So, my brothers, how is it that we do not understand that we have better things to do than to follow that same Europe? That same Europe where they were never done talking of Man, and where they never stopped proclaiming that they were only anxious for the welfare of Man: today we know with what sufferings humanity has paid for every one of their triumphs of the mind…When I search for Man in the technique and the style of Europe, I see only a succession of negations of man, and an avalanche of murders.
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched Of The Earth Chapter Six
Amnesty International has just released a new report called Open Secret: Mounting Evidence of Europe’s Complicity In Rendition & Secret Detention which clearly identifies the European nations that have collaborated with the Americans on this program. That list, as described in Amnesty International’s page introducing the release of the report;
- Sweden: charged with failing to investigate fully the renditions at the hands of the CIA in December 2001 of Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zari to Egypt, where the men reported that they were tortured. Despite having awarded the men compensation, the government has also failed to provide the men with full and effective redress.
Since Sweden is my current home, I will point out this fact from the Executive Summary of the report:
..the UN Committee against Torture and UN Human Rights Committee both held that Sweden had violated the prohibition on torture by its involvement in the men’s transfers to Egypt and that Egypt’s diplomatic assurances did not provide a sufficient safeguard against that manifest risk of torture and other illtreatment.
Some other European nation that have actively participated in the rendition and illegal detention program include such luminaries as:
- Germany: complicit in the secret detention of Muhammad Zammar, interrogated by German agents while held in secret detention in Syria in November 2002. Germans officials acknowledged that torture occurred in Syrian prisons. He has yet to receive justice, despite a German parliamentary inquiry into his and others’ claims of abuse.
- Macedonia: alleged to have assisted in the unlawful detention and subsequent CIA-led rendition to Afghanistan of German national Khaled el-Masri, who has taken the against Macedonia before the European Court of Human Rights: the first time this court is likely to consider a case involving a Council of Europe member state’s alleged complicity in the CIA programmes. Macedonia continues to deny that its agents acted unlawfully.
Macedonia is also infamous for the real murder of alleged Al-Qaeda operatives that were later revealed to be hapless Pakistani illegal immigrants who had smuggled themselves into the country and found themselves in custody. As Greg Bearup of The Guardian reported back in 2004:
Several senior police officers have been charged with murder. After a lengthy investigation, the Macedonian authorities have admitted that the six Pakistanis and one Indian were simply illegal immigrants, trying to get to Greece to find work on the Olympic sites, or anywhere else. “This was the act of a sick mind,” Mirjana Konteska, a Macedonian official, said. “They lost their lives in a stage murder [so the police and officials] could present themselves as participants in the war against terror.”
European governments have been complicit in acts that are blatant crimes against humanity and in clear violation of international law all under the all-encompassing and all-obfuscating umbrella of the ‘war against terror’. While participating in our (America’s) illegal and unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ostensibly fought to bring ‘democracy’, and ‘civility’ to ‘the other’ – justifications that continue to be used to excuse our continuing occupation of these countries, European governments have been busy contorting the fundamental laws of democracy and civility within their own borders. The silence in the face of the open violation of our own laws is shocking and it is time to open a broader debate on the question. It becomes imperative to bring this to the forefront of our national debates and perhaps remind ourselves than it is our own leaders, politicians, pundits and intellectuals – hiding behind the cheap tinsel of patriotism and the easy bludgeon of the fear of ‘Islam, who are the greatest dangers to our societies and to any set of ‘values’ we so claim to hold dear.
At this very moment the American’s are getting away with torture and crimes of war, as the Slate Magazine writer Dahlia Lithwick so wonderfully pointed out in a piece called Interrogation Nation:
In an America in which the former president can boast on television that he approved the water-boarding of U.S. prisoners, it can hardly be a shock that following a lengthy investigation, no criminal charges will be filed against those who destroyed the evidence of CIA abuse of prisoners Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.* We keep waiting breathlessly for someone, somewhere, to have a day of reckoning over the prisoners we tortured in the wake of 9/11, without recognizing that there is no bag man to be found and that therefore we are all the bag man.
Our former president is making the rounds of the tv-talk shows promoting his color-by-number memoirs, and openly bragging about having sanctioned the use of torture. By not condemning and prosecuting those throughout the chain of command who have sanctioned these unjust, inhumane and clearly criminal acts, we are leaving the door open to their continued use, and our (citizens) continued participation in these crimes. As Lithwick says:
Doing nothing about torture is, at this point, pretty much the same as voting for it. We are all water-boarders now.
But the likelihood is small, certainly in the USA, where even an appropriate, constitutionally defined right to a free and fair civil trial is being denied to America’s detainees and the citizen ‘accused’, forcing us towards an untenable and unjust social, legal and political order. As Glenn Greenwald points out in a new piece The ‘Pro-Constitution = Pro-Terrorist’ Canard :
How could it ever “cross a line” for a civil liberties lawyer to represent an American citizen in an American court arguing that the Government is transgressing the limits of the U.S. Constitution? The only thing that crosses a line is to insinuate that there’s something improper about that.
The contortions of our ideals, the mutations of our justice system, the bending of our principles, and the jettisoning of our common-sense imply a weakening of the very idea of our societies. Our paranoia about ‘the other’, and the ease with which we have chosen the expedient over the essential can only damage our own way of life, our own society and our own laws. Sooner or later – in the USA we can argue that it is sooner, these same contortions, these same mutations will be used against the citizens themselves. As the al-Awlaki case already proves.
Can we in Europe do better? Do we believe that these collaborations make any sense? And if we do, what is our calculus?