Wednesday, 18 March 2009

UK reviewing torture rules - or more precisely, how to avoid being found out

UK prime minister Brown announced in Parliament today that rules banning torture are to be published and that the government will be reviewing "any developments and relevant information", which is clearly a reference to the cases of Binyam Mohamed and Kazhar Khan in whose torture British intelligence agencies colluded.

Given that this review comes from the same government that brought us an illegal war in Iraq and the De Menezes shooting of an innocent man on the London Underground, for which no-one has been brought to account, you can appreciate it if we are not filled with confidence that this will bring the UK's role in rendition and torture to an end.

Brown said he was making the move to "to protect the reputation of our security and intelligence services". It's a bit late for that.

UK police repeatedly beat Muslim man

This is what Muslims are up against at the hands of the police in the UK. Babar Ahmad, a 34-year-old IT support analyst fighting extradition to the US, was brutalised by London police. And the authorities are surprised that Muslims, and non-Muslims, are becoming radicalised in the UK:
The Metropolitan police today agreed to pay £60,000 damages to a British Muslim man accused of raising funds for terrorism after admitting in the high court that arresting officers subjected him to a prolonged series of violent assaults and religious abuse...

...The court had been told Ahmad was punched, kicked and strangled during his arrest.

Ahmad was dragged from his bed and rammed against a window before being repeatedly beaten by officers dressed in riot gear, the court heard...

...During what his counsel, Phillippa Kaufmann, described as a "prolonged and violent series of gratuitous assaults", Ahmad claims officers forced him into the Muslim prayer position before shouting "Where is your God now? … Pray to him."
More at the Guardian

Coming home to some nice messages from the IDF

From the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

In this new series of personal testimonies, PCHR looks at the aftermath of Israel’s 22 day offensive on the Gaza Strip, and the ongoing impact it is having on the civilian population.

Words by Malian/PCHR

Message written by Israeli soldiers in a bedroom of the Abu Hajaj home in Johur-ad-Dik © Kent Klich

One of the most important factors in recovery from trauma is the ability to find sanctuary in the comfort of one’s home. The right to safety and security. For many people in Gaza, this right has been repeatedly violated, in the form of the destruction of their personal property, often wantonly, by Israeli military forces.

Alongside the 1,000s of homes partially or completely destroyed by bulldozers, tank shells and bombs dropped by F-16 fighter jets, are the homes that have been defaced by graffiti left by individual Israeli soldiers and the vandalisation of civilian property within them.

At Mos’ab Dardona’s home in Jabal Al Rayes, northeast Gaza, Israeli soldiers who had taken up positions in civilian houses in the area left behind intricate drawings on the walls, some depicting soldiers urinating on toppled mosques, or devouring Palestinian villages. In the house next door, belonging to Ibrahim Dardona, soldiers left behind dozens of bags of faeces in the bedrooms, despite the presence of a functioning toilet, and left crude sexual diagrams on the walls.

“The writing left by Israeli soldiers in the homes in Gaza provides an insight into the disturbing culture of hatred and racism towards Palestinians and Arabs which exists among parts of Israeli society,” says Hamdi Shaqqura, PCHR’s director of democratic development. “In light of the evidence PCHR has gathered of the wilful and wanton killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, this graffiti is even more disturbing.”

The thousands of people who have been unable to return to what remains of their homes after Israel’s offensive are hard to count precisely. Hastily erected refugee tent camps that are unsuitable at this time of year have been largely abandoned and internally displaced people have moved in with extended family members.

Others have had to move back into their partially destroyed homes, clear up the debris and sometimes the evidence of the deaths of loved ones, and try to get on with their lives. The Dardona families have moved back into their houses, and are torn between unwillingness to destroy evidence of the behaviour of Israeli soldiers and reluctance to endure the constant reminders of the horrors that took place here. And there are similar cases in other parts of the Gaza Strip.

Graffiti in the home of Mos’ab Dardona, Jabal al Rayes area, northeastern Gaza Strip © S. Al Tartour/PCHR

In the largely agricultural area of Johr-ad-Dik, Israeli forces established bases in some of the homes in the early days of their ground offensive. Tank tracks cut huge swathes through the fields and hundreds of olive and citrus trees were destroyed. Half the population of 2,500 was displaced.

At dawn on 4 January 2009, the first full day of Israel’s ground offensive, a shell landed near the home of Saleh Abu Hajaj in Johur-ad-Dik. Radio interceptions made by the Israeli military ordered local residents to evacuate their homes. Saleh’s 36 year old daughter Majeda Abu Hajaj tied a white scarf to a stick and led a group of civilians out of her neighbour’s house.

As they were trying to escape, tanks opened fire on the group and Majeda was shot dead, allegedly in the back. Moments later her 64 year old mother Raya, was also shot and bled to death a few metres from her daughter. Majeda and Raya’s bodies were not recovered until Israel’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire sixteen days later. These attacks may constitute willful killings, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and war crimes.

Israeli soldiers set up military positions in the Abu Hajaj house after the killings, and left graffiti in every room. Above Majeda’s bed are the words “Death will find you soon” scrawled in red pen. Other parts of the house carry the words “Have you ever wondered what hell looks like? Well… look around you -----! Ha ha ha”

The house of Sami Saleh Dardona, with Israeli graffiti carved into the burnt walls © Kent Klich

In the Zeytoun district, where 27 members of the Samouni family were killed by an airstrike while sheltering in a building they had been placed in by the Israeli army, there are more chilling messages on the walls. In Talal Al Samouni’s home Israeli soldiers wrote the words “Die you all”, “Make war not peace”, “Arabs need to die” and a gravestone engraved with the words “Arabs 1948-2009” referring to the dates between the creation of the state of Israel and its latest military offensive.

A stairwell in Rashad Helmi Al Samouni’s house a few doors down includes the following sentences written in chalk:

“There will be a day when we kill all the Arabs”

“Bad for the Arabs is good for me”

“A good Arab is an Arab in the grave”

“Peace now, but between Jews and Jews, not Jews and Arabs”

While much of the graffiti is inflammatory and disturbing, there are also more human expressions written by weary Israeli soldiers such as: “How much longer will we be here…?”, “Until when?”, “We want to go home” and “I have no other country”.

There have been many serious allegations made about the conduct of Israeli soldiers who were operating in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is currently investigating many of these cases and will be bringing evidence to light in due course. But whatever the outcome of such investigations, it will do little to comfort the thousands of civilians whose sense of safety they should feel in the privacy of their own homes has been so categorically violated.

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

And if the above doesn't fill Israelis with pride - try this, sourced from Haaretz:

Egypt's Israel-collaborating regime of torturers opens Rafah for two days

The Egyptian torturers' tools of the trade

Egypt has reopened its Rafah border for two days to enable students and the sick to cross, a security official has told AFP.

"The border has opened for two days to allow the passage of Palestinian students and the sick who are stuck on the Egyptian side," the border official said, asking not to be named.

"Palestinian patients who finished their treatment at Egyptian hospitals and other humanitarian cases will be allowed to return back home," Egypt's official MENA news agency quoted Palestinian embassy.

What can you say about the rotten regime in Egypt except that they are traitors to the Palestinian cause and a bunch of torturers - with a little help from British intelligence, as revealed in the case of Binyam Mohamed and now also Kazhar Khan.
There were more revelations this week about the British government’s complicity in the torture of suspects as part of the “war on terror”.

Azhar Khan, a 26 year old from Slough, Berkshire, was detained in Egypt in July last year. During his detention he was handcuffed, forced to stand naked with a hood over his head, beaten, subjected to electric shocks and interrogated.

During his interrogation, Azhar said he could hear other inmates who were also being tortured. He heard a man with a British accent asking questions.

The foreign office has been forced to admit that it made no complaints to the Egyptian government about how Azhar, a British citizen, had been treated.

Foreign office officials also admitted that the government had failed to take any action over other British nationals who had been tortured abroad. The countries involved in the allegations include Pakistan, Bangladesh and Syria.

More on the UK torture at Socialist Worker (UK)

Ex-US spy Karzai warns against foreign interference in Afghanistan

This has to be the most surreal story of the day so far. The head of the puppet government installed by the US, whose writ does not run much beyond the capital Kabul, is bemoaning foreign intervention in the country. Without that intervention Karzai would be hanging from a lamp post by now. And to preempt the pro-war crowd from getting too excited, this is not an argument in favour of the occupation of the country, or the Taliban's medievalism for that matter.
The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, today warned the international community not to meddle in the government of his country as it prepares to go to the polls for presidential elections this summer.

Speaking alongside the Nato secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, at a news conference in Kabul, Karzai said the government's foreign partners should respect his country's independence.

"Afghanistan … will never be a puppet state," he said.

From the Guardian

Remembering Rachel Corrie

Monday marked the sixth anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie - deliberately crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer as she tried to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes.

Unfortunately Tristan Anderson has become the the most recent American citizen to be critically injured by Israel. He sustained a large hole in the right part of his forehead where he was struck by a tear gas canister. The heavy impact from the tear gas canister being shot directly at him, from about 60 meters, also caused severe damage to his right eye, which he may lose. Tristan underwent brain surgery in which part of his right frontal lobe and shattered bone fragments were removed.

Background to the video - Rachel: An American Conscience by Yahya Barakat

From the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs: Yahya Barakat, who teaches at Al-Quds University, told The Washington Report that he began work on the documentary the instant he learned that Corrie had been crushed to death by an Israeli-driven Caterpillar bulldozer. This documentary offers rare footage of Rachel talking to a camera and describing Israeli human rights violations against a Palestinian civilian population.

The film opens with grim images of dinosaur-like Caterpillar bulldozers turning urban Rafah into a garbage pile of destroyed buildings. It continues with interviews of Rachel's fellow International Solidarity Movement volunteers, and concludes with comments from her parents.

Learn more about Rachel Corrie's life and activities:

There is a play of her life, which has been censored in the 'free world'.

International Solidarity Movement - the organisation Rachel was a member of.

Fatah backtracking on recognition of Israel?

A leading Fatah leader with wide respect among Palestinians of all political persuasions, Muhammad Dahlan, has urged Hamas not to recognise the Israeli settler state and said that Fatah never has, and never will.

Good to hear this from a Fatah man and a further sign that reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah will not involve any declaration of submission to western demands to recognise the criminal regime in Tel Aviv, built as it was on ethnic cleansing and terrorism in its so-called 'war of independence'.

See report on the Jerusalem Post

Russia selling sophisticated air-defence system to Iran - Israel worried

Russia has confirmed that the persistent rumour it is selling Iran a modern air-defence system is true, and it has the Israelis worried.

This is probably not disconnected to the news yesterday from the neo-con Washington Times that Israel is now shifting towards the ballistic missile option as opposed to an attempted air strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. The S-300 system is capable of tracking and striking multiple targets simultaneously.

It would be nice to think the Iranians could reverse-engineer the system and send some over to Gaza for the resistance, or then again just some better anti-tank weapons could do the trick and hand-held 'stinger-like' anti-aircraft weapons - used against the soviets to great effect in Afghanistan many years ago.
Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday that a top defense official confirmed Russia had indeed signed a contract to sell S-300 air-defense missiles to Iran, but that none of the weapons had been delivered.

Russian officials have consistently denied claims that it already provided some of the powerful missiles to Iran, and had not clarified whether a contract existed.

The state-run ITAR-Tass and RIA-Novosti news agencies, in addition to the independent Interfax, quoted an unnamed top official in the Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service as saying Wednesday the contract had been signed two years ago. more

Big majority of Israelis wanted Gaza onslaught to continue

An opinion poll in the Jerusalem Post has found that the majority of Israelis wanted the massacres to continue for much longer.

I for one have been hesitant to describe the IDF onslaught as genocidal but it seems if the average Israeli has their way that is the logic would could have unfolded.

The implication of trying to take out Hamas, which is supported by the majority of the population, is that you would also have to take out its support base.

According to the poll, conducted by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, two-thirds of Israelis think Operation Cast Lead should have continued for much longer.

Obviously didn't kill enough kids and needed to more time to play with their new, and not so new, weapons such as those DIME bombs, white phosphorus shells in built-up areas, depleted uranium tipped shells and missiles, cluster bombs and no doubt the other weapons we don't know about yet.

More at Press TV