Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Human rights abuses in Gaza and Guantanamo Bay

With the global media busy covering the G-20 summit and the ever deepening global economic crisis, in the past few days has come to light two shocking instances of human rights violations - one by Israeli soldiers during their brief Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip to terminate Hamas militants and the other by CIA on 14 suspected Al Qaeda militants externed at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

The ICRC has submitted a chilling report documenting the torture tactics used by the CIA at the Guantanamo Bay Internment Facility, run by the Department of Defense, on fourteen "high value detainees", suspected of being Islamic terrorists with links to the Al Qaeda. They include the following torture tactics

1. Suffocation by water poured over a cloth placed over the nose and mouth, alleged by three of the fourteen.
2. Prolonged stress standing position, naked, held with the arms extended and chained above the head, as alleged by ten of the fourteen, for periods from two or three days continuously, and for up to two or three months intermittently, during which period toilet access was sometimes denied resulting in allegations from four detainees that they had to defecate and urinate over themselves.
3. Beatings by use of a collar held around the detainees neck and used to forcefully bang the head and body against the wall, alleged by six of the fourteen.
4. Beating and kicking, including slapping, punching, kicking to the body and face, alleged by nine of the fourteen.
5. Confinement in a box to severely restrict movement alleged in the case of one detainee.
6. Prolonged nudity alleged by eleven of the fourteen during detention, interrogation and ill-treatment; this enforced nudity lasted for periods ranging from several weeks to several months.
7. Sleep deprivation was alleged by eleven of the fourteen through days of interrogation, through use of forced stress positions (standing or sitting), cold water and use of repetitive loud noise or music. One detainee was kept sitting on a chair for prolonged periods of time.
8. Exposure to cold temperature was alleged by most of the fourteen, especially via cold cells and interrogation rooms, and for seven of them, by the use of cold water poured over the body or, as alleged by three of the detainees, held around the body by means of a plastic sheet to create an immersion bath with just the head out of the water.
9. Prolonged shackling of hands and/or feet was alleged by many of the fourteen.
10. Threats of ill-treatment to the detainee and/or his family, alleged by nine of the fourteen.
11. Forced shaving of the head and beard, alleged by two of the fourteen.
12. Deprivation/restricted provision of solid food from 3 days to 1 month after arrest, alleged by eight of the fourteen.

Mark Danner has this analysis in the New York Review of Books. Othere reports here and here.

The other story relates to the latest episode in the long history of atrocities and human rights violations, often amounting to genocide, committed by Israeli forces in their repeated incursions into its neighbours territories and Palestinian areas. Israeli newspapers have leaked parts of the testimonies of Israeli soldiers and officers who served in the Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip to exterminate Hamas militants, which brings out a permissive attitude toward the killing of civilians and reckless destruction of property, and shocking levels of human rights violations. One soldier asserted that extremist rabbis had told troops they were fighting a holy war. More reports here and here.

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