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[Cross-posted from the WITNESS Hub Blog.]

A Guardian story suggests that a key piece of photographic evidence documenting the torture of Binyam Mohamed is about to be destroyed, if his case is dismissed in the US:

Former Guantánamo detainee Binyam Mohamed has launched an urgent legal attempt to prevent the US courts from destroying crucial evidence that he says proves he was abused while being held at the detention camp, the Guardian has learned. The evidence is said to consist of a photograph of Mohamed, a British resident, taken after he was severely beaten by guards at the US navy base in Cuba.

The image, now held by the Pentagon, had been put on his cell door, he says.

Mohamed claims he was told later that this was done because he had been beaten so badly that it was difficult for the guards to identify him.

In a sworn statement seen by the Guardian, Mohamed has appealed to the federal district court in Washington not to destroy the photograph, which neither he nor his lawyers have a copy of, and which is classified under US law.

The US government considered the case closed once Mohamed was released and returned to Britain in February. The photograph will be destroyed within 30 days of his case being dismissed by the American courts – a decision on which is due to be taken by a judge imminently, Clive Stafford Smith, Mohamed’s British lawyer and director of Reprieve, the legal charity, said today.

Under US law, evidence relating to dismissed cases must be automatically destroyed. The only way to preserve the photograph is to have it accepted as a court document.

Read the rest of the Guardian story, and remind yourself of why this matters.

 

[Originally published here as part of WITNESS’s collaboration with Global Voices Online]

Torture in Iraq, says the UN, is “out of control”, and “worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein”. So it was especially timely for Brian Conley at Alive In Baghdad to e-mail us to say that he had an interview with a man who claims to have been beaten and abused by Iraqi security forces in Ramadi:

Click on the image to play video


The man in the video, referred to as “Majed”, talks of being arrested without charge by members of the Iraqi National Guard – now known as the New Iraqi Army – on 13 July 2006. The abuses he alleges include arbitrary detention, persistent beating and kicking, and whipping with an electric cable. He shows the camera the physical scars of his ordeal.

There are some questions about this case that the video interview doesn’t answer: did Majed make a complaint to any official authorities? If he did complain, did the Iraqi Security Forces deny the allegations or agree to investigate them? If the allegations are true, and the perpetrators are identified, is there any prospect that they will be punished? What about the US officer whom Majed refers to?

Nonetheless the alleged maltreatment described in the interview should be enough to make us all sit up and take notice.

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[Originally published here as part of WITNESS‘s collaboration with Global Voices Online]

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CqgY0yWTqw]

At this site, I’m trying to show videos that show or speak about human rights abuses, and – as in the Tunisian video above – the impact of human rights abuses on ordinary people. I don’t speak Arabic, so how do I know what this video’s about?

It’s thanks to Tunisian activist Sami Ben Gharbia, who this Monday launched Tunisian Prisoners Map, which shows the prisons where a number of political and other prisoners are being held in Tunisia. The site, which — like sites such as ChicagoCrime.org – uses a Google Maps mashup, gives a brief case history for each prisoner, relevant external links, and, where Sami can find it, online video of their families – in the case of the video above it’s Mohamed Abbou. The videos are in Arabic, so I can’t give you more detail (any helpers?), but there’s some background in English in the case histories Sami provides.

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