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Updated 12/01/2006

Human Rights–War on Terror News Update—December 1, 2006

1. Federal judge rules parts of executive order on terrorism unconstitutional
2. European Parliament report finds complicity in CIA renditions and secret prisons
3. Italian government replaces intelligence chief suspected of aiding CIA rendition
4. German suing CIA for rendition presents case before U.S. appeals court
5. Wrongfully imprisoned attorney wins $2 million settlement; will challenge Patriot Act
6. U.K. terrorism suspects lose court battle to avoid extradition to United States
7. National Public Radio acquires audio of Guantánamo hearings
8. Pentagon spied on church and veterans groups

1. Federal judge rules parts of executive order on terrorism unconstitutional
On Nov. 27 Los Angeles U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins struck down two portions of an executive order prohibiting financial assistance to organizations the Bush administration calls “specially designated global terrorists.” The order was signed by President Bush in the immediate aftermath the Sept. 11 attacks. The court decision was in response to a suit brought by the Humanitarian Law Project and other groups that provide support for the “lawful, nonviolent activities”—such as humanitarian relief—of two groups the State Department has labeled terrorists: the Kurdistan Workers Party and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Collins’ ruling stated that the order was unconstitutionally vague because it gave the president “unfettered discretion” to label groups as terrorists and to ban those it describes as “otherwise associated” with such groups. The judge ruled that the government can’t block the financial assets of the plaintiffs, but did not issue a nationwide injunction. It is not known if the government will appeal the decision. [CCR press release, 11/28/06; Wash Post, 11/29/06; JURIST, 11/29/06]

2. European Parliament report finds complicity in CIA renditions and secret prisons
A draft European Parliament report released Nov. 28 criticized European governments for having knowledge of and often complicity in CIA secret prisons and rendition practices on European soil. The report further stated that European governments impeded European Parliament investigations into the matter. It echoed similar conclusions reached in June 2006 by the Council of Europe alleging European complicity with CIA practices. [JURIST, 11/28/06; Reuters, 11/28/06; for more information: EP report (English and French)] 

3. Italian government replaces intelligence chief suspected of aiding CIA rendition
The head of Italian intelligence, Nicollo Pollari, was replaced on Nov. 20 following allegations that he and other Italian intelligence agents aided the alleged CIA rendition of an Egyptian cleric. In 2003 Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr was abducted from Milan and flown to Egypt, where he claims he was tortured. Italian prosecutors are seeking the arrest of 25 CIA agents involved in Nasr’s rendition. Pollari has repeatedly claimed he had no involvement in the operation. According to a European Parliament report released Nov. 28, Pollari “concealed the truth” when he told parliament lawmakers in March that Italian intelligence agents played no part in the CIA operation. [AP, 11/20/06; USA Today, 11/20/06; Reuters, 11/28/06; background info: HRWT News Update, 11/3/06] 

4. German suing CIA for rendition presents case before U.S. appeals court
On Nov. 28 the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments for the reinstatement of a lawsuit by German citizen Khaled el-Masri against former CIA director George Tenet for his alleged rendition and torture. El-Masri, who is of Lebanese descent, claimed he was kidnapped by Macedonian authorities on Dec. 31, 2003 and taken by CIA operatives to a prison in Afghanistan. He says he was tortured both physically and psychologically for five months and then released without charge. A federal judge dismissed the suit in May 2006 after reading a classified government affidavit and ruling that continuing the suit could harm national security. [Reuters, 11/29/06; Intl Herald Tribune, 11/29/06]

5. Wrongfully imprisoned attorney wins $2 million settlement; will challenge Patriot Act
The U.S. government agreed on Nov. 29 to pay Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield $2 million to settle his lawsuit for wrongful arrest and imprisonment. Mayfield was arrested by the FBI and jailed for two weeks in May 2004, after an erroneous fingerprint analysis linked him to the al-Qaeda bombings in Madrid, Spain. The case was made more contentious because Mayfield is a Muslim convert and has represented defendants in cases related to terrorism. While he was under FBI investigation, the Patriot Act was used to access Mayfield’s personal information without his knowledge, for which Mayfield is also suing the U.S. government as a direct challenge to the legality of the Patriot Act. [Wash Post, 11/30/06; Democracy Now!, 11/30/06; for more information: Democracy Now! interview with Brandon Mayfield (audio file)]

6. U.K. terrorism suspects lose court battle to avoid extradition to United States
On Nov. 30 a British court ruled that two terrorism suspects did not have the legal right to stop their extradition to the United States. Babar Ahmed and Haroon Aswat, both British citizens accused of aiding terrorist activity in Afghanistan, claimed they may be mistreated if sent to the United States. Their attorney, Edward Fitzgerald, expressed concern that they could be indefinitely detained at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, taken outside the United States for questioning, or put before a military commission as “enemy combatants.” However, the U.S. government has given assurances to the contrary, and the court ruled that there was insufficient evidence that the men would be mistreated. The court has yet to decide if the men will be allowed to appeal their case to the House of Lords. [BBC, 11/30/06; Guardian (UK), 11/30/06]

7. National Public Radio acquires audio of Guantánamo hearings
National Public Radio reported on Nov. 21 that it had acquired audio recordings of Combat Status Review Tribunals held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba in the fall of 2004. The purpose of the hearings is to review the enemy combatant status of the detainees. Some detainees learn of the accusations against them for the first time at these hearings, and there is little unclassified evidence against them. Excerpts from the hearings of two prisoners, Hadj Boudella and Mustafa Ait Idir, who were both arrested in Bosnia, are available on NPR’s website. [NPR, 11/21/06] 

8. Pentagon spied on church and veterans groups
The American Civil Liberties Union on Nov. 21 publicly released nine documents from the Pentagon’s Threat and Local Observation Notice database, known as TALON, which indicate that the Defense Department gathered information on organizations protesting military recruitment and the war in Iraq. Some of the information gathered was passed on to law enforcement agencies. The documents, dating from November 2004 to April 2005, discuss the place, time and tactics of demonstrations planned by such groups. One report described a series of planned protests by Veterans for Peace, with an Army source stating, “Veterans for Peace is a peaceful organization, but there is potential [that] future protest could become violent.” The ACLU acquired the reports through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The Pentagon now says that including peace demonstrations in the database was inappropriate and that the material has been removed. [ACLU Press Release, 11/21/06; Sacramento Bee, 11/22/06; for more information: TALON reports]

 

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