Thursday, February 26, 2009

Once again, actions speak louder than campaign rhetoric...

... or even rhetoric in front of both houses of the US Congress, when the President reassures the American public that we do not torture.

Yeah, and neither did the Bush administration.

Two stories.

First: William Fisher:

While human rights and legal advocacy groups applauded President Barack Obama's decision to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay within a year, many immediately raised another thorny question: "What about Bagram?"

The answer came as a shock. In a brief filing in federal court last week, lawyers from Obama's Department of Justice said they would adopt the same position taken by the George W. Bush administration – that detainees held at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan have no right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts.

The U.S. government is holding more than 600 prisoners at Bagram. Some claim they are victims of "extraordinary rendition" by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), while many more say they have been tortured and abused at the facility just outside Kabul....

A United Nations report last week singled out the Bagram facility for criticism. While the Red Cross was allowed to visit detainees, the report said, the Red Cross findings are kept secret and the U.S. military has denied U.N. requests for similar visits.

"There are reports that some persons have been in detention at Bagram for as long as five years," the report says. "Some ex-detainees allege being subjected to severe torture, even sexual abuse. Ex-detainees also allege that they were held in cages containing between 15 to 20 men and that two detainees died in questionable circumstances while in custody."

And from Reuters:

LONDON (Reuters) - Abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has worsened sharply since President Barack Obama took office as prison guards "get their kicks in" before the camp is closed, according to a lawyer who represents detainees.

Abuses began to pick up in December after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.

The Pentagon said on Monday that it had received renewed reports of prisoner abuse during a recent review of conditions at Guantanamo, but had concluded that all prisoners were being kept in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

"According to my clients, there has been a ramping up in abuse since President Obama was inaugurated," said Ghappour, a British-American lawyer with Reprieve, a legal charity that represents 31 detainees at Guantanamo.

"If one was to use one's imagination, (one) could say that these traumatized, and for lack of a better word barbaric, guards were just basically trying to get their kicks in right now for fear that they won't be able to later," he said.

"Certainly in my experience there have been many, many more reported incidents of abuse since the inauguration," added Ghappour, who has visited Guantanamo six times since late September and based his comments on his own observations and conversations with both prisoners and guards.

For those of you who argue that a new President deserves some time to deal with issues, I generally agree.

With one big exception.

Torture, abuse, and illegal detention are President Obama's responsibility from day one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more, Steve!

Along the same lines, i.e., continuation of questionable Bush policies, there is a question on Obama's policies on renditions and on the rights of detainees, the indefinite detention of detainees.

On rendition:,0,7548176,full.story

On the rights of detainees:

When the rubber meets the road, campaign promises and expressed values can get thrown under the bus.

Perry Hood