Libya Promises Payouts Over Wrongful Imprisonment

Libya’s government announced it will pay compensation to some people it had wrongfully imprisoned, the latest step in an effort to draw a line under a history of human rights abuses.

The categories of ex-prisoner who will be eligible for compensation payments include people who were detained without trial and prisoners who were convicted but later acquitted, the Justice Ministry said in a statement on its Internet site.

A campaigner with Human Rights Watch welcomed the announcement of compensation but said nearly 300 people are still being wrongfully held in a prison run by Libya’s internal security agency and should be released immediately.

The Justice Ministry statement gave no details on which former inmates would receive the compensation, how many were eligible or how much money they would get.

But Oea, an influential newspaper with ties to a reformist son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, reported that the prisoners to receive compensation were ex-members of militant organization the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).

ECtHR: recent decisions on violation of art. 3 arising from expulsion/deportation

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has recently delivered two judgments concerning the violation of article 3 arising from the risk of ill-treatment of the claimants, if returned to their country of origin.

The first case, A. v. The Netherlands, originated in an application filed by a Libyan national, Mr A., in which he claimed that his expulsion to Libya, following an exclusion order imposed on him, would violate his rights under Article 3. A. entered The Netherlands in 1997 and applied, unsuccessfully, for asylum as he feared persecution, imprisonment, and possibly execution, in Libya for his involvement since 1988 in a clandestine opposition group. In 2002 he was arrested on suspicion of belonging to a group conducting jihad against the Netherlands, but eventually acquitted. In 2005 an exclusion order was imposed on him, as he was found to represent a danger to national security. A. claimed that his expulsion to Libya would expose him to the risk of ill treatment not only because of his involvement in the opposition group, but also because of the criminal proceedings taken against him in The Netherlands. Despite being eventually acquitted, his case had been broadly covered in the media and the Libyan authorities had been informed that he had been placed in aliens’ detention for removal purposes.

The Governments of Lithuania, Portugal, Slovakia and the United Kingdom suggested that, where a State presents evidence that an individual is a threat to national security, it should be up to the individual to prove that it is “more likely than not” that he would suffer a violation of Article 3. In addition, these Governments criticized the approach generally adopted by the Court, which does not allow for weighting the risk of ill treatment with the reasons for extradition.

The Court rejected the Governments’ arguments, reiterating that the prohibition of ill-treatment under Article 3 was absolute, and that it was not possible to weigh the risk of ill-treatment against the reasons put forward for the expulsion in order to determine whether the responsibility of a State was engaged under Article 3. Similarly, the Court noted that the existence of domestic laws and accession to international human rights treaties by a State which was not party to the Convention does not ensure adequate protection from ill-treatment, especially in cases (such as that of Libya) where reliable sources had reported practices contrary to the Convention, which were actively pursued or tolerated by the authorities. Therefore, the Court concluded that it was likely that, once extradited in Lybia, A. would be detained, risking ill treatment. Accordingly, the Court concluded that A.’s expulsion to Libya would breach Article 3.

The second case, N. v. Sweden, originated in an application by an Afghan national, Ms. N., in which she claimed that her deportation to Afghanistan would be in breach of Article 3. N. applied for asylum, together with her husband X., claiming that they had been persecuted in Afghanistan because X. had been a politically active member of the communist party. Their request was rejected, and N. appealed the decision, claiming that, as she had in the meantime separated from her husband and started an extra-marital relationship, she would risk social exclusion and possibly death if she returned to Afghanistan. Her appeal was also rejected.

Despite the reports  of serious human rights violations in Afghanistan, the Court did not find that they would suggest that there would be a violation of the Convention if N. were to return to that country. However, examining N.’s personal situation, the Court noted that women were at a particularly heightened risk of ill-treatment in Afghanistan if they were perceived as not conforming to the gender roles ascribed to them by society, tradition or the legal system there. Among other things, the Court noted that a recent law, the Shiite Personal Status Act of April 2009, required women to obey their husbands’ sexual demands and not to leave home without permission. Unaccompanied women, or women without a male “tutor”, faced continuous severe limitations to having a personal or professional life, and were doomed to social exclusion. They also often plainly lacked the means for survival if not protected by a male relative. Accordingly, the Court found that if N. were deported to Afghanistan, Sweden would be in violation of Article 3.

Amnesty International confirms detention of at least 6 individuals transferred from secret US custody to Libya

During its visit to Abu Salim Prison on 19 May 2009, Amnesty International was able to confirm the detention at the time of six individuals transferred from secret US custody to Libya, namely:

  • al-Mahdi Jawda, aka Ayoub al-Libi;
  • Majid Abu Yasser, aka Adnan al-Libi;
  • Abdelhakim Bilhadj Al-Kwaildi, aka Abdullah al Sadeq;
  • Khalid al-Sharif, aka Abu Hazem;
  • Sami Mustafa al-Saadi;
  • Hassan Raba’i, aka Mohamed Shara’ia. 

Two other Libyan nationals, transferred from Guantánamo Bay in December 2006 and September 2007 respectively, were also detained at Abu Salim Prison at the time of Amnesty International’s visit.

Amnesty has more details about one ghost-detainee:

Khalid al-Sharif, known as Abu Hazem, spent about five years detained in Libya before his release in March 2010. He agreed to talk to Amnesty International. He described his arrest by US and Pakistani forces in Peshawar on 3 April 2002 along with Mohamed Shu’iya, known as Hassan Ruba’i and his detention in various facilities in Afghanistan and Pakistan – in Peshawar, Islamabad, Kabul and Bagram.

He recounted being tortured in a detention facility in Peshawar, where he spent a week, by Pakistani officials who beat him with a leather belt and stepped on his injured foot, while being questioned by an American man. He also said that he was tortured while detained in Kabul for about a year, including by having icy water poured on him and being punched in the stomach. He also described being attached to the ceiling and left suspended for days and being handcuffed to an iron bar in uncomfortable position for months – the handcuffs were only removed for 15 minutes during meals, either once or twice a day. He was not allowed to shower during the time spent attached to the iron bar.

He said that in Kabul, he was interrogated and tortured by US officers. After about a year, he was transferred to Bagram in Afghanistan, where he spent another year before being taken to a US airbase and flown to Libya with Mahdi Jawda, aka Ayoub al-Libi in April 2005. He said that he did not know that he was being transferred to Libya until he reached the airport.

Upon arrival in Libya, he was held by the External Security Agency in Tajoura, where he was questioned and admitted to belonging to the LIFG. In December 2007, he was transferred to Abu Salim Prison. In April 2008, he was taken for the first time to the Department of Public Prosecutions in another district of Tripoli and told the charges against him. These included belonging to a banned group, the LIFG, and knowledge about armed actions and failure to report them. His trial began a month later, and he was able to appoint a private lawyer. At the time of Amnesty International’s visit, his trial was ongoing. The charges he was facing can lead to the death penalty in Libya. It was not clear if he was facing trial before a regular criminal court or before the State Security Court or another special court.

Amnesty adds that:

Despite the welcome abolition of the People’s Court in January 2005, a parallel legal system to handle cases “against the state” continues to exist. Detainees charged with offences “against the state” can be tried before the State Security Court, created in 2007, whose procedures do not satisfy international standards for fair trial. The court is reported to have heard some cases within the confines of Abu Salim Prison, where up to 1,200 prisoners were killed in June 1996.

Despite assertions that there are no prisoners of conscience in Libya and the use of counterterrorism rhetoric to justify repression, Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of individuals who have been arbitrarily detained and otherwise harassed for peacefully expressing criticism of the political system or calling for reforms and democratization.

Guantanamo update

Judge orders Yemeni freed
A federal judge Wednesday 26 May ordered the Obama administration to free a Yemeni man at Guantánamo who has long claimed he was captured in Pakistan studying Koran and had no ties to al Qaeda.

U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr.’s ruling of unlawful detention in the case of Mohammed Hassen, 27, raised the number of detainee wins in Guantánamo detention challenges to 36.

The judge gave the government until June 25 to report back. It ordered the Obama administration to “take all necessary and appropriate diplomatic steps” to arrange for the Yemeni’s release “forthwith.”

Judge upholds Libyan’s Guantanamo detention
Separately, a federal judge upheld the indefinite detention of a Libyan at Guantánamo in an April 19 decision during a closed-door hearing in Washington not yet noted on the U.S. District Court’s public docket.

Judge James Robertson accepted the government’s argument in the case of Omar Mohammed Khalifh, 38, who as far back as 2004 sent a message to a military panel reviewing his status. “I would rather be in the worst American jail than be a minister in my country,” he wrote. “I want to stay here.”

Volunteer defense attorney Cary Silverman of Washington said Khalifh fled his country in 1995, as an opponent of the Qaddafi regime, and fears for his safety and that of his family were he to be returned. Defense lawyers, however, had sought his release to a safe third country.

DC Circuit refuses evidentiary hearing for Uighur detainees
(JURIST) The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday refused to order a new evidentiary hearing in the case of five Chinese Muslim Uighurs detained at Guantanamo Bay. Instead, in a per curiam decision, the court reinstated its original opinion, which gives political branches exclusive power in determining the release of non-citizens being held by the federal government. In April, the Supreme Court ordered the circuit court to reconsider Kiyemba v. Obama in light of the fact that each of the remaining Uighurs has received an offer of resettlement by another country. In response, the circuit court denied the petitioners’ request to remand the case to the district court for an evidentiary hearing on whether any of the resettlement offers were “appropriate,” holding that it was in the power of the political branches to determine whether a country is appropriate for resettlement. The court further explained that even if the detainees had good reason to reject the resettlement offers, they still possessed no right to be released into the US:

    In seven separate enactments – five of which remain in force today – Congress has prohibited the expenditure of any funds to bring any Guantanamo detainee to the United States. Petitioners say these statutes, which clearly apply to them, violate the Suspension Clause of the Constitution. But the statutes suspend nothing: petitioners never had a constitutional right to be brought to this country and released. Petitioners also argue that the new statutes are unlawful bills of attainder. The statutory restrictions, which apply to all Guantanamo detainees, are not legislative punishments; they deprive petitioners of no right they already possessed.

The Constitution Project, a bipartisan think tank focusing on constitutional issues, immediately denounced the judgment. The group criticized the court’s ruling for being too broad on the issue of the judiciary’s role the release of detainees. Authoring a separate concurring opinion, Circuit Judge Judith Rogers, agreed with the Constitution Project’s assertion that the ruling was too broad, but held that there was no role for the judiciary in this case because the five Uighurs “hold the keys to their release from Guantanamo. All they must do is register their consent” to the proposed resettlement offers.

Italy agrees to take two more Guantanamo detainees
[JURIST] Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini announced Tuesday 25 May that Italy will take two more detainees from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The announcement came during a meeting the US officials from the National Security Council, including National Security Adviser James Jones. Italy’s Interior Ministry will review profiles of potential transferees before an agreement is made with US authorities on which detainees Italy will take. Italy hinted at the possibility that the selected detainees may be brought to Italy as cleared captives rather than face trial or additional jail time. Last year, Italy accepted three Tunisian detainees  from Guantanamo to stand trial for terrorism charges.

US lawmakers mull bill to increase scrutiny of Guantanamo lawyers
(JURIST) US lawmakers are currently considering a Department of Defense (DOD) appropriations bill containing a section that would allow increased investigation by the Pentagon into the practices of lawyers representing Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Section 1037 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 would allow the Pentagon’s inspector general to conduct investigations if there is reasonable suspicion that a Guantanamo lawyer is interfering with DOD detention facility operations, violating DOD policy, violating any law that is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the inspector general, or generating a “material risk” to a member of the armed forces. Results from these investigations are reported back to Congress.

North Africa countries move against al-Qaida

(UPI) Algeria has launched a major military campaign against al-Qaida and its fellow travelers and Morocco says it rounded up a terrorist cell amid a campaign by North African states aimed at crushing the jihadists.

The campaign, dubbed Operation Ennasr — Victory — followed an April 20 summit attended by the military chiefs of four regional states — Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger — at the oasis town of Tamanrasset deep in the Sahara Desert south of Algiers. They agreed to set up a joint military base there, with the quartet joined by Libya, Chad and Burkina Faso.

They will form a joint operational military committee with headquarters in the desert town to go after al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb — the Arabic name for North Africa — and Saharan drug smuggling and kidnap gangs associated with them.

The lack of surveillance and heavy transport aircraft, and especially helicopters, among the regional states has severely limited their counter-insurgency programs. This could impede the current plans that will cover the vast Sahara-Sahel region.

CIA deputy director Stephen Kappes profile

One of the chief executives of the extraordinary rendition programme, current deputy director of the CIA, and former senior officer in the CIA’s
former Directorate of Operations
, Stephen Kappes,  is profiled by Jeff Stein here. (H/T Scott Horton) Lots of fascinating details here:

When Obama’s intelligence transition team had visited Langley, it had gotten a pitch from Kappes and other CIA officials to “retain the option of reestablishing secret prisons and using aggressive interrogation methods,” according to an anecdote buried in a Washington Post story.

“It was one of the most deeply disturbing experiences I have had,” David Boren, the moderate Oklahoma Democrat and former Senate Intelligence committee chair who led the transition team, told the Post.

There’s an extraordinary piece of information about how the CIA got to know former high value detainee Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi.

In March 2003, leader Muammar Qaddafi signaled that he was ready to jump-start his on-again, off-again campaign to end his long diplomatic and commercial isolation, get off Washington’s list of terrorist states, and get back into the oil business with the West. Two years earlier, he’d dispatched one of his top operatives, Michigan State–educated Mousa Kousa, to a clandestine meeting in London with top CIA and British intelligence officials. Kousa carried with him the names of some of Osama bin Laden’s closest associates, including Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, a Libyan who would soon be the first major catch in the CIA’s pursuit of al-Qaeda.

Apparently Kappes, as superior of Jeff Castelli – the head of the CIA in Italy at that time – was ‘lacarated’ by a CIA accountability board for the disastrously planned Abu Omar operation.

In the article ex collegues state that Kappes probably stayed ‘miles away’ from dodgy interrogations, but, however, had to know—and approve of—virtually everything that went on in the counterterrorism program after 9/11.

“All decision making in the Directorate of Operations flowed through the ADDO,” or assistant deputy director of operations, the position Kappes held when the war on terror ramped up in 2002–04, says a former top official during that era. “And he was specifically in a position of decision making and influence and persuasion. . . . So any decision or voice he gave to a particular point of view would have been, and was, given great consideration.”

“So if he was opposed to [waterboarding] and made his position known,” the former official adds, “that would have carried great weight. After all, not only was he ADDO, but don’t forget that at the same time he was carrying water for the White House on the Libya stuff and had a personal relationship, he claimed, with the President. So if he was able to do what he did on Libya, he should have been able to persuade the same decision makers with respect to enhanced interrogation techniques if he actually was opposed to them.”

In another revelation to the death of CIA detainee Gul Rahman in the Salt Pit, sources of Stein say that Kappes “helped tailor the agency’s paper trail regarding the death of a detainee”.

According to two former officials who read a CIA inspector general’s report on the incident, Kappes coached the base chief—whose identity is being withheld at the request of the CIA—on how to respond to the agency’s investigators. They would report it as an accident.

“The ADDO’s direction to the field officer anticipated that something worse had occurred and so gave him directions on how to report the situation in his cable,” one of the former officials says.

“The ADDO basically told the officer, ‘Don’t put something in the report that can’t be proved or that you are going to have trouble explaining.’ In essence, the officer was told: Be careful what you put in your cable because the investigators are coming out there and they will pick your cable apart, and any discrepancies will be difficult to explain.”

As a result, the former official says, the Salt Pit officer’s cable was “minimalist in its reporting” on what happened to the prisoner. “It seems to me the ADDO should have been telling him, ‘Report the truth, don’t hold anything back, there’s an investigative team coming out, be honest and forthright. But that was not the message that was given to the chief of base by the ADDO.”

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano calls this account “shot through with errors and falsehoods.” He says, “It’s wrong—and it’s pathetic that someone would make such charges without the courage or decency to do so on the record. The agency’s past detention practices have been thoroughly and repeatedly reviewed, inside and outside the CIA. These greasy insinuations of a coverup are not only utterly off the mark; they’re totally below the belt.”

But the former official stands his ground: “Proof that it is an accurate recitation of the facts is the approach they take to confront it. They vaguely assert it has errors but don’t tell you what the errors are. They deny all aspects of it. Then they attack personally the sources. It’s their modus operandi: Admit nothing, deny everything, make counter-accusations.

“If they are so certain [of their version], then they should release the report and prove it. They can’t.”

Kappes is a ‘devout Catholic’, and a former commander of the Marine Coprs ‘Silent Drill Platoon’. He joined the CIA in 1981.

Maghreb & Sahel Terrorism: Addressing the Rising Threat from al-Qaeda & other Terrorists in North & West/Central Africa

Paper by Yonah Alexander, Director of the International Center for Terrorism Studies at the Potomac Institutesfor Policy Studies. Read it here.

There are four sections in this report. First, the introduction surveys recent terrorism studies with specific relevance to this paper and provides an overview of contemporary terrorism. Second, a section on Maghreb terrorism concisely covers the roots and current security situation in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania and its broader implications. Third, a review of terrorism in the Sahel analyzes the threats in Mali, Chad, and Niger and their broader implications. The fourth and concluding section outlines general observations on terrorism, details unilateral and multilateral counterterrorism strategies, and offers preliminary recommendations. The report also includes a select bibliography of sources and a Chronology of Maghreb and Sahel Terrorism since 9/11, which lays out a detailed timeline highlighting the gravity of this growing transnational terrorist threat.