Thousands are reportedly kidnapped indefinitely in Pakistan because the government can’t meet the burden of proof required by its criminal justice system to prevent their freedom. This discovery comes days after the discovery that hundreds of Sunni men targeted by the Iraqi government were kidnapped in sweeps that landed them into secret prisons where they were tortured for months. The Obama Administration has, hypocritically, criticized their client states in public. Al Jazeera English obtained interviews with two of the Iraqi men who said they were tortured to admit to crimes they had not committed (2:33):
Thousands are reportedly kidnapped indefinitely in Pakistan because the government can’t meet the burden of proof required by its criminal justice system to prevent their freedom. This discovery comes days after the discovery that hundreds of Sunni men targeted by the Iraqi government were kidnapped in sweeps that landed them into secret prisons where they were tortured for months.
Hundreds of Sunnis in Iraq were detained and transferred to a “secret Baghdad prison under the jurisdiction of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s military office”, Ned Parker reported at the Los Angeles Times (LAT) Monday. The details of the torture range from stress positions to sodomy to direct physical life threatening acts of suffocation have been confirmed by a memo to the U.S. Embassy and the Iraq Human Rights Ministry [emphasis added].
Commanders initially resisted efforts to inspect the prison but relented and allowed visits by two teams of inspectors, including Human Rights Minister Wijdan Salim. Inspectors said they found that the 431 prisoners had been subjected to appalling conditions and quoted prisoners as saying that one of them, a former colonel in President Saddam Hussein’s army, had died in January as a result of torture.
“More than 100 were tortured. There were a lot of marks on their bodies,” said an Iraqi official familiar with the inspections. “They beat people, they used electricity. They suffocated them with plastic bags, and different methods.”
An internal U.S. Embassy report quotes Salim as saying that prisoners had told her they were handcuffed for three to four hours at a time in stress positions or sodomized.
“One prisoner told her that he had been raped on a daily basis, another showed her his undergarments, which were entirely bloodstained,” the memo reads.
Some described guards extorting as much as $1,000 from prisoners who wanted to phone their families, the memo said….
The controversy over the secret prison, located at the Old Muthanna airport in west Baghdad, has also pushed Maliki to begin relinquishing control of two other detention facilities at Camp Honor, a base in Baghdad’s Green Zone. The base belongs to the Baghdad Brigade and the Counter-Terrorism Force, elite units that report to the prime minister and are responsible for holding high-level suspects….
According to the U.S. Embassy report and interviews with Iraqi officials, two separate investigative committees questioned the detainees and abused them. During the day, there were interrogators from the Iraqi judiciary. In the late afternoon they came from the Baghdad Brigade.
The embassy report says that at least four of the investigators from the Baghdad Brigade are believed to have been indicted for torture in 2006. The charges against them at the time included selling Sunni Arab detainees held at a national police facility to Shiite militias to be killed.
The prison was discovered in March after families had been searching for missing relatives since October. The government has since vowed to shut the prison down and released 75 captives, while transferring 275 others to “regular jails”
“The Pakistani military is holding thousands of suspected militants in indefinite detention, arguing that the nation’s dysfunctional civilian justice system cannot be trusted to prevent them from walking free, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials,” Griff Witte and Karen DeYoung reported at The Washington Post (WaPo), Thursday. The “majority” of captives have been kidnapped for “nearly a year” and are “allowed no contact with family members, lawyers or humanitarian groups”, Paki officials and human rights advocates said.
Because there is “little forensic evidence in most cases” and “witnesses are likely to be too scared to testify”, Pak officials excuse the prolonged, indefinite detention policy. They add the excuses of a court system that is “overburdened” and “not up to the task of handling such a large volume of complex terrorism cases”.
Translation: whether people are set free or convicted, the lack of evidence presented will be great anti-government propaganda and the image of the State is the categorical imperative of governance.
U.S. officials estimate, with little dispute from the Pak government, that 2,500 people are being “held in special military detention centers across the region, though the exact locations have not been made public”. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been denied access to the prisoners since last year.
“U.S. officials say they worry that the detentions will further inflame the Pakistani public at a time when the government here needs popular support for its offensives,” the WaPo reports.
Translation: if the Pakis were better pacified and desensitized, their support would validate the human rights abuses of unscrutinized kidnapping for indefinite amounts of time. This is the Realpolitik behind the counterinsurgency narrative of “winning hearts and minds”. The goal is not be worth of winning hearts and minds, but to gain approval by any means most efficient. Force and fear are the quickest fixes if you can externalize the blowback away from the power centers.
Life Imitates Art
There’s the global meme of America as a beacon of democracy. The fact of the matter is that other countries always measure up their violence, threats of violence, censorship, corruption, foreign policy to that of the United States. Selling to the people within those territories that its government is ‘progressing’ in the direction of ‘The West’ manufactures consent.
Glenn Greenwald at Salon replies to what he pejoratively calls the “Obama Administration’s righteous stance against indefinite detention” with these bits of reporting since the president was inaugu-coronated [emphasis added by Mr. Greenwald on all media quotes]:
- via National Public Radio – 26 June 2009:
Ever since President Obama proposed holding terrorism detainees without trial, the debate over preventive detention has been growing. Now, NPR has the first look at a detailed legislative proposal to hold detainees indefinitely. . . . In a speech last month at the National Archives, President Obama opened the door to the possibility that some terrorism detainees will neither be tried nor released.
- via The New York Times (NYT) – 22 May 2009:
President Obama’s proposal for a new legal system in which terrorism suspects could be held in “prolonged detention” inside the United States without trial would be a departure from the way this country sees itself . . .
Mr. Obama chose to call his proposal “prolonged detention,” which made it sound more reassuring than some of its more familiar names. In some countries, it is called “administrative detention,” a designation with a slightly totalitarian ring. Some of its proponents call it “indefinite detention,” which evokes the Bush administration’s position that Guantánamo detainees could be held until the end of the war on terror—perhaps for the rest of their lives—even if acquitted in war crimes trials.
- via Associated Press –20 Feb 2009:
The Obama administration, siding with the Bush White House, contended Friday that detainees in Afghanistan have no constitutional rights. In a two-sentence court filing, the Justice Department said it agreed that detainees at Bagram Airfield cannot use U.S. courts to challenge their detention. The filing shocked human rights attorneys.
- via the NYT – 10 Apr 2009:
The Obama administration said Friday that it would appeal a district court ruling that granted some military prisoners in Afghanistan the right to file lawsuits seeking their release. The decision signaled that the administration was not backing down in its effort to maintain the power to imprison terrorism suspects for extended periods without judicial oversight.
- via the NYT editorial page – 17 Jan 17, 2010:
We keep waiting—in vain—for the Obama administration to stop trying to block judicial scrutiny of some of the Bush administration’s most outrageous policies on the detention of prisoners.
Most recently, Neal Katyal, a deputy solicitor general, tried to persuade a three-judge federal appeals court panel to deny hearings to a group of prisoners who have been held under harsh conditions without adequate review for more than six years. Their prison—at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan—is a much larger version of the Guantánamo Bay prison that President Obama has ordered closed.
- via the WaPo – 22 Jan 2010:
A Justice Department-led task force has concluded that nearly 50 of the 196 detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be held indefinitely without trial under the laws of war, according to Obama administration officials.
The task force’s findings represent the first time that the administration has clarified how many detainees it considers too dangerous to release but unprosecutable because officials fear trials could compromise intelligence-gathering and because detainees could challenge evidence obtained through coercion.
- via the LAT – 21 Mar 2010:
The White House is considering whether to detain international terrorism suspects at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, senior U.S. officials said, an option that would lead to another prison with the same purpose as Guantanamo Bay, which it has promised to close…. [A]ny suspected terrorist held inside the U.S. would probably have the right to challenge his detention in federal courts. Bagram, for now, is outside the reach of U.S. courts.
To which Mr. Greenwald adequately comments:
Let’s teach those Pakistanis that we’re not going to tolerate their lawless and tyrannical detention of people without charges and trials. We won’t put up with it. Especially not when it’s “justified” with the Orwellian claim that their real civilian courts can’t handle the prosecutions and they’re “afraid” that Dangerous Terrorists might be released if they give them due process because they’re unprosecutable. Kudos to the Obama administration for teaching them that countries that live under the Rule of Law simply don’t deny people trials based on such excuses. It’d be one thing if they were assassinating these people without any charges or trials—that, of course, would be understandable—but not detaining them. We’re the Leader of the Free World and we simply can’t be seen associating with or supporting regimes that would do such a thing. Besides, unlike the U.S., it’s not like Pakistan really faces an Existential Threat from Islamic radicals or anything, so (unlike us) they really have no acceptable excuse for doing these things.
One U.S. Congressman is taking steps against the Administration’s authorization to sidestep the pesky criminal ‘justice’ system to assassinate American citizens. Just strip the accused of citizenship before the extrajudicial assassination….
FOX News reported yesterday that Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA) is moving to do just that to boogeyman-of-the minute Anwar al-Awlaki (2:27):
“The reasons for Awlaki’s impending assassination are vague, to say the least,” Jason Ditz wrote at AntiWar News,this month.” Though officials have repeatedly accused Awlaki of being ‘in al-Qa’ida,’ he is not currently accused of any crimes and the only specific accusation against him is that he has criticized U.S. foreign policy, and that this has made it easier for al-Qa’ida to recruit.”
The mainstream ‘right and left‘ together again in unholy matrimony prosecuting the thoughtcrime of sedition. We knew the separation wouldn’t long.