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Year 2005 No. 135, December 6, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

End the Imperialist Occupation of Iraq!

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

End the Imperialist Occupation of Iraq!

Britain Breaking International Law over CIA Secret Flights

British Mercenaries Shooting at Baghdad Motorists is Part of "the Rules of Engagement"
US Took Eyes Off Mercenaries
Contractor, Army Office Fell Short, Audit Finds Report Examines Reconstruction in Iraq

It is Time for Britain to Come Clean on its Part in Rendition

Kidnapping, Detention, Torture: US "Renditions" Scandal Embroils Whole of Europe

CHRGJ Releases Briefing Paper on Extraordinary Rendition

Britain's Deadly Legacy: the Cluster Bomb

British-Trained Police in Iraq 'Killed Prisoners with Drills'

Iraq: The Right to Rule Ourselves

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End the Imperialist Occupation of Iraq!

Not a day goes by without further exposure of the war crimes of Anglo-US imperialism in Iraq, as well as its crimes against humanity in the service of this occupation. At the same time, the anti-human policies of the Blair government in this country which deny people their rights are arousing increasing opposition.

In this WDIE we are posting articles exposing and condemning the British government for its crimes. The imperialist occupation of Iraq must be ended and all troops withdrawn. We call upon the working class and people to further intensify their demands that Tony Blair and the interests he serves be brought to justice.

Article Index

Britain Breaking International Law over CIA Secret Flights

By Ian Cobain and Luke Harding, December 5, 2005, Guardian

The British government is guilty of breaking international law if it allowed secret CIA "rendition" flights of terror suspects to land at UK airports, according to a report by American legal scholars.

Merely giving permission for the flights to refuel while en route to the Middle East to collect a prisoner would constitute a breach of the law, according to the opinion commissioned by an all-party group of MPs, which meets in parliament for the first time today.

The report comes as the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, arrives in Europe for a trip that has been overshadowed by the growing dispute about the CIA's use of rendition - the term used to describe the abduction of suspects who are taken to countries where they can be questioned outside the protection of US law.

Several European governments, as well as the EU, have launched investigations into hundreds of CIA flights which have shuttled through the continent. Fresh revelations in Germany at the weekend show that CIA aircraft have landed in the country on 437 occasions. The Washington Post also reported that dozens of prisoners had been wrongly taken under rendition, with some kidnapped in their home countries and held incommunicado for weeks.

Ms Rice has promised to clarify the issue. Yesterday, however, US officials made it clear she was likely to respond robustly to any questioning from European leaders.

"We do not move people around the world so they can be tortured," Stephen Hadley, the White House's adviser, said yesterday, pledging that the Bush administration would deal with the issue "in a comprehensive way". In briefings officials said she would remind European ministers that their governments had cooperated in anti-terror operations with the US.

The all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, with representatives from the three main parties, was formed after the Guardian reported in September that aircraft operated by the CIA had flown in and out of civilian airports and RAF bases in the UK at least 210 times since September 11 2001.

Last night the Foreign Office said: "We have no evidence to corroborate media allegations about use of UK territory in rendition operations."

A report for the group by New York University's school of law's centre for human rights and global justice, concluded: "A state which aids or assists another state in the commission of an internationally wrongful act by the latter is internationally responsible for doing so."

The authors believe the government could face legal sanctions because of the UK's support. "Accomplice liability has been recognised in international criminal law since at least the Nuremberg trials," they said. Ms Rice, who meets Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, tomorrow, also faces tough questions about reports of secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe.

Yesterday Romania's foreign minister, Razvan Ungureanu, again denied that his country had hosted a covert CIA jail - but left open the possibility that the US had operated one without his government's knowledge. He urged Human Rights Watch to hand over evidence it had of secret CIA prisons in Romania.

Andrew Tyrie, the Tory MP and chairman of the parliamentary group, said: "By apparently assisting the US in the practice of extraordinary rendition, the UK and the west are losing the moral high ground so valuable to foreign policy since the end of the cold war."

Article Index

British Mercenaries Shooting at Baghdad Motorists is Part of "the Rules of Engagement"

By Michel Chossudovsky, December 4, 2005

Security contractors of the so-called "Victory" Group of the British mercenary Firm Aegis Defence Services have committed the ultimate war crime: the indiscriminate killing of civilians as part of  a "game", not a video game but a real game of shooting Iraqi civilians as a form of entertainment,  as revealed in a "trophy video" posted on an Aegis employees website. There are in fact several video clips, which suggests that the practice is not an isolated event.

The CEO of Aegis is Tim Spicer, a former lieutenant colonel in the Scots Guards. 

Spicer headed Sandline International, a mercenary outfit disbanded in April 2004 following controversy surrounding its role in Sierra Leone, as well as, more recently, in Papua New Guinea. 

Sandline indicated on its website the reasons for the closure: 

On 16 April 2004, Sandline International announced the closure of the company's operations.

The general lack of governmental support for Private Military Companies willing to help end armed conflicts in places like Africa, in the absence of effective international intervention, is the reason for this decision. Without such support, the ability of Sandline to make a positive difference in countries where there is widespread brutality and genocidal behaviour is materially diminished (http://www.sandline.com )

Barely a month following the closure of Sandline, in May 2004, Aegis Defence Services, which is essentially a continuation of Sandline under a different name, received a 293 million dollar contract from the Pentagon to ensure public security in Iraq on behalf of the occupying forces. 

Aegis had been put in charge of "providing armed bodyguards for the Army's Project and Contracting Office, which oversees reconstruction projects, as well as coordinating security for 10 other prime contractors in Iraq." (WP, 23 April 2005)

The Aegis Audit 

The behaviour of Aegis mercenaries was known to the Pentagon. Sandline had a well-established track record.  

Private defence contractors were involved in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. Sandline's track record under the helm of Tim Spicer was known and documented.  
Moreover, An audit of Aegis activities  (pdf) conducted in April 2005 had reported that several of Aegis recruits had not received appropriate training in the use of weapons. In fact, 11 out of 20 surveyed were considered to be inadequately trained with regard to the handling of an AK 47 (see audit report): 

A controversial British firm responsible for a $293 million US Army security contract in Iraq could not prove that its armed employees received proper weapons training.... 

In addition to criticizing Aegis Defence Services Ltd., the audit took aim t the Army's contracting office in Iraq for poor oversight. It reported that the official who was supposed to keep watch over Aegis's contract had not been trained in either monitoring contracts or security. The office was also severely short-staffed: At the time of the audit, 41 officials were administering 6,500 contracts and task orders.

... A random survey of 20 Aegis employees who had been issued weapons -- including AK-47 and M4 assault rifles -- showed that the company did not have the needed weapons training documentation for 14 of them. As a result, auditors could not say whether "all contractor personnel are qualified on the weapons that they had been issued."(WP, 23 April 2005) 

Despite these shortcomings, Aegis was found to be in compliance with its contract.

Rules of Engagement

Since the release of the controversial video, both the media and the Pentagon have remained mum on the subject.  No apologies to the civilian victims. 

While an internal investigation has been ordered by Aegis CEO Tim Spicer, a company statement has clarified that opening fire on civilian vehicles is "under certain circumstances" in conformity with the Rules of Engagement:

 AEGIS' personnel have substantial military and peacekeeping experience and all operate under strict and accountable Rules of Engagement of the Coalition Military (CENTCOM), and the US Department of State, as well as Coalition Provisional Authority Order - Memo 17.

These Rules of Engagement allow for a structured escalation of force to include opening fire on civilian vehicles under certain circumstances. All incidents of the use of such escalation of force which includes the use of firearms are logged and investigated to ensure that there has been strict adherence to the Rules of Engagement. Should any incident recorded on the video footage have involved AEGIS personnel, this too will be subject to scrutiny by the Board of Enquiry.

(for full statement, see http://www.aegisworld.com/latest_news.lasso


1. The complete Audit in pdf of the Office of The Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. April 20, 2005.

Press Reports

US Took Eyes Off Mercenaries

by Chris Shumway and Brian Dominick, 9 May 2005, New Standard

The government office charged with investigating misconduct in the reconstruction of Iraq just revealed dozens of new allegations that Western contractors and their overseers mismanaged Iraqi reconstruction funds.

United States authorities failed to ensure that a British mercenary company was in full compliance with the terms of its security contract in Iraq, according to an audit by the office set up to investigate mismanagement of reconstruction funds. Aegis Defence Services, which received the largest contract of all the private armies operating in Iraq despite a highly questionable background, failed to comply with regulations established to ensure a basic order within mercenary outfits.

Additional audits prepared by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and delivered to Congress last week additionally show that American officials poorly maintained dozens of relatively small reconstruction contracts collectively worth more than $184 million. They also reveal that American managers of the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), an account consisting primarily of Iraqi oil revenues, failed to keep track of at least $96.6 million in funds earmarked for reconstruction and relief projects in south-central Iraq.

This fresh evidence of mismanagement was all discovered on top of the $9 billion in unaccounted-for funds discovered earlier this year. And the troubles with Aegis arrive as concern over fraud allegedly committed by another private military company, Custer Battles, still simmers.

More Shady Mercenaries Run Amok Investigators found that the US Army hired Aegis last year to provide armed bodyguards for US government employees and contractors managing reconstruction of the oil and gas fields and repairing the electricity and water services in Iraq. The UK-based company failed to comply with requirements in five key areas of its $293 million "cost-plus" contract, the auditors' report conveys.

Cost-plus contracts cover all of a company's expenses, plus a pre-determined percentage of whatever they spend, ensuring that the contractor makes a significant profit.

Among the findings, auditors reported that Aegis bodyguards did not have proper experience and qualifications for hostage rescue and chemical and biological warfare; that Aegis did not provide suitable documentation showing that its weapons toting employees were trained and qualified to use those weapons; and that the company did not have sufficient proof that its Iraqi employees had been properly vetted. In many cases, Aegis had no records showing that it performed police background checks on Iraqi workers, or that it even conducted interviews with workers before hiring them.

Auditors reported that the Project and Contracting Office (PCO) in Iraq, which handles all financial and programmatic matters related to the reconstruction effort, did not adequately monitor the Aegis deal - the largest single security contract in Iraq. "As a result" of both Aegis' and the PCO's failures, the audit concluded, "there is no assurance that Aegis is providing the best possible safety and security" for government and reconstruction personnel in Iraq.

As much evidence of mismanagement as the inspector general's office found, watchdogs point out there was reason for grave concern just based on the past dealings of the mercenary outfit's founder. Aegis was launched by Tim Spicer, a former British commando, in 2003, a little more than a year before it won the lucrative contract in Iraq. Spicer has long been involved in using private forces to intervene in civil wars on behalf of mining, oil and gas interests, according to a report by CorpWatch, a web site that monitors corporate fraud and abuse.

In 1998, a company called Sandline, also operated by Spicer, was reportedly contracted to sell 30 tons of arms to the forces of the then- leader of Sierra Leone, in violation of a UN arms embargo. Subsequently, Spicer's firm became the subject of multiple British investigations. Spicer maintained at the time that he did not know the company's actions were illegal, CorpWatch reports.

One year earlier, Spicer was involved in a civil war in Papua New Guinea during which Sandline was reportedly paid $36 million to battle local citizens who had shut down a profitable copper mine to protest environmental damage it had caused and to assert their case for independence. At a Papua New Guinea court hearing, Spicer reportedly said that part of his project involved a psychological campaign waged against citizens with the aid of attack helicopters. Charges against Spicer were eventually dismissed, CorpWatch reported.

Spicer's past, reported by The NewStandard last June, was outside the scope of the inspector general's audit, which focused on the conduct of the company and the contracting process rather than the wisdom of the contract itself.

The Aegis story is in some ways reminiscent of a similar situation involving former US contractor Custer Battles. That firm, itself co-founded in 2003 by a former commando looking to take advantage of the burgeoning mercenary industry and its practically open-ended contracts, currently faces a lawsuit brought by former associates on behalf of the US government, charging massive fraud and theft. Custer Battles also received lucrative contracts despite its limited history as a corporation and the questionable backgrounds of its founders.

Fraud, Theft Suspected in Up to 37 Cases In a report to Congress last week that summarized the Aegis audit, the special inspector general also stated that the US contracting office "did not adequately maintain" 37 of its contracts and associated files for projects worth more than $184 million. Officials additionally failed to produce 21 percent of the files that auditors requested for their review. As a result of mismanagement, "there was no assurance that fraud, waste and abuse did not occur in the management and administration" of Iraqi reconstruction contracts, the report said.

Government auditors also found "indicators of potential fraud" on the part of the Development Fund for Iraq's (DFI) Account Manager's office, which failed to "properly account for or support" more than $96.6 million in cash that employees were supposed to hand out in shrink-wrapped bricks of hundred-dollar bills. Auditors have referred several cases to a special office for criminal investigation.

Most of the funds US contractors are suspected to have defrauded was Iraqi money to begin with.

In an examination of financial records between June 2003 and October 2004, reviewers found poor bookkeeping on the part of managers handling the DFI for the former Coalition Provisional Authority and, more recently, the US Embassy's Joint Area Support Group for Central Iraq. Money from the cash disbursal programme was intended to pay local citizens and contractors for rebuilding and relief projects in South Central Iraq.

On several occasions, employees handed out large bundles of cash without properly counting the money.

In another case, two US "field paying agents" left Iraq without telling their bosses what happened to $1.49 million in cash they were supposed to hand out. The inspector general's office found that the two workers did not sign the required forms to take on personal liability for any lost cash.

The audit further found that the DFI account manager was aware that the two field agents had outstanding balances "but did not take action to resolve the issue." Instead of trying to determine exactly what happened to the money, the manager prepared a worksheet that made it appear as though the workers transferred the cash to another, higher ranking agent. Such an act "appears to be an attempt to remove outstanding balances by simply washing accounts," the audit said.

Corruption and Inspection Continue The SIGIR office just began its second year of oversight and inspections concerning the management of US, Iraqi and international funds in occupied Iraq. In a report slated for release today, Special Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen Jr. notes that the rebellion operating across much of Iraq remains "a major barrier to the reconstruction and rehabilitation" process. But during a year of audits, the SIGIR has uncovered numerous cases of fraud and misallocation.

The SIGIR says it is currently conducting an audit of DFI cash disbursement in the southern region of Iraq.

Expecting to more than quadruple its original Iraq-based staff to 30 personnel by month's end, the office currently has a total of 34 cases under investigation on the ground, six of which are categorized as "procurement fraud" and another six suspecting theft.

Between January 1 and March 31, a corruption hotline set up by the special inspector general received 57 new complaints of corruption related to Iraq reconstruction projects. Fourteen of those have been classified as abuse, while ten each are listed as fraud and waste.

© 2005 The NewStandard.

Contractor, Army Office Fell Short, Audit Finds Report Examines Reconstruction in Iraq

By Griff Witte Washington Post Staff Writer, April 23, 2005

The findings mean "there is no assurance that Aegis is providing the best possible safety and security for government and reconstruction contractor personnel and facilities," according to auditors with the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

Aegis, an almost three-year-old London-based firm whose chief executive provided military assistance to warring factions in Asian and African conflicts in the late 1990s, received its Iraqi security contract last May. With the award, Aegis was put in charge of providing armed bodyguards for the Army's Project and Contracting Office, which oversees reconstruction projects, as well as coordinating security for 10 other prime contractors in Iraq.

An Aegis spokeswoman responded to the audit with a statement noting that "the auditors found that Aegis was generally in compliance with the terms of the contract," and, "As a result of our performance to date our contract has been formally extended for a further year." The original contract was for one year, with options to extend it for two more.

Yesterday's report came in the midst of other reminders of the security challenges that Iraq continues to pose. On Thursday, six Blackwater USA contractors were killed when the helicopter in which they were riding went down north of Baghdad. And yesterday, Halliburton Co., the single biggest US contractor in Iraq, said it may have to pull out of work restoring Iraqi oil fields because of insurgent attacks.

While Aegis generally met its requirements in providing security to US officials and other contractors, the auditors reported, the company fell short in several key areas. A random survey of 20 Aegis employees who had been issued weapons -- including AK-47 and M4 assault rifles -- showed that the company did not have the needed weapons training documentation for 14 of them. As a result, auditors could not say whether "all contractor personnel are qualified on the weapons that they had been issued."

The inspector general's report also faulted the company for not adequately documenting background checks on its 125 Iraqi employees. While the company was supposed to conduct interviews and other checks on the employees to make sure they did not pose "an internal security threat," auditors found documentary evidence that the vetting process was often lacking.

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long Jr., director of the Project and Contracting Office, wrote in a letter responding to the audit that his office generally concurred with the criticisms and was working to correct them.

The special inspector general's office, which was created by Congress, provides oversight of the billions of dollars in US government funds being spent to rebuild Iraq following the United States-led invasion in 2003. It has issued 16 reports and has at least 10 others in progress, a spokesman said.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who helped create the inspector general's office and has pushed to keep it funded, said in a statement that the Aegis audit is "deeply troubling, and only reaffirms the desperate need for vigorous, independent oversight of the way taxpayer dollars are being spent in Iraq."

The Aegis contract, the largest postwar security contract in Iraq, has been controversial from the beginning. The company's chief executive, Tim Spicer, is a former lieutenant colonel in the Scots Guards who used to lead the private military firm Sandline International.

Sandline was tapped in 1997 to end a rebellion on an island in Papua New Guinea, but the government there was soon toppled. The year after, Sandline became embroiled in war in Sierra Leone. A parliamentary inquiry in 1999 found that the firm had been involved in shipping arms into Sierra Leone, despite a United Nations embargo. The company said it was acting with the British government's blessing, but government ministers were cleared of wrongdoing.

Spicer left Sandline in 2000, and the company ended operations in 2004. Aegis -- which bills itself as a defence assistance, risk management and security company -- was created in September 2002. After Aegis won the security contract in Iraq, several Irish American groups protested, citing a 1992 case in which two soldiers under Spicer's command shot and killed a Belfast teenager. Spicer has maintained that the soldiers were innocent.

Texas-based DynCorp, which lost a bid for the Iraq security contract, unsuccessfully protested the award to Aegis, citing allegations against Spicer, among other issues.

Doug Brooks, an acquaintance of Spicer's who heads the International Peace Operations Association, a trade group of security firms, said that the problems identified in the Aegis audit seemed "fairly minor" and that the firm deserves credit overall for difficult work in a dangerous place.

Peter W. Singer, a Brookings Institution fellow who has written a book on private military firms, said the audit is more troubling for what it says about the contracting process than for what it says about Aegis. Auditors reported that contracting officials were unaware of many of the problems with the contract and that until auditors brought them to light, they had been unable to correct the ones they did know about. Contracting officials blamed a heavy workload and a high staff-turnover rate.

"The fact that you have 41 people doing oversight for 6,500 contracts is just stunning," Singer said. "It's only getting worse, and it just points to the fact that the government is behind the curve when it comes to being a smart client."

Government oversight of contractors in Iraq was also at issue yesterday in a lawsuit brought by whistle-blowers against a firm called Custer Battles LLC, which had provided security at Baghdad International Airport in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's fall from power. Two whistle-blowers have sued Custer Battles, claiming it defrauded the US government of tens of millions of dollars.

The firm's lawyers have argued that the case doesn't belong in US courts, however, because Custer Battles allegedly stole from the Coalition Provisional Authority, which they claim was an international institution, not an arm of the US government. Yesterday, Justice Department lawyers disagreed, writing in a brief that for the purposes of this case, "the CPA is an instrumentality of the United States."

A federal judge in Alexandria still has to rule on the matter.

Article Index

It is Time for Britain to Come Clean on its Part in Rendition

by Elizabeth Wilmshurst*, December 2, 2005, The Independent

Allegations about the use of British airports to refuel CIA planes carrying terrorist suspects to countries where they are to be interrogated and tortured raise the question whether this has anything to do with us. Why should the UK be involved or concerned?

First, we are involved because of our obligations under international law. The UK is a party to the Convention against Torture which imposes an absolute prohibition on torture, with no exceptions. So is the US. The ban on torture applies not just to the act itself but also prohibits sending people to countries where there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be in danger of being tortured.

General rules of international law describe ways in which a state may be responsible for the acts of another: a state which assists another in committing a breach of international law is itself breaking the law if it does so in knowledge of the facts.

There would be serious concerns about the UK's own responsibility under the Torture Convention if the detainees are, as alleged, being flown to a country where they can be interrogated by methods amounting to torture, and if it were to be known by our Government that our airports were being used to assist with the flights.

Second, the allegations raise concerns under our own criminal law. The obligation under the Torture Convention has been translated into our law in the Criminal Justice Act 1988, an Act well known from its use in the Pinochet case. The Act creates the offence of torture and allows the courts to try it wherever the offence was committed and by a person of whatever nationality. Even if the persons concerned never leave a plane on the Tarmac at a British airport they are covered by the law.

The letters written on Tuesday by Liberty to various police constables claim that it amounts to torture to detain someone who is aware that the purpose of the detention is to bring them to a place where they will be subjected to torture, as that itself will undoubtedly inflict severe mental suffering. That is not an entirely fanciful claim. The Torture Convention requires states to begin an investigation wherever there is "reasonable ground" to believe that an act of torture has been committed in its territory.

Third, we must be concerned about these allegations because the relevant rules of international and domestic law reflect fundamental values of our society. No statement that "the rules of the game have changed" can apply to principles such as these. The Government's condemnation of torture needs to come across clearly in all areas of its domestic and foreign policy. The policy of seeking diplomatic assurances that persons deported from this country will not be tortured, controversial as it is, should be matched by a determination to avoid any form of assistance with the outsourcing of torture by others.

It has to be asked whether there is anything that could have been done by the Government in relation to the alleged flights; should the Government have known about any detainees on board and could these flights have been stopped?

The rules are different for civilian and state aircraft. In principle, civilian aircraft operating for non-commercial purposes are entitled to enter a state's airspace and land in its territory for reasons such as refuelling.

But are these civilian aircraft? If the allegations are correct, they are in use for reasons of the state, which would make them "state aircraft" for the purposes of international law. Governments can and do require permission before state aircraft land in their territory, and they are entitled to impose conditions for landing.

There is a need for the facts to come out. Reports about "extraordinary renditions" of persons to prisons abroad for coercive interrogation techniques are not new. The allegations about the use of British and other European airports have similarly been current for some months. If there is no truth in some of these claims, that should be said at once.

* Elizabeth Wilmshurst is a former deputy head of the Foreign Office legal team and is now a fellow of Chatham House.

Article Index

Kidnapping, Detention, Torture: US "Renditions" Scandal Embroils Whole of Europe

By Chris Marsden, 2 December 2005, World Socialist Web Site

The political scandal over the CIA’s transfer of alleged terrorists to overseas prisons where they are subject to torture has now embroiled governments throughout Europe.

Airplanes operated by CIA-front companies carrying detainees have landed many times at European airports before flying off to countries where the prisoners are held incommunicado and tortured, with the knowledge and even direct participation of US operatives.

According to press reports, since September 11, 2001 at least 100 prisoners have been subjected to this process of "extraordinary rendition." Some have been kidnapped on European soil or are European citizens.

Human Rights Watch has said there is strong evidence, including the flight records of CIA jets transporting prisoners out of Afghanistan, that Poland and Romania were among countries allowing the CIA to operate secret detention centres, or "black sites."

Allegations that the CIA has run secret prisons in Eastern European countries were first made in a Washington Post report by Dana Priest on November 2. The article claimed the US has maintained secret prisons in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several eastern European states. The Post did not name the European countries involved at the request of American officials.

A report by Germany’s Berliner Zeitung said 85 CIA flights had taken off or landed at the US Rhein-Main military air base in Frankfurt between 2002 and 2004–headed to such places as Baghdad, Kabul and the Jordanian capital Amman.

An analysis for the New York Times of 26 planes known to be operated by CIA front companies shows 307 flights in Europe since September 2001. There were 94 flights in Germany, the most in Europe, 76 flights from Britain, 33 from Ireland, 16 from Portugal, and 15 each from Spain and the Czech Republic. A similar investigation by the British Guardian newspaper states that when charter flights are included, the figure for Britain rises to more than 200.

The mounting revelations of these CIA operations–all in flagrant contravention of international law and the laws of the European countries involved–are an acute embarrassment for Europe’s governments. The existence of CIA detention facilities in Europe–Poland is a European Union (EU) member state–violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

The exposure of US-organized "disappearances" of targeted individuals and their subjection to torture, and the role of European governments in allowing and covering up for these crimes, has evoked public outrage. In Britain, the human rights group Liberty has asked police to investigate allegations of the CIA’s use of United Kingdom airports for rendition purposes. Liberty has said that unless action is taken within 14 days, it will seek legal action against UK police forces for aiding and abetting in kidnap and torture.

Britain’s foreign secretary, Jack Straw, has sent a letter to Washington on behalf of the EU seeking clarification on the allegations that the CIA has torture camps in Eastern Europe. Germany’s new foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also raised the issue during his visit to Washington.

Franco Frattini, the EU’s foremost justice official, has warned that any member state discovered to have hosted CIA prisons will face "serious consequences," including losing its EU voting rights. The Council of Europe has opened a formal inquiry into the issue under Article 52 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Investigator Dick Marty has said he wants to examine satellite photos of the military training camp at Szymany in northeastern Poland and Kogalniceanu military airport in southern Romania.

Italian prosecutors are seeking the extradition of 22 suspected CIA operatives from the US, who are charged with abducting Egyptian national Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr in February 2003. Nasr, who had been granted political refugee status by Italy, was kidnapped on the streets of Milan by agents who, according to Italian prosecutors, were working for the CIA. He was flown to Egypt, where he says he was tortured.

Investigations have also been mounted by Spain, Sweden and Norway.

The Bush administration broke its silence on the unfolding international scandal only this week. The State Department said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be prepared to address the allegations of secret CIA prison camps when she visits Germany, Romania, Ukraine, and Belgium for a NATO foreign ministers meeting next week. But Washington made clear that it would not retreat from its illegal policy. Rice herself told the press, "We have never fought a war like this before where... you can’t allow someone to commit the crime before you detain them."

The Bush administration has one great advantage in taking a hard line in the face of complaints and inquiries by EU states. It knows well what others can only speculate about: how much the European governments knew and how complicit they have been in the criminal activities of the CIA.

The December 1 edition of the New York Times openly raises this issue, writing that anger in Europe is accompanied by "looming embarrassment, with suspicion that Americans, in many cases, operated with the knowledge or consent of local governments."

Daria Pesce, the lawyer for a former CIA station chief in Milan who is one of those accused of snatching Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, says, "Someone knew... I don’t think that it is possible that an American comes into Italy and kidnaps someone. It seems really unlikely."

Giuseppe Cucchi, a former three-star Italian general and military representative to NATO, told the Times, "I don’t see why they shouldn’t have agreed with our secret services on an action like that... The condition often put on an action like that is that, ‘If something comes out, we will declare that we didn’t know anything.’"

There is, in fact, no possibility that Europe’s governments did not know of the CIA’s activities. Extraordinary renditions are official US policy. Reports and articles available on the Internet have logged the movements of planes run by the CIA ever since 2001, and the number of these aircraft has increased to over 26, with ten planes added since 9/11.

Last May, when Amnesty International condemned American human rights abuses carried out in the name of the "war on terrorism" and its secretary general called Guantánamo the "gulag of our time," the US government denounced the human rights organization. All of the European governments kept silent.

Yet in November last year, the British Sunday Times reported on the movements of one CIA-run jet believed to be involved in renditions. The article noted that the plane flew to 49 international destinations, including Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan, Libya and Uzbekistan. Internet reports and photos showed it making stopovers in Portugal, Spain and the Czech Republic.

The issue of renditions gained prominence when a series of legal rulings in the United States in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib scandal made it all but impossible to continue to hold detainees without trial at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, while denying them at least some of the rights afforded by US law. The US Supreme Court had ruled in June of 2004 that federal courts could hear habeas corpus petitions from Guantánamo detainees who were contesting their imprisonment.

The Bush administration responded last March by announcing that half of Guantánamo’s 540 inmates would be transferred to prisons in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and other countries. This in effect insured that the detainees would be subject to treatment that contravenes both US and international law.

The announcement focused public attention on a worldwide network of detention facilities either set up by Washington or established as a result of its negotiations with other governments in the aftermath of 9/11.

Newspapers reported that the US was negotiating with various countries to take Guantánamo detainees. The Times cited a February 5 memorandum from Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld urging that pressure be placed on reluctant governments.

The most important article that appeared highlighting America’s network of detention and torture facilities was by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark in the March 19, 2005 Guardian. It stated that Afghanistan had become "the hub of a global system of detention centres where prisoners are held incommunicado and allegedly subjected to torture."

Michael Posner of the US legal watchdog Human Rights First, said, "The detention system in Afghanistan exists entirely outside international norms, but it is only part of a far larger and more sinister jail network that we are only now beginning to understand."

Levy and Scott-Clark reported the existence of unofficial detention facilities at Gardez, Khost, Asadabad and Jalalabad, as well as an official detention centre in Kandahar. "There are 20 more facilities in outlying US compounds and fire bases that complement a major ‘collection centre’ at Bagram air force base," they wrote. "The CIA has one facility at Bagram and another, known as the ‘Salt Pit’, in an abandoned brick factory north of Kabul. More than 1,500 prisoners from Afghanistan and many other countries are thought to be held in such jails, although no one knows for sure because the US military declines to comment."

Following 9/11, the US had "commandeered foreign jails, built cellblocks at US military bases and established covert CIA facilities that can be located almost anywhere, from an apartment block to a shipping container. Terror suspects are being processed in Afghanistan and in dozens of facilities in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Egypt, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the British island of Diego Garcia in the southern Indian Ocean. Those detained are held incommunicado, without charge or trial, and frequently shuttled between jails in covert air transports, giving rise to the recently coined US military expression ‘ghost detainees.’"

Syria was another partner in Washington’s network. Levy and Scott-Clark had obtained "prisoner letters, declassified FBI files, legal depositions, witness statements and testimony from US and UK officials, which document the alleged methods deployed in Afghanistan–shackles, hoods, electrocution, whips, mock executions, sexual humiliation and starvation–and suggest they are practised across the network."

The article also drew attention to the use of jets owned and run by CIA front companies–the issue that has now hit the headlines in Europe. Former CIA officer Robert Baer explained, "We pick up a suspect or we arrange for one of our partner countries to do it. Then the suspect is placed on civilian transport to a third country where, let’s make no bones about it, they use torture. If you want a good interrogation, you send someone to Jordan. If you want them to be killed, you send them to Egypt or Syria. Either way, the US cannot be blamed as it is not doing the heavy work."

Disproving the recent claims of ignorance and expressions of outrage emanating from Europe’s capitals, the article details the kidnapping of Ahmed Agiza, an Egyptian asylum seeker resident in Sweden. In December 2001, he was sent back to Egypt. He and a second Egyptian refugee, Mohammed Al-Zery, had been arrested by Swedish intelligence acting upon a request from the US: "...driven, shackled and blindfolded, to Stockholm’s Bromma airport, where they were cuffed and cut from their clothes. Suppositories were inserted into both men’s anuses, they were wrapped in plastic nappies, dressed in jumpsuits and handed over to an American aircrew who flew them out of Sweden on a private executive jet.

"Prisoners told us that Agiza was repeatedly electrocuted, hung upside down, whipped with an electrical flex and hospitalised after being made to lick his cell floor clean," the Guardian reported.

The November 21 edition of Der Spiegel cites another example of direct collaboration, this time involving Germany. Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a German citizen, was abducted while he was in Morocco in November 2001 and sent to a Syrian prison to be tortured. With the agreement of Syria, German officials flew to Damascus to interrogate the prisoner, whom they knew was being tortured.

Britain, Washington’s closest ally, is most heavily implicated in the renditions scandal. Along with Washington, London is anxious to utilize torture without being seen to be directly culpable. On August 11 last year, the Court of Appeals had ruled that evidence extracted by torture was admissible in UK law. When this was challenged, the Blair government requested a decision by the Law Lords on the issue, which is still pending.

Washington’s actions recall the reign of state terror practiced by US-backed military regimes in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, in which thousands of students, trade unionists, left-wing political figures and journalists were "disappeared," tortured and executed. What is remarkable is not that protests and investigations have been organised by EU states, but that Europe’s response has been so belated and muted.

Europe’s governments are clearly worried by the possible political fallout from their alliance with an administration that utilises methods, borrowed from the handbook of Hitler’s Nazi regime, that were inflicted on the people of German-occupied Europe during World War II.

But all are complicit in Washington’s criminal actions. Whatever their reservations about Iraq, they all signed up to the so-called "war on terror" that has been used to legitimise kidnapping, detention and torture. They too are breaking with democratic norms, which are, in the end, incompatible with colonial subjugation and the destruction of workers’ living standards carried out at the behest of an international financial oligarchy.

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CHRGJ Releases Briefing Paper on Extraordinary Rendition

New York - December 1, 2005

The Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice has released a Briefing Paper outlining legal standards applicable to extraordinary rendition.  On December 5, 2005, the UK Parliament All Party Group on Extraordinary Rendition will launch a campaign against U.S. use of British airports and Royal Air Force bases in the practice of Extraordinary Rendition. To assist in this campaign, the Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice has prepared a Briefing Paper entitled "Torture by Proxy: International Law Applicable to 'Extraordinary Renditions'." This Briefing Paper outlines how Extraordinary Rendition violates international human rights, humanitarian, refugee and criminal law.  It also identifies the responsibilities of States to not collude in the practice of Extraordinary Rendition by other States.

For a copy of the Briefing Paper, click here: Torture by Proxy: International Law Applicable to 'Extraordinary Renditions

Further information on the Parliamentary Campaign:

MPs from all parties prepare campaign to halt CIA terror flights from Britain

Ian Cobain, Stephen Grey and Richard Norton-Taylor, September 13, 2005, Guardian

MPs from all parties are planning to campaign against the CIA's use of British airports and RAF bases when abducting terrorism suspects who are then flown to countries where they are allegedly tortured. An all-party group is to be established this autumn to coordinate the campaign and to inquire into the extent of Britain's support for the operations, which are said to violate international law.

The development was announced as the UN began inquiring into the operations, known in US intelligence circles as "extraordinary renditions", and as an investigation by the Guardian uncovered the extent of British logistical support.

Andrew Tyrie, Conservative MP for Chichester, is setting up the group after demanding information from the Foreign Office about the UK's involvement in US prisoner operations. He said: "I am appalled by what appears to be growing evidence of complicity by the British government in torture of terrorist suspects or people whom the US may have information on, which could assist them to prosecute the war on terror. I don't think the information that comes from torture is reliable, but more importantly, the use of such practices undermines the values we espouse. The damage to those values is far greater than any benefit we might gain from these practices."

Sir Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said the government was going to considerable lengths to enter agreements with governments to try to ensure deportees from Britain would not be subjected to torture. But, he added, it appeared the government was "allowing free passage to the Americans to transfer people from one jurisdiction to another where they are likely to be subjected to torture".

Sir Menzies has tabled parliamentary questions about the practice, asking how many individuals had been deported or otherwise involuntarily transferred from the US on flights which have landed in Britain. He is asking ministers what records they have of individuals transported in this way, what records are maintained of aircraft used for the purpose, and what military airfields were involved.

He is also asking how many detainees are being held against their will on US vessels in territorial waters off Diego Garcia, the British Indian Ocean Territory, on which the US has a large aircraft base. Ministers have repeatedly denied any prisoners are, or have been, held on Diego Garcia.

Chris Mullin, Labour MP and former Foreign Office minister, said of the use of British airports: "If the government's policy is against rendition, then we must make that clear. The franchising out of torture is wholly unacceptable." He added that while the CIA may have legitimate reasons to fly in and out of the UK on other businesses, "unless we can clarify what is legitimate and what is not, it may be that the best thing is for them to be kept out".

Amnesty International is demanding the US "ceases the practice of renditions that bypass human rights protections".

The Guardian's investigation established that aircraft used by the CIA in renditions have flown in and out of the UK at least 210 times since the attacks of September 11. Some of those flights were connected to the abduction of terror suspects.

About 150 men have been abducted over the last four years and flown to countries where torture is common. A few have been released, and have given harrowing accounts of their treatment. Human rights lawyers say the operations violate the UN convention against torture, and say the CIA agents involved may also be in breach of the 1988 Criminal Justice Act.

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Britain's Deadly Legacy: the Cluster Bomb

by Ben Russell, November 21, 2005, The Independent

Tony Blair is facing fresh fury over the use of controversial munitions in the Iraq war. Campaigners lambasted the Ministry of Defence over its use of deadly cluster bombs and shells during the invasion, warning that they could contravene international law. MPs are to table a raft of new questions today over the affair amid fears that thousands of bomblets released during the war will leave a deadly legacy for Iraqi civilians. They warned that any unexploded bomblets could kill or maim civilians for years to come.

The dispute over British use of cluster bombs will be intensify this week with the publication of a report by the pressure group Landmine Action, which raises questions over the efforts made to ensure that the weapons did not harm civilians. It comes as international signatories to the international convention on conventional weapons meet in Geneva this week, amid pressure for a moratorium on the production of cluster bombs and tough new limits on their use.

The report, funded by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, said British officials had failed to gather field data about the failure rates of cluster bomblets, and had done "little or nothing to gauge the humanitarian impact of these weapons".

It said that the UK had "failed to undertake any significant effort to understand better the impact of cluster munition use and has continued to use them. As was foreseeable, these cluster munitions have been a cause of civilian casualties."

Michael Moore, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, said: "This is a very significant report which raises some very serious issues. There is clearly a lack of information and I will be tabling questions and writing to the Secretary of State with a copy of this report seeking detailed answers to the questions it raises. The jury may be out on the political legacy of the coalition's time in Iraq but the military legacy could be absolutely devastating."

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour MP for Islington North, also said he would raise fresh questions about the affair. He said: "My concerns about the issue of cluster bombs are as strong as they ever were. Unexploded bomblets lying around can be picked up by farmers and children in the community and can be lethal. They can be buried and can be as bad as land mines."

A report published in 2003 by the group Human Rights Watch said British forces had killed dozens of civilians in and around Basra using ground launched cluster munitions.

Britain confirmed in 2003 that it dropped substantial numbers of cluster bombs during the campaign. The Ministry of Defence said that 2,000 bomblet shells were fired by artillery on the ground and 68 cluster bombs were dropped from the air during the war.

Ministers insisted that the weapons were targeting "specific military targets", but later confirmed that British troops used cluster bombs in built up areas. The revelation sparked a storm of protest after The Independent revealed in 2003 that Adam Ingram, the Armed Forces minister, had admitted that the use of cluster bombs against civilian targets would not be legal.

Parliamentary written answers released at the time also confirmed that the MoD had carried out no reviews or assessments of the civilian casualties caused by unexploded bomblets used in the Gulf region, Kosovo or Afghanistan. The Ministry insisted last year that it had cleared more than one million unexploded bombs in southern Iraq, including 6,000 sub- munitions, or bomblets.

Ministers insist that the cluster bombs are not indiscriminate and represent an acceptable "balance between the threat to civilians and the need to protect British forces". But critics said the answer provided too little detail to determine whether British forces had removed all threats to Iraqi civilians.

The Landmine Action report also warned yesterday that the bomblets could have a 10 per cent failure rate, and said that in conflict zones such as Kosovo unexploded munitions were still being found years after the end of hostilities.

It said a British Government report had acknowledged that airborne cluster bombs had an "unacceptable" failure rate, and warned: "It is far from clear that those making decisions about the use of cluster munitions routinely do so or even could do so with a serious sense of the possible effects of the weapons."

Simon Conway, the acting director of Landmine Action, said: "These weapons were designed for use against columns of vehicles on the German plains. If you fire an artillery shell into a populated area fighting irregular troops like in 2003 and you use a weapons system like this in that context it can be indiscriminate."

A spokesman for the MoD insisted: "Cluster munitions are entirely lawful weapons. If we did not use them we would have to use something much more hazardous to civilians."

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British-Trained Police in Iraq 'Killed Prisoners with Drills'

by Francis Elliott, Raymond Whitaker and Kim Sengupta, November 20, 2005, The lndependent

British-trained police operating in Basra have tortured at least two civilians to death with electric drills, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Britain has been dragged into the growing scandal of officially condoned killings in Iraq

John Reid, the Secretary of State for Defence, admits that he knows of "alleged deaths in custody" and other "serious prisoner abuse" at al-Jamiyat police station, which was reopened by Britain after the war.

Militia-dominated police, who were recruited by Britain, are believed to have tortured at least two men to death in the station. Their bodies were later found with drill holes to their arms, legs and skulls.

The victims were suspected of collaborating with coalition forces, according to intelligence reports. Despite being pressed "very hard" by Britain, however, the Iraqi authorities in Basra are failing to even investigate incidents of torture and murder by police, ministers admit.

The disclosure drags Britain firmly into the growing scandal of officially condoned killings, torture and disappearances in Iraq. More than 170 starving and tortured prisoners were discovered last week in an Interior Ministry bunker in Baghdad.

American troops who uncovered the secret torture chamber are also said to have discovered mutilated corpses, several bearing drill marks.

Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, who uncovered the death at al-Jamiyat police station, called for an immediate UN investigation into police torture. "The Government keeps on saying that respect for human rights is a pre-condition of withdrawal. Well, it should be a pre-condition for UK soldiers to continue risking their lives in Iraq," he said.

Mr Reid said: "I am aware of serious allegations of prisoner abuse at the Jamiyat, including two deaths in custody. We take this very seriously. We have been pressing the Iraqi authorities very hard to investigate these allegations thoroughly and then to take the appropriate action."

Ministry of Defence sources privately confirm that the two SAS soldiers seized and held in Jamiyat in September were investigating allegations of police torture prompted by the discovery of the bodies.

British forces in armoured vehicles smashed their way into the station to rescue them, but officers have admitted they are powerless to protect civilians in southern Iraq from militias, and military patrols have been withdrawn from central Basra in the wake of the September clashes.

In the US-controlled districts of Iraq, some senior military and intelligence officials have been accused of giving tacit approval to the extra-judicial actions of counter- insurgency forces.

Critics claim the situation echoes American collaboration with military regimes in Latin America and south-east Asia during the Cold War, particularly in Vietnam, where US- trained paramilitaries were used to kill opponents of the South Vietnamese government.

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Iraq: The Right to Rule Ourselves

by Haifa Zangana, November 19, 2005, Guardian

The photograph of an elderly Iraqi carrying the burned body of a child at Falluja, widely shown during the chemical weapons controversy of recent days, is almost a copy of an earlier one that Iraqis remember - from Halabja in March 1988. Both children were victims of chemical weapons: the first killed by a dictator who had no respect for democracy and human rights, the second by US troops, assisted by the British, carrying the colourful banner of those principles while sprinkling Iraqis with white phosphorus and depleted uranium.

The Falluja image is emblematic of an unjust occupation. We read last week that US troops were "stunned by what they found" during a raid on a ministry of interior building: more than a hundred prisoners, many of whom "appeared to have been brutally beaten" and to be malnourished. There were also reports of dead bodies showing "signs of severe torture". Hussein Kamel, the deputy interior minister, was "stunned" too. This feigned surprise is a farce second only to the WMD lie. Torture has continued as under Saddam's regime in detention centres, prisons, camps and secret cells well beyond Abu Ghraib.

While the US and British governments have spent the 30 months of occupation arguing for the legality of chemical weapons and the "usefulness" of torture to extract information, Iraqis have been engaged in a different struggle: to survive the increasingly harsh occupation, and to define democracy and human rights accordingly. Experiences of collective punishment, random arrest and killing are the defining features.

On October 16, for example, a group of adults and children gathered around a burned Humvee on the edge of Ramadi. There was a crater in the road, left by a bomb that had killed five US soldiers and two Iraqi soldiers the previous day. Some of the children were playing hide and seek, and others laughing while pelting the vehicle with stones, when a US F- 15 fighter jet fired on the crowd. The US military said subsequently it had killed 70 insurgents in air strikes, and knew of no civilian deaths.

Among the "insurgents" killed were six-year-old Muhammad Salih Ali, who was buried in a plastic bag after relatives collected what they believed to be parts of his body; four- year-old Saad Ahmed Fuad; and his eight-year-old sister, Haifa, who had to be buried without one of her legs as her family were unable to find it.

US forces increasingly use air strikes to reduce their own casualties. They also work with Iraqi forces on search-and-destroy missions to retaliate after a successful attack on their troops, or to intimidate the population ahead of a US-choreographed political process.

Most Iraqis are indifferent to the political timetable imposed by the occupiers - from the nominal handover of sovereignty to the bizarre three months of sectarian and ethnic wrangling about the interim government and the declaration of a "yes" vote on the draft constitution by Condoleezza Rice within hours of the ballot boxes closing. They think the whole process is intended to divert their attention from the main issues: the occupation, corruption, pillaging of Iraq's resources, and the interim government's failure on human rights.

A recent Human Rights Watch report gave fresh details of torture of detainees by US forces in Iraq. At a military base near Falluja, Mercury, abuse was not only overlooked but sometimes ordered. The report describes routine, severe beatings of prisoners, and the application of burning chemicals to detainees' eyes and skin, to make them glow in the dark. Thousands have been kept for more than a year without charge or trial, including the writer Muhsin al-Khafaji, who was arrested in May 2003.

Women are taken as hostages by US soldiers to persuade fugitive male relatives to surrender or confess to terrorist acts. Sarah Taha al-Jumaily, 20, from Falluja, was arrested twice: on October 8 she was accused of being the daughter of Musab al-Zarqawi, despite her father, a member of a pan-Arab party, having been detained by US troops for more than two months; and on October 19 she was arrested and accused of being a terrorist. Hundreds of people demonstrated, and workers went on strike to demand her release. The interior ministry states that 122 women remain detained, charged with the novel crime of being "potential suicide bombers".

As large-scale US-led military operations continue, the health situation on the ground is at breaking point. The Iraqi health infrastructure, doctors and hospital staff are unable to cope with the deepening humanitarian crisis. No wonder more Iraqis are supporting the resistance.

Armed resistance is in accordance with the 1978 UN general assembly resolution that reaffirmed "the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence ... from ... foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle". The Iraqi National Foundation Congress (INFC), an umbrella group of parties and civil society organizations, is leading political resistance. There is also civil and community resistance, involving mosques, women's organizations, human-rights groups and unions, which are linking up with international anti-war groups and anti-globalization movements.

Most Iraqis believe that they have a right to more than a semblance of independence. The lesson history taught us in Vietnam, that stubborn national resistance can wear down the most powerful armies, is now being learned in Iraq.

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