Archive for the Amnesty International Category

‘Britain is leading the war against human rights’ – Amnesty International []

Posted in Amnesty International, Cameron, U.K. on February 27, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

February 25, 2015

Ramped up surveillance in Britain against a backdrop of dwindling legal protection has contributed to the most rattling assault on human rights in Europe [in the last 25 years], human rights experts [sic] warn.

In its annual ‘State of the World’s Human Rights’ report, Amnesty International heavily criticized the British government’s record at home.

The NGO condemned the coalition government for rushing counter-terror and surveillance legislation through parliament without reasonable time for debate.

It also criticized the coalition for passing laws that erode fundamental civil liberties, and stressed continued cuts to legal aid in Britain is a recipe for injustice.

In 2014, David Cameron pledged a re-elected Tory government would scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a home-grown British Bill of Rights. He also vowed to limit the power of the European Court of Human Rights if the Conservatives win May’s general election.

Amnesty’s report, published on Wednesday, said the Tory’s proposals are an attack on the European Convention on Human Rights. The group accused Prime Minister Cameron of leading this assault.

Amnesty also noted the rise of discriminatory, nationalistic policies in Britain. It warned “nationalist, thinly veiled xenophobic attitudes” were instrumental in an increasingly restrictive migration policy and anti-EU rhetoric, which targets human rights.

The group also expressed deep concern over Britain’s Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act. The legislation, which came into force in 2014, increases UK authorities’ powers of interception – reaffirming Britain’s status as a leading surveillance state.

With respect to the Act, Amnesty argued the British government failed to set up adequate safeguards to ensure surveillance is authorized and carried out in accordance with citizens’ rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

Amnesty’s annual report concluded the international human rights framework in Europe is the most fragile it has been for 25 years…

…Director of Amnesty International UK, Kate Allen, said Britain “is going in the wrong direction on rights, protections and fairness.”

She acknowledged public safety is paramount, but stressed it should not be achieved at the cost of fundamental civil liberties.

“The UK talks the talk on the global stage on human rights but this year’s summary shows they need to tend to their own garden,” she said.

“Twice this year GCHQ spies have been rumbled breaking the law. We should be concerned about waking up in a surveillance state, without having a proper public debate about it first…”

Excerpted / edited by Zuo Shou

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“Who’s Who at The Royal Wedding…The Guest List: Who’s In, Who’s Out” by Felicity Arbuthnot []

Posted in Afghanistan, Amnesty International, Bahrain, China, Fascism, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, NATO, Nazism, Obama, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, State Department, Tony Blair, U.K., US imperialism, USA, Western nations' human rights distortions on April 29, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

April 28, 2011

"Out beyond ideas of right thinking and wrong thinking, there is a field, I’ll meet you there." Rumi (1207-1273.)

The Surviveable, the Bad and the Over the Top

The wedding of the heir to the British throne, Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales, to his lady friend of eight years Catherine Elizabeth Middleton ("Kate") promises to be a modest affair, in these austere times, with nineteen hundred guests, a near unprecedented police presence, possibly a thousand members of the armed forces lining the route the couple will take to the ceremony, in the nine hundred years old, Westminster Abbey, on 29th April.

Beneath streets decked with the Union flag…police are carrying out fingertip searches for explosive devices, lifting drain covers, then lying flat with their heads in the drains, to check.  A thankless task.  Buttons are removed from pedestrian crossings to check nothing is hidden in the wiring box, street furniture taken apart, monuments and statues scrutinized – and an estimated twenty million £s of taxpayers’ money being burned up.  Seventy to eighty "close protection teams" will be be on hand for heads of state (50) and VIPs at Friday’s festivities, cost, so far, unknown.

It’s a far cry from the remote isle of Anglesey in Wales (also known as "RAF Valley") where Prince William has been based as a search and rescue pilot. Seemingly the couple have been sharing a rural home there and, according to a bar employee of the White Eagle at Rhoscolyn, quoted in the Daily Mail: “They’re just like any other young couple in love — until you realize they’ve got armed bodyguards on the next table.”  Quite.

View of The White Eagle Pub and Rhoscolyn, Anglesey
White Eagle at Rhoscolyn

Perhaps his choice of a search and rescue career, was as an antidote to his younger brother Harry’s public relations disasters, from going to a party in a Nazi uniform; calling in air strikes from a bunker in Afghanistan, to blow villagers to bits, wearing an emblem for the media there reading: "We do bad things to bad people" – and seemingly appropriating the motorcycle of a local, probably his cherished, only lifeline, in the remote region.  There was also a bit of a storm when he referred, on video to an army colleague as "Our little Paki friend" and another as looking like "a raghead", according to the News of the World, who obtained the footage.

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US Army charges accused WikiLeaks source Private Bradley Manning with capital offense [World Socialist Web Site]

Posted in Afghan War Diary, Afghanistan, Amnesty International, Hillary Clinton, Iraq, Obama, Torture, US imperialism, USA, Wikileaks on March 7, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手
By Barry Grey
3 March 2011

The United States Army late Wednesday notified Private First Class Bradley Manning, whom it suspects of being WikiLeak’s source for thousands of classified military reports and embassy cables, that it was filing an additional 22 charges against him.

The new charges in Manning’s court martial process include “aiding the enemy,” a capital offense.  A news release from the Army said the prosecution team has “notified the defense that the prosecution will not recommend the death penalty.” However, it is up to the commander overseeing the case to make the final decision about imposing the death penalty.

This means that Manning, who has already suffered through ten months of solitary confinement in a brig at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia, now has the possibility of execution hanging over his head.  His alleged “crime” is facilitating the publication of documents and videos that expose war crimes committed by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan and some of the diplomatic conspiracies carried out by the US government.

Manning, who was serving as an intelligence specialist in Iraq, was first charged in May with 12 counts of downloading without authorization a secret video of US attack helicopters shooting down civilians in Baghdad (posted last April by WikiLeaks) as well as military and diplomatic files, and sharing them.

The military has held him since then under abusive conditions that amount to torture, even though he has been convicted of no offense and has no history of violence.  He is confined to his cell 23 hours a day, allowed out but one hour for exercise, not permitted to sleep during the day, and severely restricted in the use of his glasses and his access to reading material.

Amnesty International, among other human rights groups, has denounced his treatment as “inhumane,” and the United Nations is investigating whether it constitutes torture.

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Britain’s MI6 trained Abbas in suppression of Palestinian opposition [World Socialist Web Site]

Posted in Amnesty International, Egypt, EU, European Union, Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, Israel, MI6, Palestine, Tony Blair, Torture, U.K., US Government Cover-up, US imperialism, USA, West Bank, Western nations' human rights distortions on February 3, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手
By Jean Shaoul
29 January 2011

Secret documents show that Britain’s intelligence service, MI6, and civil servants played a key role in crushing all opposition by militant groups, including Hamas and other Islamist factions, to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine by developing a “security” blueprint for President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA).

The papers are just a few of the 1,600 confidential documents that Jazeera and the Guardian have published, relating to the secret US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the PA over the last 10 years.  They shed light on Britain’s role in shoring up the PA in the interests of Tel Aviv and Washington.

The revelations underscore the degree to which the peace talks were a cover for reorganizing the region in the interests of Israel and the US, aided and abetted by Britain, the European Union and Egypt, at the expense of the Palestinians. T he deal, insofar as one was even on the table, was so wretched that it could only be imposed through the most brutal, and necessarily criminal means—under the rubric of “security”.

Britain, with its long and violent history as a colonial power, has the most impeccable credentials for such a venture.

The first document from late 2003 contains a detailed draft of a security plan.  Its origins are significant.  It was faxed from the Egyptian embassy, indicating MI6’s close working relationship with Egypt’s , the secret police so notorious for their brutality that Washington rendered prisoners to Egypt to be interrogated and broken before being sent to Guantánamo Bay.

This was worked up into a seven-page document, dated 2004, entitled “Palestinian Security Plan” and marked “confidential”.  Its purpose was to “encourage and enable the Palestinian Authority to fully meet its security obligations under Phase 1 of the Roadmap”.

The Road Map was the Bush administration’s 2003 initiative, under which Israel agreed to stop settlement building and the Palestinians agreed to clamp down on militant activity prior to negotiating a Palestinian entity.  The plan set out detailed proposals for setting up a new security taskforce using Britain’s “trusted PA contacts” that would be outside the control of “traditional security chiefs”, a British/US security “verification team”, and “direct lines” to Israeli intelligence. 

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WikiLeaks cables: Bangladeshi ‘death squad’ trained by UK government [Guardian]

Posted in Amnesty International, Anti-communism, State Department, Torture, U.K., US "War on Terror", USA, Wikileaks on January 2, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

~ Rapid Action Battalion, accused of hundreds of extra-judicial killings, received training from UK officers, cables reveal ~

Fariha Karim and Ian Cobain

December 21, 2010

The British government has been training a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organisations as a “government death squad”, leaked US embassy cables have revealed.

Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which has been held responsible for hundreds of extra-judicial killings in recent years and is said to routinely use torture, have received British training in “investigative interviewing techniques” and “rules of engagement”.

Details of the training were revealed in a number of cables, released by WikiLeaks, which address the counter-terrorism objectives of the US and UK governments in Bangladesh. One cable makes clear that the US would not offer any assistance other than human rights training to the RAB – and that it would be illegal under US law to do so – because its members commit gross human rights violations with impunity.

Since the RAB was established six years ago, it is estimated by some human rights activists to have been responsible for more than 1,000 extra-judicial killings, described euphemistically as “crossfire” deaths. In September last year the director general of the RAB said his men had killed 577 people in “crossfire”. In March this year he updated the figure, saying they had killed 622 people.

The RAB’s use of torture has also been exhaustively documented by human rights organisations. In addition, officers from the paramilitary force are alleged to have been involved in kidnap and extortion, and are frequently accused of taking large bribes in return for carrying out crossfire killings.

However, the cables reveal that both the British and the Americans, in their determination to strengthen counter-terrorism operations in Bangladesh, are in favour of bolstering the force, arguing that the “RAB enjoys a great deal of respect and admiration from a population scarred by decreasing law and order over the last decade”. In one cable, the US ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, expresses the view that the RAB is the “enforcement organisation best positioned to one day become a Bangladeshi version of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation”.

In another cable, Moriarty quotes British officials as saying they have been “training RAB for 18 months in areas such as investigative interviewing techniques and rules of engagement”. Asked about the training assistance for the RAB, the Foreign Office said the UK government “provides a range of human rights assistance” [sic] in the country. However, the RAB’s head of training, Mejbah Uddin, told the Guardian that he was unaware of any human rights training since he was appointed last summer.

The cables make clear that British training for RAB officers began three years ago under the last Labour government.

However, RAB officials confirmed independently of the cables that they had taken part in a series of courses and workshops as recently as October, five months after the formation of the coalition government. Asked whether ministers had approved the training programme, the Foreign Office said only that William Hague, the foreign secretary, and other ministers, had been briefed on counter-terrorism spending.

The US ambassador explains in the cables that the US government is “constrained by RAB’s alleged human rights violations, which have rendered the organisation ineligible to receive training or assistance” under laws which prohibit American funding or training for overseas military units which abuse human rights with impunity.

Human rights organisations say the RAB cannot be reformed, noting that its human rights record has deterioriated still further in the last 12 months. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly described the RAB as a government death squad.

Brad Adams, the organisation’s Asia director, said: “RAB is a Latin American-style death squad dressed up as an anti-crime force. The British government has let its desire for a functional counter-terrorism partner in Bangladesh blind it to the risks of working with RAB, and the legitimacy that it gives to RAB inside Bangladesh. Furthermore, it is not clear that the British government has ever made it a priority at the highest levels to tell RAB that if it doesn’t change, it will not co-operate with it.”

Amnesty International has also repeatedly condemned the RAB, while the Bangladeshi human rights organisation Odhikar has painstakingly documented the RAB’s involvement in extra-judicial killings and torture since the creation of the force in March 2004.

Asked to comment on the rights groups’ concern about the RAB, the Foreign Office said: “We do not discuss the detail of operational counter-terrorism cooperation. Counter-terrorism assistance is fully in line with our laws and values.” At least some of the British training has been conducted by serving British police officers, working under the auspices of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), which was established in 2007 to build policing capacity and standards. Recent courses for RAB have been provided by officers from West Mercia and Humberside Police.

Asked whether it believed it was appropriate for British officers to be training members of an organisation condemned as “a government death squad”, and whether courses in investigative interviewing techniques might not render torture more effective, an NPIA spokesman said the courses had been approved by the government and by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

[…the usual denials in such cases are deployed…]

It is understood that there have been disagreements within the Foreign Office about the British government’s involvement with the RAB. Some officials have argued that the partnership with the RAB is an essential component of the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy in the region, while others have expressed concern that the relationship could prove damaging to Britain’s reputation.

Successive Bangladeshi governments have promised to end the RAB’s use of murder. The current government promised in its manifesto that it would end all extra-judicial killings, but they have continued following its election two years ago. In October last year, the shipping minister, Shahjahan Khan, speaking in a discussion organised by the BBC, said: “There are incidents of trials that are not possible under the laws of the land. The government will need to continue with extra-judicial killings, commonly called crossfire, until terrorist activities and extortion are uprooted.”

In December last year the high court in Dhaka ruled that such killings must be brought to a halt following litigation by victims’ familes and human rights groups, but they continue on an almost weekly basis. Most of the victims are young men, some are alleged to be petty criminals or are said to be left-wing activists, and the killings invariably take place in the middle of the night.

In the most recent “crossfire” killings, the RAB reported that it had shot dead Mohammad Mamun, 25, in the town of Tangail, shortly after midnight on Monday, and that 90 minutes later its officers in Dhaka, 50 miles to the south, had shot dead a second man, Taku Alam, 30. Today the RAB announced it had shot dead a 45-year-old man, Anisur Rahman, said to be a member of the Communist party in the west of the country.

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“Sanctions of Mass Destruction” (SMD): US Sponsored Economic Blockade Destroys North Korea’s Health Care System [ /]

Posted in Amnesty International, Anti-communism, Black propaganda, Cheonan sinking, China, Corporate Media Critique, Cuba, DMZ, DPR Korea, Iraq, Japan, Korea, Korean War, Media cover-up, south Korea, US imperialism on July 22, 2010 by Zuo Shou / 左手

by Stephan Gowans

July 22, 2010

“Economic sanctions are, at their core, a war against public health.”–The New England Journal of Medicine [1]

 Amnesty International has released a report condemning the North Korean government for failing to meet “its obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the right to health of its citizens”, citing “significant deprivation in (North Koreans’) enjoyment of the right to adequate care, in large part due to failed or counterproductive government policies.”  The report documents rundown healthcare facilities which “operate with frequent power cuts and no heat” and medical personnel who “often do not receive salaries, and many hospitals (that) function without medicines and essentials.”  Horrific stories are recounted of major operations carried out without anaesthesia.  Blame for this is attributed solely to the North Korean government. [2]  While unstated, the implication is that DPR Korea is a failed state, whose immediate demise can only be fervently wished for (or worked toward.)

 The attack is joined by Barbara Demick, the Beijing bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times and author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, writing in the British newspaper, The Guardian.  She acknowledges the DPR Korea’s considerable social achievements – an acknowledgement that would never have been permitted in the pages of a major Western newspaper in the depths of the Cold War – but does so only in order to show how far the country has regressed.

 “The country once had an enviable healthcare system,” Demick writes, “with a network of nearly 45,000 family practioners.  Some 800 hospitals and 1,000 clinics were almost free of charge for patients.  They still are, but you don’t get much at the hospital these days.”  Demick continues: “The school system that once allowed North Korea’s founder Kim Il-Sung (father of the current leader) to boast his country was the first in Asia to eliminate illiteracy has now collapsed.  Students have no books, no paper, no pencils.” [3]

 Nowhere is the role of sanctions mentioned in Demick’s account of North Korea’s “giant leap backwards” [4] or in Amnesty’s condemnation of Pyongyang for failing to safeguard the basic healthcare rights of its citizens.  Instead, Demick and Amnesty point to a botched currency reform, as if it alone accounts for the country’s deep descent into poverty. Neither mention that no country has been subjected to as long and determined a campaign of economic warfare as North Korea, or that in recent years, a UN sanctions regime little different from the one that destroyed the healthcare system of Iraq in the 1990s, and led to the deaths of half a million Iraqi children under the age of five from 1991 to 1998 [5], has been imposed on a country that has struggled with food shortages since the collapse of the Soviet-led socialist trading community and as a result of a series of natural calamities.  No mention either is made of Washington’s efforts to “squeeze North Korea with every financial sanction possible” with the aim of bringing about the collapse of the country’s economy, [6] and with it, its public healthcare and educational systems.  What’s more, while Demick acknowledges that South Korea and other countries have sharply reduced food aid to the North, she blames North Korea’s leadership for refusing to dismantle its nuclear program and for “provocations” against the South, for inviting the aid reduction. (The provocations Demick refers to include the sinking of a South Korean corvette in March, attributed, with not a lot of evidence – and over the initial denials of the South Korean military [7] – to a North Korean submarine.)  Demick and Amnesty could have condemned South Korea and the United States for using food as a weapon.  Instead, Demick censures North Korea for putting itself in the position of being sanctioned, while Amnesty counsels major donors not to base food aid on political considerations, without acknowledging that this is exactly what major donors have done.

 Both Amnesty and Demick operate within the framework of Western propaganda.  As the North Korea specialist Tim Beal points out, Western propaganda invokes economic mismanagement as the explanation for North Korea’s collapsing economy, despite an obvious alternative explanation:  sanctions.  “The results — those malnourished babies,” Beal wrote prophetically three years ago, “can be blamed on the Koreans, which in turn is produced as evidence that the sanctions are desirable and necessary.” [8]

 Sanctions of Mass Destruction

 “In contrast to war’s easily observable casualties, the apparently nonviolent consequences of economic intervention seem like an acceptable alternative.  However, recent reports suggest that economic sanctions can seriously harm the health of persons who live in targeted nations.” [9]  This has been well established and widely accepted in the cases of Iraq in the 1990s and the ongoing US blockade of Cuba.  Political scientists John Mueller and Karl Mueller wrote an important paper in Foreign Affairs, in which they showed that economic sanctions “may have contributed to more deaths during the post-Cold War era than all weapons of mass destruction throughout history.” [10]

 “The dangers posed today by such enfeebled, impoverished, and friendless states as Iraq and North Korea are minor indeed”, they wrote in 1999.  It might be added that the dangers posed by North Korea to the physical safety of US citizens are not only minor but infinitesimally small.  Notwithstanding the fevered fantasies of rightwing commentators, North Korea has neither the means, nor the required death wish, to strike the United States.  However, the danger the country poses to the idea of US domination – and hence, to the banks, corporations, and major investors who dominate US policy-making – are admittedly somewhat greater.

 “Severe economic sanctions”, the Muellers contend, ought to be “designated by the older label of ‘economic warfare’”.  “In past wars economic embargoes caused huge numbers of deaths.  Some 750,000 German civilians may have died because of the Allied naval blockade during World War I.” [11]

 “So long as they can coordinate their efforts,” the two political scientists continue, “the big countries have at their disposal a credible, inexpensive and potent weapon for use against small and medium-sized foes.  The dominant powers have shown that they can inflict enormous pain at remarkably little cost to themselves or the global economy.  Indeed, in a matter of months or years whole economies can be devastated…” [12]  And with devastated economies, come crumbling healthcare systems and failure to provide for the basic healthcare rights of the population.

 Sixty Years of Sanctions

 From the moment it imposed a total embargo on exports to North Korea three days after the Korean War began in June 1950, the United States has maintained an uninterrupted regime of economic, financial, and diplomatic sanctions against North Korea. [13] These include:

 o Limits on the export of goods and services.
o Prohibition of most foreign aid and agricultural sales.
o A ban on Export-Import Bank funding.
o Denial of favourable trade terms.
o Prohibition of imports from North Korea.
o Blocking of any loan or funding through international financial institutions.
o Limits on export licensing of food and medicine for export to North Korea.
o A ban on government financing of food and medicine exports to North Korea.
o Prohibition on import and export transactions related to transportation.
o A ban on dual-use exports (i.e., civilian goods that could be adapted to military purposes.)
o Prohibition on certain commercial banking transactions. [14]

 In recent years, US sanctions have been complemented by “efforts to freeze assets and cut off financial flows” [15] by blocking banks that deal with North Korean companies from access to the US banking system.  The intended effect is to make North Korea a banking pariah that no bank in the world will touch.  Former US President George W. Bush was “determined to squeeze North Korea with every financial sanction possible” until its economy collapsed. [16]  The Obama administration has not departed from the Bush policies of financial strangulation.

 Washington has also acted to broaden the bite of sanctions, pressing other countries to join its campaign of economic warfare against a country it faults for maintaining a Marxist-Leninist system and non-market economy. [17]  This has included the sponsoring of a United Nations Security Council resolution compelling all nations to refrain for exporting dual-use items to North Korea (a repeat of the sanctions regime that led to the crumbling of Iraq’s healthcare system in the 1990s.)  Washington has even gone so far as to pressure China (unsuccessfully) to cut off North Korea’s supply of oil. [18]

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