Sunday, June 17, 2007

Globally Disappeared

Questions've been raised about the accuracy vel non of the term "Global War on Terror" almost since its inception. Is it correct, many ask, to label the campaign a "war"? Can one fight "terror"? Or ought the campaign target, rather, acts of terrorism? Though less has been said about the 1st word, 2 recent reports on persons who've been ghosted into secret detention counsel more consideration of the campaign's "global" nature.
Six NGOS -- Amnesty International, Cageprisoners, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law, Human Rights Watch, and Reprieve -- focus "Off the Record" on U.S. conduct. The report names more than 3 dozen persons -- including 1 woman and her 3 children, aged 6 months to 7 years -- whom they believe have been detained in secret. "'Enforced disappearances are illegal, regardless of who carries them out,'" said NYU's Meg Satterthwaite on release of the report, which points to violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and of the Convention Against Torture, to which the United States is party, as well as the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance opened for signature in February.
As remarkable as the role of the United States in in this account is the involvement of intelligence agencies from other states. Nearly 2/3 of the seizures cited occurred in Pakistan, where the issue of disappearance has sparked unrest. Other countries of capture: Somalia, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Sudan, and Georgia.
That last country, of course, is in Europe -- and a report to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe indicates that Georgia was by no means the only European state involved in secret detention. Rapporteur Dick Marty named Poland and Romania as the location of CIA "black sites" for detainees believed to have high intelligence value. Neither country acted alone, in Marty's opinion; to the contrary, he concluded that they and other states aided the U.S. effort within the framework of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization "platform" agreement reached just weeks after the 9/11 attack (¶¶ 72-111). Marty attributed his ability to ferret out facts that states want to keep secret to the "dynamics of truth" -- often, a sense among Europeans that since President George W. Bush conceded the existence of the program he said he'd keep secret, they might as well tell the story, under promise of anonymity, from their perspective. He called for further inquiry, greater accountability, and a return to the rule of law:

We are fully aware of the seriousness of the terrorist threat and the danger it poses to our societies. ... The fight against terrorism must not serve as an excuse for systematic recourse to illegal acts, massive violation of fundamental human rights and contempt for the rule of law. ... [H]aving recourse to abuse and illegal acts actually amounts to a resounding failure of our system and plays right into the hands of the criminals who seek to destroy our societies through terror. ... [I]n the process, we give these criminals a degree of legitimacy -- that of fighting an unfair system .... (¶ 14)

(Next counterterrorism update: the status of accountability, at home and abroad.)

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