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HRW gives up on USA, says EU undermining torture ban

by the stormy present Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 04:56:19 AM EST

A quick post-and-run this morning.... I thought I'd draw your attention to a few recent statements by Human Rights Watch concerning the EU.

Today, HRW put out a new statement and briefing paper on the role of EU states in CIA renditions, and it ain't pretty.

From the diaries -- whataboutbob

From the statement:

The briefing paper shows how EU states have relied upon empty promises of humane treatment, known as "diplomatic assurances," in efforts to justify the return of terrorism suspects to countries where they risk being tortured. In the report adopted today, the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on illegal CIA activity in Europe focuses on CIA flights and US-sponsored transfers of terrorism suspects. It also calls on EU member states to oppose the use of "diplomatic assurances" on torture in returning terrorism suspects. Europe pioneered the use of these "no torture" promises in the 1990s, well before the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.  

"The European Parliament is right to focus on ending European complicity in illegal CIA activity," said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director of Human Rights Watch. "But if Europe is serious about ending its complicity in torture, it also needs to stop homegrown policies that undermine the global ban on torture."  

EU states such as the United Kingdom and Sweden have been among the most vocal proponents of employing diplomatic assurances to deport and extradite terrorism suspects. The UK is currently trying to deport terrorism suspects based on blanket no-torture promises from countries like Jordan and Libya. Austria, the Netherlands and Germany have also employed diplomatic assurances in attempts to extradite alleged terrorists to countries where they face the risk of torture. These EU governments have argued that diplomatic assurances allow them to deport or extradite terrorism suspects safely.  

But the Human Rights Watch briefing paper, which includes research conducted over the last three years, indicates that promises from governments that practice torture or target specific groups for such abuse are unreliable, unenforceable and ineffective. The most notorious example involves Sweden, which sent two Egyptian terrorism suspects to Cairo in December 2001 in the hands of the CIA, based on promises of humane treatment. Both were tortured on their return, despite visits from Swedish diplomats. Two UN bodies - the Committee Against Torture and the Human Rights Committee - have since ruled that Sweden's actions in the case violated the international ban on returning people to a risk of torture.  

"Diplomatic assurances simply do not protect against torture," said Cartner. "European governments have used these empty promises as a fig leaf to justify sending people to places where they risk being tortured."

The briefing paper itself details cases in Austria, Canada (OK, not the EU, but tell that to them), German, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, the UK and the USA.

A few weeks ago, HRW released its annual global human rights report and said the EU was "punching well below its weight," but appears to have given up on the United States entirely.

For further discussion, here's Human Rights Watch's 2007 World Report.

From the press release:

With US credibility undermined by the Bush administration's use of torture and detention without trial, the European Union must fill the leadership void on human rights [....]

Today marks five years since the United States first sent detainees to Guantanamo. The Bush administration has proven largely incapable of providing leadership on human rights, while China and Russia are embracing tyrants in their quest for resources and influence. But rather than assuming the leadership mantle, the European Union's approach is mired in procedures that emphasize internal unanimity and rotation over the effective projection of EU influence to protect human rights, said the 556-page volume's introductory essay.  

"Since the US can't provide credible leadership on human rights, European countries must pick up the slack," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Instead, the European Union is punching well below its weight."  

Human Rights Watch lamented the "lowest common denominator approach" to rights protection by EU member states, in which governments that favor accommodation drag down those seeking a tougher approach to serious rights abuses. Examples include the EU's backtracking on the sanctions it imposed following the May 2005 massacre in the Uzbek city of Andijan and its weak response to the 2005 royal coup in Nepal. Similarly, while abusive governments banded together to block effective action at the United Nations' new Human Rights Council, the EU's ability to respond was crippled by its micromanaging approach and need for consensus.  

Right then.  Let the feeding frenzy begin.

I'm in meetings all day, so I'll let y'all argue this amongst yourselves.  Be nice.  Or... at least polite.

Because I'm fundamentally an optimist.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 03:52:52 AM EST
The UK pioneered the use of diplomatic assurances, before the panic over terrorism in 2001, as a way of trying to remove asylum seekers to countries of origin when the Immigration Tribunals and courts might have found that there was a well founded risk of ill treatment if the asylum claimant was forced to return.

The British Home Office has been happy to rely on paper guarantees and takes care not to monitor what happens when people are returned against their will, because it does not want to know if the assurances were valueless.

by Gary J on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 07:07:56 AM EST
So the roots of this policy come from the desire to deny human rights to migrants who've already had their human rights violated in their home countries?

<head explodes>

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 03:24:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, the vilificati n of asylum-seekers is a great shame for Western Europe. Basically, asylum seekers are presumed to be illegal economic migrants exploiting human-rights legislation. As a result, asylum seekers are sometimes considered a category of undesirable people in their own right.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 02:19:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Personally I've never really believed that the UK actually gave a stuff what happened to people once we deported them. We are, like most countries,  body of political convenience.

We wrap ourselves in figleaves of moral behaviour, but behind the scenes we do whatever our lords and masters consider necessary/convenient.

If something stands to be publicly embarrassing they won't do it. However, if they are caught after the fact they deny it. More often than not they will make it difficult to find out or prove that what is happening, at which point it becomes denaible hearsay.

Nuremburg was victor's justice of a sort, nobody ever looked at what was done by the winners that were a little morally dubious. Dare I mention Dresden ? What about things done by the advancing Soviet forces ?

It is now known that a group of SAS acted as a semi-official execution squad during and after the war. When the UK fought the independence group known as the Mau-Mau in Kenya during the 50s, torture and indiscriminate murder were official policies of the state. And was repeated in Aden in the 60s.

As for what happened in N Ireland during the troubles. Detention without trial, deliberate indiscriminate firing upon peaceful protesters, assassins running around killing at the behest of the state.

As for our willing co-operation with torture and murderous dictators all around the globe. Chile, S Africa, Argentina, Burma, Saudi, any number of ex-Soviet states, IRAQ, the list goes on to sickening length.

Just exactly when did we become the sort of good guys that HRW ever imagine might give a stuff about extraordinary rendition ?

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 11:02:32 AM EST
Gosh, when you put it that way, it does sound like a naive aspiration....  Actually, I'd forgotten that the British built what are believed to be the first concentration camps of the 20th Century during the Anglo-Boer War.  So, um, never mind.  :-(

I suspect that the folks at HRW were hoping to goad the European nations (and multilateral institutions) into action.  Take heart:  at least they think your governments are still worth goading.  Mine, on the other hand, has joined the likes of Egypt and Turkmenistan in the "hopeless devotees of torture" category.

I note that HRW seems to have a two-pronged approach to this issue regarding Europe.  They are criticizing individual states for their actions, and also -- and I think this is important -- criticizing the EU system for allowing itself to get so bogged down in consensus-building that the policy is defacto set by the most intransigent.  I'm not sure how to remedy that, but there must be a way.  Musn't there?

And if Europe won't rise to the occasion, who will?  Who will be the new global leader on human rights?  South Africa?  (Not enough money.)  Japan?  (A bit too much baggage.)

Maybe we should place a classified ad:


by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 03:19:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
South Africa recently voted with Russia and China against a resolution censuring Burma for human rights violations. It defended that vote saying that the violations don't pose a threat to international security, and therefore the UN has no business bothering with them. Keep in mind that this resolution didn't have any punitive measures whatsoever, it was just an expression of disapproval.

 China and Russia are obviously not good candidates for a global leader on human rights. The EU is currently the best possibility - other countries either aren't interested or aren't influential enough. The second best could be the non-Chavezian Latin American left - Brazil, Argentina, Chile - also not perfect, but if we wait for that we'll never get anywhere. I also hope that come 2009 the US can quickly  turn its policies around.

by MarekNYC on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 03:36:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Re: South Africa and Burma -- gaaah!  That surprises me.  Wonder wtf is up with that.  That is a fairly unusual stance for that government, which has typically been pretty strong on human rights except in Zimbabwe, where it prefers to pretend nothing is happening.  (See:  shipping migrants back across the border without asylum hearings in the dark of night....)

Chile had actually occurred to me, and it's not a bad suggestion.  Has some standing in this area, given its own history.

I also hope that come 2009 the US can quickly  turn its policies around.

Amen to that.  But I suspect that so much damage has been done already that even a 100 percent policy reversal would not be enough.  The government and the courts (and the world) will be dealing with the vestiges of the Bush Doctrine for a very long time, even if it ended tomorrow.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 03:52:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with you that it will take years to repair the damage.
by MarekNYC on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 04:29:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If a 100% policy reversal would not be enough, perhaps we should consider what policies would constitute a 150% reversal.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 10:57:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This comment does not deserve a '2'. Hey, richardk, if you're gonna hang around here would you please not fuck with the ratings? And maybe generally stop being a jerk? Thanks.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 03:29:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree, there's no way that comment deserved a 2.

Richardk, the ratings system is explained here in the New Users Guide.   The key is this: ratings are not a sign of whether you agree or disagree with a comment, they are intended to warn or discipline users for remarks that are unproductive, abusive, insulting, interruptive of dialogue or otherwise inappropriate.  MarekNYC's comment meets none of those criteria.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 03:39:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The trouble with the EU "consensus-time-wasting" on this issue is that in fact it's using the same decision making process as it does on many other issues of policy.

It sucks, but fixing it is basically bound up to the whole EU constitution mess, so... don't hold your breath. :-(

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 04:29:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect that the folks at HRW were hoping to goad the European nations (and multilateral institutions) into action.

any country with a substantial defense industry will always be too dirty. Any country with an extensive car ownership/industrial base which requires access to cheap oil is going to have to enter into problematic relations with shady dictoators to keep the pumps flowing.

Bascically any first or second world economy cannot possibly provide leadership because they are too compromised.

Germany didn't have to be dirty. Didn't have to take part in rendition and torture, they wanted to in order to keep America onside. Those are the problems that economies confront. You don't have friends, you have "relationships" and sometimes you have to do things you don't have to do to ensure you've got the same smell as the rest of the pack.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 05:05:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I think it would be a mistake to say all of this is inevitable and there's nothing we can do because it's politics, or because we want to keep the US onside, or because we need oil.  Our governments have no incentive to act or to change their policies if we don't demand it.

(Incidentally, the Middle Eastern countries [Jordan, Egypt, Morocco] that have been most directly linked to the renditions program are not major petroleum producers, so "cooperating" with them is not about keeping the pumps open -- they, in fact, are the ones doing the "cooperating."  With us.  Torture chamber for hire, if you will.)

I think another thing HRW is pointing to is the difference between "just" pretending not to notice when someone else tortures, and actually sending people to places where you by all rights should know they will be tortured.  One is negligence, the other conspiracy.

And the global report also notes that while the European Parliament (rightly) condemns the US torture policies, it has been somewhat quieter about its own actions.  Which is probably to be expected, but which also does weaken the EU's standing to criticize the US.  And what we need is a powerful global player willing and able to do that with relatively clean hands.

Which, as you point out, does not exist.  Sigh.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 05:38:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately our governments seem to believe that they have no incentive to act or to change their policies even if we do demand it.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 06:55:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...are disgraced forever by this.

I am deeply ashamed.

by NNadir on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 07:31:47 PM EST
Disgraced, yes, but to give up on the US, as HRW apparently has, is a terrible mistake.  Even if people don't listen to them now, groups like HRW need to continue pounding the table.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 09:56:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am skeptical of the HRW's "giving up" on the USA. It sounds a lot like the way they "gave up" on Israel. HRW has been bought by the US government and is no longer a credible human rights organization.
by richardk (richard kulisz gmail) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 09:24:43 PM EST
HRW has been bought by the US government and is no longer a credible human rights organization.


by MarekNYC on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 01:44:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]

And it is hardly the first such. Reporters Without Borders is one organization that has long since been bought by the Western elites. As witnessed by its strident hatred of Cuba.

The Human Rights Commission was another such and why it was dissolved.

I may have confused HRW with the former HRC. But then again, given what we're seeing now, probably not.

by richardk (richard kulisz gmail) on Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 12:38:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He makes some good seeming points at the beginning about a little bit of inconsistency in HRW's reports albeit doing so selectively. It is pretty funny though that after saying that HRW wasn't harsh enough on Israel he then goes on to argue that all of Israel's bombardment of South Lebanon and South Beirut was perfectly legit, no crimes committed at all. (If any military activity in or even in the vicinity of a village or city makes all of it a legit target then...) So given that this is a left wing version of Alan Dershowitz I'd prefer a better source. In any case even if I take his critique of HRW at face value, it still doesn't come close to amounting to what you say.

 But judging from your comments on this site you won't understand my point, given that like your right wing neocon mirror images you see the world in a struggle of Good vs. Evil, all black and white (literally as well as metaphorically it seems), and have no understanding of any shades of grey - that's the appeasement of Evil, of fascism, and you have a very thin skin for that.

by MarekNYC on Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 01:18:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are a troll. Your comment surpasses your usual trollish behaviour.
by richardk (richard kulisz gmail) on Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 04:19:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Richardk, knock it off.  Marek is not a troll.

If you guys are going to have a pie fight, I'd thank you to take it somewhere else and not clutter up my diary with ad-hominems.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 06:15:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A troll is someone who gets into a fight to waste other people's time. This can be seen when someone doesn't offer any substantive arguments yet attempts to provoke you into argumentation which they will then ignore. So they waste your time without wasting their own time. And by this measure, Marek's every single response to me has been trollish. And this last one surpassed mere trolling.

Come on stormy, are you really so ignorant, or evil, that you think there is no distinction possible between Hizbollah's targeting of military sites (what Jonathan Cook refers to) and Israel's targeting of ambulances and appartment buildings? This is the argument which Marek made, which proves that he is either trolling or utterly evil. How much more blatant must he be?

by richardk (richard kulisz gmail) on Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 07:17:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Richard, if you think that the only possible reasons that I could object to you calling a regular longtime member of this site a troll is because I'm ignorant and evil, then (a) you seem to be proving Marek's point, and (b) you are welcome to leave my diary.

If you want to talk about Israel and Lebanon, then post a diary about Israel and Lebanon.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 07:30:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and on cooperation of European governments in the secret rendition program. Associated Press and Independent.

It's very much like the draft report that was produced in November (if I recall correctly), except that wankers tried to muddy the waters.

But, in a crucial amendment pushed through by the conservatives who opposed the document, the report said there is no evidence that CIA secret prisons were based in Poland - an allegation that prompted the investigation in November 2005.

The report, drafted by Italian Socialist Giovanni Fava, was backed by Socialists and Liberals; center-right deputies rejected it as ideological, biased and inaccurate.

It was also criticized by some of the 13 EU nations implicated, including Germany and Ireland.

by smintheus on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 11:38:28 PM EST

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