[Pnews] Survivors of CIA torture, rendition speak out
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
Survivors of alleged CIA torture and rendition programs praised the
release of a damning if heavily redacted Senate account
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
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
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,
echoed Begg's call, demanding that the names of those responsible be
revealed and that everyone involved --- up to the Bush administration
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
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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