[Pnews] Survivors of CIA torture, rendition speak out

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 10 14:04:45 EST 2014

  Survivors of CIA torture, rendition speak out

Three ex-CIA detainees welcomed Tuesday's Senate summary on torture but 
called for accountability

December 10, 2014 3:45AM ET
by Michael Pizzi 
<http://america.aljazeera.com/profiles/p/michael-pizzi.html> @michaelwpizzi

Survivors of alleged CIA torture and rendition programs praised the 
release of a damning if heavily redacted Senate account 
<http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/12/9/torture-report-excerpts.html> of 
the agency's "brutal" and "ineffective" practices but said it was only a 
first step toward accountability --- and it certainly wasn't an apology.

"Publishing this shows the other side, that human rights apply to 
everyone," said Abdelhakim Balhadj, a Libyan political dissident who the 
U.S. rendered back to Libya in 2004, where he was allegedly tortured 
over a six-year period without being charged with a crime. "The U.S. 
denied us our human rights. We wanted the American people to recognize 

After years of delay, the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday 
released a 499-page executive summary of a more than 6,000-word report, 
which remains classified. It detailed a litany of apparently illegal 
<http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/12/9/the-cia-torture-reportalegalexplainer.html> employed 
by CIA officers to extract information from detainees --- death threats, 
beatings, sleep deprivation, forced rectal feeding and other 
psychological torment --- much of which had long since been leaked.

Significantly, the summary noted that so-called "enhanced interrogation" 
techniques were "brutal and far worse than the CIA represented" and they 
were not nearly as useful in obtaining information vital to national 
security as the agency had previously said.

Though ex-detainees like Belhadj welcomed those findings, he was 
disappointed that his name had not been mentioned specifically. In a 
phone call from his home in Libya, Belhadj, now a prominent politician 
and military leader in Libya, told of how he and his pregnant wife 
Fatima were picked up by U.S. authorities as they were trying to leave 
China, where they had been living until 2004, to seek political asylum 
in the U.K.

Belhadj, who at the time was a leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting 
Group that opposed then-dictator Muammar Gaddafi, said he was taken to a 
secret U.S. prison, where he was hooded, hung by his wrists from hooks 
and beaten. Then, as part of an apparent effort by the U.S. and U.K. to 
cultivate ties with Gaddafi, a potential ally in the so-called war on 
terror, the U.S. subsequently rendered the couple back to the Libyan 
capital, Tripoli. There, Belhadj says he was tortured by Libyan 
authorities and foreign agents --- including some from the U.K. --- 
until his release in 2010.

To date, the U.S. has still never acknowledged involvement in Belhadj's 
case, nor explained why he could be subject to such treatment without 
ever being charged with a crime.

"We were handed over to a dictator," Belhadj said. "There must be 
justice. Someone must be held accountable."

Other notable omissions 
<http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/12/9/senate-torture-report.html> from 
the CIA report include Khadija al-Saadi, who was just 12 years old when 
the U.K. certainly and U.S. allegedly rendered her and her family --- 
including her three younger siblings --- back to Libya from their home 
in Hong Kong in a joint operation.

The family has described Libyan intelligence detaining and torturing 
Khadija's father, prominent Gaddafi opponent Sami al-Saadi, for the next 
seven years, another apparent victim of U.S. and British efforts to 
build ties with Libya's dictator. Sami was not freed until 2011, when 
the country's uprising toppled and killed Gaddafi in the streets.

Though his family received a settlement from the British government in 
2012, the CIA has yet to make amends.

"We now have the actual faxes and flight plans that prove that the CIA 
arranged the whole thing," Khadija, now a 23-year-old college student, 
said in an email on Tuesday. But, like Belhadj, she had hoped her name 
would be mentioned in the release, as a tacit recognition of American 
wrongdoing. "This is the very least that is owed me," she said.

"Hiding the truth is how tyrannies and dictatorships function. ... 
Justice has to take its course if other countries are to learn a lesson 
from this case," she said.

In a statement, Saadi's lawyer Alka Pradhan, who is with the U.K.-based 
rights NGO Reprieve <http://www.reprieve.org.uk/>, also welcomed 
Tuesday's release, but added, "no review of the CIA torture program can 
be complete without an exhaustive list of the victims' names and the 
inclusion of their voices on what they suffered."

Perhaps the most outspoken victim of CIA interrogation, Moazzam Begg, 
was mentioned a number of times in Tuesday's release. He was even more 
scathing in his critique of the Senate report.

The U.S. held Begg, a British Pakistani**citizen, at Bagram prison in 
Afghanistan and at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where 
he said he was tortured, sometimes into making false confessions, over 
the course of three years. Begg was accused of having ties to Al Qaeda 
but he was never formally charged him with a crime.

The worst moment he said he witnessed in three years of detention was 
the time he "saw a detainee with his hands tied above his head to the 
top of a cage, with a hood placed over him, being punched and kicked 
repeatedly to the point that he was killed."

Begg is among those calling for CIA officers who engaged in such severe 
beatings and other "enhanced interrogation" tactics like waterboarding 
to be prosecuted. He was disappointed, though not surprised, that the 
names of those officers were redacted from the Senate report.

While President Barack Obama has promised to curtail "enhanced 
interrogation" tactics and rendition circuits as well as close 
Guantanamo Bay, he has maintained that those intelligence officers were 
acting "in good faith" --- in other words, according to orders --- and 
would not face prosecution for their involvement.

On Tuesday, however, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism, 
Ben Emmerson 
echoed Begg's call, demanding that the names of those responsible be 
revealed and that everyone involved --- up to the Bush administration 
<http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/12/senate-cia-torturereportabuzubaydah.html> who 
guided the policies --- face criminal prosecution. "It is no defense for 
a public official to claim that they were acting on superior orders," 
Emmerson said in a statement. "CIA officers who physically committed 
acts of torture therefore bear individual criminal responsibility for 
their conduct."

Begg noted that Japanese soldiers who waterboarded American POWs during 
World War II were successfully prosecuted for war crimes.

"You can't imagine the president of the most powerful country in the 
world saying this about any other crime," he said. "There has to be a 
process of accountability."

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