Friday, June 08, 2007

America, Egypt, Italy and the Kidnapping Business

The Middle East Times begins its report today with the line "America is in the kidnapping business." The line has shock value, but it's accuracy is getting harder to deny. All of this unfortunately is making the work of human rights activists in Egypt more difficult.

Three different events occurred this week to bring the kidnapping business into light. One, Amnesty International and a number of other HR organizations issued a joint statement citing evidence that 39 people had been "disappeared" by the CIA. It's not just terror suspects. Our documentation indicates that suspects' relatives, including wives and children as young as seven, have been held in secret detention.

Second, in Italy this week, a number of Italian intelligence agents and 26 CIA agents went on trial for the kidnapping of Egyptian national Abu Omar. Omar was taken to Egypt, held in detention for almost four years and tortured on several occasions before being released. Here's the BBC report on the first day of the trial.

Finally, today the European Union released its report on CIA jails in Europe. Investigators uncovered proof that jails in Poland and Romania held secret detainees outside of the legal system. Here's Amnesty's reponse to the report.

Together, the picture is painted of a system where individuals, both suspect and innocent, are subject to kidnapping and secret detention with no access to legal rights or to anyone outside of the prison for that fact. It's a system that has been tried in many places before, such as Egypt, and frankly I don't believe it's been all that effective, or at least any more effective than traditional and standard legal techniques. What is clear is that when it comes time to taking a stand against torture, against illegal and prolonged detention and against secret trials, a country that builds the system as described in these three reports doesn't have much credibility... or effectiveness.

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