Update: Prisoners’ Hunger Strike Suspended; Solidarity and Action Needed for Struggle to Come

An update from the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Samidoun, on the hunger strike that was supposed to take place from today:

Header from SamidounPalestinian prisoners in Israeli jails announced today, 11 August, that hundreds of prisoners affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who had planned to launch a hunger strike today, are suspending their planned strike after a concession from Israeli prison administration cancelling the order banning family visits for imprisoned Palestinian leader and PFLP General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat. The Palestinian prisoners are still calling for action – click here to find out what you can do.

The PFLP prisoners issued a statement noting that the struggle of the prisoners is far from over, and that they along with all other Palestinian factions inside the prison are engaged in united planning for the next steps of struggle:

Following the announcement of the planned hunger strike to begin today, the Israeli Prison Service was forced to rescind the order prohibiting imprisoned PFLP General Secretary, Comrade Ahmad Sa’adat from family visits. The first visit with his family will take place this month and the next in September, and there is a final agreement with the comrades in the PFLP’s prison branch to cancel this order on a permanent basis.

The PFLP branch in the prisons of the occupation emphasizes that the struggle inside the prisons is continuing and escalating, and that it is working in coordination with all Palestinian factions in the prisons, uniting all Palestinian prisoners, for the next stages of struggle to secure all of our demands and improve the circumstances of life for the prisoners. Therefore, the prison branch of the PFLP has suspended its decision to go on hunger strike as one faction, and will join together with the entire Palestinian prisoners’ national movement in the protest steps to come.

The struggle of Palestinian prisoners remains critical and international action is necessary. This concession was only attained because of the willingness of Palestinian prisoners to put their bodies on the line to confront injustice, and because of the eyes of the Palestinian people and the world on the struggle of the prisoners. Today, the united prisoners’ movement is escalating its struggle and calling for action, solidarity organizing and escalation of boycott to achieve its goals.

In particular, the situation of Palestinian lawyer and hunger striker, Muhammad Allan, 31, held in administrative detention without charge or trial since November 2014 is particularly critical and demands international action and solidarity. Allan has been on hunger strike for 56 days and is shackled hand and foot to his hospital bed in Barzilai hospital. He is being threatened with force-feeding – cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment amounting to torture – and becoming the first victim of the new force-feeding law passed by the Knesset last month, condemned by UN officials, the Israeli Medical Association, the World Health Organization and human rights advocates. His medical situation is dire, and international action can help to not only save his life but gain his freedom and that of his fellow over 5750 Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network notes that Palestinian prisoners’ organizations are working together to determine the next phase of struggle. The Israeli prison administration and occupation forces exert great efforts to divide Palestinian prisoners and their demands from one another by targeting particular Palestinian political factions – first one, then another. In light of this situation, Palestinian prisoners know that united action is always the most effective means of struggle. We also must stay on high alert, as we – and the prisoners’ movement – are well aware that Israeli occupation forces routinely violate the agreements obtained through Palestinian prisoners’ struggle. Sudden changes in the situation and the dynamics inside the prisons due to Israeli attacks and violations of prisoners’ rights should be expected – and we must be prepared to mobilize and respond accordingly.

The Palestinian prisoners’ movement is acutely aware of its conditions within the prisons of the occupation; every day, they live in confrontation with an occupier which routinely violates their rights, and yet they continue to organize and struggle. Our task must be not only to amplify their voice but to build a loud, broad and strong movement to achieve the just demands of the prisoners; their liberation; and the cause for which they struggle – the liberation of Palestine.

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CCR Endorses New Report Showing Evidence of Bush Administration Human Experimentation on Men in CIA Secret Detention

Center for Constitutional Rights Press Release:

Violations of Nuremburg Code and Role of Health Professionals in Secret Torture Program Require Criminal Investigation

CCR Demands New Intra-Agency Interrogation Unit Disclose Nature of “Scientific Research” Into Questioning of Suspects

Contact: press@ccrjustice.org

June 7, 2010, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement in response to a new report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program. Download the report at http://phrtorturepapers.org/.

Physicians for Human Rights has produced a powerful analysis of declassified documents which provide evidence that doctors and officials performed human experimentation and research on individuals in CIA detention, in violation of the Nuremberg Code. From calibrating sleep deprivation to refining waterboarding practices, the released documents indicate that health professionals illegally experimented on individuals in CIA secret detention. Looking at the evidence through this lens opens new and important avenues for the prosecution of torturers, particularly health professionals implicated in the creation of the torture program.

The health professionals monitored and adjusted various methods such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and the combined use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques as interrogators performed them repeatedly on individuals in the CIA’s secret detention program. Part of the health professionals’ work appears to have been researching the individuals’ susceptibility to severe pain. By doing so, the health professionals appear to have used their medical expertise to attempt to immunize interrogators from future criminal liability by allowing interrogators to claim they did not to cross the line of “severe physical and mental pain.” The health professionals helped in the effort to provide legal cover for U.S. torture practices.

The Center for Constitutional Rights represents a number of men who are or were detained by the United States, including men who died in the custody of the Department of Defense at Guantánamo under suspicious circumstances and whose families have brought an action against in the United States in al Zahrani v. Obama.

CCR has long called for accountability for torture. CCR joins PHR’s call for the Attorney General to engage in a criminal investigation of illegal human experimentation and research on men in CIA detention, and further calls for investigation into possible experiments performed on men in military detention at Guantánamo and elsewhere, as well.

CCR also demands that the new intra-agency interrogation unit that was disclosed in February 2010 explain the nature of the “scientific research” it is conducting to improve the questioning of suspects. The current government may attempt to take advantage of ambiguity in Appendix M of the Army Field Manual, added by the Bush administration and left in place by the Obama administration, to justify the ongoing use of some “enhanced” interrogation techniques such as sleep deprivation in the new interrogation guidelines. Any ongoing unlawful human experimentation to “perfect” such techniques must immediately cease.

It is critical that we scrutinize forwarding-looking practices and policies as well as those of the recent past.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last eight years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with an individual transferred from CIA “ghost detention” to Guantanamo. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 30 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

Secret prison revealed in Baghdad

Reporting from Baghdad
By Ned Parker
April 19, 2010

Hundreds of Sunni men disappeared for months into a secret Baghdad prison under the jurisdiction of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s military office, where many were routinely tortured until the country’s Human Rights Ministry gained access to the facility, Iraqi officials say.

The men were detained by the Iraqi army in October in sweeps targeting Sunni groups in Nineveh province, a stronghold of the group Al Qaeda in Iraq and other militants in the north. The provincial governor alleged at the time that ordinary citizens had been detained as well, often without a warrant.

Worried that courts would order the detainees’ release, security forces obtained a court order and transferred them to Baghdad, where they were held in isolation. Human rights officials learned of the facility in March from family members searching for missing relatives.

Revelation of the secret prison could worsen tensions at a highly sensitive moment in Iraq. As U.S. troops are withdrawing, Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, and other political officials are negotiating the formation of a new government. Including minority Sunni Arabs is considered by many to be key to preventing a return of widespread sectarian violence. Already there has been an increase in attacks by Al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni extremist group.

The alleged brutal treatment of prisoners at the facility raised concerns that the country could drift back to its authoritarian past.

Commanders initially resisted efforts to inspect the prison but relented and allowed visits by two teams of inspectors, including Human Rights Minister Wijdan Salim. Inspectors said they found that the 431 prisoners had been subjected to appalling conditions and quoted prisoners as saying that one of them, a former colonel in President Saddam Hussein’s army, had died in January as a result of torture.

“More than 100 were tortured. There were a lot of marks on their bodies,” said an Iraqi official familiar with the inspections. “They beat people, they used electricity. They suffocated them with plastic bags, and different methods.”

An internal U.S. Embassy report quotes Salim as saying that prisoners had told her they were handcuffed for three to four hours at a time in stress positions or sodomized.

“One prisoner told her that he had been raped on a daily basis, another showed her his undergarments, which were entirely bloodstained,” the memo reads.

Some described guards extorting as much as $1,000 from prisoners who wanted to phone their families, the memo said.

Maliki vowed to shut down the prison and ordered the arrest of the officers working there after Salim presented him with a report this month. Since then, 75 detainees have been freed and an additional 275 transferred to regular jails, Iraqi officials said. Maliki said in an interview that he had been unaware of the abuses. He said the prisoners had been sent to Baghdad because of concerns about corruption in Mosul.

“The prime minister cannot be responsible for all the behavior of his soldiers and staff,” said Salim, praising Maliki’s willingness to root out abuses. Salim, a Chaldean Christian, ran for parliament in last month’s elections on Maliki’s Shiite-dominated list.

Maliki defended his use of special prisons and an elite military force that answers only to him; his supporters say he has had no choice because of Iraq’s precarious security situation. Maliki told The Times that he was committed to stamping out torture — which he blamed on his enemies.

“Our reforms continue, and we have the Human Rights Ministry to monitor this,” he said. “We will hold accountable anybody who was proven involved in such acts.”

But Maliki’s critics say the network of special military units with their own investigative judges and interrogators are a threat to Iraq’s fragile democracy. They question how Maliki could not have known what was going on at the facility, and say that regardless, he is responsible for what happened there.

“The prison is Maliki’s becauseit’s not under the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Justice or Ministry of Interior officially,” said one Iraqi security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

The revelations echoed those at the beginning of Iraq’s sectarian war. In late 2005, the U.S. military found a secret prison in an Interior Ministry bunker where Sunnis rounded up in police sweeps were held.

The latest episode, the U.S. Embassy report warns, could exacerbate tensions between Iraq’s Shiite majority and Sunnis even with the facility closed.

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