As the British government gets closer to extradition WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, the pantomime of “justice” cloaking his persecution in the regalia of the “rule of law” continues to unfold: a torture rendition by another name, inching forward as the world watches in real time.
On June 17, the U.K.’s Home Secretary Priti Patel approved the extradition of Assange to the United States, following the magistrate court’s orderThe transfer should be completed.
In this fundamentally skewed process, Assange’s capacity to meaningfully defend himself has been systematically assaulted by government smear campaigns; surveillanceof his lawyers; stultifying, arbitraryRules and restrictions obstructing him from participating in his own case — as documented in detail by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer in his recent book, The Trial of Julian Assange.
Previously, U.S. officials discussed “options” for kidnappingAssange and assassinating him by poison — tactics ultimately dismissed as “something we’d do in Afghanistan,” Egypt or Pakistan, but not the U.K. Therefore, they’ve opted for the more “civilized” alternative. Extradition is the alternative to kidnapping. Instead of assassination entombmentAssange is subject to a torturous U.S. carceral process. death-in-prisonsentence of 175 yearsThank you for exposing U.S. war crime in Afghanistan and Iraq.
How is this, in essence and effect, anything but the “legal” equivalent of an extraordinary rendition — defined by the American Civil Liberties Union as “the practice of capturing people and sending them to countries that use torture or abuse in interrogations”?
In “extraordinary” rendition, hundreds of “war on terror” detainees were secretly imprisoned and brutalizedIn CIA black sites around world. In “legalized” rendition, the torture chambers are not foreign black sites but prisons transformed into “Guantánamo Norths” within the U.S. itself.
In “extraordinary” rendition, victims were seized off the streetsExtrajudicially by CIA. In the “legalized” version, the condemned are delivered into U.S. hands through judicially sanctioned means such as extradition — abusive processes accorded an aura of legal legitimacy.
U.S. courts upheldEven when the targets have been identified, transfers to U.S. custody are possible abducted at gunpoint, severely beaten, burned, kept in secret offshore captivityfor weeks or even months (an increasingly popularPractice with U.S. Law Enforcement) and electrocuted in their feet and genitals: Acts that are violent and for which the courts have taken action refused to provideAny legal redress, because they took place outside the U.S.
In “legalized” rendition, as in “extraordinary” rendition, detainees have been subjected to intensive solitary confinement, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, sensory deprivation, extreme light and temperature exposure, and other mechanisms of deliberate “psychic demolition”; although the degree of isolation and control achieved in domestic U.S. prisons under regimes such as “special administrative measures” is in many ways even more totalizing than at Guantánamo Bay.
The UN Convention Against Torture states that any confinement in solitary confinement of more than 15 days is a violation. according toUN experts; but U.S. “supermax” facilitiesThese are specifically designedTo imprison hundreds in crushing isolation for years.
In extraordinary rendition, the victims were disappeared into “legal black holes.” In legalized rendition, the law itself is wielded as an instrument to dominate and torment.
As Richard Abel, distinguished professorThe University of California Los Angeles offers law degrees. observesIn his book, Law’s Trials: The Performance of Legal Institutions in the US “War on Terror”: “Conservatives have accused those defending the rule of law of committing ‘lawfare’: abusing law to obstruct the government’s essential and legitimate conduct of the ‘war on terror.’ But ‘lawfare’ better characterizes how the government itself has deployed law in waging that ‘war.’”
Ahmed Abu Ali, for instance, was extradited to the U.S. on “terrorism” accusations, after almost two yearsSaudi Arabian detention without charges. U.S. judges declared that his confession to Saudi interrogators was “voluntary” — “the court found believable the testimony of Saudi officers that they confined Abu Ali under reasonable conditions” — even in the face of the torture scars on his back, and the U.S. State Department’s own previous reports testifying to Saudi authorities’ use of “torture and abuse to obtain confessions from prisoners.”
Despite the court’s acknowledgement that “the independent evidence does not prove Abu Ali’s guilt of any crime,” he was sentencedThis was up to 30 years. This was subsequently increasedTo a life sentence on appeal. Ali continues to suffer this sentence in solitary confinement and secretiveness. so opaqueSince 17 years, his family has been unable to visit him.
Incredibly, U.S. courts have even managed to find that confessions were legally valid and uncoerced when procured at known U.S. torture centers like Bagram Air Base — “Afghanistan’s Abu Ghraib,” where detainees were hungFrom the ceiling shackledIn stressful positions, naked beatenAutopsies showed injuries similar to those sustained when a bus was running over them.
Aafia Siddiqui’s admission to attempting to shoot a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan was deemed “voluntary” by the U.S. Court of Appeals, on the basis of FBI agents’ assertions that “during the course of her stay at Bagram … the agents endeavored to meet Siddiqui’s needs as best they could.” She is now on year 12Federal penitentiary in a sentence of 86 years. Fort Worth, TexasThis is yet another example of how extralegal torture and legal punishment in the U.S. Criminal Legal System are two sides to the same coin.
Yemeni cleric Mohammed Al-Moayad — known as the “father of the poor” — was lured to Germany by a CIA entrapment operation promising donations to his charities, and then extradited to the U.S. on charges of funding “terrorist” groups.
Al-Moayad’s original sentence of 75 years was eventually overturned because of the gross unfairness of his trial, and he was deported back to Yemen — but not before he was made to survive five years of draconian solitary confinement during the drawn-out “due process” of his trial and appeal.
Whether you are looking for impositionThe possibility of prolonged pretrial isolation or the threatExtreme sentences: If defendants refuse to accept guilty plea agreements and risk going to court instead, the legal system itself is used. tighten the screws of suffering and force subjects to submit to officials’ will: the definition of tortureInternational law
Nizar Trabelsi, soccer player, has been held in unrelenting solitary confinement. awaiting trialFor the past nine years, since his extraditionIn 2013, the extradition was made from Belgium to the U.S. The European Court of Human Rights did not allow for extradition. findingIt would violate international law against inhuman or degrading treatment.
Under this regime of total isolation, psychologists report that Trabelsi has been hearing voices, hallucinating insects and animals, talking to the light in his cell (which is kept on 24 hours a day), and banging his head against the wall so hard that it bleeds: a condition considered “within normal limits” of mental health, according to the prison’s official medical assessments.
In the case of British “terrorism” extraditee Haroon Aswat, the U.K. went through the ritual of securing U.S. “assurances” that he would receive appropriate medical care for his diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, on the strength of which his extradition was approvedBy the European Court of Human Rights.
In reality, however, Aswat was held under extreme solitary confinement at the notorious Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York — described as even more oppressive than Gitmo by a prisoner who experienced both — and then transferred to a series of prisons across the U.S., where his mental health has so deteriorated that he made three suicide attempts in one year alone.
Perversely, U.S. prison officials cite Aswat’s present state of psychological instability — generated by his imprisonment — as a reason to continue keeping him imprisoned: a vicious carceral circle. He is. currentlyThe Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan (Oregon), where prisoners were deprived of their liberty psychiatric medicationsThese are just a few of the basic necessities that we need. drinking waterThis is not a toilet, it is maggot-free meal trays, bathrooms, health careAnd heating — an “excruciating experience,” in the recent wordsOne judge.
The U.S. also made it a habit of obtaining “assurances”Good treatment is required before releasing captives to extraordinary rendition centers abroad. “They say they are not abusing them, and that satisfies the legal requirement, but we all know they do,” as one U.S. official admitted. It seems the “assurances” given by the U.S. have the same value as those solicited by the U.S.: not to protect the incarcerated, but to provide a shield of plausible deniability for those responsible for their unmitigated torment.
While the U.S. industriously extracts “confessions” and dispenses “justice” to others around the world, the blatant evidence of its own misdeeds is perpetually expunged, explained away, exceptionalized, or (self-)excused.
For example, in September, a U.S. Court dismissedA lawsuit brought by former detainees. arbitrarily rounded up en masseAfter 9/11, isolated in tiny cells, beaten, shackled, stepped on, slammed face-firstPictures of the U.S. flag pinned to the walls gratuitously strip-searched and videotaped, forcibly sleep deprivedverbally and physically assaulted racist slurs, such as “camels,” “terrorists,” and “f***ing Muslims” by guards at a maximum-security prison in New York.
According to the court, permitting prison officials to be sued for such behaviors would not increase accountability, but on the contrary imperil it, because then the officials would simply “choose not to report abusive acts by correctional officers” at all. In other words, prison brutality is a matter of secrecy and impunity. Justice is out of reach.
Despite all this, the U.S. penal system is still considered a permissible destination for extradition. Greenlighting Assange’s transfer, the British High Court remarkably characterized the U.S.’s loophole-riddled “assurances” regarding the conditions of his imprisonment as “solemn undertakings, offered by one government to another … [which] the USA has in the past frequently provided, and invariably fulfilled.”
The courts refused to remove their presumption about U.S. beneficence. insist that “the graver the allegation [of U.S. violations], the stronger must be the evidence to prove it” — the exact opposite of the logic deployed to sweepingly criminalize alleged “terrorists” and other official enemies of the state.
From extraordinary rendition to mass incarceration, the U.S.’s “empire crimes” have been repeatedly exposed and copiously documented, yet immunized by courts as “state secrets” or “unproved.” This ongoing failure to recognize the “evidence” can only be described as torturously willful ignorance.