A Tale of Two Tortures — Mullah Abdus Salam Zaeef & Maher Arar

September 25th, 2006 - by admin

The Dawn (Pakistan) & CBC News – 2006-09-25 00:17:24


The Ordeal of Mullah Zaeef
Ayaz Amir / The Dawn

PAKISTAN (September 20, 2006) — We know, to our lasting shame, how our overlords, dazzled by American power, and afraid of God knows what, handed over the ex-Taliban ambassador, Mullah Abdus Salam Zaeef, to the Americans in January 2002 — in violation of every last comma of international law.

But until now we have not been privy to the details: how exactly did the handing-over take place? Now to satisfy our curiosity, and perhaps outrage our feelings, comes Mullah Zaeef’s own account, published in Pashto and parts of which have been translated into Urdu by the Express newspaper.

To say that the account is eye-opening would be an understatement. It is harrowing and mind-blowing. Can anyone bend so low as our government did? And can behaviour be as wretched as that displayed by American military personnel into whose custody Zaeef was given?

On the morning of January 2, 2002, three officials of a secret agency arrived at Zaeef’s house in Islamabad with this message: “Your Excellency, you are no more excellency.” One of them said, no one can resist American power, or words to that effect. “America wants to question you. We are going to hand you over to the Americans so that their purpose is served and Pakistan is saved from a big danger.”

Zaeef could have been forgiven for feeling stunned. From the “guardians of Islam” this was the last thing that he expected, that for the sake of a few “coins” (his words) he would be delivered as a “gift” to the Americans.

Under heavy escort he was taken to Peshawar, kept there for a few days and then pushed into his nightmare. Blindfolded and handcuffed, he was driven to a place where a helicopter was waiting, its engines running. Someone said, “Khuda hafiz” (God preserve you).

There were some people speaking in English. “Suddenly I was pounced upon and flung on the ground, kicked and pummelled from all sides. So sudden was the attack that I was dumbfounded… My blindfold slipping, I saw a line of Pakistani soldiers to one side and some vehicles including one with a flag… My clothes were stripped from my body and I was naked but Œmy former friends‚ kept watching the spectacle. The locks on their lips I can never forget… The (Pakistani) officers present there could at least have said he is our guest, in our presence don’t treat him like this. Even in my grave I will not be able to forget that scene.”

Zaeef suffered unspeakable tortures at the hands of his American captors. He was kept in Bagram, then taken to Kandahar and from there flown eventually to Guantanamo. He was released from Guantanomo and flown to Kabul in September 2005, charged with nothing, nothing having been proven against him. He remained in American captivity for close to four years.

I have read accounts of KGB prisons but to the best of my knowledge the KGB, while no collection of innocents, did not keep prisoners in metal containers and metal cages. This seems to be a method perfected by our American friends.

In the Second World War the German army confined itself to fighting, leaving the dirty work of prisoner detention, abuse and torture to the Gestapo and SS. But in Afghanistan and Iraq it is the American military involved in the most despicable acts of torture. Abu Ghraib was an American military facility as is the prison system in Guantanomo Bay. In Basra soldiers of the British army have been involved in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

These are the standard-bearers of human rights and freedom from whom we are supposed to take lessons in democracy. Why does the Bush administration and its acolytes in Britain so loath President Ahmedinejad of Iran and President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela? Because they look America in the eye and are not afraid of speaking the truth.

It is hard to fault Hugo Chavez when before the UN General Assembly he calls Bush a devil and the Bush administration the greatest threat to world peace. From the shores of the Mediterranean to the Hindukush mountains on our western border this entire region is in strife, all because of the evil — there is no other word for it — flowing from the US. The Œevil empire‚ is very much here and its capital is Washington.

The Nazis dabbled in lies as a matter of policy. They said — Goebbels being the prime exemplar — that the bigger the lie and the more it was repeated, the more it would be taken as the truth. But the Nazis did not prevaricate. They were bold enough to call their lies lies. The Yanks and the Brits are less honest. They want us to applaud their lies as the truth.

The US covered itself in a garb of hurt innocence when the Sep 11, 2001, attacks took place. But using those attacks as a pretext, it has done so much harm around the world, especially in the Middle East and our region, that its hands are covered in blood.

We can only thank our stars that American aggression has not gone unchecked. If Iraq had been a cakewalk, if the US had not met its second Vietnam in the killing fields of Iraq, there is no telling what the Bush war administration would have done, what further conquests it would have embarked upon. Redrawing the map of the Middle East would not have remained a mere slogan. It might actually have happened.

Complementing Iraq is the developing situation in Afghanistan where the anti-American resistance is gaining strength and growing stronger by the day. In Lebanon Israeli designs have received a severe check. Iran is defiant and standing up to pressure. In Latin America Chavez looks set to don the mantle of Castro.

What a dramatic change has been wrought in a mere five years. The US was unassailable at the beginning of this period. But thanks principally to the Iraq fiasco, it looks less invincible now. Its material power has not diminished but its moral worth stands degraded. It remains a colossus but with feet of clay.

This is not the end of history. This looks very much like the beginning of a new history. The free-market model American-style is not the crowning achievement of human existence.

Indeed, if we are at all interested in sustainable development, we‚ll have to think of something better and less destructive than unbridled capitalism. And something less arrogant than the new imperialism to which our region is being exposed.

Spare a thought for our military rulers who take such pride in supping with the devil. Indeed, closeness to the Bush administration is the ultimate yardstick by which they like to judge themselves. Whatever the mess in domestic affairs, it means nothing if their equation with Washington remains strong.

Did the Pakistani officers present at the scene of Zaeef’s humiliation feel nothing when the Americans were laying into him? Did the thought not cross their minds that more than Zaeef’s humiliation it was their humiliation?

And who was the senior officer, with a flag on his jeep? My course-mate Ehsan — 41st PMA — was then heading ISI, the organization in overall command of such sensitive matters. Maybe he throws some light on this incident if he sits down to write his memoirs.

There is no shortage of sages who, in relation to Pakistan’s post-Sep 11 capitulation before the US, still ask: what would you have done? They miss the point altogether. From cravenness and appeasement no good can come, none whatsoever. And a country which proves itself to be craven in one sphere can do nothing right or bold in any other sphere.

If toadyism is to be our second nature, we will be swayed this way and that by every shifting wind. Our national endeavours will lack conviction and purpose and democracy and the rule of law will remain distant dreams. We will have to master our fears and our perennial tendency to vacillation before we can hope to master anything else.

Arar Report Puts US ‘Rendition’ Policy into Spotlight
CBC News

(September 20, 2006) — As the report into the arrest and deportation of Maher Arar makes headlines in the United States, the former Ottawa engineer has called on Washington to acknowledge its role in his detention.

American news organizations have prominently featured coverage of an inquiry report Monday that said Canadian officials didn’t play a direct role in Arar’s 2002 arrest or deportation to Syria, but that inaccurate RCMP information supplied to the US “very likely” led to those events.

A false RCMP claim that Arar was linked to al-Qaeda led to the American decision to detain and deport him to Syria, where he was tortured in a dingy prison for a year, said the report.

US newspapers such as the Washington Post and New York Times linked the report with the US administration’s secretive extraordinary rendition program, which sends terror suspects to foreign countries.

An editorial in the Post on Wednesday said the policy of secret detentions and harsh interrogation techniques results in “bad intelligence … the criminal mistreatment of some innocent people, and damage to US prestige and alliances.”

The Times story pointed out that report author Justice Dennis O’Connor concluded American authorities treated the Arar case “in a most regrettable fashion” and dealt with Canadian officials “in a less than forthcoming manner.

“As one of the infamous examples of rendition,” said the Times, the Arar case draws new attention to the Bush administration’s handling of detainees just as the White House and Congress are battling over legislation setting standards for the treatment and interrogation of prisoners.

Arar Wants Recognition
Arar, who gave an interview to American news network CNN on Wednesday morning, said he doesn’t believe his deportation to Syria was a simple mistake.

“They took the decision to send me to a country they acknowledge practises torture on detainees. This was a deliberate attempt to extract information under torture,” he said.

The 37-year-old called on Washington to acknowledge the contents of the inquiry. “I would like the US government to accept the findings of the inquiry and clear my name,” he said.

In an interview with the Times pubished Wednesday, Arar said he wanted Prime Minister Stephen Harper to personally ask US President George W. Bush to formally clear his name in the US

Harper Sidesteps Calls for Apology
Harper has faced opposition calls to apologize and offer compensation to Arar, saying the former engineer suffered a “tremendous injustice.” However, Harper stopped short of offering an apology on Tuesday.

Arar received a unanimous apology from the House of Commons on Wednesday, with the prime minister en route to New York ahead of a scheduled address to the United Nations.

Conservatives afterwards drew a distinction between a parliamentary apology and an official government apology, calling it the former.

Former solicitor general Wayne Easter, who was in charge of Canada’s spy agency and the RCMP when Arar was detained in New York, said the US should offer an apology. “I definitely think they should,” said Easter, who spoke Wednesday in Ottawa. “There should be a formal complaint … from the government of Canada.”

During his testimony at the Arar inquiry last year, Easter said neither the Canadian Security Intelligence Service nor the RCMP was involved in the decision to deport the Ottawa man to Syria.

American officials, who didn’t take part in the inquiry, only offered comment on the report on Tuesday.

US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told reporters in Washington that Arar was legally deported under immigration law. “Some people have characterized his removal as a rendition. That is not what happened here. It was a deportation,” Gonzales said.

Arar is appealing a US Federal Court decision dismissing his lawsuit against American officials.

With files from the Associated Press
Copyright ©2006 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation — All Rights Reserved
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Vincent Warren / Center for Constitutional Rights

Innocent CCR client Maher Arar was changing planes at JFK on his way home to Canada from a family vacation when he was detained by the US and ‘rendered’ to Syria, where he was tortured and held for nearly a year.

A Canadian Commission of Inquiry formed to investigate Maher’s case released its findings this week: the Commissioner said, “I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence…”

• Tell your representatives that the Administration’s practice of extraordinary rendition is unlawful, and demand that the US government release all documents related to Maher and clear his name.

• We’ve produced a short VIDEO dramatizing Maher’s experience you can watch on YouTube. Please give it a look and rate it highly so that more people will see it — if it gets on the front page of their site, half a million people will learn about the abuses our government is perpetrating in our name.

Then tell 10 of your friends to watch it too. ‘Extraordinary rendition,’ like so many of the Bush administration’s practices, depends on secrecy. By sharing this video with as many people as possible, you can help us end the secrecy that enabled Maher’s torture and detention.

Maher’s story shows how our government’s practices in the so-called ‘war on terror’ can have horrific results. Yet Congress is trying to strip all detainees of the right to challenge their detention and be heard in a court of law. On Wednesday, Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA) introduced five “resolutions of inquiry” aimed at forcing the release of US government documents related to Maher Arar.

For a more in-depth look at Maher’s case, visit No More Secrets, our new website dedicated to countering the secrecy of the Bush administration.

Together, we can finally achieve justice for Maher Arar.

Vincent Warren is the Executive Director of CCR. For more information, please visit the CCR website at www.ccr-ny.org.

Arar Still Waiting for Apology from Harper
CBC News

OTTAWA (24 Sep 2006) — Maher Arar says he is still waiting to receive an official apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper a week after a public inquiry cleared his name of any suspicion of terrorist ties.

Maher Arar says he cannot move on with his life until the government apologizes to him. (CBC)

Although he said he was “delighted” that Justice Dennis O’Connor’s report cleared his name, Arar told CBC News Sunday he cannot move on with his life until the government apologizes to him. “It’s very important for my healing process,” he said.

O’Connor’s report was sharply critical of the RCMP’s role in Arar’s detention in the U.S. and his subsequent deportation to Syria.

Arar also said he won’t be satisfied until the government acts upon the 23 recommendations made in O’Connor’s report, including one that states the government should assess Arar’s claims for compensation.

“Unless the government does this, what happened to me may happen again,” Arar said.

During question period last week, Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe called on Harper to compensate Arar for his ordeal, while NDP Leader Jack Layton demanded the government apologize for its actions during the affair.

Arar would not say whether he thinks RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli should resign over the case, adding it was a matter for the government to decide. Zaccardelli has maintained a stony silence on the force’s role in the affair.

The embattled commissioner, who made his first public appearance Sunday since the release of the report, refused to talk about it.

“Today is to honour those who have died in the line of duty,” Zaccardelli told reporters following a police memorial service on Parliament Hill. “That’s what I’m here for. I will be giving my testimony at the appropriate time.”

Opposition MPs accused the government of muzzling Zaccardelli.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable that Canadians are not given proper information,” Liberal MP Dan McTeague told CBC News Sunday. “Mr. Arar is owed an explanation.”

During his interview Sunday, Arar also called for the government to get to the bottom of leaks to the media on his case — which he said portrayed him “as a terrorist” and as “someone with something to hide” — and to discipline those responsible.

“It has had a very devastating impact, both on my psychological well-being and on my financial welfare,” he said.

Arar was travelling back to his home in Ottawa from a family vacation in Tunisia in September 2002 when he was pulled off a plane in New York. Within days, he was sent to Syria, where he says government officials detained him, systematically tortured him and kept him in jail for a year.

Three other Canadians of Syrian origin have said they were tortured in Syria over the past few years.

The public inquiry into Arar’s detention, deportation and alleged torture involved more than 120 days of testimony and cost $15 million by the time it concluded the main phase of its hearings in September 2005.

Arar said he and his wife have agreed not to tell their two children — aged six years and six months at the time of Arar’s detention in New York — that they, too, had been included on a suspected terrorist watch list.

“They’ve been living in hell since I was arrested,” Arar said.

Copyright ©2006 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – All Rights Reserved

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommrcial, educational purposes.