Saturday, January 21, 2006

What are the values of our continent worth? - Council Of Europe investigator

The Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly is scheduled to receive a preliminary report into US run torture camps on European soil and "extraordinary renditions"on January 23rd. This posting is a preliminary briefing for readers.

  • Several investigations are now underway in Europe both into the so-called "extraordinary rendition" and the presence on European soil of America run Soviet style interrogation camps. Of these the most important is the investigation by Swiss Senator Marty for the Council of Europe.
  • The Council of Europe is Europe's oldest political organisation, founded in 1949.It comprises 46 countries, including 21 from eastern and central Europe.
  • The Strasbourg-based Council is separate and independent from the 25-nation European Union.The Council defends human rights and parliamentary democracy.
  • Senator Marty* is due to present a preliminary report to the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe on January 23.
  • The Washington Post reported on November 2 that the US has used "Soviet-style" prison camps to interrogate suspected terrorists in eastern Europe, most likely Poland and Romania.US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has labelled the movement of suspected terrorists as "renditions".

* Senator Marty - Briefing
  • Born in Lugano, Ticino January 7, 1945.
  • Ticino public prosecutor 1975. He gained a reputation as formidable investigator and came to wider attention during a drug trafficking probe, when his enquiries implicated a company for which Hans W Kopp Swiss justice minister's, Elisabeth Kopp was a director. Elisabeth Kopp was forced to resign once it was revealed that she had warned her husband about the enquiry.
  • Awarded the US justice department's "Award of Honor" for his efforts to combat drug trafficking 1987.
  • Member of Ticino government 1989-1995.
  • Elected to the Swiss Senate 1995 (for Switzerland's centre-right Radical Party) he has a reputation within the Senate as highly effective legislator and debater. He has a strong human rights record and is on recrd as saying that excuses or exceptions are unacceptable. He voted against tightening the asylum law in Switzerland, and was sceptical of government calls for new measures to curb hooliganism in sport.
  • Appointed to investigate allegations of CIA prisons in Europe November 2005. He is on record as having said that Europe didn't spend hundreds of years ridding itself of such practices, "only to see them return overnight."
  • Senator Marty's site (Italian language) is here.
Key Quotes:
"If people are detained, transported and tortured without reference to the law, what are the values of our continent worth?"

In related news the EU parliamentary assembly and Irish unease over rendition flights continue to gather momentum.

Concerns grow in Ireland over use of Shannon airport as US military stopover
  • 330,000 US troops passed through airport in 2005
  • State denies knowledge of CIA rendition flights
Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent
Saturday January 21, 2006
The Guardian

Irish politicians and human rights activists are voicing growing concern at the US military's use of Shannon airport after it emerged that an average of 900 soldiers a day passed through the commercial west coast airport last year.


Edward Horgan, a former Irish soldier* who served with UN peacekeeping missions for 22 years before leading a campaign against US military use of Shannon, said up to 100 peace activists had been prosecuted in Ireland since 2002.

After two retrials, Mary Kelly, an Irish nurse, was found guilty of criminal damage for taking an axe to a plane at Shannon. She plans to appeal. Five protesters accused of damaging another US plane at Shannon are awaiting their third trial after the second collapsed when defence lawyers suggested that the judge had been invited to both George Bush's presidential inaugurations and attended the first one in 2000. (Emphasis added.)

Full story here
Two Irish MEPs Eoin Ryan (FF) and Simon Coveney (FG) are taking part the EU special committee inquiry into CIA 'torture flights' and the allegations that some camps within the 'US gulag' are located on EU soil.
"It will investigate allegations about the transport and illegal detention of prisoners by the CIA in European countries.

The committee will try to establish if people were obtained or abducted from inside the European Union, if these people were tortured and whether countries were facilitating rendition flights."

(Belfast Telegraph) More coverage from the BBC here .

* Horgan rose to the rank of commandant. Like many Irish officers with experience as peacekeepers he opposes breaches of Ireland's neutrality and has recently testified before the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) Committee on foreign affairs that Ireland is in breach of several of her convention obligations.

"Constitutionally, Ireland doesn't have to be neutral, but having publicly declared internationally that Ireland is neutral, we are obliged to comply with our neutrality obligations, the most basic one of which is that foreign troops on their way to war may not be allowed to pass through our territory."

Friday, January 20, 2006

Islam, Islamism And Islamic Activism - Sneak Preview - Part I

"The Western tendency to describe all forms of Islamic activism as a more or less unitary phenomenon whether it be labelled "Islamism", "political Islam" or "Islamic fundamentalism" and to contrast it with the practice of Islam as religious belief by "ordinary Muslims" has increased markedly since the attacks of 11th September 2001 and President George W. Bush's subsequent declaration of a "global war on terror ". Islamic activism is alleged to have mutated in an shocking way, taking the form of violent terrorist movements intent upon attacking both Western targets and non-Western targets where such attacks are thought by the attackers to be deleterious to Western or West-allied interests. While understandable such a monolithic concept is based upon flawed assumptions and leads to severely flawed policy prescriptions."

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Lost in land that cannot provide

"Three sewing machines in a dingy apartment were all Munna Abdul Adeem Ahmed could scrape together when she set up a tailoring co-op for poor widows. She soon realised it was not enough.

More than 1,000 women from the northern city of Mosul turned up looking for work on the first day. Ahmed finally stopped registering new names after the 1,200th widow signed up.

The women were mostly young, poor and desperate for work. Many lost their spouses during the wars, uprisings and civil conflict that have bedevilled Iraq over the past 25 years.

Now, a raging insurgency is adding to their numbers.

Behind the daily bloodshed and attacks that make headlines across the world, there is a growing population of widows.

Traditionally, Iraqi widows have been supported by their late husband's family or other relatives, but in a country brought to its knees by violence and war, there is now little to spare for the most vulnerable members of society.

"We don't have enough money to clothe our children," said Nawal Ayob, who lost her husband during the bombings in the first Gulf War in 1991 and has since joined Ahmed's co-op. "We have no salaries, no support. How can we survive?"

There are few reliable statistics on the number of widows, but the Ministry of Women's Affairs has recorded at least 206,000 in Iraq, outside of Kurdish provinces. There are just over half as many widowed men.

Full Reuters Article here
In all of the anxiety about the kidnapped journalist Jill Carroll it is easy to forget that her interpeter Allan Enwiyah, (shown with his baby son in the photo) was murdered during her abduction. He leaves behind a widow and very young children. Fayrouz says it best (emphasis added by me.)
Allan leaves behind a wife and very young children. You have no idea how hard it is for a young widow to raise children in Iraq. That's why we started this donation.

The media will drop his name very soon and focus on Jill because she's the one in danger right now. We're all praying for her safety. But, we shouldn't forget about her translator who lost his life while trying to make a living for his young family."

Allan Enwiyah's widow is now living what must surely have been her worst nightmare, is facing dire poverty, and must cope not only with her grief but with comforting her children and trying to provide for them. I know it's January and the bills are coming in but I respectfully join my voice to Fayrouz's please go to her blog and click the pay pal link at the top right of the screen (or click any of the graphics this posting.) Fayrouz isn't making anything from this and she will, if you ask her, keep your donation anonymous. It doesn't matter how small your donation is, I'm flat broken busted broke this month, but I haven't just been widowed and I don't have two small kids to support so I have it easy. Please give something no matter how small it is. Western currencies go far far further in Iraq than they do here. You don't have to have a paypal account to donate the link on Fayrouz's Blog gives the option of paying using a secure payment system.

Yes I'm begging.

2006 January 15th.
(Cross-posted to Liberal Avenger Jan 18th)

Update: I'm going to leave this post up for a few days in the hope that it may drive some traffic (and some donors) to Fayrouz's blog. I'll update daily with a running total of the amount she raises.

Jan 15th 2006: US$999.41 raised.
Jan 16th 2006: US$1501.71 raised.
Jan 17th 2006: US$2,196.92 raised.
Jan 18th 2006: US$2,196.92 raised.
Jan 19th 2006: US$2,498.76 raised.
Jan 20th 2006: US$4,776.33 raised.
Jan 21st 2006: US$5,097.41 raised.
… … …
Jan 25th 2006: US$5,755.98 raised.
… … …
Jan 28th 2006: US$6,049.88 raised.