[dehai-news] Crossedcrocodiles.wordpress.com: Guantanamo in Ethiopia

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Wed Feb 18 2009 - 06:37:16 EST

Guantanamo in Ethiopia

February 18, 2009

In January 2007, after the Ethiopian invasion, and US bombing of Somalia, at
least 85 different people from at least 25 countries, including the US, were
part of Africa’s first mass rendition of prisoners. At least 18 of these
were children under the age of 15. They were people trying to flee the
fighting in Somalia by crossing into Kenya, and were arrested by the
Kenyans. They were then held without charge. They were flown by Kenya to
Somalia, and were taken on from there to Ethiopia. In Ethiopia they were
subjected to lengthy interrogations by Americans, who also took DNA samples
from them. They were <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7644989.stm>
questioned repeatedly, for months.

“A week after we arrived we were interrogated by whites - Americans,
British, I was interrogated for weeks,” Salim says.

“They had a file which was said to implicate me in the Kenyan bombings. So I
was taken away and was placed in isolation for two months - both my hands
and legs were shackled.

“The interrogations went on for five months. Always the same questions about
the Nairobi bombings.”

Former detainees have also told the BBC they were questioned by US agents.
One said he was beaten by Americans.

Two others said they were threatened and told that if they did not
co-operate they could face ill treatment at the hands of Ethiopian guards.

All said they believed it was the Americans and not the Ethiopians
controlling their detention and interrogation.

Human rights groups in the region say this was a new form of extraordinary

The US did not play an overt role in the transportation or detention of
suspects as it has in the rendition of other suspected terrorists, but it
nevertheless controlled their interrogation and treatment.

Nobody know for certain how many people have been renditioned to Ethiopia.
The number 85 above is based on the manifests of three flights out of Kenya
on one night. The wife of Salim, quoted above was also arrested.

They were all:

… part of the first mass “renditions” in Africa, where prisoners accused of
supporting terrorists in Somalia were secretly transferred from country to
country for interrogation outside the boundaries of domestic or
international law.

Along with at least 85 others from 20 countries, she was flown back to
Somalia - a war zone with no effective government or law - and on to
Ethiopia. There, American intelligence agents joined the interrogations -
photographing and taking DNA samples, even from the children.

On April 7, three months after her arrest, Ms Ahmed was released. Salim
Awadh Salim, her husband and father of her unborn baby, is still in
detention. So, too, are 78 of the other passengers aboard the three secret
rendition flights. At least 18 are children under 15.

Ethiopia admits holding 36 other “suspected international terrorists” but
has refused to give the Red Cross access to them. The rest of the “ghost
plane” passengers are missing.

On April 7 Ms Ahmed was put on a flight to Kilimanjaro. Her escort promised
that her husband and the others would be released with a week.

That was in April 2007. Her husband is still in prison in Ethiopia, he has
not been charged, and has not appeared before a court. She was briefly able
to talk to him when he <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7644989.stm> got
access to a cellphone:

“The conditions are really bad: we don’t have enough food, we don’t have
enough access to medicine. The cell is wet,” he says.

“We sleep on the floor rather than the sodden mattresses. One of the other
prisoners was beaten so badly he’s had his leg broken.”

Another person still languishing in an Ethiopian jail is Canadian citizen
Bashir Makhtal. His cousin has been working tirelessly to get him back, and
to pressure the Canadian government to do something. So far the Canadian
government seems to be dragging its feet. His cousin even created a website
to keep people informed, and to try to free him, www.makhtal.org

rld+still+2006/1240817/story.html?id=1240817> Bashir Makhtal and about 100
other foreigners were swept up in “Africa’s Guantanamo,” a little-known
chapter of the U.S.-led war on terror in which a series of illegal
“rendition” flights took terror suspects from Kenya to Ethiopia, one of the
key allies of the U.S. in the Horn of Africa.

Once in Addis Ababa, the detainees were interrogated by security officials,
including agents of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. In April 2007,
Ethiopia finally admitted having Bashir and the others, but refused to allow
Canadian diplomats to see him. Bashir, however, said plenty through smuggled
letters and messages. In his letter of May 2007, he says that he was beaten
and forced to record a false confession to various crimes. Two months after
that, according to Human Rights Watch, a fellow detainee saw Bashir briefly
and reported that “he was limping. He had a deep cut in one of his legs. He
looked weak. He looked so famished.”

There are no rights in Ethiopian jails.

 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7644989.stm> Al Amin Kimathi believes
Ethiopia was seen as the ideal destination.

“It was the most natural place to take anyone looking for a site to go and
torture and to extract confessions. Ethiopia allows torture of detainees.
And that is the modus operandi in renditions.”

The US is not only not helping, it is
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7644989.stm> actively hindering:

More than a year and a half after the renditions, the US government still
refuses to respond to questions on the alleged US role.

“I have no knowledge of it nor as official policy can I comment on such
matters,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazer told the

In 2006 a French woman who was living in Addis left Ethiopia. She had been
friends with the opposition politicians. The leadership of the opposition
party was jailed in 2005. She visited some of them in prison and took the
pictures above. <http://nazret.com/blog/index.php?blog=9> She describes the

Kaliti is a huge waste ground full of big shacks of iron sheet that look
built at random. During the rainy season it is muddy, damp and cold. You are
not allowed to check the conditions in which the prisoners are living. Yet
some views from outside – see below [above] - give a disastrous impression.…

According to my experience of stable manager iron sheet shacks are not
suitable for horses, they are cold in winter, hot in summer and likely to
bring contagious diseases. … where there are iron sheet and food, there are
rats… and big ones … flees and parasites prosper.…

I was surprised to hear than Woizero Birtukan, for example, was sharing a
cell with 70 other female detainees.

There is a network of prisons in Ethiopia.
<http://nazret.com/blog/index.php?blog=9&page=1&paged=6> She interviews a
friend in Maeklawi prison:

AF: So, how was Maeklawi? Tell me how it looks like… inside…

AA: Conditions are terrible. We were more than 200 prisoners there and only
one of us was allowed to go to the hospital daily.
AF: What kind of diseases detainees are suffering of?

AA: You know, coughing, diarrhea… The food is… Well, I have been traveling
all around Ethiopia but never saw THAT kind of injera. I could not identify
the place it came from. I did not eat it. I had my own food.

AF: I guess they need medical care for being beaten too, no?

AA: Oh yes, of course… broken legs, broken hands…

AF: Did they dare touching you?

AA: No, I was protected because you were coming but others were not that
lucky. One of the prisoners even told me they used electric shocks.

And on leaving Ethiopia <http://nazret.com/blog/index.php?blog=9> she
writes that it is:

… a police state in which [to] freely express an opinion endangers your life
or drives you to prison, a country where young protestors are beaten and
shot. I left a jail. … A few days before my departure, a young man told me:
“Tell them, tell them how it is to live here, tell them what we endure.”

 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/apr/28/comment.comment> Salim
Lone writes:

Human Rights Watch has documented how Kenya and Ethiopia had turned this
region into Africa’s own version of Guantánamo Bay, replete with
kidnappings, extraordinary renditions, secret prisons and large numbers of
“disappeared”: a project that carries the Made in America label. Allowing
free rein to such comprehensive lawlessness is a stain on all those who
might have, at a minimum, curtailed it.

These people languishing in Ethiopian jails are caught in something large
and evil. This week, on February 16, 2009:

 <http://ejp.icj.org/hearing2.php3?id_article=167&lang=en> In one of the
most extensive studies of counter-terrorism and human rights yet undertaken,
an independent panel of eminent judges and lawyers today presents alarming
findings about the impact of counter-terrorism policies worldwide and calls
for remedial action. The Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism,
Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, established by the International
Commission of Jurists (ICJ), has based its report “Assessing Damage, Urging
Action” on sixteen hearings covering more than forty countries in all
regions of the world.

“In the course of this inquiry, we have been shocked by the extent of the
damage done over the past seven years by excessive or abusive
counter-terrorism measures in a wide range of countries around the world.
Many governments, ignoring the lessons of history, have allowed themselves
to be rushed into hasty responses to terrorism that have undermined
cherished values and violated human rights. The result is a serious threat
to the integrity of the international human rights legal framework,” said
Justice Arthur Chaskalson, the Chair of the Panel, former Chief Justice of
South Africa and first President of the South African Constitutional Court.

The report illustrates the consequences of notorious counter-terrorism
practices such as torture, disappearances, arbitrary and secret detention,
unfair trials, and persistent impunity for gross human rights violations in
many parts of the world. The Panel warns of the danger that exceptional
“temporary” counter-terrorism measures are becoming permanent features of
law and practice, including in democratic societies. The Panel urges that
the present political climate may provide one of the last chances for a
concerted international effort to take remedial measures and restore
long-standing international norms. The change in US administration provides
a unique opportunity for change.

“Seven years after 9/11 it is time to take stock and to repeal abusive laws
and policies enacted in recent years. Human rights and international
humanitarian law provide a strong and flexible framework to address
terrorist threats,” said Mary Robinson, former United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights, former President of Ireland and current
President of the ICJ. “It is now absolutely essential that all states
restore their commitment to human rights and that the United Nations takes
on a leadership role in this process. If we fail to act now, the damage to
international law risks becoming permanent”, she added.

The report calls for the rejection of the “war on terror” paradigm and for a
full repudiation of the policies grounded in it.


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