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Updated 04/13/2007

Human Rights–War on Terror News Update—April 13, 2007

1. USS Cole bombing suspect claims he confessed under torture
2. U.S. interrogating suspects in secret Ethiopian prisons
3. Supreme Court refuses to hear challenge to Military Commissions Act
4. FBI helped detain, interrogate war protesters
5. Guantánamo Bay prisoners on hunger strike

1. USS Cole bombing suspect claims he confessed under torture
A Saudi suspect in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen claimed he was tortured into confessing involvement in the attack, according to a transcript of his combatant status review hearing released March 30. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri now denies involvement in the bombing, which killed 17 U.S. sailors, and said he confessed to that and other attacks to make his torture stop. A Pentagon spokesman said the allegations will be investigated. Al-Nashiri is one of 14 so-called high-value detainees transferred to Guantánamo Bay from secret CIA prisons in September 2006, and his transcript is the ninth released since the detainees’ combatant status review hearings began last month. The hearings will determine whether the men are “enemy combatants” who can be prosecuted for war crimes. [CNN, 3/30/07; JURIST, 3/30/07]

2. U.S. interrogating suspects in secret Ethiopian prisons
CIA and FBI agents have been interrogating terrorism suspects from 19 different countries held in secret jails in Ethiopia—a country with a record of human rights abuse—an investigation by the Associated Press has revealed. The prisoners were transferred illegally from Kenya and Somalia, and have been held without charge or access to lawyers or families. They include at least one U.S. citizen and several Canadian, French and Swedish citizens. Ethiopia initially denied holding any suspects, but officials later confirmed the AP report. U.S. officials acknowledged that American agents had questioned the prisoners but said the interrogations were legal and justified. One Swedish prisoner who was released said that U.S. soldiers supervised the Kenyan soldiers who arrested her, indicating a broader U.S. role. [HRW, 3/30/07; AP, 4/4/07; AP, 4/12/07]

3. Supreme Court refuses to hear challenge to Military Commissions Act
The U.S. Supreme Court announced on April 2 that it would not consider the appeals of two Guantánamo Bay inmates who are challenging the provision of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that denies “enemy combatants” the right to challenge their detentions in U.S. courts. Only three of the required four justices voted to hear the appeals; however, Justices Kennedy and Stevens, who voted not to hear the case, issued a joint statement declaring that the detainees may be able to have their appeals reviewed by the Supreme Court in the future. [Reuters, 4/2/07; JURIST, 4/2/07]

4. FBI helped detain, interrogate war protesters
A secret FBI intelligence unit helped detain more than 20 war protesters in downtown Washington in April 2002 and interrogated some of them on videotape about their political and religious beliefs, according to recently unearthed documents and interviews. For years the FBI and D.C. police have claimed to have no records of the incident and denied that FBI agents were present when police officers arrested the protestors for trespassing. However, a civil lawsuit filed by the protesters recently revealed D.C. police logs confirming the FBI’s role. U.S. intelligence agencies are permitted to monitor domestic groups only when there is suspicion of criminal activity, but in this case the FBI was using its powers to gather purely political intelligence. The case against the protestors was ultimately dropped due to insufficient evidence and their arrest records expunged. [Wash Post, 4/3/07; Democracy Now!, 4/5/07]

5. Guantánamo Bay prisoners on hunger strike
Thirteen Guantánamo Bay inmates on hunger strike are being force-fed through their noses, a military spokesman said on April 9. Lawyers for some detainees have said their clients were protesting the conditions in a new unit at the prison known as “Camp 6,” in which detainees spend most of their time in solid-wall cells with minimal contact with other inmates or exposure to sunlight. The number of inmates on hunger strike reached as high as 17 during the trial of Australian David Hicks, who has since been sentenced to prison in his native country until the end of 2007. [AP, 4/9/07, The Australian, 4/13/07]

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