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Activists to continue fight against UK drone secrecy

Press TV – October 31, 2013

Campaigners have vowed to continue fighting for greater transparency over the use of deadly British drones overseas despite losing an appeal calling for the UK involvement to be disclosed.

Anti-drone campaigners said they would pursue an end to the “culture of secrecy” surrounding London’s drone attacks in Afghanistan.

This came after the Information Tribunal agreed the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) refusal to reveal information on the deployment of remote- controlled unmanned warfare in the Asian country.

The appeal body said that the MoD can withhold basic details about its drone strikes in Afghanistan.

“The MOD referred to the disclosure of the requested information as involving ‘risk to life and limb’, the Commissioner used the phrase ‘life and death,’” the ruling stated.

However, strategy director of legal charity Reprieve Cori Crider described the ruling as “disappointing”, saying “the US-UK drone wars must be brought out of the shadows.”

“We know that the UK is closely involved in supporting the CIA in carrying out these illegal strikes, yet they are still refusing to come clean,” Crider said.

Recently, it was revealed that the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) assassination drones, used in missions over Afghanistan, are controlled from British soil for the first time.

The MoD confirmed that its new aircraft, known as XIII Squadron, started flying missions over Afghanistan earlier in April from RAF Waddington base in Lincolnshire.

According to media reports, Britain has spent more than £2 billion over the last five years, developing its unethical assassination drones.

The deployment of assassination drones by the US and its allies has led to deaths of at least hundreds of innocent civilians, including many women and children, in the Middle East.

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK drone strikes violate international law: legal opinion piece

Press TV – June 8, 2013

Britain’s operating of killer drones in Afghanistan may be violating the international law, a legal firm representing peace campaigners has argued in an opinion piece.

The legal opinion by Public Interest Lawyers argues that the use of killer drones in Afghanistan is a breach of the international law under the European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR).

The document says that the ECHR’s article 2 requires the governments to use “no more [force] than absolutely necessary” during conflicts.

“Only when it is absolutely necessary to kill someone rather than arrest/disable them will the use of drones be lawful. And even then, drones may only be used for … self defence under 2(2)(c),” it says.

According to the Public Interest Lawyers, this means that the ECHR obliges Britain to the use of killer drones only in “situations in which there is an immediate threat to life” that “prevents the carrying out of ‘targeted killings’ and narrowly circumscribes their use even on ‘the battlefield'”.

“There is therefore a strong presumption that the UK’s drones programme is in breach of international law,” it adds.

The British Ministry of Defense announced back in April that they are operating killer drones in Afghanistan by remote-pilots from RAF Waddington base in Lincolnshire.

The ministry claims its operations are in accordance with applicable international humanitarian law.

This comes as drone attacks normally come with extreme “collateral damage” to the civilian population even when taking the American and British claims that they are targeting terrorists by terror drones as true.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed the remote-controlled killer drones strikes on various parts of Afghanistan over the past years.

Civilians’ casualties have triggered widespread protests against killer drone attacks in the Asian country with the Afghan government repeatedly calling for an end to the deadly assaults.

June 8, 2013 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Charities condemn switching foreign aid to military

Press TV – May 2, 2013

UK charities have criticized British Prime Minister David Cameron for signaling that the foreign aid budget could be diverted to the country’s Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Leading British charity against global poverty Oxfam reacted angrily after Cameron hinted Britain’s foreign aid budget could be spent on the country’s military adventures.

“The Prime Minister needs to be categorical that not one penny of aid can be raided by the MoD”, said Oxfam spokesperson Emma Seery, emphasizing that Britain must stick to his commitment.

Ben Jackson of Bond, representing 350 British aid groups and trustees, also condemned the decision to divert foreign aid budget to military and said, “There are strict definitions of aid that clearly preclude it from being spent on military equipment.”

Earlier in February, Cameron indicated that he is ready to divert aid budget to military.

The British PM said the Department for International Development works closely with both the Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Defense, adding that foreign interventions to prove a “basic level of stability and security” would be part of Britain’s “foreign aid”.

The decision to divert foreign aid to military seems primarily aimed at pacifying members of Cameron’s own Conservative Party, who oppose the prospect of cuts to the country’s military budget.

May 3, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Justice & Security Bill to cover up UK government crimes in & out of Britain

Press TV | March 13, 2013

The so-called Justice and Security Bill will enable the UK government, its security services and spying apparatus to cover up their crimes, such as rendition and torture of detainees.

The Bill, which was pushed through the House of Commons by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government last week, will also raise the specter of an untrammeled dictatorship, so to speak.

Under the bill, government ministers will be able to establish secret trials for civil law cases in which the public and media are excluded from proceedings where the government is a defendant and national security is said to be at stake.

The planned legislation will enable the UK government to suppress information about the handover of Afghan detainees by Britain to Afghan jails where they risk being tortured, or about UK involvement in U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan or elsewhere around the world.

The bill also allows the “government to appoint special advocates to represent the claimants, instead of lawyers of their own choosing, making it impossible for the claimants to know why their cases failed or succeeded”.

It is a profoundly undemocratic bill that marks a major departure in long-held principles of English law-that cases are held and decided in public and that the evidence presented by the other party is disclosed.

As Andrew Tyrie MP and Anthony Peto QC point out in their report, Neither Just nor Secure, secrecy could be imposed to prevent inquiries by investigative journalists, halt or limit protests, prevent people from recovering property seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act and stop injured servicemen from suing the Ministry of Defence for faulty equipment.

Taken together, the bill will make it impossible for claimants to know anything about their case, making it easier for ministers and the security services to cover up their crimes, such as rendition and torture.

As various cases show, the entire British state machinery is guilty of criminality: torture, abduction, extraordinary rendition and the denial of due process.

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK inquiry into Iraqi prisoner deaths reveals evidence of ‘torture’

RT | March 5, 2013

A public inquiry into allegations that British soldiers in Iraq murdered 20 unarmed prisoners and tortured 5 others has begun in London, with further legal arguments expected to slow the inquiry in the deaths of the Iraqi men nine years ago.

The Al-Sweady inquiry will examine claims that Iraqi prisoners were tortured by British soldiers following the Battle of Danny Boy in Maysan province, southern Iraq in the summer of 2004.

Evidence has also come to light that several of the corpses suffered severe mutilation. Iraqi death certificates recorded that one man had allegedly had his penis removed while another two bodies were missing eyes.

Several of the corpses were also said to have signs of torture when they were handed back to their families by British personnel at Camp Abu Naji.

However, there is major dispute between the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the families of the dead Iraqi men over the way in which the deaths occurred.

“The Iraqi witnesses say that the evidence points to there having been a number of Iraqi men having been taken into camp Abu Naji alive by the British military on 14th May, and who were handed back to their families dead the next day,” said Jonathan Acton Davis QC, counsel to the inquiry.

“The military say the evidence points to 20 Iraqi dead having been recovered from the battle and handed back to their families the next day,” he added, continuing that the two sides couldn’t even agree about the number of those killed or captured, or their identities.

On May 14th 2004, the troops embroiled in the allegations were involved in a fierce battle known as Danny Boy, the name of a permanent vehicle check point, which was on route six in Iraq.

A group of insurgents launched an attack against vehicles of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. It soon developed into a fierce firefight, which also involved soldiers from the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, with many Iraqis shot dead and two British soldiers being wounded.

The Iraqi dead would normally have been left on the battlefield but British soldiers were allegedly told to try and identify an insurgent thought to be involved in the murder of 6 British soldiers a year earlier in 2003.

One of the first jobs of the inquiry is to try and establish whether the 20 Iraqis were killed in battle as the MoD claims or if in fact they were captured alive and then unlawfully killed.

The inquiry will also try to determine if five men taken prisoner following the battle of Danny Boy were mistreated at a second British base in Shaibah, near Basara, between 14 May and 23 September 2004.

The al-Sweady inquiry as it is known is named after Hamid al-Sweady, a 19 year old alleged victim.

The inquiry was set up after former prisoners and relatives of the dead men took their case to the High Court in London in February 2008. They are entitled to an independent inquiry because the UK is a signatory of the European convention on human rights.

But even as the enquiry opened on Monday, there were signs of legal disagreements to come. Lawyers for the relatives of the dead Iraqis are saying that its terms of reference are too narrow, while the MoD is arguing that it should be limited to allegations of mistreatment that were already decided in previous High Court rulings.

This is potentially the most embarrassing inquiry since the killing of 26-year-old Iraqi citizen Baha Mousa while in British custody in Basara in 2003. He was severely beaten on suspicion of being an insurgent. The Ministry of Defense never accepted any liability for Mousa’s death.

According to Christpher Stanley of the UK-based Rights Watch group, “today [the MoD] is trying to manage it and put a cap on it. These are people getting away with grave human rights violations – including killing – without punishment or due process of law. “

So far the MoD has not come out well in the proceedings. The inquiry was ordered by then defense secretary Bob Ainsworth, after high court judges found that the MoD had made “serious breaches” of its duty.

Furthermore, British Foreign Minister William Hague has written a private memo to other ministers on March 1, urging them not to discuss Iraq and its legality in the run-up to the tenth anniversary of the NATO-led invasion.

Investigators have faced problems trying to access MoD documents concerning events covering the battle of Danny Boy and at Camp Abu Naj.

In 2010 investigators found in files of the Royal Military Police a number of relevant papers which had been entirely absent from evidence disclosed by the MoD in previous court proceedings. While another 9 files were handed over by the MoD in 2011, a six week search by investigators of MoD archives found 600 documents that were relevant to the case.

Last week the inquiry was still waiting to receive emails from the MoD about a visit to the Shaibah base by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The inquiry has already cost the taxpayer £15 million and that is expected to double. Up to 200 military witnesses will be called and 45 Iraqis will give evidence through a video link from Beirut.

March 5, 2013 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraqis push for probe into ‘terrifying acts of brutality’ by UK troops

RT | January 30, 2013

Iraqi nationals have called for a probe into alleged acts of brutality by the UK military during the Iraq war. Reports of beatings, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation, some involving women and children, were turned over to the UK High Court.

­A group of lawyers representing 192 Iraqi citizens handed the 82-page report to the UK High Court on Tuesday, and asked for an independent inquiry into detention practices between 2003 and 2008. During the next three days of the hearing, the Court will rule whether the abuses were systematic and whether the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) is impartial enough to head an investigation.

In addition to the 192 Iraqi nationals currently being represented in the High Court, another 800 are taking legal action against the UK military.

The MOD currently opposes an independent probe into the abuse reports, and argues that a wide-ranging public inquiry would be “premature and disproportionate.” The MOD created an official body, the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT), to examine the cases.

The lawyers representing the Iraqis have insisted that the investigation must be carried out by an independent body because the IHAT is incapable of a balanced inquiry.

“Enough is enough. There must be a public inquiry in relation to the credible and prima facie cases of human rights violations perpetrated by the British military in Iraq from 2003 to 2009,” QC Michael Fordham told reporters outside London’s High Court.

The cases of torture documented by the report handed over to the High Court describe beatings, hooding, sleep deprivation and the sexual humiliation of detainees. The report also claimed that women, the elderly and some children were among those killed in attacks on civilians.

Lawyers said that the abuse included unlawful detention, death in custody as well as threats of rape against Iraqis and their wives.

Phil Shiner, one of the lawyers representing the Iraqis, told reporters outside the High Court that there were “hundreds and hundreds” of Iraqis with “tens of thousands” of allegations of mistreatment.

“Some of the cases are truly shocking,” he said. “A 62-year-old grandmother who is led away alive, she is seen by her husband and her son alive, then found a few hours later in a British body bag very much dead, with signs of torture.”

Another case documented in the report tells of a tribal chief who was “utterly humiliated” in front of his family when soldiers broke into his home, arrested him, and then forced him to expose his genitals to his family, including the women.

“The military can’t investigate themselves, we need an independent judicial process here in London,” Shiner said.
Comprehensive steps?

MOD lawyers have assured the High Court that comprehensive steps are being taken to ensure that lessons are learned from the mistakes made in Iraq.

However, the MOD seems intent on glossing over its past failings: in December, the ministry paid over $22 million (£14 million) in compensation to hundreds of Iraqi citizens who claimed to have been illegally detained and abused by British forces posted in the country.

“In particular… a significant amount of work has already been done to ensure that MOD policies and training on tactical questioning and interrogation are lawful and fit for purpose,” MOD lawyers said.

Most of the 227 who received compensation were men who claimed to have been tortured in custody. The allegations included beatings, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation.

January 30, 2013 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

British soldiers in Afghanistan accused of killing four Afghan boys

Press TV – December 5, 2012

British forces in Afghanistan have been accused of killing four boys in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand in October.

According to a report published by the Guardian on Tuesday, a group of lawyers recently sent a letter to British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond, demanding that the UK government investigate the alleged killings.

The lawyers, acting on behalf of the relatives of two of the victims, said that during an operation in the village of Loi Bagh in the Nad Ali district of Helmand on October 18, the UK troops shot dead the Afghan boys while they were drinking tea.

The victims were identified as 18-year-old Fazel Mohammed, Naik Mohammed, 16, Mohammed Tayeb, 14, and 12-year-old Ahmed Shah.

The British troops were on a joint operation with Afghan forces.

“We submit that all of the victims were under the control and authority of the UK at the times of the deaths and ill-treatment,” the letter to Hammond read.

“The four boys killed all appear to have been deliberately targeted at close range by British forces. All were killed in a residential area, over which UK forces clearly had the requisite degree of control and authority.”

Major Adam Wojack, a spokesperson for the foreign forces in Afghanistan, has confirmed the operation. However, he has claimed that four “Taliban enemies in action” were killed.

The letter also includes a statement by the relatives of the victims, rejecting “any suggestion that any of the four teenagers killed were in any way connected” to the Taliban. “All four were innocent teenagers who posed no threat whatsoever to Afghan or British forces.”

December 5, 2012 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK Former General Greases Skids for $1-Billion Helicopter Deal Benefiting Israel’s Elbit Systems

By Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam | October 16, 2012

Elbit Systems is one of Israel’s largest defense contractors, something like Lockheed, General Dynamics and Boeing rolled into one.  It has its tentacles in virtually every high-tech weapons system developed by and for the IDF.  Like its American counterparts, it also has an extensive overseas customer base to whom it exports those weapons it’s developed for the IDF.

The Times of London has just broken a massive story detailing a secret lobbying campaign that brought Elbit a large share of a $1-billion helicopter contract awarded by the House of Commons.  The campaign was orchestrated by Lt. Gen. Richard Applegate, former chief of army procurement.  The details are so jaw-dropping, I’ll quote extensively from the article:

He boasted how he had pulled off a coup in a covert political lobbying campaign which had secured 500m for the benefit of his Israeli arms company client.

Applegate…admitted he had applied pressure by “infecting the system at every level” using politicians and former colleagues still serving in the forces.

…He…confided that he had persuaded MPs to ask questions in the Commons and arranged for the chairman of the defence select committee to raise the issue with the defense secretary in a move to shame the government into releasing the funds.

Applegate was pushing for an increase in MoD spending on helicopter safety systems, believing it would benefit Elbit Systems, the Israeli arms company he chairs in the UK.

The MoD earmarked 500m in June after months of lobbying by Applegate.  He said he expected a substantial portion of the cash to trickle down to Elbit through the military supply chain.

Boasting about his success…he said: “There was no programme, there was no money and we had been sidelined.  There is now a programme, there is now money and we have the ability to win and grow.”

He confided that he used Westminster Connection, a discreet lobbying firm with Israeli links as a “firebreak” to ensure “that my fingerprints weren’t over any of it.”  It could gain access to anyone “from the prime minister down.”  He said the firm, based in Victoria and co-owned by Scott Hamilton, a former Conservative staffer, had used links with Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) to persuade MPs in the Commons to assist in his campaign.

The lobbying firm mentioned is co-owned by two leading Conservative staffers, one of whom, Stuart Polak, has been the director of CFI since 1989.  The Jewish Chronicle lists him as one of the top 100 most influential Jews in the UK.  He has led more than 50 such missions to Israel as the two mentioned in the passage above.  So we can see that these junkets not only bring political benefit to Israel and its UK agenda, but they also can bring huge financial and trade benefits as well.

The Times expose notes that two well-connected MPs carried water for the project, asking pointed questions on the floor and in committee.  These members of parliament were sent to Israel by CFI on two separate junkets during which they visited the Elbit headquarters and were briefed on its UK projects.

I hate to say it but Applegate’s full court press makes Aipac look like pikers by comparison:

The former procurement chief claimed his lobbying campaigns operate “at every level,” so by the time he had inspired a minister to ask his advisers about an issue they [the adviser] had been prepped to give the right answer.  “I like the minister to be asking the questions [of] the person down here who’s his expert.  The expert knows about it, is comfortable with it and you know in terms of, if he doesn’t like it, you make sure he’s no longer the expert…and you position someone else in there to give a different story.”

The entire campaign is one of breathtaking cynicism, but also breathtaking ambition and precision.  You have to hand it to Applegate and Elbit.  They show you how a master lobbyist does his job.  In fact, when he retires Applegate should write a book about it.  It would be bound to become the lobbyists’ bible.

Unfortunately, the Times story doesn’t outline Applegate’s direct financial stake in the Elbit deal.  Given that it involved $1-billion and a substantial portion would eventually flow to the Israeli arms dealer, one has to assume that the former general would himself earn a substantial fee.  How much we don’t know.

In case anyone wonders whether such a system of legalized graft works in Israel, it certainly does.  Every retired general joins an Israeli arms or security consulting company.  Ehud Barak managed to become a millionaire several times over after he became a private citizen.  Even Meir Dagan joined two such U.S. based companies on his retirement.

Unlike the other UK generals caught in the Times sting, Applegate is the only one who hasn’t lost his job.  That’s because he was the only one working for an Israeli firm.   The others made the mistake of working for UK defense contractors who have to consider the appearance of matters described in the expose.  Elbit has no such compunctions.  You’ll never hear about the wheeling and dealing it engages in around the world because such shenanigans are accepted and even embraced in the security Wild West that Israel has become.

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK’s nuclear test victims to sue government

Press TV – June 17, 2012

Thousands of veterans of Britain’s atomic and hydrogen bomb tests are to take the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to the European Court of Human Rights, accusing it of exposing them to radiation.

Over 1,000 victims of UK’s nuclear tests, which were carried out in the South Pacific in the 1950s, will ask Europe to intervene, as the British premier David Cameron ignores the terms of the Military Covenant and courts ban hearings into their cases.

Servicemen, who were ordered to witness nuclear bomb tests in the South Pacific, have since suffered cancers and rare medical conditions, with their children suffering from leukemia and birth defects.

Describing the news as “brilliant,” widow Shirley Denson, whose RAF ace husband was ordered to fly through mushroom clouds at Christmas Island in 1958, said, “This is one of our final chances to appeal for the right to present our case.”

“We have tried for 30 years to be heard, and every time the MoD has denied there is anything wrong with us. Now we have vital scientific evidence, and they say we have left it too late,” she added.

Earlier on May, Britain’s former Prime Minister Gordon Brown also criticized the MoD for trying to evade its responsibility for cleaning up the radioactive waste contamination from old military bases and factories.

According to a survey conducted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), the number of contaminated sites across England and Wales was far higher than previously estimated.

June 17, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Toby Harnden’s anti-war book wins Orwell Prize for political writing

Press TV – May 26, 2012

An anti-war book, once pulped by the UK Ministry of Defense, has won the Orwell Prize for political writing by the judges’ unanimous vote.

Dead Men Risen by Toby Harnden is about the death of British officer Lt Colonel Rupert Thorneloe in Afghanistan in 2009.

The book “takes us into the hearts and minds of the Welsh Guards in a way that is both interesting and visceral,” the judges said.

“It challenges every citizen of this country to examine exactly what we’re asking soldiers to do in Afghanistan,” the panel continued.

“Rather than offering easy answers it lets the soldiers speak for themselves.”

The book was published by Quercus in amended form after the MoD bought the entire first print run and destroyed them.

Since the start of the US-led military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, 412 British service personnel have been killed.

Britain has more than 9,000 troops stationed in the war-torn country.

Founded by Bernard Crick in 1993, the Orwell Prize is considered the pre-eminent British prize for political writing which honors a writer, a journalist and a blogger each year.

Winners are short-listed entries which come closest to English novelist and journalist George Orwell’s own ambition to “make political writing into an art.”

May 26, 2012 Posted by | Book Review, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Britain’s MoD uses torture systematically

Press TV – September 9, 2011

Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has decided to shake off allegations of systematic abuse at any cost, as hard evidence corroborates the British Army’s use of torture techniques.

The findings of an inquiry into the death of an Iraqi civilian at the hands of British soldiers has sparked widespread criticism, even condemnation, of the treatment of Iraqi detainees by British soldiers.

Baha Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist, was detained when soldiers from the First Battalion of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in the Iraqi city of Basra raided the hotel at which he worked. Two days later, Mousa died while in British Army custody.

The MoD was optimistic about the findings of the inquiry into Mousa’s death trying to bypass any allegations of systematic torture. Nevertheless, as the MoD tries in vain to persuade the public that its detention policies have undergone systematic reforms, analysts have come up with evidence that contradicts any such claims.

A high profile British human rights lawyer, Phil Shiner, has provided several reasons supporting the systematic use of torture and abuse in the British military during the Iraq war.

First, Shiner asserts that the detention policies, which involved torture and abuse, were not restricted to just one battle group, namely 1QLR, as he states that such practices were common, at least, at 14 UK facilities over the period between March 2003 and December 2008.

Shiner asserts that the set of techniques and practices included “unbelievably debased sexual behaviour, mock executions, vicious threats of rape of detainees’ female relatives, and systematic use of hooding, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, temperature manipulation and solitary confinement for weeks.”

Second, Shiner says that the shameful techniques and practices were systematically taught, as the Joint Forward Intelligence Team was the mastermind behind the techniques used by British troops.

Furthermore, as the British Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, refused to accept a key finding of the inquiry, Shiner is of the opinion that the MoD has no intention of implementing the “73 carefully measured recommendations” made by the chairman of Mousa’s inquiry, Sir William Gage.

Shiner predicts that the MoD “will continue to hide damaging documents, mislead our courts, run unworthy legal arguments and use its mighty coercive power to keep the public in the dark, not just about Iraq but also Afghanistan.”

More importantly, Shiner argues that the MoD still approves the very same shameful techniques employed by interrogators in Iraq, though Sir William has severely criticised such practices. Forcing a person or two into a sandbag, harshing, and hooding are techniques that are still used by the MoD.

Video Report

Press TV News/Analysis on September 8, 2011

What do Baha Mousa, Ian Tomlinson, Smiley Culture and Mark Dugan have in common? They are people who have died because of tactics used by UK police and in Baha Mousa’s case, British soldiers, why are “unlawful killings” as they are called taking place in the first place? Whether inside Britain or in war zones, it has put the spotlight on UK’s disproportionate and excessive use of force, as was evident in the recent unrest in the UK.

September 9, 2011 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment