Friday, September 10, 2010

Victims of extraordinary rendition cannot sue, US court rules.

Victims of George Bush's policy of "extraordinary rendition" will not be able to sue the companies which transported them according to a US court.

A California court has sided with the Obama administration, which argued that a case led by the British resident Binyam Mohamed against the aerospace giant Boeing was bound to reveal state secrets and sensitive intelligence information.

Legal supporters of Mr Mohamed raised uproar at the decision, which the judge in charge of the case said had presented a "painful conflict between human rights and national security".

Ben Wizner, attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued the case, called it "a sad day not only for the torture victims whose attempt to seek justice has been extinguished, but for all Americans who care about our nation's reputation in the world", and vowed to appeal to the US Supreme Court. "To date, not a single victim of the Bush administration's torture programme has had his day in court," the attorney said.

Reprieve, which campaigns for the human rights of prisoners, said the California court had "derailed another precious chance at a legal reckoning with the excesses of the war on terror". The group's executive director, Clare Algar, said: "Yet again, those responsible for torture and rendition have used 'state secrecy' to avoid facing up to their crimes in court."

There are times when I despair at the Obama administration, and this is one of those times.

The excuse of "state secrecy" has once again been used to deny victims their day in court. It appears that we can all agree that a historic wrong was committed against these men, but that the Obama administration are more concerned with preserving the secrets of Bush's thugs than ensuring that these men are ever compensated for the wrong which was done to them.

Ethiopian-born Mr Mohamed and fellow complainants accused Jepperson Dataplan, a Boeing subsidiary, of arranging illegal rendition flights for the CIA and sought damages. In a narrow 6-5 ruling that reversed a lower court decision, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said this was a "rare" case where national security concerns trumped the right to a trial.

Judge Raymond Fisher said: "We have tried our best to evaluate the competing claims of plaintiffs and the government and resolve that conflict according to the principles governing the state secrets doctrine set forth by the US Supreme Court."

The ruling stands in contrast to a UK Court of Appeals judgment earlier this year which forced disclosure of intelligence documents detailing how much MI5 knew about Mr Mohamed's case. And in a signal that the US appeals panel decision was a complex one, it ordered the government to pay the plaintiffs' legal costs.

Paying their costs is all well and good, but that still falls woefully short of compensating them for the horrors which they had to endure.

And let's never forget what was done to Binyam Mohamed:

They cut off my clothes with some kind of doctor's scalpel. I was naked. I tried to put on a brave face. But maybe I was going to be raped. Maybe they'd electrocute me. Maybe castrate me.

They took the scalpel to my right chest. It was only a small cut. Maybe an inch. At first I just screamed ... I was just shocked, I wasn't expecting ... Then they cut my left chest. This time I didn't want to scream because I knew it was coming.

One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my reaction. I was in agony. They must have done this 20 to 30 times, in maybe two hours. There was blood all over. "I told you I was going to teach you who's the man," [one] eventually said.

This is the behaviour which Obama is seeking to protect from the scrutiny of a court. It is shameful that he is doing this.

He has never lifted a finger to see that the Bush administration face any charges for the serious crimes which they committed, and now he moves to stop the victims from ever being compensated for the suffering which they have endured.

This is a stain on his presidency which even his most ardent supporters - and I count myself amongst them - will find impossible to remove. Obama should not be doing this. And those of us who supported him have every right to feel bitter disappointment at this betrayal of our ideals.


The New York Times get it right:

Torture Is a Crime, Not a Secret.

Click here for full article.


Anonymous said...

Referring to extraordinary renditions as Bush's policy is inaccurate. The policy began under Clinton and continues under Obama with congress fully complicit. It is therefore U.S. policy and not the policy of any one president.

Kel said...

If you want to get picky about it, it actually started under Reagan.

In September 1987, during the Reagan administration, the United States executed an extraordinary rendition, codenamed Goldenrod, in a joint FBI-CIA operation. Fawaz Yunis, who was wanted in the U.S. courts for his role in the hijacking of a Jordanian airliner that had American citizens onboard, was lured onto a boat off the coast of Cyprus and taken to international waters, where he was arrested.

"The Reagan administration did not undertake this kidnapping lightly. Then-FBI Director William Webster had opposed an earlier bid to snatch Yunis, arguing that the United States should not adopt the tactics of Israel, which had abducted Adolf Eichmann on a residential street in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1960... In 1984 and 1986, during a wave of terrorist attacks, Congress passed laws making air piracy and attacks on Americans abroad federal crimes. Ronald Reagan added teeth to these laws by signing a secret covert-action directive in 1986 that authorized the CIA to kidnap, anywhere abroad, foreigners wanted for terrorism. A new word entered the dictionary of U.S. foreign relations: rendition."

I agree that Clinton continued that policy.

The difference between extraordinary rendition under Reagan and Clinton, and the policy of the Bush administration, is that both Clinton and Reagan employed this practice against known terrorists. Bush widely expanded this and started carrying out this practice on anyone suspected of terrorism, often people who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

That is why I use the term "Bush's policy". You are assuming that Bush's policy is identical to Clinton and Reagan's. It is not. Neither Reagan's policy nor Clinton's would have led to the arrest and detention of Binyam Mohamed.