UN Special Rapporteur criticizes Thailand’s terrorism law

The UN Special Rapporteur was interviewed by the Bangkok Post and expressed concerns about the definition of terrorism, application of the International Security Act and the so-called blacklisting practice.

What is your main concern for Thailand?

The broad definition of terrorism is a matter of my concern. The Thai terrorism-related law in 2003 has a definition that goes too far, in my view, by classifying attacks against public and private property and infrastructure such as communications facilities as terrorism, while I take the view that it must be deadly or otherwise serious violence against members of the general population or segments of it.

You means the Thai law is not in line with the international principle?

There is no internationally agreed definition of terrorism. I’m in favour of narrowing [the definition] to only when it results in a huge loss of human life, terrorising or creating fear or compelling a government to do something.

Violence in the far South of Thailand has contained those elements you have mentioned. So are those incidents acts of terrorists?

Yes, if they are deadly attacks against civilians. But I’m not calling anybody terrorists. I am speaking about criteria.

But the Thai government did not call them terrorists. They were called insurgents, while those involved in anti-government protests in Bangkok were labelled terrorists. Shouldn’t this discrimination be a concern for human rights defenders?

Yes, it’s a concern for me that the definition of terrorism is used in a selective, political or abusive way as a tool for government to stigmatise whoever they don’t like, such as minorities, trade unions, religious movements, etc.

Thailand’s too broad definition [of terrorist acts] allows a selective, political application. I have information about the treatment of the red shirts and yellow shirts [People’s Alliance for Democracy] that gives rise to concern that there may be selective and politically motivated different treatment. I want to come to the country to look into it before making a conclusion.

Details emerge on role of private contractors in CIA secret prison system and CIA’s indemnity promise

The CIA agreed to cover at least $5 million in legal fees for psychologists Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who were the architects of the agency’s interrogation program and personally conducted dozens of waterboarding sessions on at least three terror detainees, former U.S. officials said. The revelation of the contractors’ involvement is the first known
confirmation of any individuals who conducted waterboarding at the
so-called black sites, underscoring just how much the agency relied on
outside help in its most sensitive interrogations.

It has long been known that psychologists Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen created the CIA’s interrogation program. But former U.S. intelligence officials said Mitchell and Jessen also repeatedly subjected terror suspects inside CIA-run secret prisons to waterboarding, a simulated drowning tactic. Mitchell and Jessen flew for instance to a secret CIA prison in Thailand to oversee Zubaydah’s interrogation. The pair waterboarded Zubaydah 83 times, according to previously released records and former intelligence officials. Mitchell and Jessen did the bulk of the work, claiming they were the only ones who knew how to apply the techniques properly, the former officials said.

The psychologists also waterboarded USS Cole bombing plotter Abd
al-Nashiri (ahbd al-nuh-SHEE’-ree) twice in Thailand, according to
former intelligence officials.

The role of Mitchell and Jessen in the interrogation of confessed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a bit murkier.

At least one other interrogator was involved in those sessions, with
the company providing support, a former official said. Mohammed was
waterboarded 183 times in Poland in 2003, according to documents and
former intelligence officials.

In at least two instances, Mitchell and Jessen pushed back. During
Zubaydah’s interrogation, the psychologists argued he had endured enough
waterboarding, believing they had reached the point of “diminishing
returns.” But CIA superiors told them to press forward, two former
officials said.

In another case, Mitchell and Jessen successfully argued against
waterboarding admitted terrorist Ramzi Binalshibh in Poland, the
official said.

Normally, CIA officers buy insurance to cover possible legal bills. It costs about $300 a year for $1 million in coverage.
The Mitchell and Jessen arrangement, known as an “indemnity promise,” was structured differently. Unlike CIA officers, whose identities are classified, Mitchell and Jessen were public citizens who received some of the earliest scrutiny by reporters and lawmakers. The two wanted more protection. On top of the waterboarding case, Mitchell and Jessen also needed lawyers to help navigate the Justice Department’s investigation into the destruction of CIA interrogation videos.

Mitchell and Jessen were recorded interrogating Zubaydah and al-Nashiri and were eager to see those tapes destroyed, fearing their release would jeopardize their safety, former officials and others close to the matter said.

They often contacted senior CIA officials, urging them to destroy the tapes and asking what was taking so long, said a person familiar with the Durham investigation who insisted on anonymity because the case’s details remain sensitive. Finally the CIA’s top clandestine officer, Jose Rodriguez, made the decision to destroy the tapes in November 2005.

Durham investigated whether that was a crime. He subpoenaed Mitchell, Jessen & Associates last year, looking for calendars, e-mails and phone records showing contact between the contractors and Rodriguez or his chief of staff, according to a federal subpoena. They were ordered to appear before a grand jury in northern Virginia in August 2009.

Last month, Durham closed the tapes destruction investigation without filing charges.

Thailand to indict top Red Shirts for terrorism

Thai prosecutors said Wednesday they would indict 19 leaders and supporters of the anti-government “Red Shirt” movement on terrorism charges in connection with recent political unrest. They include three key protest leaders — Red Shirt chairman Veera Musikapong, opposition lawmaker Jatuporn Prompan and Kokaew Pikulthong, who stood as an opposition candidate in a recent Bangkok by-election.

The suspects have already been arrested and charged and many have been held in detention for almost three months.

“Evidence from investigators shows that there are sufficient grounds to indict the suspects on terrorism charges,” the Office of Attorney General said in a statement.

Thai protest leaders charged with terrorism

Eleven leaders of bloody, anti-government protests could face the death penalty after being charged Tuesday with terrorism. The Criminal Court denied bail  for the 11 who were taken to a Bangkok prison after being charged with committing, threatening to commit and supporting terrorist acts. While the charges carry a maximum penalty of death, executions are rare in Thailand.

The leaders, including Veera Musikapong and Nattawut Saikua, had been  detained since surrendering to the government on May 19 following weeks of clashes between so-called Red Shirt protesters and security forces in which nearly 90 people were killed and more than 1,400 injured.