U.S.| Obama administration urged to renew pledge to close Guantanamo, ensure accountability

posted on 01.21.2010 by

Ahead of the one-year anniversary of Obama pledging to close Guantanamo Bay, human rights watchdogs have urged the administration to redouble its efforts to close the prison and ensure accountability for “war on terror” abuses. Read more

Event| “One Year and Counting: When and How Will Guantanamo Close?”

posted on 01.21.2010 by

Location: New York City
Event Date: January 22, 2010
Event Time: 12:00 – 2:00 p.m.
Contact: The Constitution Project – [email protected]

The Open Society Institute, the Consitution Project, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund sponsor a lunchtime panel discussion to mark President Obama’s deadline for closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, which he set by Executive Order one year earlier, on his second day in office.

The discussion will examine the obstacles preventing the president from fulfilling his promise, when and how Guantánamo is likely to close, and the impact of the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing on the politics of closing the detention facility. The discussion will illuminate why it is essential that America comply with the rule of law as it continues its efforts to close Guantánamo.

A light lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. The discussion will begin promptly at noon.

Confirmed participants include the following, with a representative of the U.S. government to be announced shortly:

* Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker (moderator)
* Stephen Abraham, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.), U.S. Army Intelligence Corps (Reserves)
* Honorable John Coughenour, Federal District Court, Seattle, WA, who presided over the 2005 trial of Ahmed Ressam, known as the Millennium Bomber
* Talat Hamdani, September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
* Shane Kadidal, Senior Managing Attorney, Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative, Center for Constitutional Rights
* Celeste Koeleveld, Chief of the Criminal Division, Chief Appellate Attorney, and Assistant United States Attorney, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York (1991-2008)

Rockefeller Brothers Fund
475 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10115

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is located in the Interchurch Center. Please enter at 61 Claremont Avenue and 120th Street. The event will take place in the Interchurch Center’s first-floor conference room, the Sockman Lounge.

More here from Open Society Institute.

U.S.| On the illegality of torture, op-ed

posted on 01.04.2010 by

Editorial from the New York Times: Bush administration officials came up with all kinds of ridiculously offensive rationalizations for torturing prisoners. It’s not torture if you don’t mean it to be. It’s not torture if you don’t nearly kill the victim. It’s not torture if the president says it’s not torture.

It was deeply distressing to watch the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sink to that standard in April when it dismissed a civil case brought by four former Guantánamo detainees never charged with any offense. The court said former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the senior military officers charged in the complaint could not be held responsible for violating the plaintiffs’ rights because at the time of their detention, between 2002 and 2004, it was not “clearly established” that torture was illegal.

The Supreme Court could have corrected that outlandish reading of the Constitution, legal precedent, and domestic and international statutes and treaties. Instead, last month, the justices abdicated their legal and moral duty and declined to review the case.

A denial of certiorari is not a ruling on the merits. But the justices surely understood that their failure to accept the case would further undermine the rule of law. [...]

More here.

Nigeria| New Amnesty report on extrajudicial executions in Nigeria

posted on 12.10.2009 by

Amnesty International releases a new report on Nigeria, “Killing at Will: Extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings”. The report documents specific cases of police use of excessive force during arrest, accounts of extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances and unlawful killings occurring in police stations.

UK| Milliband and Torture Evidence

posted on 11.24.2009 by
David Miliband (centre), Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, addresses correspondents following a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East. From left to right: Michael Spindelegger, Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of Austria; Mr. Miliband; and Bernard Kouchner, Minister for Foreign Affairs of France. 11 May 2009.

David Miliband (centre), Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, addresses correspondents following a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East. 11 May 2009.

Today sees the release by Human Rights Watch (HRW) of a searing exposé of the evidence against the British government of its complicity in the torture of people held in Pakistan suspected of terrorism.

The report, Cruel Britannia, is based on evidence collected by Ali Dayan Hasan, a senior HRW researcher who interviewed not only suspects and their lawyers but also members of the Pakistani ISI agency who were involved in the torture.

It corroborates and provides further detail for the investigative reporting on torture of the Guardian’s Ian Cobain, who recently won the Paul Foot award. [...]

More here from The Guardian.

U.S.| 9/11 and Legal Obstacles: How Do You Defend a Nortorious Terrorist Figure?

posted on 11.14.2009 by

Following the recent announcement by U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in a civilian Manhattan courthouse, Eric Lichtblau and Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times poses the question, “How do you defend one of the most notorious terrorist figures in history?” From the question of a fair trial to that of capital punishment, to challenges that will ineluctably be made to interrogation methods used on the suspect during his more than six years of detention, the 9/11 trial evinces a host of unparalleled legal obstacles. Read more

Committee Against Torture Opens 43rd Session in Geneva

posted on 11.03.2009 by Lisa

Opening its forty-third session in Geneva on 2 November, the Committee Against Torture was briefed by a representative of the Secretary-General, Ibrahim Salama, Chief of the Human Rights and Treaty Branch of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Read more

Special Rapporteur on Torture Denied Entry to Zimbabwe, Secretary-General Disappointed

posted on 10.29.2009 by Lisa

Officials in Zimbabwe denied entry into the country of Manfred Nowak, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Read more

The Torture Memos: Did OLC lawyers rationalize an ineluctable (and illegal) result?

posted on 10.08.2009 by Lisa

Jack Goldsmith, one of the heads of the Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush, has said that the OLC “is, and views itself as, the frontline institution responsible for ensuring that the executive branch charged with executing the law is itself bound by law.” David Cole revisits the so-called “torture memos” which he says reveal that “OLC lawyers contorted the law to authorize precisely what it was designed to forbid.” Read more

ICJ: Broader mandate for prosecutor essential to achieve accountability over U.S. torture and other “war on terror” crimes

posted on 08.26.2009 by Lisa

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today welcomed the decision of United States Attorney General Eric Holder to mandate Assistant US Attorney John Durham to “conduct a preliminary review into whether [US] laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations.”

The Attorney General’s initiative marks a first step towards full disclosure of and accountability for unlawful US practices concerning the treatment of detainees secretly held by the CIA as part of the Bush administration’s counter-terrorism strategy. Those practices included serious human rights violations amounting to crimes under international law.

The ICJ nonetheless is deeply concerned by the statement of the Attorney General that “the Department of Justice will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.” Read more