16 April, 2013

Human rights reports ~ Alleged UK complicity in torture ~ Guantanamo Bay Hunger Strikes

Council of Europe Report:

The 6th Annual Report of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers has been published.  It deals with Supervision of the execution of judgments and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. 

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report:

The FCO has published the 2012 Human Rights and Democracy report.   Foreign Secretary William Hague commented:

'The promotion and protection of human rights is at the heart of the UK’s foreign policy objectives.  I, along with my ministerial team, consistently raise human rights violations wherever and whenever they occur.  And with this in mind, I am delighted to introduce the FCO’s 2012 Annual Human Rights and Democracy Report, which details our efforts to promote human rights during 2012.' 

Alleged governmental complicity in torture:
In July 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron set up the Gibson Inquiry to examine allegations of complicity in torture - Complicity in Torture - Inquiry anounced.  The inquiry was closed down in 2012 - Detainee Inquiry under Sir Peter Gibson scrapped.    

Several human rights organisations boycotted the inquiry - see post of 4th August 2011 - claiming that Sir Peter Gibson (who was the Intelligence Services Commissioner) could not be sufficiently impartial.  Other issues were the secrecy of the inquiry and the inability to question officials and operatives.  Also, it was to be the Cabinet Secretary and not the judge who would decide what could be published.  Nevertheless, when the inquiry was closed down, Sir Peter Gibson said that he would produce a report.  To date, nothing has been published.   

The Guardian April 2013 states:

Although the government promised that "as much of this report as possible will be made public", the Cabinet Office says no date has yet been fixed for publication. Asked why publication had been delayed, a spokesperson replied: "I can't comment."

The United Nations special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, has called on the government to publish the report as part of what he describes as "a reckoning with the past".

Emmerson also called on the US government to publish a report on rendition approved last year by the Senate intelligence committee, and which, according to the committee's Democrat majority, shows the so-called rendition and enhanced interrogation programme to have been a "terrible mistake".

Guantanamo Bay:

Guantanamo Bay is a notorious United States prison located in Cuba which, at the start of his first administration, President Obama stated would be closed.   Further very disturbing reports are emerging - The Guardian 14th April - Guantanamo Bay's last UK detainee: 'people are dying here' in hunger strike.

In the article, Shaker Aamer's lawyer (Clive Stafford Smith) describes the situation faced by prisoners.  Aamer is the last UK resident still held at the camp.  He claims that he is subjected to harsh treatment from guards and denied water, despite being in a weakened state due to severe weight loss.  He also alleges that the US base will soon be dealing with its first fatalities as a result of the current action: "I might die this time," he is quoted by his lawyer as saying, adding: "I cannot give you numbers and names, but people are dying here."

A further article by Glenn Greenwald - The Guardian 15th April - Obama, Guatanamo, and the enduring national shame - makes for powerful reading and highlights President Obama's role in this travesty. 

On 12th April, Reprieve called for a debate in Parliament about Shaker Aamer's case. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, recently released a statement calling on the US to close Guantanamo Bay, saying that its existence remains “a clear breach of international law”. Yesterday Reprieve joined 25 international Human Rights NGOs in signing an open letter telling Obama to close the prison, warning that ‘irreversible cognitive impairment and physiological damage may begin to occur by the fortieth day of a hunger strike, after which the possibility of death becomes an imminent risk.’

Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, said: “The ongoing detention without charge or trial of these men is an affront to justice. Shaker has a wife and four British kids – one of whom he’s never met – in London. The UK seems to just accept routine assurances from the US that all is well, when in fact all is rotten in Guantanamo Bay. Why does the UK take the position that there is nothing more that can be done when a close ally is committing the on-going torture of Shaker Aamer?”

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