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Updated 02/16/2007

Human Rights–War on Terror News Update—February 16, 2007

1. Ex-CIA contractor sentenced for abuse of Afghan detainee

2. Trial date set for officer at Abu Ghraib

3. Canadian military investigates abuse of Afghan men

4. Internal probe clears Guantánamo guards of abuse

5. Enemy combatant held within U.S. mounts challenge to detention

6. Former Guantánamo prisoner seeks release of secret Pentagon documents

7. United States refuses to join U.N. ban on secret detention

8. European Parliament approves report on CIA rendition complicity

9. Bush administration official resigns after criticizing lawyers of Guantánamo prisoners

1. Ex-CIA contractor sentenced for abuse of Afghan detainee

A U.S. district court judge on Feb. 13 sentenced a former CIA contractor to eight years and four months for the June 2003 beating of an Afghan detainee who died as a result. David Passaro was found guilty last year of felony assault causing serious injury and three counts of misdemeanor assault for abuse during his interrogation of Abdul Wali. According to prosecutors, Passaro beat Wali with a flashlight and kicked him in the groin as part of the two-day interrogation. [Reuters, 2/13/07; ABC, 2/13/07]

2. Trial date set for officer at Abu Ghraib

On Feb. 6 the U.S. Army set a court martial date of July 9 for the only officer to be charged in the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal. Army Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, 50, directed an interrogation center there in the fall of 2003. He is charged with cruelty and maltreatment, disobeying a superior officer, dereliction of duty, and making false statements. On Feb. 8 a military judge denied a defense motion to dismiss the charges based on a failure to arraign Jordan within 120 days of his being charged. [AP, 2/7/07; AP, 2/8/07] 

3. Canadian military investigates abuse of Afghan men

The Canadian military announced on Feb. 6 that it will convene a committee to investigate whether members of the Canadian armed forces physically abused three Afghan men detained near Kandahar. According to a report obtained by University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran, an interrogator brought the three detainees to military police with swollen eyes, cuts on their eyebrows, cheeks and foreheads, and upper-body injuries. Canadian defense minister Gordon O’Conner committed to an open and fair inquiry, the results of which will be made public. [Reuters, 2/6/07; CBC, 2/6/07; CNEWS, 2/6/07]

4. Internal probe clears Guantánamo guards of abuse

The U.S. Army announced Feb. 7 that its investigation into allegations of prisoner abuse at the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba shows no evidence to support the accusations. The chief investigator, Col. Richard Bassett, began the probe on Oct. 18, 2006, after Marine Sgt. Heather Cerveny, a military-appointed attorney for one of the detainees, said a number of guards bragged to her about their abuse of prisoners. Amnesty International criticized the investigation for not interviewing any detainees and called on the U.S. government to allow independent agencies to meet with all prisoners. [AP, 2/7/07; AI, 2/8/07; JURIST, 2/9/07, past story: HRWT News Update, 10/20/06]

5. Enemy combatant held within U.S. mounts challenge to detention

On Feb. 1 lawyers for Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri argued before the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court that he should have the right to challenge his detention in U.S. courts, despite being labeled an “enemy combtant” by the Bush administration. Al-Marri is a legal resident of the United States, having come from Qatar on Sept. 10, 2001. He was arrested by federal agents for alleged involvement with an al-Qaeda cell, but criminal charges were dropped in June 2003 when he was declared an enemy combatant and handed over to the military, which has yet to charge him with a crime. The case marks a major test of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which rescinded habeas corpus rights for noncitizens declared enemy combatants. Al-Marri, who is being held in a South Carolina military brig, is the only known person to be held as an enemy combatant within the United States. Former Justice Department officials, including former Attorney General Janet Reno, filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of Al-Marri, stating, “We are gravely concerned that indefinite imprisonment of individuals within the United States will become increasingly common.” [NewStandard, 2/2/07; Democracy Now!, 2/2/07]

6. Former Guantánamo prisoner seeks release of secret Pentagon documents

The lawyer for Murat Kurnaz, a German-born Turkish citizen held for four years in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, told the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel he is suing the U.S. Defense Department to force the release of secret military documents pertaining to his client’s case. The suit seeks an official explanation for Kurnaz’s detention, during which time he says he was routinely abused. Kurnaz was arrested in Pakistan in November 2001 and released in August 2006 because of lack of evidence. Kurnaz’s lawyer, Baher Azmy, said the documents “could be embarrassing” for the U.S. government, as they may prove that the U.S. military knew in 2002— four years before his release—that Kurnaz was innocent of any terrorist activity. Azmy is also seeking the release of transcripts of Kurnaz’s hearings before military tribunals. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is facing pressure due to allegations of a European Parliament report that he refused a 2002 offer from the United States to release Kurnaz to Germany. [JURIST, 2/6/07; AFP, 2/6/07; Spiegel Online, 2/7/07; more info: Deutsche Welle, “Retracing The Murat Kurnaz Case, 1/25/07]

7. United States refuses to join U.N. ban on secret detention

The United States was not among the 57 countries that signed a U.N. treaty banning forced disappearances, including secret detentions, in Paris on Feb. 6. The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, introduced by France, was approved by the U.N. General Assembly in December 2006 and will enter into force once 20 countries have ratified it. The treaty is considered to be in response to the Bush administration’s admission in September 2006 that it had operated secret CIA prisons, but it also addresses the history of forced disappearances in regions such as Latin America. Bush administration officials would not comment on the reasons for not joining the convention. Germany, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom also did not sign. [AP, 2/6/07; UN News, 2/6/07; past story: HRWT News Update, 9/11/06; HRWT News Update, 11/17/06] 

8. European Parliament approves report on CIA rendition complicity

In a 382-to-256 vote, the European Parliament on Feb. 14 approved a report accusing Britain, Italy, Germany, and other European countries of having knowledge of secret CIA rendition flights on European soil. The report states that about 1,200 CIA flights flew in European airspace between 2001 and 2005. Britain, Australia, Poland, Italy, and Portugal were chastised for a “lack of cooperation” with the European Parliament committee investigating the matter, although the final version of the report softened these accusations before the full parliamentary vote. Soon after the initial report came out in late January 2007, Portugal announced it would be opening an investigation into CIA rendition flights in its territory. [JURIST, 2/5/07; Guardian, 2/14/07; past story: HRWT News Update, 2/2/07]

9. Bush administration official resigns after criticizing lawyers of Guantánamo prisoners

Charles Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, resigned on Feb. 2 because of controversy over comments he made implying corporations should not hire law firms doing pro bono work for Guantánamo Bay, Cuba detainees. In a Jan. 11 radio interview, Stimson said, “When corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms.” The statement prompted the deans of 100 major law schools to sign a joint letter to the New York Times and Boston Globe condemning Stimson’s comment. [CNN, 2/2/07; Counterpunch, 2/6/07; past story: HRWT News Update, 1/19/07]

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