Category Archives: Right to liberty

The quantum mechanics of Israeli totalitarianism

The quantum mechanics of Israeli totalitarianism

To understand how it feels to be a Palestinian, you need to think like a particle physicist, not a social scientist.

Mark LeVine, Al Jazeera, 7 May 2015

With the coalition government formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu easily the most ultranationalist and conservative government in Israel’s history, even the most cockeyed optimist would shrink from imagining that Oslo can still be revived, if only the right treatment were concocted.

The problem today is not that anyone but the most self-interested Israeli, Palestinian or US officials still pretends that the peace process is functioning. Rather, it’s that hardly anyone in a position of power can explain precisely when, how and especially why it died. To do so requires moving far more deeply into the dynamics of the endlessly troubled peace process than most policy-makers or commentators are willing to delve, into what I term the “quantum mechanics” underlying Oslo’s fatally flawed structures.

Israel has long claimed uniquely democratic credentials in a region besot with authoritarian regimes.

The unending occupation, the sheer chutzpah with which the Israeli government continues to expand its presence in the West Bank while sieging Gaza, the escalating protests by minorities inside the country’s 1967 borders, and the composition of the new government, all put the lie to such claims today.

Matrix of control

What’s still poorly understood by most non-Palestinians is just how deep the level of control has long been. Even if you’ve spent decades travelling through the West Bank and Gaza, the intensity of that control remains hard to grasp.

As I walked through the Jordan Valley last month near the front-line village of Fasayel, I began to understand how one reason why it’s been so difficult to explain the intensity and all-encompassing scope of Israel’s “matrix of control” over the Occupied Territories is that even its critics don’t use strong enough language to describe it.

Israel is not just an “occupier” or a “coloniser”. However democratic it may (or may not) be inside its 1967 borders, in the Occupied Territories Israel’s rule is nothing short of totalitarian.

In calling Israeli rule totalitarian, I am not arguing that the government mimics the worst policies of thought control and ideological purism practised by the 20th century’s Fascist and Communist states such as Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia or Maoist China (although Israel’s constant harassment and imprisonment of Palestinian activists does reflect a desire to control how Palestinians think and act, at least publicly).

Rather, I’m talking about a much deeper level of control, at what can only be described as the quantum level of Palestinian daily life.

To understand how it feels to live as a Palestinian today you need to think like a particle physicist, not a social scientist. Moving through the space of Israel/Palestine involves negotiating a host of forces that the average Palestinian has about as much control over as the average electron or proton does of the nuclear and quantum forces determining its path. And it’s through this near total control of the space that Israel is able, in George Orwell’s description of totalitarianism, to “control the past as well as the future”.

Israeli geographer Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) coined the “matrix of control” to describe these forces. The name evokes numerous overlapping layers of control, including the physical infrastructure of settlements and their security corridors and zones, bypass roads, closed military areas and even “nature reserves”. The matrix also includes the bureaucratic and legal/planning levels, and the use of large-scale violence and imprisonment to control people’s behaviour and movement.

With its matrix of control, Israel has achieved an unparalleled and uniquely successful synergy of “bio” and “necro”-politics, controlling life and death at most every scale of Palestinian existence. The matrix is continuously adjusted with as much care as Israel has adjusted the caloric intake of Gazans during its periodic intensifications of the Gazan siege.

Three, four and five dimensions

A look at the group of detailed maps created by ICAHD reveals upwards of two dozen parameters of control that can intersect at any given coordinate on the map. But the map is only a two dimensional representation of a multidimensional and multi-levelled reality. It’s not just various forces meeting on the ground. When you’re walking through the 97 percent of the West Bank that is in Areas B or C and thus under Israel security control, you realise that the matrix extends both under the ground you’re walking on and above your head.

Below ground, Israel controls all the water resources in the West Bank, and for 50 years has systematically taken most every possible well, stream, aquifer or other water source from Palestinians (in direct violation of international law, it must be remembered).

It also controls the airspace above Palestinians’ heads, as the constant buzz of Israeli fighter jets training overhead in the Jordan Valley, and the ubiquitous presence of drones and helicopters almost everywhere at any time, and the prohibitions on building new floors on existing structures makes clear.

In whatever direction Palestinians look or want to step or reach – left or right, forwards or backwards, above or below them – the land, air and water surrounding them is largely outside their permanent control.

Blink of an eye

But it is not just that most of their territory is out of Palestinian hands. The quantum physics of Israel’s matrix of control also has its own Heisenberg, or uncertainty principle.

In quantum mechanics this principle asserts that it is impossible to know with precision the exact state of a particle because the very act of observing it changes its state. In the same way, merely by changing their location Palestinians change the state of territory upon which they are moving.

On the one hand, despite the rockiness of the landscape, the geography of the West Bank can be among the most liquid on earth. It changes as one moves through it, depending on who you are – Jew or Palestinian, settler or refusnik, soldier or international. Spaces that seems open and free can suddenly be surrounded by military forces and closed off, declared off limits for any length of time for a variety of reasons merely because Palestinians moved into and through it or used it for grazing, water, or other normal activities.

Moreover, their very movement through the geography can change it not just for a moment, but permanently. At the same time, the uncertainty principle can also operate with a time lag. If Palestinians decide to walk through a Jordan Valley village, for example, or to plant trees on their land in the hills around Hebron or Jenin, it’s not at all uncommon for the Israeli military to issue demolition or confiscation orders a few days later.

In particular, the movement of Jews has an even more profound effect than Palestinians especially when establishing an outpost or settlement. Once land is claimed even on the flimsiest of pretexts the military usually moves in and declares a still larger area a security zone, making it impossible for Palestinians to access the land for months, years or even decades.

And so, it seems that land in Palestine can change states from liquid to solid almost instantly, freezing in place whatever Israel decides it wants frozen, from people to legal categories. The quantum physics of Palestinian geography can thus produce permanent changes not just in the three normal dimensions of space, but in the conflict’s “fourth dimension” as well, namely time.

But however many dimensions one considers, the goal remains the same: to achieve, in the words of the Palestinian-Israeli hip-hop group DAM, “Maximum Jews on maximum land; minimum Arabs on minimum land.”

Neoliberal policies

There is even a fifth, economic dimension in which the physics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict operates. The neoliberal policies imposed on the Occupied Territories under Oslo have ensured that when Palestinians aren’t being displaced by Israeli settlers or bombs, they are fixed in place as objects of development, whose economic life is confined to small spaces that remain largely under Israeli control. The possibility of their becoming subjects able to shape their own destinies is, it seems, outside the laws of physics operating in the Holy Land.

It is the changeling nature of the political, physical and economic geographies of the Israeli-controlled Occupied Territories that has made it so difficult for Palestinians and their supporters internationally (including in Israel) to develop effective strategies of resistance, nevermind transcending the occupation.

With Oslo’s final demise, Palestinians don’t just need new strategies for resisting an occupation without end; what’s needed is an entirely new physics as well.

Indeed, it has long been argued that Palestinians are still waiting for their Ghandi. It might well turn out that to overcome decades of totalitarian Israeli rule, a long-dead peace process, and ineptitude, corruption and authoritarianism internally, Einstein would be a far more useful figure.

Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle Eastern History at University of California, Irvine, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lund University.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
Source: Al Jazeera

Racism is the Foundation of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge

Racism is the Foundation of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge
Jul 30 2014, by Joel Beinin

On 30 June Ayelet Shaked, chairwoman of the Knesset faction of the ultra-right wing ha-Bayit ha-Yehudi (Jewish Home) Party, a key member of the coalition government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, posted on her Facebook page a previously unpublished article written by the late Uri Elitzur. Elitzur, a pro-settler journalist and former chief-of-staff to Netanyahu, wrote:

Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism… They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now, this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They must follow their sons. Nothing would be more just. They should go, as well as the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.

Shaked’s post appeared the day the bodies of three abducted settler teens­—Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach—were discovered. It has since received more than 5,200 “likes.”

For over two weeks, Netanyahu and the media whipped the country into a hysterical state, accusing Hamas of responsibility for abducting the teens without providing evidence to support the claim and promoting hopes that they would be found alive, although the government knew that the boys were likely murdered within minutes of their abduction. Their deaths provided a pretext for more violent expressions of Israeli anti-Arab racism than ever before.

The viciousness of Mordechai Kedar, lecturer in Arabic literature at Bar Ilan University, was even more creative than Shaked and Elitzur’s merely genocidal proposal. “The only thing that can deter terrorists like those who kidnapped the children and killed them,” he said, “is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped.” As a university-based “expert,” Kedar’s heinous suggestion is based on his “understanding” of Arab culture. “It sounds very bad, but that’s the Middle East,” he explained, hastening to add, “I’m not talking about what we should or shouldn’t do. I’m talking about the facts.”

Racism has become a legitimate, indeed an integral, component of Israeli public culture, making assertions like these seem “normal.” The public devaluation of Arab life enables a society that sees itself as “enlightened” and “democratic” to repeatedly send its army to slaughter the largely defenseless population of the Gaza Strip—1.8 million people, mostly descendants of refugees who arrived during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and have been, to a greater or lesser extent, imprisoned since 1994.

Conciliatory gestures, on the other hand, are scorned. Just two days after Shaked’s Facebook post, Orthodox Jews kidnapped sixteen-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir from the Shu‘afat neighborhood of East Jerusalem and burned him alive in the Jerusalem Forest. Amir Peretz (Hatnua) was the only government minister to visit the grieving family. For this effort he received dozens of posts on his Facebook page threatening to kill him and his family. Meanwhile, vandals twice destroyed memorials erected to Abu Khdeir on the spot of his immolation.

The international community typically sees the manifestations of Israel’s violent racism only when they erupt as assaults on the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, or Lebanon. But Israel’s increasingly poisonous anti-Arab and anti-Muslim public culture prepares the ground of domestic public opinion long before any military operation and immunizes the army from most criticism of its “excesses.” Moreover, Israeli anti-democratic and racist sentiment is increasingly directed against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise twenty percent of the population.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beytenu (Israel Is Our Home) Party made his political reputation on the slogan “No Loyalty, No Citizenship”—a demand that Palestinian Israelis swear loyalty oaths as a condition of retaining their citizenship. Since 2004 Lieberman has also advocated “transferring” Palestinian-Israelis residing in the Triangle region to a future Palestinian state, while annexing most West Bank settlements to Israel. In November 2011 Haaretz published a partial list of ten “loyalty-citizenship” bills in various stages of legislation designed to “determine certain citizens’ rights according to their ‘loyalty’ to the state.”

While Lieberman and other MKs pursue legal channels to legally undermine the citizenship of Palestinian-Israelis, their civil rights are already in serious danger. In 2010 eighteen local rabbis warned that the Galilee town of Safed faced an “Arab takeover” and instructed Jewish residents to inform on and boycott Jews who sold or rented dwellings to Arabs. In addition to promoting segregated housing, Safed’s Chief Rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, tried to ban Arab students from attending Safed Academic College (about 1,300 Palestinian-Israelis are enrolled, some of whom live in Safed). The rabbinical statement incited rampages by religious Jews chanting “Death to the Arabs,” leading Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy to dub Safed “the most racist city” in Israel. In Karmiel and Upper Nazareth—towns established as part of Israel’s campaign to “Judaize the Galilee”—elected officials have led similar campaigns.

Palestinian Israeli Knesset members receive regular verbal abuse from their Jewish “colleagues.” For example, Hanin Zoabi (National Democratic Alliance), who participated in the 2010 Freedom Flotilla to the Gaza Strip, which Israeli naval commandos attacked, killing nine Turks (one of whom also held US citizenship), has been particularly targeted. In the verbal sparring over the murder of the three teens Foreign Minister Lieberman called her a “terrorist.” Not to be outdone, Miri Regev (Likud) said Zoabi should be “expelled to Gaza and stripped of her [Knesset] immunity.” Other Knesset members—some from putatively “liberal” parties—piled on. [Update: Yesterday—29 July—Hanin Zoabi was suspended from Knesset].

Violence against Arabs in and around Israeli-annexed “Greater Jerusalem” is particularly intense. Much of it is the work of Orthodox Jews. The Jewish Defense League, banned in Israel in 1994 and designated a terrorist organization by the FBI in 2001, and several similar groups regularly assault and harass Arabs. The day of the funeral of the three abducted teens, some two hundred Israelis rampaged through the streets of Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs.” The previous evening, hardcore fans of the Betar Jerusalem football club, known as La Familia, rallied chanting, “Death to the Arabs.”  The same chant is frequently heard at games of the team, which is associated with the Likud and does not hire Arab players. Hate marches, beatings and shootings of Arabs, and destruction of their property, long common in the West Bank, have become regular events in Israel-proper in the last month.

The citizenship-loyalty bills, Safed’s designation as “the most racist city,” the attacks volleyed at Palestinian elected officials, and mob violence against Arabs all took place before Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July. The operation—more aggressively dubbed “Firm Cliff” in Hebrew—constitutes Israel’s third assault on the Gaza Strip since 2008. As of yesterday, 29 July, the Palestinian death toll in that operation has reached over 1,200, the great majority of them civilians. Thirty-two Israeli soldiers and three civilians have also died. Israeli security officials sardonically call these operations “mowing the lawn” because well-informed observers know that Hamas cannot be uprooted and is capable of rebuilding its military capacity. There is no long-term strategy, except, as Gideon Levy put it, to kill Palestinians. Major General (res.) Oren Shachor elaborated, “If we kill their families, that will frighten them.” And what might deter Israel?

[This piece originally appeared in a special weeklong series on the Stanford University Press blog, and is reposted here in partnership with SUP blog. The entire ten-part series can be found on the SUP blog.]

General Comment 8, Art. 7 (ICCPR) (Right to liberty)

Human Rights Committee, General Comment 8, Article 9 (Sixteenth session, 1982), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 8 (1994).


1. Article 9 which deals with the right to liberty and security of persons has often been somewhat narrowly understood in reports by States parties, and they have therefore given incomplete information. The Committee points out that paragraph 1 is applicable to all deprivations of liberty, whether in criminal cases or in other cases such as, for example, mental illness, vagrancy, drug addiction, educational purposes, immigration control, etc. It is true that some of the provisions of article 9 (part of para. 2 and the whole of para. 3) are only applicable to persons against whom criminal charges are brought. But the rest, and in particular the important guarantee laid down in paragraph 4, i.e. the right to control by a court of the legality of the detention, applies to all persons deprived of their liberty by arrest or detention. Furthermore, States parties have in accordance with article 2 (3) also to ensure that an effective remedy is provided in other cases in which an individual claims to be deprived of his liberty in violation of the Covenant.

2. Paragraph 3 of article 9 requires that in criminal cases any person arrested or detained has to be brought “promptly” before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power. More precise time-limits are fixed by law in most States parties and, in the view of the Committee, delays must not exceed a few days. Many States have given insufficient information about the actual practices in this respect.

3. Another matter is the total length of detention pending trial. In certain categories of criminal cases in some countries this matter has caused some concern within the Committee, and members have questioned whether their practices have been in conformity with the entitlement “to trial within a reasonable time or to release” under paragraph 3. Pre-trial detention should be an exception and as short as possible. The Committee would welcome information concerning mechanisms existing and measures taken with a view to reducing the duration of such detention.

4. Also if so-called preventive detention is used, for reasons of public security, it must be controlled by these same provisions, i.e. it must not be arbitrary, and must be based on grounds and procedures established by law (para. 1), information of the reasons must be given (para. 2) and court control of the detention must be available (para. 4) as well as compensation in the case of a breach (para. 5). And if, in addition, criminal charges are brought in such cases, the full protection of article 9 (2) and (3), as well as article 14, must also be granted.

U.S. Court Allows CIA Kidnapping and Torture

U.S. Court Allows CIA Kidnapping and Torture

[Opinion] State secret doctrine prohibits judicial review

by Darin Foster, 6 March 2007,  Ohmy News

Imagine the following. You are on vacation in a foreign country, walking along the street and admiring the sights, when a gang of unidentified men grab you, throw you in the back of a truck, blindfold you, cut your clothes away, put you in a jumpsuit, handcuff you, and finally administer a drug which causes you to lose consciousness. 

You wake up in a small prison cell, where you are denied access to your government, your lawyer, and your family. You wait for weeks without being charged. Eventually, you are blindfolded (again), taken to an airfield and flown to an unknown location in an undisclosed country. Here you are kept for months, still cut-off from all contact with the outside world, as you are systematically interrogated, beaten, and drugged. 

Finally, when your captors decide that they are finished with their games, you are flown to yet another country, and dumped at the side of the road. You are left with nothing more than your passport and a return airplane ticket to your home country.

This tale of horrors is essentially what happened to Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen abducted by operatives of the United States Central Intelligence Agency in Macedonia in 2003. And according to a recent U.S. federal court decision, all of it — the kidnapping, the beating, the forced administration of drugs — is perfectly acceptable. 

On March 2, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling in the case of El-Masri v. United States of America. In his case, Mr. El-Masri argued that he had been the victim of a CIA program known as “extraordinary rendition,” or, in less diplomatic terms, government-sponsored kidnapping.

The subject of extraordinary rendition and the related issue of covert CIA-sponsored prisons in various European countries has been the subject of intense debate and discussion since news of the programs first surfaced late 2005. Since then, the Bush administration has admitted the existence of both the kidnapping program and the CIA prisons. 

The European Parliament issued a report in 2006 stating that El-Masri’s account of his treatment is “substantially correct,” and inquiries into the extraordinary rendition and detention programs are currently pending in 18 European countries. In a direct, if somewhat symbolic, challenge to the U.S. government, German prosecutors have taken the unprecedented step of issuing arrest warrants for 13 suspected CIA operatives who took part in the El-Masri kidnapping.

In the face of this evidence and world-wide condemnation of U.S. actions, the Court of Appeals simply threw up its hands and shirked all its responsibility. The Court claimed that even if everything El-Masri claimed were true, there is nothing the United States judicial system can do to correct the undeniable wrongs that he suffered. This is because the Bush administration has claimed that all information surrounding the extraordinary rendition program is protected from scrutiny by a U.S. legal rule known as the “state secrets doctrine.”

In its basic form, the state secrets doctrine holds that in the course of a lawsuit, the U.S. government will not be required to present any evidence or produce any information that is reasonably likely to expose classified military matters related to national security. In this form, the doctrine is a rule of evidence that can be traced back at least to the treason trial of Aaron Burr in 1807. 

In the past few decades, federal courts have taken this doctrine one step further, and transformed a rule of evidence into a de facto rule of executive branch immunity. These courts have found that where the subject matter of a lawsuit is intimately tied to issues of national security, and the case cannot be reasonably tried without risking exposure of national security secrets, the entire matter will be immediately dismissed.

The 4th Circuit held that El-Masri’s case presented this type of intimate connection between purported state secrets and the subject matter of the case. The Court concluded that in order to defend themselves, the CIA and other executive agencies would be required to divulge the existence of certain programs, along with the operational details of these programs, their decision-making processes, and their operatives. The Court believed that these issues presented a significant the potential risk to U.S. national security, and the case was dismissed.

Understanding that his case faced significant obstacles under existing law, El-Masri urged the Court to re-interpret previous federal decisions and find that the state secrets doctrine did not extend to cases of “egregious executive misconduct.” In less legal terms, El-Masri asked the Court to find that there was some boundary to CIA action, beyond which the appeal to national security could not justify rampant abuses of an individual’s civil and human rights. 

The Court refused to make such a determination. Instead, it gave full authority to the executive branch, the intelligence services, and the military to act without any concern for the Constitution of the United States, federal law, international law, or any form of judicial oversight. 

The Court’s decision does make an attempt to reassure the public that it has not completely abandoned its traditional role as a balance to the other political branches of government. The Court adamantly states that the state secrets doctrine “does not represent a surrender of judicial control over access to the court.” Courts, and not the executive branch, determine whether the state secrets doctrine applies to a particular case.

These assurances of judicial authority and control are countered by numerous statements in the decision which clearly say that “the judiciary’s role as a check on presidential action in foreign affairs is limited.” At the same time, a federal court is required to give “utmost deference” to the executive branch in matters that touch on national security. 

In a breathtaking example of judicial double-speak, the Court even goes so far as to assert that under certain circumstances, the executive branch would not even be required to explain why the state secrets doctrine exempted certain evidence, because the explanation itself could create an unacceptable danger of compromising national security. In these circumstances, a court would be “obliged to accept the executive branch’s claim of privilege without further demand.” 

Apparently, the 4th Circuit believes that so long as the federal courts hold the rubber stamp to approve executive claims and actions, the public is well protected.

The language the Court uses in discussing El-Masri’s claim is abundantly insulting to anyone who believes in civil and human rights. Rather than recognizing the CIA’s actions as undeniable wrongs against both El-Masri and the German government, the Court dismisses them as nothing more than “executive excess” and examples of how the President’s foreign policy may have “gotten out of line.” The Court appears to go out of its way to diminish the severity of the claims raised by El-Masri so that it can say with a straight face that its ruling merely sacrifices the “fundamental principle of access to courts” in order to “protect a greater public value.” 

The question the Court refuses to answer, or even to acknowledge, is: If not you, then who? In the words of the old Roman question: Who will watch the watchmen? If the U.S. federal court system cannot be relied upon to pass judgment on the abuses perpetrated by the political branches of government, then where is justice to be found? 

Perhaps appropriately, the only court system currently brave enough to stand against the United States is that of Germany. German prosecutors, not American, have issued arrest warrants for CIA kidnappers. German newspapers, not American, have stated clearly that the rule of law is paramount, and that lawless spaces and non-reviewable actions cannot be tolerated, even in the name of national security. The German people, and not the American, have sent a message to the U.S. government that gangs of thugs, kidnappers and torturers should not be allowed to use the trappings of government to abuse the most basic civil and human rights.

American courts should take these German warnings seriously. The German judiciary learned decades ago the dangers of abandoning its power to an over-zealous and authoritarian executive. In El-Masri, the 4th Circuit demonstrated the same type of deference to authority and refusal to acknowledge basic principles of human dignity that led German courts to uphold the infamous Nuremberg laws. When courts of any nation abandon their role as arbiters of justice in order to worship at the altar of national security, the future of democracy itself is put in danger. 

Italy convicts ‘U.S. agents’ in CIA kidnap trial

Italy convicts ‘U.S. agents’ in CIA kidnap trial

CNN, November 4, 2009 4:26 p.m. EST

ROME, Italy (CNN) — Nearly two dozen Americans — most thought to work for the CIA — were sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday by an Italian court for their role in the seizing of a suspected terrorist in Italy in 2003, the prosecutor in the case told CNN.

The Americans did not appear for trial and are not in custody, but the ruling could effectively make them international fugitives.

The trial was the first to deal with a practice that human rights groups call “extraordinary rendition.” They say the United States has often sent suspects to countries that practice torture.

Washington acknowledges making secret “rendition” transfers of terrorism suspects between countries but denies using torture or handing suspects over to countries that do.

The case centered on the extraordinary rendition of a Muslim cleric, Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, or Abu Omar.

He was seized on the streets of Milan, Italy, in 2003, transferred to Egypt and tortured, he said. He was suspected of recruiting men to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and was under heavy surveillance by Italy’s intelligence agency.

Prosecutors said he was nabbed by a CIA team working with Italian intelligence officials.

The verdict “shows governments and institutions that the fight against terrorism has to be carried out in accordance with the law. There are no shortcuts,” Spataro told CNN.

Those who were found guilty were ordered to pay Abu Omar 1 million euros ($1.48 million) and his wife 500,000 euros.

A total of 22 Americans were each sentenced to five years in prison for their role in his abduction. Another — Robert Seldon Lady, whom prosecutors said was the CIA station chief in Milan — was sentenced to eight years in jail, prosecutor Armando Spataro told CNN.

Cases were dismissed against three other Americans, including Jeff Castelli, the man assumed to be the CIA station chief in Rome at the time, because they had diplomatic immunity from prosecution. Spataro said he may appeal that ruling.

Cases were also dismissed against the former head of Italy’s intelligence service and his deputy because of state secrecy provisions.

Two other Italians were sentenced to three years in jail for aiding the plot.

Sabrina De Sousa, one of the American defendants, was “saddened, angered and dismayed” by the ruling, her lawyer told CNN.

She felt the U.S. government had “stabbed her in the back,” Mark Zaid said. “We understand why the Italians did what they did. They were following their laws. But at the end of the day, representatives of our United States government abroad were let down and left alone by their own government.”

De Sousa, a career diplomat, is suing the State Department over the case, Zaid confirmed. She has never said she worked for the CIA.

CIA spokesman George Little said Wednesday: “The CIA has not commented on any of the allegations surrounding Abu Omar.”

But U.S. officials confirmed to CNN when the case first broke that the CIA was involved in the rendition of Abu Omar from Italy to Egypt. The officials never disclosed the number of Americans involved or their names.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell responded to the verdict as it applied to an Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Joseph Romano III, who was among the Americans sentenced.

The Pentagon had asserted jurisdiction over the incident under the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, a position that the Italian minister of justice supported, Morrell said.

“We are clearly disappointed by the court’s ruling,” Morrell said. “Our view is that the Italian court has no jurisdiction over Lt. Col. Romano and should have immediately dismissed the charges.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, a persistent critic of Washington’s extraordinary rendition program, demanded the United States match Italy’s actions.

“The decision in Italy underscores the need for the United States to hold its own officials accountable for crimes committed under the ‘extraordinary rendition’ program. It is shameful that the first convictions of this kind came from a foreign justice system, where those convicted are not likely to serve their time,” said Steven Watt, staff attorney for the ACLU Human Rights Program.

Italian authorities originally indicted 26 Americans and five Italians in 2007 for kidnapping in the matter.

The Italians included the former head of Italian intelligence, Nicolo Pollari, and one of his deputies. They testified in preliminary hearings that Italian intelligence played no role in the alleged abduction.

None of the Americans is in custody in Italy and the Italian government did not ask for their extradition; they were tried in absentia.

Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer told CNN in the past that the Italian military secret service had approved the operation involving Hassan, and CIA sources who refused to be named told CNN in 2005 that the agency had briefed and sought approval from its Italian counterpart for such an abduction.

The Italian government of the day — which was led by Silvio Berlusconi — vigorously denied having authorized Hassan’s kidnapping, which it called illegal. Berlusconi has since returned to power.



The CIA’s Kidnapping Ring

The CIA’s Kidnapping Ring

U.S. ally Uzbekistan teaches interrogators how to boil suspected terrorists to death

By Nat Hentoff Tuesday, Apr 12 2005 (Village Voice)

U.S. law and international conventions bar sending prisoners to another nation unless there are strong assurances of humane treatment. The CIA says with a straight face that it gets those assurances before delivering suspects to jailers in EgyptSyriaSaudi Arabia, Jordan, andPakistan—countries that have such abysmal human rights records that promises of decent treatment are a joke. Editorial,Los Angeles Times, March 11


But of course they’re out of control, there’s only so much we can do. Porter Goss,director of Central Intelligence, quoted by Democratic congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts in a letter to his colleagues, March 8


During a White House press conference on March 16, George W. Bush was asked: “Mr. President, can you explain why you’ve approved of and expanded the practice of what’s called ‘rendition’—of transferring individuals out of U.S. custody to countries where human rights groups and your ownState Department say torture is common for people under custody?”

The president: “[In] the post-9-11 world, the United States must make sure we protect our people and our friends from attack. . . . One way to do so is to arrest people and send them back to their country of origin with the promise that they won’t be tortured. That’s the promise we receive. This country does not believe in torture.”

Question: “As commander in chief, what is it that Uzbekistan can do in interrogating an individual that the United States can’t?”

George W. Bush repeated his talking point: “We seek assurances that nobody will be tortured.”

Actually, there is much that U.S. interrogators can learn from their counterparts in Uzbekistan on how to break down prisoners. One of the CIA’s jet planes used to render purported terrorists to other countries—where information is extracted by any means necessary—made 10 trips to Uzbekistan. In a segment of CBS’s 60 Minutes on these CIA torture missions (March 5), former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray told of the range of advanced techniques used by Uzbek interrogators:

“drowning and suffocation, rape was used . . . and also immersion of limbs in boiling liquid.”

Two nights later on ABC‘s World News TonightCraig Murray told of photos he received of an Uzbek interrogation that ended with the prisoner actually being boiled to death!

Murray, appalled, had protested to the British Foreign Office in a confidential memorandum leaked to and printed in the Financial Times on October 11 of last year:

“Uzbek officials are torturing prisoners to extract information [about reported terrorist operations],which is supplied to the U.S. and passed through its Central Intelligence Agency to the U.K., says Mr. Murray.” (Emphasis added.)

Prime Minister Tony Blair quickly reacted to this undiplomatic whistle-blowing. Craig Murray was removed as ambassador to Uzbekistan.

On the BBC (October 15), Steve Crawshaw, director of the London office of Human Rights Watch, spoke plainly about George W. Bush’s continual, ardent assurances that this country would neverengage in torture:

“You can’t wash your hands and say we didn’t torture, but we will use what comes out of torture.”

CIA director Porter Goss also engages in what George Orwell called doublespeak. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 17, Porter Goss said, “The United States does not engage in or condone torture.”

As for our ally Uzbekistan, run by the merciless dictator Islam KarimovPhilip Stephens, a forthright columnist for the Financial Times, noted on October 19:

“Uzbekistan provides a vital base for U.S. operations in neighbouring Afghanistan. U.S. financial aid [to Uzbekistan] provides a bulwark against Russian influence.” And—dig this—an October 16Financial Timeseditorial points out that because the Bush administration supports the barbaric government of President Karimov, the U.S. “has given [Karimov] the confidence to sell a long-running campaign against internal dissidents as part of the campaign against Al Qaeda.” (Emphasis added.)

In 2003, Fatima Mukhadirova sent photographs of her son—who was tortured to death in an Uzbek prison—to the British embassy. As reported in Muslim Uzbekistan(February 12, 2004): “His teeth were smashed, his fingers were stripped of nails, and his body had been cut, bruised and scalded.” His mother was put on trial “for attempted encroachment on the constitutional order” to convince her to shut up about what was done to her son. (She was subsequently convicted and sentenced to six years in prison.)

Meanwhile, Porter Goss told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 17 that one of the CIA’s own techniques, waterboarding, is “an area of what I call professional interrogation techniques.”

As Reed Brody, special counsel for Human Rights Watch, noted in a March 21 letter to The New York Times: “Waterboarding, known in Latin America as the submarino, entails forcibly pushing a person’s head under water until he believes he will drown. In practice, he often does.Waterboarding can be nothing less than torture in violation of United States and international law.

“Mr. Goss, by justifying the practice as a form of professional interrogation, renders dubious his broader claim that the C.I.A. is not practicing torture today.” (Emphasis added.)

I cannot resist repeating what George W. Bush said on the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (June 26, 2003): “The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States . . . in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture.” Let’s start at home.

Towards holistic transnational protection against kidnapping

Towards holistic transnational protection against kidnapping:
public law approaches

Cecilia Marcela Bailliet, 28 February 2010

My most recent area of research is the global criminal phenomenon of kidnapping as it relates to an increased presentation of asylum claims in the United States, Canada, Belgium, France, United Kingdom and New Zealand.

This most striking aspect of this problem is that the private market is both part of its origin and part of its solution.

Inequitable enjoyment of socio-economic resources and the exclusion from participation in formal markets prompt marginalized individuals to pursue the criminal market of kidnapping, in which the human body becomes the ultimate commodity. In turn, corrupt and ineffective judicial bodies and police leave family members little choice but to employ private security and insurance companies. This creates a growth industry based on safe return of victims.

At the international level, there has been increased attention, not only from the UN Economic and Social Council, but also from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (above right), who declared in 2009:

Kidnapping is an inhumane and unjustifiable crime, as well as a gross violation of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Among the related human rights at stake, one may cite:

► guarantees of liberty, physical integrity and security, and the prohibition of arbitrary detention, as detailed in Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

► the right to life, as in Article 6 of the ICCPR;

► the prohibition against torture, in Article 7;

the ban on interference with family, Article 17; and

► protection against sexual violence, established in, for example, the November 29, 2006, judgment by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in La Cantuta v. Perú.

Indeed, the most relevant case law has emerged at the regional level, where the focus is on state responsibility for investigating and punishing kidnappers.

The Inter-American Court thus issued 2 notable provisional orders, in:

In the Matter of the Communities of Jiguamiandó and Curbaradó, a case involving the kidnapping and murder of a manm allegedly via complicity by police and paramilitary; the order called for State investigation, identification of perpetrators, and punishment; and

In the Matter of the United States of Mexico Digna Ochoa y Plácido et. al., in which the order called upon the State to protect the lives of human rights activists who had been subject to kidnapping.

Similarly, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly condemned kidnapping by nonstate actors in countries including Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela, and Brazil.

In like manner are decisions of the European Court of Human Rights:

► In the case of Avsar v. Turkey, the Court held Turkey to be in violation of Articles 2 (right to life) and 13 (effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights, for failing to carry out adequate and effective investigation in a case involving the kidnapping and killing of a man by village guards with complicity by the state.

► The Court held Russia liable for violation of the same articles in Elmurzayev and others v. Russia and Khadzhialiyev and others v. Russia, cases involving kidnappings by “unidentified armed men” and subsequent delays by the state in investigation and proceedings respecting those crimes.

In large part, the international community’s response to the global threat of kidnapping is reflected in the innovative institutional trend towards horizontal and vertical cooperation across the public-private divide. Initiatives to combat the spread of kidnapping include assistance in border control, intelligence-sharing, police training, and management (seeking transparency, accountability, and professionalization), telecommunication interception, assistance in legislative amendments, extradition, and overview of financial transactions.

Furthermore, there are increased calls for strengthening citizen and community participation in the implementation of security plans. The European Council issued Recommendation 2007/562/EC of 12 June 2007, which requires states to share information in all terrorist kidnappings. Similarly, the need for international cooperation to address crime (including kidnapping) has been promoted by the Organization of American States Permanent Council’s Special Committee on Transnational Organized Crime and the Ministers Responsible for Public Security.

It is important to note issues of continuing concern:

► We still await the establishment of implementation mechanisms for the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime; and

► None of these initiatives highlights the importance of asylum, for victims and their families, as an element of holistic protection.

CIA kidnaps children of alleged terrorist

We have your sons: CIA

March 10 2003
By Olga Craig
Sunday Telegraph

Two young sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks, are being used by the CIA to force their father to talk.

Yousef al-Khalid, 9, and his brother, Abed al-Khalid, 7, were taken into custody in Pakistan in September when intelligence officers raided a flat in Karachi where their father had been hiding.

Mohammed fled just hours before the raid but his sons and another senior al-Qaeda member were found cowering behind a wardrobe in the apartment.

The boys have been held by the Pakistani authorities but this weekend they were flown to America where they will be questioned about their father. CIA interrogators confirmed that the boys were staying at a secret address where they were being encouraged to talk about their father’s activities. “We are handling them with kid gloves,” said one official. “After all, they are only little children, but we need to know as much about their father’s recent activities as possible. We have child psychologists on hand at all times and they are given the best of care.”

Mohammed, 37, is being held in solitary confinement at the Bagram US military base in Afghanistan. He is being subjected to “stress and duress” interrogation techniques.

He has been told that his sons are being held and is being urged to divulge future attacks against the West and reveal the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

“He has said very little so far,” a CIA official said on Saturday. “He sits in a trance-like state and recites verses from the Koran. But while he may claim to be a devout Muslim, we know he is fond of the Western-style fast life. His sons are important to him. The promise of their release and their return to Pakistan may be the psychological lever we need to break him.”

The Kuwaiti-born Mohammed named his older son after Ramzi Yousef, his nephew, who was convicted of masterminding the 1993 attack on New York’s World Trade Centre. After the attack, Yousef fled to the Philippines with his uncle.

When bomb-making chemicals set fire to their Manila apartment, Yousef fled to Pakistan, where he was captured in an Islamabad hotel room in 1995.

Mohammed was in the next room and, audaciously, gave an account of the arrest to a reporter. By the time Pakistani authorities found out his identity he had fled the country.

He was eventually arrested on March 1 in Rawalpindi, near the home of Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf. Among the items found was a photograph of a smiling Mohammed with his arms around his two sons.

Known as “The Engineer”, he is suspected of masterminding the Bali bombings and slashing the throat of American reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in January last year.

Little is known of his sons’ mother, who is thought to be Pakistani. “All we know is that she is the sister of an al-Qaeda member that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed met at a Pakistan college, the University of Dawa al Jihad, in the late 1980s,” a source said.