[Ppnews] Australia's Role in the American Inquisition
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 6 11:17:27 EDT 2009
Australia's Role in the American Inquisition
The Torturer's Apprentice
By RICHARD NEVILLE
The revelations of a once secret 2006 report by
the International Committee of the Red Cross on
the use of torture and "cruel, inhuman, or
degrading punishment" on prisoners at Guantánamo
and secret CIA jails came as a shock to many.
This is odd, because anyone with a keyboard,
modem and half a brain, quickly discovered that
in the panicky aftermath of 9/11, the West had
forged a pact with the Devil. It was not only
Dick Cheney who felt the call of the dark side -
it was virtually the entire governing class of
America, Britain and Australia. Yes, even
Australia, a former penal colony that started life as Britains Guantanamo.
You might think this grim past would sharpen the
desire of our institutions to root out injustice
and comfort the afflicted. Well, we go through
the motions. Australia signed the Convention
against Torture (CAT) and, unlike the US,
ratified it. But now we have trashed it. How
come? Lets take a swift trip into the heart of darkness.
At 3am on October 2001, a bus bound for Karachi
was boarded by Pakistani security heavies on the
look-out for suspicious foreigners. Two young
Germans were dragged from their seats. When
Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib interceded on
their behalf, he too was taken into custody.
According to Habib, he was hooded, shackled,
dumped in a cell and roughed up. Eventually, he
was taken to the Australian High Commission in
Islamabad. In his memoir, My Story, Habib insists
that he met with a senior consular official,
Alistair Adams. The Australian Government denies
such a meeting took place. However, in 2007, The
Australian newspaper tracked down Ibrahim Diab,
one of the Germans removed from the bus. Diab
briefly shared a cell with the Australian, and
heard a policeman tell Habib he was being taken
to the High Commission, and watched them depart.
On his return, Habib showed Diab a business card provided by the consul.
Habib states he met Mr Adams several times while
he was held in Pakistan, and that the diplomat
was present when he was interrogated by US
agents. Adams allegedly told him he would be sent
to an Egyptian jail. The Government admits Habib
was twice seen by an officer of the Australian
Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) who
used the name Paul Stokes and once by an
Australian Federal Police officer, Mark Briskey.
Meanwhile, under pressure from the Americans, the
Pakistanis were keen for Habib to confess to an
act of terror, so he was strung on a hook and
zapped with electricity until he bled through
every orifice. This happened, he says, more than
once. Next on the agenda was an act of rendition,
which began with a bunch of Americans in
balaclavas, wearing black T-shirts, grey pants &
yellow boots, beating him black and blue. They
cut off his clothes, rammed a suppository up his
rectum and fitted him with nappy and tracksuit.
The Australian diplomat was there and saw
everything that happened, writes Habib. He wore
a balaclava, but I recognized his coloured shirt,
the checked jacket, the elbow patches
one Australian official was allegedly present.
Now heres the rub: Under Article 3 of the UN
Convention Against Torture (CAT), a State must
not transport a person to another State where
he/she risks being tortured. So when Habib was
wrapped up like a spring roll, barely able to
breathe or walk, and dragged aboard the CIA
flight to Egypt, this provision was breached.
Article 4 of CAT states that an act by any person
which constitutes complicity or participation in
torture must be treated as a criminal offence.
Thus anyone involved in renditions is liable to prosecution.
In Egypt, where torture seems to be a
sport, Habib was interrogated by the countrys
Intelligence Director, General Omar Suleiman, who
is is ranked second in power to President Hosni
Mubarak. Back in 2001, Suleiman took a personal
interest in anyone suspected of links with Al
Qaeda. As Habib had visited Afghanistan shortly
before 9/11, he was under suspicion. Suleiman
slapped Habibs face so hard, the blindfold was
dislodged, revealing the torturers identity.
According to his memoir, Habib was repeatedly
zapped with high-voltage electricity, immersed in
water up to his nostrils, beaten, his fingers
were broken and he was hung from metal hooks.
He was again interrogated by Omar Suleiman. To
loosen Habibs tongue, Suleiman ordered a guard
to murder a gruesomely shackled Turkistan
prisoner in front of Habib and he did, with a
vicious karate kick. Suleiman is expected to be the next President of Egypt.
According to My Story, ASIO agents and other
Australian officials visited Habib in Egypt
(David and Stewart are two of the names
provided). ASIO had previously raided Habibs
Sydney home, and delivered the results to his
Egyptian torturers: phone numbers, bank
statements, SIM cards, a laptop, tapes of private
conversations, his address book, etc. On the face
of it, this is a blatant breach of article 4 of
CAT. In Federal Court hearings, Habibs lawyers
stated that Australian officials were not only
complicit in Habib's torture, but were active participants.
During his time in Government, Attorney General
Phillip Ruddock repeatedly denied he was ever
aware of Habibs whereabouts, as did PM John
Howard and Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander
Downer. These denials lack credibility. In Feb
2005, the New York Times revealed that soon after
the CIA kidnapped Habib, the Department of
Foreign Affairs sent a bizarre fax to his wife:
We remain confident that your husband is
detained in Egypt... the government has received
credible advice that he is well and being treated
well. (Until recently, Downer continued to claim
there was no proof torture occurred at
Guantanamo). The ABC's Four Corners program
disclosed a paper trail of documents that
revealed the Government was aware, within days of
his rendition, that Mr Habib was in Egyptian hands.
Article 2 of CAT states that no exceptional
circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war
or a threat or war, internal political
instability or any other public emergency, may be
invoked as a justification of torture. A Sydney
Morning Herald trawl of FOI documents revealed
that senior Australian officials were fully
aware that Habib was a victim of the CIAs
rendition program and desperately tried to cover it up.
In April 2002, after five months of abominable
torment, Habib was illegally rendered to Bagram
jail in Kandahar an infamous hellhole - and
later to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by which time he
was half dead. Even so, when Habib was carted off
to meet Australian officials at Guantanamo, he
was handcuffed and chained to the floor,
apparently in distress. An official interview
transcript names an ASIO agent as present, as
well as Australian federal police officers Ramzi
Jabbour and Steven Lancaster, plus Glenda Gauci
from the Department of Foreign Affairs. Apart
from the familiar litany of beatings, drugging
and electric shocks, Guantanamo offered unique
refinements: being urinated upon, having
menstrual blood thrown in your face, being
interrogated for 15 hour periods with short
breaks. Former British detainee Tarek Degoul said
that Habib was beaten, dragged by chains and
photographed naked. Doctors who later examined
Habibs medical reports found plenty of signs of abuse.
In May 2004, Australias consul general in
Washington, Derek Tucker finally arrived at
Guantanamo with a warning for Habib: unless he
cooperated with the Americans and admitted to
something incriminating, he would be sent back to
Egypt. The torture continued. US interrogators
did everything possible to make me crazy, says
Habib. He says he was sexually humiliated by a
prostitute, told that his family were dead and
shown images of his wifes head superimposed on
photographs of naked women next to Osama bin Laden.
In Parliament, John Howard swept aside
allegations of torture and quoted the view of
Derek Tucker, that Habib had not been treated
unacceptably. Tucker visited Habib several times
and his mantra never varied: unless Habib
co-operated with the Americans, he would be
sent back to Egypt. Only the swift intervention
of US human rights lawyer Joe Margulies stopped
this illegal act from occurring. After being held
in Guantánamo Bay for almost three years, Mamdouh
Habib was released without charge.
On his return to Australia, Habib was placed
under surveillance and his passport confiscated.
Article 14 of CAT commits Australia to ensure the
victim of an act of torture obtains redress and
has an enforceable right to fair and adequate
compensation. This Article was flouted,
compensation was rejected. Habib has been
pursuing the matter since 2005, with the case
continually obstructed by the Howard government
and its successor, the Rudd government. A flicker
of progress was achieved a few weeks ago,
according to a single report in a
blog, though I cannot find a mention elsewhere.
The slumbering proceedings evoke the aura of a secret trial.
What is the Government hiding? The awful truth,
perhaps. That some authorities have aided and
abetted multiple acts of torture and kidnap of an
Australian citizen. In January 2006, the Sydney
Morning Herald obtained documents confirming that
the Howard government and its intelligence
agencies were deeply implicated in the illegal
rendition and imprisonment of Habib. Following
the recent US torture scandals, President Obama
wants the investigation to focus on the lawyers,
which is also a pretty good place to start in Australia.
Former Prime Minister John Howard is a lawyer, as
is the former Attorney General Philip Ruddock.
The former head of Foreign Affairs, Alexander
Downer, will need to face scrutiny, as well as
legal officers, public servants and others who
violated local and international laws. It has
emerged that the US Government told ASIO heads it
planned to send Habib to Egypt for questioning
several weeks before his illegal rendition. Other
agencies are tainted. Last December, Natalie
O'Brien of The Australian reported that the
Defence Department holds over 85,000 pages of
documents relating to the rendition of Habib to
Egypt, despite having assured federal parliament
it had no involvement in the matter. it is
Australias rock solid obligation under Article 5
of CAT to make torture offences punishable by
appropriate penalties which take into account
their grave nature. While the official hand of
the Australia Government signed and ratified CAT,
its covert hand fed human flesh to the torturers.
Prime Minster Rudd has no other choice but to set
up a Royal Commission with sweeping powers.
Post Script: The endemic infliction of torture
and abuse on prisoners by coalition forces has
long been documented by bloggers and independent
journalists. In 2005, this account of the
World Torture Tour was widely circulated on the
web. It took another four years for the New York Times to wake up.
Richard Neville lives in Australia, the land that
formed him. In the Sixties he raised hell in
London and published Oz. He can be reached
through his websites,
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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