The Nether-World

May 15, 2007

Taking Liberties

Filed under: 7/7, Bliar, Civil Liberties, Protest, Terrorism, Torture — netherworld @ 4:35 pm


This film is at the top of my ‘must see’ list. As the title suggests, Taking Liberties is about the attack on civil liberties that Britain has experienced since 1997 when Tony Blair came to power. Other than the various plugs for it I’ve seen on numerous blogs of all political persuasions and, of course, the information on the film’s website along with the trailer, I don’t know that much about it but it certainly seems to be a very interesting documentary and a fitting tribute to the Blair years. The film covers the following topics:

Tim Ireland over at Bloggerheads has seen the press screening and has written a positive review. Here is the trailer on YouTube:

Taking Liberties will be in cinemas from June 8. It is very unlikely to get anything like the same publicity that Hollywood bockbusters get and it will only be shown in a few selected cinemas so check the website’s cinema listings to find out where it is showing.

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March 11, 2007

Light Posting

Filed under: Bliar, Democracy, Media, Terrorism, Torture, UK Politics, US Politics — netherworld @ 11:33 am

Apologies for the scarcity of posts here of late. I’ve been a little busy with a few things, but hopefully ‘normal’ service will be resumed sometime soon. In the meantime, here are a couple of things I’ve been writing over at Blairwatch to keep you occupied.

Firstly, it seems that Tony Blair’s statement about him knowing nothing about Extraordinary Rendition and CIA black sites is a load of bollocks (yes, I thought that would surprise you). What seems to be emerging is that he is not only complicit in this programme but actively participating in it. We now learn that that America and Britain asked Poland to host a secret CIA gulag and Blair requested that the Polish Prime Minister to keep this secret from his government. Nice eh?

Secondly, tonight (March 11) the first part of Adam Curtis’ new three-part documentary, “The Trap – What Happened To Our Dream Of Freedom?” is being shown on BBC 2 at 21:00. This will be well worth watching. It is about freedom and how the concept of freedom seems to have changed since the Cold War and how that change came about. As Britain and America go around the world ‘liberating’ oppressed people, and as they try to ‘liberate’ us from the old bureaucracies of the past, they replace what was there before with a strange kind of freedom which bears little resemblance to the freedom we knew before. This series examines how this came to happen and looks at the mechanisms behind this paradox which is, in effect, the losing of our freedom in the name of freedom, replacing it with a new form of social control which entraps us all.

Adam Curtis has generously agreed to do an interview with Blairwatch next week and in order to prepare for it, I managed to get the first two installments of this three part series and I was blown away by what I saw. So I posted a synopsis of the first episode here for those who will be unable to catch the program. I’ll post a synopsis of the second episode once the first has been screened.

Lenin’s Tomb and Ten Percent have also posted stuff about it and from those sites I’ve found reviews of the documentary in The Guardian and Socialist Worker.

Back soon hopefully.

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March 6, 2007

David Hicks

Filed under: Afghanistan, John Reid, Terrorism, Torture — netherworld @ 10:15 pm

Many People may know who David Hicks is. He’s the Australian citizen who was arrested in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance five years ago and sold to the Americans who have incarcerated him in the Guantanamo Bay gulag where he has been ever since. He is accused of being an “enemy combatant” although he has not, until very recently, been charged with any crime, and after five years all the US government can come up with is ‘providing material support for terrorism‘ a charge that has been tailored to fit his actions and guarantee he will not get a fair trial.

Mr Hicks, whose mother is British, should be entitled to British citizenship and therefore some help from the British Government which did help secure the release of other British citizens. However, despite senior judges ordering the home secretary to grant Mr Hicks citizenship, the Home Secretary John Reid revoked it. Hicks has therefore been abandoned by both the British and Australian governments and left in Guantanamo where he has been abused and tortured. Abuse of the inmates at Guantanamo still continues despite denials and attempted cover-ups by US authorities.

David Hicks is appealing for help through his family, friends and supporters. The following video has more information. It is a speech by Michael Mori, Hicks’ defence attorney with other images added.

Further details can be found at Mask of Anarchy, Ten Percent and Fair Go For David. You can help David Hicks by spreading the word about this injustice.

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February 16, 2007

The Fallout Over Rendition Grows

Filed under: European Politics, Terrorism, Torture — netherworld @ 7:41 pm

Following the vote in the the EU Parliament which saw the approval of the MEPs report into CIA abductions and renditions, Italy, which came in for heavy criticism (as did Britain), is taking some action.

An Italian judge has ordered 26 US citizens – most of them CIA agents – to stand trial over the kidnap of an Egyptian cleric in Milan in 2003.

Osama Mustafa Hassan was allegedly seized by the CIA and flown to Egypt, where he says he was tortured.

Seven Italians were also indicted, including Italy’s ex-military intelligence chief, Nicolo Pollari.

The case would be the first criminal trial over the secret US practice known as “extraordinary rendition”.

Not only will this be the first trial over rendition, it will also be the biggest ever trial of US intelligence agents in an allied country. The trial is due to begin on June 8 and the American suspects are likely to be tried in absentia as they are believed to have fled the country including Robert Seldon Lady, the former station chief of CIA operations in Milan, who has abandoned his Italian villa and says he was over-ruled in his opposition to the Kidnap. He also says (through his lawyer) that he does not recognise the court.

One Italian policeman has already been jailed for 21 months for stopping the cleric in order for the CIA to abduct him. His reduced sentence was part of a plea-bargain. According to him, the CIA said that they were trying to recruit Omar and that the operation had the approval of the US and Italian governments. Nicolo Pollari is trying to hide behind the Italian state secrets act and so is not co-operating with the court apart from insisting that Italian military intelligence did nothing wrong. The Italian government has yet to seek the extradition of the US citizens and it will be interesting to see if it does and what reaction it will get from the US authorities who, as we know, are always keen to uphold the rule of law. Somehow I doubt it will happen. Osama Mustafa Hassan however, despite risking prosecution for terrorism charges, wants to return to Italy as a refugee and testify against Berlusconi and his administration. He was released from Egyptian custody when the authorities there decided they had no reason to hold him.

What is interesting about this case is that it looks like being the first of many prosecutions around Europe. Germany, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Romania are all conducting investigations. Unsurprisingly, the UK is not conducting any investigation, but then Tony Blair has yet to acknowledge that there is any such thing as extraordinary rendition.

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November 29, 2006

Britain Accused Of Collusion With CIA In Draft European Parliament Report On Torture Flights

Filed under: Bliar, European Politics, Rendition, Torture — netherworld @ 4:59 am

If Tony Blair thought the issue of Extraordinary Rendition was going away, he must be pretty disappointed. The draft report on extraordinary rendition following the investigation by MEPs has shown that Britain has allowed 170 secret CIA torture flights, second only to Germany’s whopping 336 flights out of at least 1,245 flights in European territory. Ten countries are accused of allowing stopovers. They are:

  • Germany 336
  • Britain 170
  • Ireland 147
  • Portugal 91
  • Spain 68
  • Greece 64
  • Cyprus 57
  • Italy 46
  • Romania 21
  • Poland 11

The report condemns many EU nations saying that they were aware renditions were taking place and failed to co-operate with the investigation. I reported earlier on Geoff Hoon’s unhelpful and evasive behaviour during the investigation.

Giovanni Claudio Fava’s draft report “deplores” the level of co-operation Geoff Hoon, the Europe Minister, gave the MEPs, and condemns the rendition of one British citizen and three British residents, two of whom were said to have been seized on the basis of “partly erroneous information supplied by the UK security service MI5”.

There are now likely to be more demands for a full parliamentary inquiry into the practice of extraordinary rendition by MPs following this draft report which shows that there were far more rendition flights than have previously been admitted by the Government.

Poland has come in for particular criticism because there is good circumstantial evidence that one of the ‘Black sites’ that President Bush has acknowledged exist is located in the Polish intelligence training centre at Stare Kiejkuty. Romania too has been similarly accused. Both countries have declined to make any further statements after their denials last Summer. The Bush administration, despite admitting the existence of ‘black sites’ and the reality of extraordinary rendition, continues to deny that it authorises and participates in torture. The evidence supplied by Khaled el-Masri and others makes a mockery of those denials. Blair’s government too has now been shown to have at least been complicit in torture.

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October 27, 2006

CIA Silencing the EU on ‘Torture Flights’

Filed under: Torture — netherworld @ 5:52 am

If the CIA does not render suspected terrorists to countries where they are possibly tortured, then why would they want to silence the EU on torture flights?

The CIA tried to persuade Germany to silence EU protests about the human rights record of one of America’s key allies in its clandestine torture flights programme, the Guardian can reveal.

According to a secret intelligence report, the CIA offered to let Germany have access to one of its citizens, an al-Qaida suspect being held in a Moroccan cell. But the US secret agents demanded that in return, Berlin should cooperate and “avert pressure from EU” over human rights abuses in the north African country. The report describes Morocco as a “valuable partner in the fight against terrorism”.

The British Government has continuously refused to discuss the issue of ‘extraordinary rendition’ with both the Council of Europe investigation and the more recent inquiry by MEPs in which Geoff Hoon was particularly evasive when questioned. Some MEPs have even received death threats. Clearly there is something that the American and British governments do not want to be made public.

In other news Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that detainees are subjected to the form of torture known as ‘water-boarding’ although the Bush administration denies that causing the sensation of drowning counts as torture. Cheney seems to think it’s a good idea.

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October 3, 2006

Britain’s refusal to help British residents being tortured in Guantánamo

Filed under: Bliar, Torture — netherworld @ 3:23 am

Tony Blair doesn’t like to talk about the Guantánamo gulag. The most he can be made to say on it is that it is an “anomaly” that would have to be “dealt with”. Obviously blair can’t bring himself to criticise the USA even for the most outragious violations of human rights and international law. Other members of his government haven’t felt so restricted. Peter Hain has called for the closure of the camp and quite recently Lord Falconer called it “shocking affront” to the principles of democracy. But Guantánamo is still functioning and its inmates are still being tortured.

Nine of these inmates are British residents; the last of the prisoners who were British citizens were freed in March 2004 and early last year after massive pressure was put on Blair’s government to secure their release. The remaining British residents have been abandoned by the British government which claims it has no duty to protect them. That may be legally true, however, it is common knowledge that they are being tortured and you’d think the Government would at least try to help them. Not Blair’s government! In September this year we learned that The British Government wouldn’t even send doctors to give aid to these prisoners.

More than 100 senior doctors today accused the government of colluding in war crimes by refusing to give medical aid to British residents detained at Guantánamo Bay.

The doctors called for an urgent independent investigation into the medical needs of the detainees at the camp.

In a letter published in The Times newspaper today, the doctors condemn the Foreign Office for its “shameful” refusal to respond to a request from the British Medical Association (BMA) to send a team of doctors to the detention camp in Cuba.

The medics also criticise the failure of the Foreign Office’s medical and legal panels to discuss the plight of the detainees for the reason that they are not British passport holders.

Nine British citizens have been released from the camp since 2004, but at least eight men who have British residency rights are believed to still be there.

“Our government’s excuse is that it does not wish to set a precedent to act for British residents, rather than British citizens. We find this morally repugnant,” said the letter, which was signed by 120 medical professionals.

They add: “It is clear that an independent scrutiny is urgently required by physicians outside the US military. The silence of the Foreign Office is shameful and reflects the collusion of this country in a war crime.”

Read on

Now we are learning that the US Government is offering to send these prisoners back to the UK but the British Government does not want them to return, preferring instead that they face more torture in the gulag despite knowing that they pose no threat and have not been charged with any crime.

The United States has offered to return nearly all British residents held at Guantánamo Bay after months of secret talks in Washington, the Guardian has learned.

The British government has refused to accept the men, however, with senior officials saying they have no legal right to return. Documents obtained by the Guardian show US authorities are demanding that the detainees be kept under 24-hour surveillance if set free – restrictions that are dismissed by the British as unnecessary and unworkable.

Although all are accused of terrorist involvement, Britain says there is no intelligence to warrant the measures Washington wants, and it lacks the resources to implement them. “They do not pose a sufficient threat,” said the head of counter-terrorism at the Home Office.

The possible security arrangements appear to have caused months of wrangling, but senior UK sources have told the Guardian the government is interested in accepting only one man – Bisher al-Rawi – who is now known to have helped MI5 keep watch on Abu Qatada, the London-based Muslim cleric and al-Qaida suspect who was subsequently arrested.

At least nine former British residents have been detained without trial at Guantánamo for more than four years after being taken prisoner in the so-called war on terror. Their lawyers say some have suffered appalling mistreatment.
Read on

This is disgraceful. If these men are suspected terrorists they should be tried fairly in a real court and punished according to established law if found guilty. If there is no evidence against them then they should be released, and if they were British residents then surely the Government has some duty to help them. If they face further torture in their country of origin then that is even more reason to help them.

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October 2, 2006

More danger from John Reid

Filed under: John Reid, Torture — netherworld @ 7:05 am

It’s no secret that John Reid regards international law, human rights and civil liberties as inconveniences that need to be circumvented. Back in April when he was Defence Secretary he wanted the Geneva Convention to be rewritten in order to allow British soldiers to torture with impunity. The clashes that he, as Home Secretary, and his predecessors have had with the judiciary over control orders and indefinite detention without trial are also well documented. According to our Home Secretary, politicians, judges, lawyers, the media and activists who champion human rights instead of his Draconian anti-terror laws “just don’t get it“. Reid’s speech to the Labour Party Conference last week should have cleared up any remaining doubts about what a dangerous character he is. Here is a small snippet just to make the point [My emphasis]:

It cannot be right that the rights of an individual suspected terrorist be placed above the rights, life and limb of the British people.

It’s wrong. Full stop.

No ifs. No buts. It’s just plain wrong.

In other words the concept of being innocent until proven guilty is gone, and when you add this to Reid’s obvious dislike of the proper legal processes then we are all in grave danger.

With that attitude to justice, it is no surprise that our beloved Home Secretary is once again championing torture. We are returning to that old argument of sending suspected terrorists (or any other kind of suspect for that matter) to countries where they are at risk of being tortured. This is an argument that Reid and his predecessors have repeatedly lost. However, illegality and immorality has never been things to put off John Reid.

JOHN REID, the home secretary, is heading for a showdown with the judiciary over plans to strip some terror suspects of the automatic right to be protected from torture.

Reid is preparing a new anti-terror law that would sideline human rights legislation protecting suspects from torture if ministers ruled there were “overriding considerations of national security”.

The move is aimed at foreign terrorist suspects, including 32 detained in prison without charge or being monitored on strict bail conditions.

Despite Tony Blair’s pledge after last year’s suicide bombings in London to deport them, not one has been forcibly sent home because of legal fears that they might face torture on their return.

When you put this in context with Britain’s support for ‘extraordinary rendition’ which has been condemned by human rights groups, and slso in the wider context of what is happening in the USA (our closest ally) with regards to torture, then in isn’t difficult to see the direction Reid wants to take the UK. Remember, this maniac has just launched his bid to become leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister. His pal Radovan Karadic must be very proud.

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September 22, 2006

Torture in Iraq worse than under Saddam

Filed under: Iraq, Torture — netherworld @ 12:34 am

We are constantly hearing from the Bush/Blair axis how much better things are without Saddam despite all the evidence that points to the contrary. In March 2004 Tony Blair said:

I have no doubt Iraq is better without Saddam; but no doubt either, that as a result of his removal, the dangers of the threat we face will be diminished.

And just a week ago Dick Cheney said:

“It’s still difficult, and obviously there is major, major work ahead of us. But the fact is the world is better off today with Saddam Hussein out of power.”

Those are just a couple of examples, obviously there are plenty more. So perhaps all those people who supported the war in Iraq would care to explain this:

Torture may be worse now in Iraq than under former leader Saddam Hussein, the UN’s chief anti-torture expert says.

Or this:

The brutal excesses of Saddam Hussein’s regime were relived yesterday as Iraq’s new government announced that it had hanged 27 prisoners convicted of terror and criminal charges.

A few bad apples?, Anomalies? The birth pangs of a new Middle East? Well I guess they will point out that it it isn’t coalition troops doing all this torture and murder. Apart from insurgents, these barbaric acts are being carried out by the Iraqi security services who were trained by … er, us.



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September 12, 2006

A new insurance policy for torturers

Filed under: Bush, Torture, US Politics — netherworld @ 7:33 am

The Bush administration repeatedly insists that it does not condone torture. It tells us this despite so much evidence that points to the contrary. Even when the President has finally been forced to admit that ‘black sites’ exist and that extraordinary rendition is a reality despite the denials of European leaders, it still maintains that it does not torture detainees.

So why would it be necessary for CIA operatives to purchase an insurance policy to protect them against lawsuits for torturing their prisoners?

Worried CIA agents are taking out torture insurance as fears grow that they will be targeted by alleged terrorists and their victims in American courts.

The £160-a-year policies will provide the spies with about £106,000 in legal costs and about £530,000 towards awards made by the courts if they are sued and lose.

The policies cover suits lodged for torture, human rights abuse and professional failings in the lead-up to the September 11 atrocities.

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield told The Washington Post: “It’s fair to say that more employees have chosen to get this insurance, including those who work in counter-terrorism.”

CIA lawyers have advised staff to take out policies offered by a firm linked to the Special Agents Mutual Benefit Association, a financial services firm established by former FBI officials.

The agency has reimbursed premiums for some officers.

In the event of legal action, agents would normally be provided with government-funded legal cover, but many worry that in cases of alleged severe wrongdoing that assistance could be withdrawn.

Could it possibly be that the CIA really is involved in torture and is terrified that its activities might be uncovered in the courts? Perhaps that might also explain why the Bush administration is also trying to prevent such lawsuits ever reaching a court.

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