyms Shin Bet or Shabak) routinely used methods that constituted ill-treatment and even torture until the late 1990s”.

The group states, “In September 1999, following a series of petitions filed by human rights organizations and by Palestinians interrogated by the ISA, Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) ruled that Israeli law does not empower ISA interrogators to use physical means in interrogation. The justices ruled that the specific methods discussed in the petitions – including painful binding, shaking, placing a sack on a person’s head for prolonged periods of time and sleep deprivation – were unlawful.

“However, they also held that ISA agents who exceed their authority and use ‘physical pressure’ may not necessarily bear criminal responsibility for their actions, if they are later found to have used these methods in a “ticking bomb” case, based on the ‘necessity defense’. Following this ruling, reports of torture and ill-treatment in ISA interrogations did drop. However, ISA agents continued to use interrogation methods that constitute abuse and even torture, relying on the court’s recognition of the “ticking bomb” exception. These methods were not limited to exceptional cases and quickly became standard interrogation policy.”

In December 2017, according to the Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post, a court ruling made it easier for the intelligence agencies to justify torture – but such techniques still violate international law.

According to Al Jazeera, “more than 1,000 complaints from Palestinians have been submitted to a government watchdog body over the past 18 years, but this is the first time one has led to a criminal investigation.

“Many Palestinians are jailed based on confessions either they or other Palestinians make during Shin Bet questioning. Israeli military courts almost never examine how such confessions were obtained or whether they are reliable, say lawyers, contributing to a 99.7 percent conviction rate.

“Last month, in freeing a Palestinian man who was jailed based on a false confession, an Israeli court accused the Shin Bet of using techniques that were “liable to induce innocent people to admit to acts that they did not commit’”.

According to the Electronic Intifada, “The impunity extends to circumstances where there is strong evidence that torture led to the death of a detainee, such as Arafat Jaradat, a 33-year-old father of two who died after an Israeli interrogation in Megiddo prison in 2013.”

Israeli legal scholar Itamar Mann told the Middle East Monitor that this ruling is “probably the most permissive as of yet in terms of accepting physical abuse as a legitimate method of interrogation in national security cases”.

According to Mann, the court’s judgement means that “anyone who is (1) part of a designated terrorist organization (such as Hamas); and (2) is involved in armed activity, may be subject to ‘special methods’ [i.e. torture] if (3) no other way to obtain crucial information is available”.

Trump Is Not a Champion of Human Rights. He Is a Clueless Clown

Eugene Robinson

In Riyadh, they must be laughing at [US] President [Donald] Trump. In Pyongyang, too, and in Tehran. In Beijing and, of course, in Moscow, they must be laughing until it hurts. They look at Washington and they don’t see a champion of freedom and human rights. They see a preening, clueless clown.

Trump’s reaction — or non-reaction — to the Saudi regime’s brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a holiday-season gift to autocrats around the globe. It shows them that if you just shower Trump with over-the-top flattery, feed him some geopolitical mumbo jumbo and make vague promises to perhaps buy some American-made goods in the future, he will literally let you get away with murder.

Recall what happened: The Saudi government lured Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for The Post, to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where a team of assassins lay in wait. Khashoggi was killed and his body dismembered. The CIA has reportedly concluded with “high confidence” — as close to certainty as the agency gets — that the assassination was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the nation’s de facto ruler.

After weeks of hemming and hawing, the White House put out a statement Tuesday from Trump making clear that for the murder of Khashoggi — who lived in Virginia, was a permanent US resident and had children who are US citizens — the Saudi regime will face no consequences. Zero. Not even a slap on the wrist.

Despite the CIA’s assessment that the crown prince ordered the killing, the White House statement waffles on whether he even knew about it in advance: “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said the same thing later to reporters, adding, “We are with Saudi Arabia. We’re staying with Saudi Arabia.”

Even more appalling, the statement — which is littered with exclamation points, suggesting Trump himself had a hand in writing it — attacks and defames the victim. Khashoggi was a respected journalist who sometimes criticized the Saudi government. The president of the United States suggests he deserved to die.

“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that,” the statement says. That is a rhetorical device known as paralipsis — saying something by professing not to say it — and its use to suggest the Saudis were somehow justified in killing Khashoggi makes me want to throw up.

In the statement — which is headlined “America First!” — Trump emphasizes what he calls the “record amount of money” that Saudi Arabia is supposedly prepared to spend in the United States. Trump goes on to make a series of false claims. No, there is no agreement for the Saudis to spend $450 billion on US goods, despite Trump’s assertion. No, there is no firm agreement for $110 billion in arms sales; the actual figure is $14.5 billion. No, what Trump reckons as “hundreds of thousands of jobs” are not at stake. And no, the Saudis could not simply decide to buy Chinese or Russian arms, instead.

The truth is that in the US-Saudi relationship, the United States holds all the cards. We don’t need the Saudis’ oil and can easily do without their arms purchases. By contrast, without US military assistance and American-made spare parts, the Saudi armed forces could not function.

But leave aside Trump’s inability to calculate the power equation here — perhaps he should read “The Art of the Deal” — and consider the factors that are absent from his thinking. There is no mention in his statement of human rights, no mention of freedom of the press. There is no notion of the United States as an advocate for liberty or a foe of despotism. There is only the amoral pursuit of what Trump sees — not very clearly — as US national interests.

The Saudi royals got on Trump’s good side by hosting his first foreign visit and fawning over him as if he, too, were an absolute monarch. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was gracious and deferential to Trump at their summit — and now continues his nuclear and ballistic missile programs unmolested. Russia’s Vladimir Putin complimented Trump’s political skill — and escaped any meaningful punishment for meddling in the 2016 election. There cannot be a strongman ruler in the world who fails to see the pattern — and the opportunity.

Lavish Trump with praise. Treat him like a king. Wave a fistful of money in front of his face. And if you want to, say, kill an inconvenient journalist, he’ll look the other way.

Source: The Washington Post, Edited by website team

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