Thursday, February 4, 2010

From Truthout: Bagram: Graveyard of the Geneva Conventions

If there is any doubt about a wartime prisoner's status - because he is not wearing a uniform, for example - he is entitled to an Article 5 competent tribunal, held close to the time and place of capture, at which he can call witnesses. The US military pioneered these tribunals from Vietnam onwards, and was preparing to undertake them in December 2001, when the prisons at Kandahar and Bagram opened, until orders came from on high that, in the "war on terror," they were unnecessary. In its extraordinary arrogance and contempt for the law, the Bush administration decided that no screening was required, and that it was sufficient for the president to declare that, on capture, all the men were "enemy combatants," who could be held indefinitely without any rights whatsoever.

The purpose - as became apparent at Guantanamo, when President Bush declared that the Geneva Conventions did not extend to those held in the "war on terror" - was not to keep men off the battlefield for the duration of hostilities, but to provide the lawless conditions in which they could be interrogated for "actionable intelligence." The result, as has been chronicled as Guantanamo, at Bagram, at Abu Ghraib and in the secret prison network, was a torture regime, purportedly sanctioned by memos written by lawyers in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which claimed to redefine torture for the use by the CIA, or, in the case of the military, through "enhanced interrogation techniques" approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for use at Guantanamo, which later migrated to Iraq.
In many ways, these techniques were first conceived at Bagram, where the use of sleep deprivation and brutal stress positions (the "strappado" technique, or "Palestinian hanging") was widespread, and the regime was so brutal that, in 2002, at least two prisoners (and possibly as many as five) were murdered in US custody.

Despite official claims that the conditions at Bagram have improved in the years since, a BBC report in June 2008, based on interviews with men held in the prison between 2002 and 2008, found that only two "said they had been treated well," while the rest complained that "they were beaten, deprived of sleep and threatened with dogs." In "Undue Process," a Human Rights First report published in November 2009, a distinction was made between those held in Bagram's early years, and those held since 2006, when, as the report noted, ex-detainees "described significantly better treatment than those captured earlier, but some still told of being assaulted at the point of capture and being held in cold isolation cells for several weeks after their capture."

Moreover, in October 2009, during a panel discussion following the launch of the new Guantanamo documentary, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo," former prisoner Omar Deghayes explained how his Pakistani brother-in-law was recently captured on a visit to Afghanistan and ended up in Bagram. As Omar described it, his brother-in-law's wife, who was allowed to talk to her husband through a videophone system established by the International Committee of the Red Cross in early 2008, reported "how horribly and badly tortured he was, how he had marks on his eyes and was really badly battered."
To read the entire article click here.

To read political verse (The Judgment at Nuremberg) click here.

No comments: