Australia apology to Indian doctor over terror charge

(AFP) – Australia has made a formal apology to Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef for his wrongful detention in 2007 over failed extremist attacks at airports in London and Glasgow. The move follows the payment of undisclosed compensation to Haneef, who was detained and charged with giving support to a terrorist organisation after his mobile phone SIM card was wrongly linked to the attempted car-bombings.

“The AFP (Australian Federal Police) acknowledges that it was mistaken and that Dr. Haneef was innocent of the offence of which he was suspected,” said a statement on the attorney-general’s website.

“The (government) apologises and hopes that the compensation to be paid to Dr. Haneef will mark the end of an unfortunate chapter and allow Dr. Haneef to move forward with his life and career.”

Rights group warns Australia detainee transfer program may violate international law

[JURIST] Australia’s new Afghan detainee transfer policy may violate international human rights laws, Amnesty International warned Tuesday. The new detainee management system, announced Tuesday by Australian Minister of Defence Stephen Smith, provides for the systematic transfer of “high risk” detainees to US forces and “low risk” detainees to Afghan forces. According to AI Asia-Pacific director Sam Zarifi, the new policy puts detainees at risk of torture and mistreatment at the hands of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), which has been previously linked to human rights abuses.

“By handing over detainees to the NDS, where they are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment, Australia could be in violation of its international obligations to protect individuals from such treatment,” Zarifi said. Until August of this year, any detainees apprehended by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) had been the responsibility of Dutch forces that, according to AI, had “safeguards” in place to assure detainees would not be mistreated.

Five men on trial for planning Australian Army attack

An Australian court has begun on Monday hearing the case against five Melbourne men accused of planning a terrorist attack on the Holsworthy Army base in Sydney. The Prosecutor said that the men planned to shoot as many people as possible in the planned suicide raid on the army base in retaliation for Australia’s involvement in the Afghan war.

Wissam Fattal, Saney Aweys, Nayef El Sayed, Yacqub Khayre and Abdirahman Ahmed, all Australian citizens with Somali and Lebanese background, have been in custody since last year and all pleaded not guilty to conspiring to prepare or plan a terrorist act.

Judge Betty King told the jury that the case was not about the religion of Islam, but whether the men were guilty of criminal charges. “The Islamic faith is not on trial. It isn’t about being a Muslim,” said King.

Google accused of criminal intent by privacy rights group

(JURIST) Advocacy group Privacy International (PI) on 9 June accused Google of criminal intent for the collection of private data through unsecured Wi-Fi networks while collecting images for the website’s Street Map view. PI released its statement in response an independent audit published by Google on the company’s official blog. PI claims that information gathered in the audit proves that Google’s interception of unencrypted data was not inadvertent and should lead to prosecution:

This analysis establishes that Google did, beyond reasonable doubt, have intent to systematically intercept and record the content of communications and thus places the company at risk of criminal prosecution in almost all the 30 jurisdictions in which the system was used. The independent audit of the Google system shows that the system used for the Wi-Fi collection intentionally separated out unencrypted content (payload data) of communications and systematically wrote this data to hard drives. This is equivalent to placing a hard tap and a digital recorder onto a phone wire without consent or authorisation.

Google claims that the data collection was a mistake and was the result of the inclusion of an unintended piece of coding in the Street View software by a software engineer.

Several investigations have recently been launched into Google’s unencrypted data collections to determine whether the Internet giant’s practices have violated privacy laws. Earlier this week, Australia commenced an investigation into whether Google breached the nation’s Telecommunications Interception Act, which prevents people from accessing electronic communications other than for authorized purposes. Canada launched an investigation last week into Google’s unsecured Wi-Fi data collection to determine whether Google has violated the country’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which applies to private organizations that collect, use, or disclose personal information in the course of commercial activities.

Australian intelligence used to jail woman in Yemen

The Sidney Morning Herald reports that, according to Yemen’s National Organisation for Defending Rights and Freedoms, Australia provided intelligence about a Yemeni-based Australian woman – who was subsequently jailed and her young children placed under home detention – to Yemeni security police via the FBI.

”Yemen is dealing with the FBI, which has its own office in Yemen, and we believe that the FBI is the connection between the intelligence of the Yemeni government and the intelligence of the Australian government”, said the head of Yemen’s National Organisation for Defending Rights and Freedoms, Mohamed Naji Allawo.

Ms Giddins had her Australian passport cancelled by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith on April 10 at the request of ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation). Her Australian lawyer, Stephen Hopper, received a letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday which stated: ”ASIO assesses Giddins has an extremist interpretation of Islam and her activities in Yemen are prejudicial to security.” She is now being held at Sanaa’s central prison, and has been refused access both to legal representation and her children – who had their passports confiscated and remain under detention in a Sanaa apartment.

Ms Giddins’ arrest comes in the middle of a crackdown on foreigners suspected of being linked to a local jihadi group, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – known as AQAP.

New phone tap powers planned for Australian intelligence agencies

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that a new intelligence review confirmed in the Australian federal budget is expected to examine strict limits on how agencies set up to protect against foreign threats can operate inside Australia. The review would consider giving Australia’s defence intelligence agency the powers to tap phones inside Australia, and give officers of ASIS powers to engage in ‘paramilitary activities’ abroad. The changes would likely require new civil liberties safeguards.

The review seems to be triggered by concerns within the intelligence community that Cold War-style limits on which agencies can use their resources in Australia are cramping the fight against terrorist and criminal threats.

Australian terrorist suspect disappears in military intelligence detention in Uganda

Hashi Hussein Farah and “a dozen others”, were arrested by the Joint Anti-terrorism Taskforce (JATT) in Kisenyi slum in the capital Kampala, Uganda, allegedly on the 1st of April. He was paraded on television later in the evening. The terror suspects were taken away by the anti-terrorism squad for further interrogation to an unknown place of detention. Today, NTV Uganda said that 8 Al Shabaab suspects were released. It was unclear whether Farah was one of the persons, and if now all suspects had been released. Earlier NTV had reported that “7 Somali nationals suspected to be linked to al-Shabaab were arrested in Kampala”, and were “in Old Kampala police station”, “undergoing intense interrogation”.

The Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba declined to comment, saying the police did not arrest Farah. She referred The Ugandan Independent newspaper to JATT, a military intelligence squad, which carried out the arrest. However the Army Spokesman Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye declined to divulge details about Hussein Farah, on account that it would jeopardise investigations. He said Farah’s arrest is part of a wider investigation. He did not say where Farah was being detained.

Farah, who has an Australian passport, was first arrested by the Kenyan police on March 13, 2010 as he was trying to cross Uganda’s Busia border into Kenya.

The Kenyan police released him hours later under unclear circumstances that suggested the police took a bribe from him for his ransom. Shortly after his release, upon checking his names and identity on the international security network, it was discovered he had been on the international list of wanted terrorists. He was wanted by the Australian police for masterminding a plot to attack the Holsworthy army base in August 2009. Australian Federal Police would neither confirm nor deny that Farah was wanted.

After his “escape” on the 13th of March, it was alleged last week that Farah was back into Uganda. But the Army spokesman refuted on the 23d of March the claims that Farah was in Uganda. It is not known where Farah was between the 13th of March and the 1st of April.

JATT’s practices of secret detention

Last year Human Rights Watch issued a report which documented the JATT’s abusive response to alleged rebel and terrorist activity by unlawfully detaining and brutally torturing suspects. Human Rights Watch found that over the past two years, the unit illegally detained more than 100 people and tortured at least 25 during interrogations.

Link with Australia

In Australia four Victorian men charged over the same alleged plot will stand trial in Melbourne.

Saney Edow Aweys, Yacqub Khayre, Abdirahmin Mohamud Ahmed, and Wissam Mahmoud Fattal, have pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges.

A fifth man also facing charges over the alleged plot, Nayef El Sayed, will face a contested committal hearing in May.

Al Shabaab’s position towards Uganda
The group which is fighting the Somali Transitional Federal Government is opposed to Uganda’s deployment of peacekeepers in the Somali capital Mogadishu. According to a source of NTV, “al-Shabaab may have opened up three training camps, two in the eastern Ugandan district of Jinja and one in Kisenyi. Street children in Kampala are also being recruited and sent abroad for training”

Australia: Bill Establishing Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Passed

The Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Bill 2010 was passed by the Australian Parliament on March 18, 2010. The bill establishes a new position of National Security Legislation Monitor, with responsibility for reviewing and reporting on the “operation, effectiveness and implications of Australia’s counter-terrorism and national security legislation on an ongoing basis,” and for considering if these laws “remain necessary and are proportionate to any threat of terrorism or to national security.”

A key focus of the Monitor will be whether the relevant laws contain appropriate safeguards for protecting human rights and are consistent with Australia’s international obligations.

The bill requires the Monitor to review counter-terrorism and national security legislation annually and report his or her findings to the Prime Minister and the Parliament.

Australia court rules former Guantanamo detainee can sue government

The Federal Court of Australia ruled Thursday that former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib can sue the Australian government for complicity in his ill-treatment while incarcerated in Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. Habib claims he suffered sleep deprivation, electrocution, and drug injections during his detainment, some of which happened in collusion with or in the presence of Australian officials. The Commonwealth of Australia, which denies the allegations, claimed the case should be thrown out because it was outside the realm of the judiciary to hear a case on the actions of foreign officials. A three-judge panel rejected this claim stating that torture offends the “ideal of common humanity,” whether administered domestically or abroad, and can never be justified by official acts or policy. Habib said that he plans to sue the Australian government for unlimited damages.

UN experts conclude major study into use of secret detention in the fight against terrorism

Despite the fact that international law clearly prohibits secret detention, the practice is widespread and “reinvigorated” by the so-called global war on terror, several independent United Nations experts stated, outlining a series of steps aimed at curbing this human rights violation. In a 222-page study which will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in March, the experts conclude that: “If resorted to in a widespread or systematic manner, secret detention might reach the threshold of a crime against humanity.” Read the unedited advance version here.

The study, which took almost a year to complete, involves responses from 44 States to a detailed questionnaire, as well as interviews with 30 individuals – or their family members or their legal counsel – who were victims of secret detention, and in many cases may also have been subjected to torture.

It provides an historical overview of the use of secret detention, noting that it is not a new phenomenon in the context of counter-terrorism. From the Nazi regime to the former USSR with its Gulag system of forced labour camps, States have often resorted to secret detention to silence opposition, according to the report.

The study goes on to address the use of secret detention in the context of the ‘global war on terror’ following the events of 11 September 2001, describing “the progressive and determined elaboration of a comprehensive and coordinated system of secret detention” of persons suspected of terrorism, involving not only United States authorities, but also other States in almost all regions of the world. The study says, inter alia,

143.Given the prevailing secrecy regarding the CIA’s rendition programme, exact figures regarding the numbers of prisoners transferred to the custody of other governments by the CIA without spending any time in CIA facilities are difficult to ascertain. Equally, little is known about the amount of detainees who have been held at the request of other States such as the United Kingdom and Canada.While several of these allegations cannot be backed up by other sources, the Experts wish to underscore that the consistency of many of the detailed allegations provided separately by the detainees adds weight to the inclusion of Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, the Syrian Arab Republic, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Djibouti as proxy detention facilities where detainees have been held on behalf of the CIA. Serious concerns also exist about the role of Uzbekistan as a proxy detention site.

It also highlights that secret detention in connection with counter-terrorism policies remains a serious problem on a global scale, either through the use of secret detention facilities; through declarations of a state of emergency, which allow prolonged secret detention; or through forms of “administrative detention,” which also allow prolonged secret detention.

The study was issued by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin; Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak; the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (represented by its Vice-Chairperson, Shaheen Sardar Ali); and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (represented by its Chairperson, Jeremy Sarkin).