Aletho News


Rousseff hails unveiling of Brazilian torture report

The BRICS Post | December 11, 2014

B4iQQH7IQAAH_N4.jpg-largeBrazilian national Truth Commission’s report presented to President Dilma Rousseff moved her to tears as it published accounts of torture, killings and disappearances during two decades of military rule from 1964-85.

“I am very proud to be here, because the people here contributed to combat the violation of human rights,” Rousseff said during an emotional speech at the ceremony on Wednesday.

“We, who so love democracy, hope that the wide circulation of this report helps to reaffirm the priority that we must give to upholding democratic liberties. In this way, we must show our absolute aversion to authoritarian states and dictatorships of any kind,” President Rousseff said.

Rousseff is a former leftist guerrilla once imprisoned and tortured by the country’s military regime. The report has identified 377 people of committing “crimes against humanity”, 200 of whom are still alive.

“This is a key step in the right direction for Brazilians: knowing their history they can build a better society,” Rousseff tweeted on Wednesday.

The Brazilian leader has alluded to her past imprisonment and physical torture under the military dictatorship during the presidential campaigning this year.

“I have come up against hugely difficult situations in my life, including attacks which took me to the limit physically. Nothing knocked me out of my stride,” said Rousseff.

Hundreds of Brazilians were murdered and thousands were tortured by the Brazilian military rule but the Latin American nation has never put anyone on trial for the murder and widespread torture of political dissidents during its dictatorship.

In 1979 the Brazilian army pushed an amnesty law to shield themselves from future prosecutions through the Brazilian Congress.

The report released on Wednesday has identified Germany’s Volkswagen AG as one of several foreign companies that provided the Brazilian military with lists and accounts of union activists.

Brazil is seeking a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and was this week voted in with a majority to the Advisory Commission of the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA).

The vote marked the first time a Latin American country was admitted to the agency’s top consultative body, which advises on “key strategic decisions,” said the UNRWA.

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

Obama Administration Fights to Keep Details of Justice Department Torture Report Secret

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | December 12, 2014

While the media parsed the details of the Senate committee’s report on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) torturing of detainees last decade, the Obama administration was fighting in court to prevent documents from another investigation into the spy agency’s program from being examined by a leading national newspaper.

The New York Times has sued in federal court to obtain thousands of pages from a U.S. Department of Justice probe into the torture of detainees by the CIA during the George W. Bush administration. The materials that the newspaper wants to see include “10 reports and memorandums totaling 1,719 pages — more than three times the number of pages in the Senate report,” wrote the Times’ Charlie Savage, who is a party to the lawsuit. The documents in question include transcripts of interviews by a special prosecutor with about 100 witnesses as well as documents explaining why no charges were ever filed.

The Justice probe into the CIA program was conducted by prosecutor John H. Durham, who spent four years delving into the controversy but ultimately recommended to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. to not file charges against the agency or any of its employees or contractors. Holder followed Durham’s suggestion and refrained from going after the CIA.

The Justice Department filed court documents on the same day that the Senate Intelligence Committee released its 524-page report on the CIA’s rendition and torture program. It argued in its filing with the New York federal court that all of the pages requested by the Times should remain locked away “because disclosing them could affect the candor of law enforcement deliberations about whether to bring criminal charges,” according to Savage.

To Learn More:

U.S. Tells Court That Documents From Torture Investigation Should Remain Secret (by Charlie Savage, New York Times )

New York Times v. Department of Justice (U.S. District Court, Southern New York)

Judge Gives Obama Administration until December to Justify Withholding 2,100 Photos of U.S. Use of Torture in Iraq and Afghanistan (by Danny Biederman and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov )

Obama Refuses to Turn Over 9,400 CIA Torture and Interrogation Documents to Congress (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov )

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture | Leave a comment

New calls for return of Guantanamo Brit, after 13 years of torture

Reprieve | December 11, 2014

In the wake of a new report on US abuses post-9/11, calls have been renewed for the return of a British resident held without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay for the past 13 years.

Shaker Aamer, a Londoner with a British wife and four British children, was captured and tortured by US forces in Afghanistan in 2001 before his rendition to Guantanamo Bay in 2002. His ordeal has included a litany of abuses similar to those described in the US Senate report on CIA torture, a portion of which was released this week. The details of CIA torture revealed in the report have provoked widespread condemnation.

As one of the first five prisoners taken to Bagram Air Force Base in late December 2001, Mr Aamer was forced to stay awake for nine days, beaten, denied food, and tied up in such a way as to risk strangling himself if he moved. Other times, he was forced to stand up for over 16 hours a day.

During his 13 years at Guantanamo Bay, Mr Aamer has been repeatedly subjected to physical violence – including regular beatings and “forcible cell extractions” (FCEs), at times as often as eight per day. He has also been forced into prolonged periods of solitary confinement, protracted sleep deprivation, manipulation of the temperature around him, and humiliating ‘genital searches.’

Earlier this year, Mr Aamer said: “The worst thing about torture is that you don’t know how to think, what to do, how to feel. You know you have your mind, but you don’t know how to react, which is horrible because you feel vulnerable. It’s terrible.”

The UK government has repeatedly stated that it wants Mr Aamer released from Guantanamo and returned to his family in London. Mr Aamer’s lawyer, Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith believes that he is still imprisoned because of the evidence he might give around UK complicity in torture. He has said: “It is deeply suspicious that the UK won’t say why their friends in the US refuse to transfer Shaker home to London.”

Did Theresa May lobby Senate Committee on CIA report?

Home Secretary Theresa May was one of several UK officials who met with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) ahead of the publication of its report on torture by the US and its allies, it’s emerged.

Documents unearthed by legal charity Reprieve reveal that from 2009, 24 meetings were held between UK Government officials or ministers and SSCI members. The Home Secretary met with the Committee in 2011 “in her capacity as Home Secretary”, while other UK Government visitors to the SSCI included former and current UK ambassadors to the US.

The SSCI began its formal inquiry into the CIA torture programme in 2009, and the timing of the UK meetings with the Committee have raised concerns that the UK may have attempted to influence the contents of the report.

Yesterday, Downing Street admitted that redactions were requested by the UK on “national security grounds” – an apparent shift from a claim made earlier this week, when the Prime Minister’s spokesman said there had been no such UK requests made.

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture | , , | 1 Comment

The Absolute Necessity to Demand Accountability for Torture

By Kim Petersen | Dissident Voice | December 11, 2014

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

— Article 5 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights1

Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which bills itself as “the nation’s premier defender of liberty and individual freedom,” wrote a controversial op-ed for the imperialist-touting New York Times.2 In essence, by specious circumlocution, the ACLU head parlayed to the favor of the decision-makers behind crimes against humanity, namely torture, such that they escape legal punishment on the pretext that it would serve as a deterrent to such illegality in the future.

In doing so, Romero raises the possibility that torture might be legal, or that there is uncertainty as to any illegality. Romero ignores the United Nations Convention against Torture, to which the US and 80 other states is a signatory.

Article 2 of this convention states:

1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Physicians for Human Rights unequivocally state, “The prohibition of torture in international law is notable in that it is absolute, applying at all times and in all circumstances.”3 [emphasis added]

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which allows for inspection of detention facilities, is unsigned by the US. This calls into question how adherence to international law can be enforced when the potential crime is hidden from independent scrutiny. It also calls into question the sincerity of a signature affixed to a statute signifying opposition to crimes against humanity.

Romero writes, “My organization and others have spent 13 years arguing for accountability for these crimes,” followed by the lament that now “… many of those responsible for torture can’t be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has run out.”

Romero is conveying a false message. Since torture is listed as a crime against humanity,4 and given that there are 54 signatory states to the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity and given that there are 122 signatories to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, there is no statute of limitations applicable. Notably, or unremarkably, the US is not a signatory to these last two statutes.

However, in the US, there is no statute of limitations on crimes that are considered exceptionally heinous by society.5 provides a definition: “Heinous means hateful or shockingly evil.” I submit that heinous is an apt descriptor for torture.

Yet, Romero sees fit to praise Obama: “To his credit, Mr. Obama disavowed torture immediately after he took office, and his Justice Department withdrew the memorandums that had provided the foundation for the torture program.”

Is this disavowal deserving of credit? It is widely held that actions speak louder than words. Obama’s words have been rendered platitudinous and self-serving by his actions as torture has continued under his regime.6,7

The ACLU head notes, “But neither he [Obama] nor the Justice Department has shown any appetite for holding anyone accountable.… Mr. Obama is not inclined to pursue prosecutions — no matter how great the outrage, at home or abroad, over the disclosures — because of the political fallout.”

In other words, politics takes precedence over human rights and international law. Then again, Obama is on record as saying, “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”8 The illogic of this exculpatory mantra is revealed starkly on at least two levels: (1) it posits that we do not need to learn from our history, and (2) the same rationale could be applied to all designated enemies of the US.

Romero states, “Prosecutions would be preferable, but pardons may be the only viable and lasting way to close the Pandora’s box of torture once and for all.”

As already argued above, there is clarity that torture is a crime. Romero tenuously proffers an obfuscation of the prima facie crimes. Prosecutions are not only preferable, they must be demanded. Otherwise justice is held in abeyance, and a signal is sent that the US does not respect or adhere to international law, that future presidents and regime officials can commit heinous crimes safe in the knowledge that they will be pardoned to avoid “political fallout.”

This has farther-reaching significance for law. Law is based heavily in precedence. If US war criminals escape accountability, then why should non-US war criminals not be handled in a similar non-discriminatory manner? Or are US officials above the law?

Romero calls for Obama to “take ownership” of the decision. “If the choice is between a tacit pardon and a formal one, a formal one is better. An explicit pardon would lay down a marker, signaling to those considering torture in the future that they could be prosecuted.”

This is disingenuous. This is not the only choice. The clear and moral choice is whether to prosecute or not prosecute. Narrowing the choice to between a tacit pardon and a formal one is evading justice under the pretext of laying down a marker for future justice. On the contrary, an explicit pardon sends a message that those who torture for hyperempire, albeit prosecutable, will be pardoned … explicitly. Justice demands that torture be handled in an expeditious manner that forthrightly declares that heinous crimes will be prosecuted with the full force of the law and that such law triumphs political considerations. This sets a precedence that signals: justice will not be denied, any future transgressions will be punished.

  1. The United States is a signatory to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  2. Pardon Bush and Those Who Tortured,” New York Times, 8 December 2014.
  3. Physicians for Human Rights, “Prohibition of Torture in International Law.”
  4. See “What are crimes against humanity?,” ICC.
  5. See “Statute of limitations: 6.2.2 Heinous crimes in the United States,” Wikipedia.
  6. Shamus Cooke, “Torture Never Stopped Under Obama,” Global Research, 16 January 2010.
  7. Jeffrey Kaye, “Contrary to Obama’s promises, the US military still permits torture,” Guardian, 25 January 2014.
  8. See “Obama on Investigating Bush Crimes: ‘Need to Look Forward’,” Youtube, 11 January 2009.

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

The Easy Lesson of World War I

By JEAN BRICMONT | CounterPunch | December 11, 2014

There at least two things that are easier to start than to end: a love affair and a war. No participant in WWI expected it to last as long as it it did or to have the consequences that it had. All the empires that participated in the war were destroyed, including eventually the British and French ones.

Not only that, but one war leads to another. The British philosopher and logician Bertrand Russell remarked that the desire of the European monarchs to crush the French Revolution led to Napoleon; the Napoleonic wars produced German nationalism that itself led to Bismarck, the French defeat at Sedan and the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine. That in turn fueled French revanchism that gave rise, after World War I, to the Versailles Treaty, whose inequities gave a strong boost to Nazism and Hitler. Russell ended the story there, but it continues. Hitler’s defeat gave rise to the Cold War and the creation of Israel. The Western “victory” in the Cold War led to the current desire to crush Russia once and for all. As for Israel, its creation produced endless strife and an intractable situation in the Middle East.

What is the way out of this dialectic? I would suggest the idea of institutional pacifism. Not pacifism in the sense of refusing violence under any circumstance, or as amoral exhortation, but in the sense of building institutions that can help the preservation of peace. The United Nations and its charter, at least as it was originally conceived, is probably the best example of such an institution.

The very starting point of the United Nations was to save humankind from “the scourge of war”, with reference to the two World Wars. This goal was to be achieved by defending the principle of the equal sovereignty of all states, in order to prevent Great Powers from intervening militarily against weaker ones, regardless of the pretext. But since there is no international police to enforce international law, it can only be enforced by a balance of power and, most importantly, by the pressure of the citizens of the various countries to constrain their governments to adhere to common rules.

However, the way the end of the Cold war was interpreted in the West, as an unilateral victory of Good against Evil, led to a total disregard for international law or even for caution and diplomacy in the West. This was a consequence of the ideology of human rights and of the right of humanitarian military intervention that was developed by influential Western intellectuals, starting from the mid-70’s, who were often supporters of Israel, which may seem odd given Israel’s human rights record.

This “right” of humanitarian intervention has been universally rejected by the majority of mankind, for example at the South Summit in Havana in April 2000 or at the meeting of the Non Aligned Movement in Kuala Lumpur in February 2003, shortly before the US attack on Iraq, which issued the following declaration: “The Heads of State or Government reiterated the rejection by the Non-Aligned Movement of the so-called ‘right’ of humanitarian intervention, which has no basis either in United Nations Charter or in international law” and “also observed similarities between the new expression ‘responsibility to protect’ and ‘humanitarian intervention’ and requested the Co-ordinating Bureau to carefully study and consider the expression ‘the  responsibility to protect’ and its implications on the basis of the principles of non-interference and non-intervention as well as  the respect  for territorial integrity and national sovereignty of  States.” But in the West, this right of intervention is almost universally accepted.

The reason for this opposition of views is probably that the rest of the world has a very different memory than the West about the latter’s interventions in the internal affairs of other countries.

US intervention is multi-faceted but constant and always violates the spirit and often the letter of the United Nations charter. Despite claims to act on behalf of principles such as freedom and democracy, US intervention has repeatedly had disastrous consequences: not only the millions of deaths caused by direct and indirect wars, in Indochina, Central America, Southern Africa and the Middle East, but also the lost opportunities, the “killing of hope” for hundreds of millions of people who might
have benefited from progressive social policies initiated by people like Arbenz in Guatemala, Goulart in Brazil, Allende in Chile, Lumumba in the Congo, Mossadegh in Iran, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, or Chavez in Venezuela, who have been systematically subverted, overthrown or killed with full Western support.

But that is not all. Every aggressive action led by the United States creates a reaction. Deployment of an anti-missile shield produces more missiles, not less.

Bombing civilians – whether deliberately or by so-called “collateral damage” – produces more armed resistance, not less. Trying to overthrow or subvert governments produces more internal repression, not less. Encouraging secessionist minorities by giving them the often false impression that the sole Superpower will come to their rescue in case they are repressed, leads to more violence, hatred and death, not less. Surrounding a country with military bases produces more defense spending by that country, not less. The possession of nuclear weapons by Israel encourages other states of the Middle East to acquire such weapons.

The ideology of humanitarian intervention is actually part of a long history of Western attitudes towards the rest of the World. When Western colonialists landed on the shores of the Americas, Africa or Eastern Asia, they were shocked by what we would now call violations of human rights, and which they called “barbaric mores” – human sacrifices, cannibalism, women forced to bind their feet. Time and again, such indignation, sincere or calculating, has been used to justify or to cover up the crimes of the Western powers: the slave trade, the extermination of indigenous peoples and the systematic stealing of land and resources. This attitude of righteous indignation continues to this day and is at the root of the claim that the West has a “right to intervene” and a “right to protect”, while turning a blind eye to oppressive regimes considered “our friends”, to endless militarization and wars, and to massive exploitation of labor and resources.

The West should learn from its past history. What would that mean concretely?

Well, first of all, guaranteeing the strict respect for international law on the part of Western powers, implementing the UN resolutions concerning Israel, dismantling the worldwide US empire of bases as well as NATO, ceasing all threats concerning the unilateral use of force, lifting unilateral sanctions, stopping all interference in the internal affairs of other States, in particular all operations of “democracy promotion”, “color” revolutions, and the exploitation of the politics of minorities. This necessary respect for national sovereignty means that the ultimate sovereign of each nation state is the people of that state, whose right to replace unjust governments cannot be taken over by supposedly benevolent outsiders.

Proponents of humanitarian intervention claim that this is interventionism is done by the international community. But nowadays, there is no such thing as a genuine international community. Actually, nothing can better illustrate the hypocrisy of the the human right ideology than the contrast between the West’s reaction to Kosovo’s demands for independence and to the Eastern Ukrainian’s demand for autonomy. There is refusal to negotiate in both cases, but with total support for independence in one case and total opposition to autonomy in the other.

The promoters of humanitarian intervention present it as the beginning of a new era; but in fact it is the end of an old one. The major social transformation of the 20th century has been decolonization. It continues today in the elaboration of a genuinely democratic, multipolar world, one where the sun will have set on the US empire, just as it did on the old European ones.

The viewpoints expressed here are shared by millions of people in the “West”. This is unfortunately not reflected in our media. In the recent anti-Russian hysterical campaigns, our media seem to have totally abandoned the critical spirit of the Enlightenment that the West claims to uphold. The human rights ideology, which portrays us as being good versus them being bad, has the characteristic of all religious faiths, and is particularly fanatic. Let us not forget, among all the criticisms of secularism that I have heard here, that in World War I, all sides thought that they had God on their side, although, a far as I know, the Almighty was not kind enough to let us know on which side he was. Maybe he was too busy putting in heaven and hell the souls of the deceased soldiers who died invoking his name. The human rights ideology has replaced the old faiths, but it functions as a religion, and is the basis of a new nationalism, the one of the US and of the EU.

Some people think that all this ideological agitation and warmongering is due to rational economic calculations by cynical profiteers. I think this view is too optimistic and ignores, to quote Russell again, “the ocean of human folly upon which the fragile barque of human reason insecurely floats”. Wars have been waged for all kinds of non-economic reasons, such as religion or revenge, or simply to display power.

If the citizens of the West do not manage to mobilize themselves against their governments and their media in order to stop the current madness, it will be up to other countries to fulfill that role. It is to be hoped that they can achieve that task without adding another bloody chapter to the history that started with the desire of the European monarchs to crush the French Revolution.

JEAN BRICMONT teaches physics at the University of Louvain in Belgium. He is author of Humanitarian Imperialism.  He can be reached at

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | 4 Comments

U.S. Torture Predates 9/11

A Sordid History

By COLTEN STOKES | CounterPunch | December 12, 2014

The sordid history of U.S. torture in the Middle East laid bare by the release of the Senate report is explained by some as “9-11 changed everything.” The truth, however, is that U.S. support for torture long pre-dates 2001.

The Vietnam War lasted more than 10 years and involved more than a half-million U.S. troops, and torture was a routine part of U.S. actions. Vietcong prisoners were thrown from helicopters to get others to talk, they were tortured with electric shocks, six-inch pegs were driven into their ears, and female prisoners were threatened with the death of their children.

In the Middle East, the most notorious torture regime was that of the Shah of Iran, installed by a CIA-coup in 1953. Operatives of his secret police, the SAVAK, were trained by the hundreds by the CIA at its headquarters in Langley, Va. In the 1970s, Jimmy Carter, now seen by many as a champion of human rights, personally approved continued CIA-SAVAK cooperation, on the grounds that the “intelligence” gained outweighed the “human rights abuses” that were occurring, an explanation that should sound familiar today.

The SAVAK is gone, but systematic torture continues in at least one more country in the region that receives massive U.S. support—Israel, which routinely tortures Palestinian political prisoners.

CIA support for torture in Latin America was equally extensive. In Chile, the CIA-supported coup which brought Augusto Pinochet to power brought with it the torture and murder of thousands of left-wing activists. The head of Chile’s secret police, the DINA, was a CIA asset. In 1975, DINA agents assassinated the former Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier and his 25-year-old American associate, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, in Washington, D.C., itself, but even that didn’t put a damper on U.S. support for the regime.

Throughout the 1980s, the U.S. provided training and support for the government in El Salvador, whose death squads routinely used torture as a means of suppressing opposition. The opposite happened in Nicaragua, where the U.S.-supported Contras routinely tortured Nicaraguans who resisted its attempts to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government.

In Venezuela, the secret police was called DISIP, and its head and chief torturer in the 1970s was CIA agent and notorious terrorist Luis Posada Carriles. Here the story of U.S. involvement with torture takes a different turn—the U.S. supported torture while it was happening but later used the false claim of potential torture to shield Posada from prosecution.

Posada and Orlando Bosch were the masterminds of the 1976 mid-air bombing of Cubana Flight 455, killing all on board. Both escaped justice in Venezuela, and in 2005 Posada entered the U.S. illegally. Venezuela, where Posada is still wanted on 73 counts of murder for the airplane bombing, filed an extradition request.

Nine years later, that request has neither been honored or even answered, but eventually, since Posada was a known terrorist and had entered the U.S. illegally, the U.S. government was forced to move to deport him. During those hearings, a man named Joaquin Chaffardet testified in Posada’s defense that if he were extradited to Venezuela, led at the time by Hugo Chávez, he would be tortured. Chaffardet offered no proof for this baseless allegation, and the U.S. government offered no witnesses to rebut him. Of course, Venezuela WAS known to torture prisoners—when Posada ran the DISIP and it was supported by the U.S.!

And who was Chaffardet? He was Posada’s associate at DISIP, a fellow torturer! Later, both left DISIP to form a private investigation firm, a firm that worked hand-in-glove with the CIA, and the same firm that employed the two people who actually put the bomb on the plane in 1976. Chaffardet was also indicted of having organized the prison break that sprung Posada from jail in Venezuela after the bombing. And on the basis of his testimony alone, the U.S. refused to extradite Posada to Venezuela, and allows him to live freely in Miami to this day.

The U.S. government’s attitude toward torture hasn’t changed in decades, nor has its willingness to see torturers pay for their crimes. In President Obama’s statement on the torture report, he asserted that torture is “against our values,” but pointedly failed to point out that it is also against the law. Just like police brutality serves a role internally at keeping people under control, so too torture serves a role internationally. Neither will end until the brutal system that employs them, capitalism and imperialism, are ended.

Colten Stokes, originally from Guatemala, is now a U.S. citizen working as a public employee active in his union.

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | | 1 Comment