Cheney Stands by the Use of Waterboarding Tactics

Cheney Stands by the Use of Waterboarding Tactics

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – Former Vice President Dick Cheney told the Associated Press this week that he has “no regrets” about waterboarding and the other harsh interrogation tactics used during his time in office.  After September 11, 2001, the government, specifically the CIA, used controversial waterboarding policies against “high value detainees” to extract important information.

Vice President Dick Cheney during his time in office. (Image Courtesy of The New York Times)
Vice President Dick Cheney during his time in office. (Image Courtesy of The New York Times)

Waterboarding is a highly criticized and widely debated technique used to obtain information from enemies or detainees.  The process involves pouring water over the mouth and nose of an immobile individual, simulating the feeling of drowning.  Along with profound psychological damage, waterboarding can cause lung damage, brain damage, dry drowning, and in extreme cases, death.

President Bush and his colleagues argued that this was not a form of torture, while many still believe that it is.  The CIA admitted to using waterboarding techniques post-September 11 attacks.  Since then, President Obama has banned the use of such tactics.

In his interview with NBC, former Vice President Cheney says that he stands by the use of waterboarding and would use it again if the situation arose.  “I would strongly support using it again if we had high value detainee and that was the only way we could get him to talk.”

Cheney’s recent schedule has been full of media appearances, promoting his new book, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” scheduled to hit bookstores Tuesday, August 30.  The book unleashes a fury of inside information from Cheney’s time in the White House with then President, George W. Bush.  Cheney admitted that the memoir will “have heads exploding all over Washington,” as reported in The Los Angeles Times.  The memoir will discuss Cheney’s health, the September 11 attacks, and his thoughts on George W. Bush, among other topics.

In addition to his support for waterboarding, Cheney admits to urging President Bush to bomb a nuclear plant in Syria, as reported by The New York Times.  He was the lone voice proposing the attack, citing the fact that “not a single hand went up around the room” when asked by President Bush who agreed with Vice President Cheney.

Overall, the book defends the Bush administration’s decision to use “tough interrogations” – refusing to classify such techniques as torture, according to The New York Times.  Cheney stands by the use of such techniques suggesting that the CIA extracted information that saved lives.

Cheney’s full interview with NBC Dateline will air Monday, August 29 at 10:00 p.m., Eastern Time, discussing his thoughts on waterboarding and other issues.

For more information, please visit:

The Atlantic — Powell: Cheney’s Book is Full of ‘Cheap Shots’ – 29 Aug. 2011

The Associated Press – Cheney ‘No Regrets’ About Waterboarding Suspects — 25 Aug. 2011

The Los Angeles Times — Dick Cheney Says Memoir Will Have “Heads Exploding” — 25 Aug. 2011

The New York Times — In Book, Cheney Says He Urged Bush to Bomb Syria Nuclear Site — 24 Aug. 2011

Russia Condemns Syria’s Human Rights Violations

By Greg Hall
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia – Russia was initially reluctant to intervene in the Syrian conflict because of the way in which the United Nations handled the Libya crisis.  In addition, Russia has been a long time ally of Syria.  However, on August 3, 2011, the Russian government joined the United Nations Security Council and condemned the widespread human rights violations committed by the Syrian government.  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued a statement to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, implying that a “sad fate” would await him if he does not implement reforms and make peace with the opposition.

Syrias President Bashar al-Assad (R) and Russias President Dmitry Medvedev review the honor guards at al-Shaaeb presidential palace in Damascus, Syria on May 10, 2010. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) and Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev review the honor guards at al-Shaaeb presidential palace in Damascus, Syria on May 10, 2010. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

The Syrian people’s quest for dignity and liberty has been sustained and unflinching for the five months since the civil unrest began. They have no armed forces or organized militias, nor have the people received outside support to help their cause. An estimated two thousand people, including children, have been killed by their own government and more than ten thousand have been detained, many of them tortured, for peacefully demanding an end to repression. Tanks also are being deployed against civilians.

Russia’s statements demonstrate a perceived shift in Moscow’s position on the Syrian crackdown.  However, Russia and China were two of four countries out of thirty-seven countries in the United Nations Human Rights Council that were opposed in condemning the violence by Syrian authorities and dispatching a team to investigate the alleged human rights violations.

Russia stated that it generally opposed intervention into the affairs of other countries. Hillel Neuer, director of U.N. Watch, stated that “the world’s top human rights body shouldn’t be appeasing Syrian allies like Moscow and Beijing; the E.U. and the U.S. should make sure not to sacrifice moral clarity on the altar of consensus.”

Russia’s cooperation in the Syrian affair is necessary.  The United States, like other European governments, seeks consensus.  Either way, Russia will be closely watched by many in the Arab world as more and more Arab communities continue to demand greater freedoms.

For more information, please see:

Humans Rights Watch – Russia should help Syrians – 25 August 2011

CNS News – U.N. Human Rights Council Condemns Violence in Syria Without Support From China and Russia – 23 August 2011


By Adom M. Cooper
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain–In a televised speech to his nation, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa made a pledge on Sunday 28 August to release protesters. The Bahrain government will dismiss charges against some people detained during a deadly government crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators earlier this year.

Anti-government protesters in the capital of Manama.(Photo Courtesy of Al-Jazeera)
Anti-government protesters in the capital of Manama before their removal.(Photo Courtesy of Al-Jazeera)

The king gave this address as the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan comes to a close. This month has greatly contributed to the restoration of the unity and structure of the nation. The recalling of traditional exchanges, compassion, and brotherhood has peaked hope among the rift that exists in Bahrain between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa’s pledge comes more than six months after his regime attempted to thwart the efforts of protest demonstrators in pursuit of holistic change for the nation.

“There are those who are charged with abusing us and senior officials in Bahrain, we today announce that we forgive them. Although I do not like t0 interfere in the course of justice, I would like to confirm that all cases of civilians will have their verdicts issued by a civil court.”

While this pledge by the leader of Bahrain appears generous, he made a point of not mentioning any concessions towards Bahrain’s Shia population. The Shia population holds a majority in Bahrain and helped head up the protests against the al-Khalifa’s regime as well as setting demands. Some of these key demands are the easing of the Sunni dynasty’s stranglehold on power, the process of policy formation, and hand picking government officials.

The Shia population makes up about 70 percent of the island nation’s 525,000 citizens. Despite the majority, widespread discrimination from a multitude of situations, such as exclusion from top political and security posts, is a concern for the Shia population. It is evident that the Shia’s current situation is a stem for discontent in Bahrain and that displeasure will stay the norm until the Shia believe that the discrimination gap has closed.

Human rights groups reported that at least 32 individuals have lost their lives since the protests against al-Khalifa’s regime began. After the government crackdown, thousands of demonstrators were forced from their jobs, an apparent punishment for supporting those against the regime. Students were dismissed from schools and universities.

But al-Khalifa’s regime has seemingly attempted to make visible strides to try and repair the damage. The University of Bahrain and the Bahrain Training Institute have allowed some 340 students back while several employees were allowed back to work by their employers. But several large companies have dragged their feet to incorporate the reinstatement process.

In addition to dismissing all charges, King al-Khalifa implored all individuals who had been mistreated in custody to file a formal complaint. He confirmed that the law grants them compensation.

“Bahrain has a law that allows victims of ill-treatment to ask for compensation. The decision to setup independent fact-finding commission is the best indication of our full commitment to knowing the whole truth and to giving people their rights.”

“There are those who were arrested, and investigations proved that they were the victims of individual behavior and were ill-treated in custody. This is not tolerated by God and we do not condone it. The recent period was painful to all of us. Although we live in one country, some have forgotten the inevitability of co-existence. Therefore, we should not abandon our belief in having the same and common future, and should not lose trust in each other as brother, colleagues, and citizens.”

Bahraini security forces, bolstered by Saudi led troops from around the Gulf, demolished protests earlier this year in March after allowing demonstrators to camp out in central Manama for about thirty days.

The protests in Bahrain are sort of viewed differently by the international community than the rest of the Arab Spring. The crackdown on protests was heavily criticized by the US but the rest of the international community did not show the same level of support as it has done for protests in other countries. The West has traditionally blamed Iran for instigating the protests in an effort to cause dissent within Bahrain. But the Shia majority within the country has harshly denied this claim.

In July, Bahrain officials opened reconciliation talks with Shia leader in an effort to assuage the anxiety and hear the Shia party’s demands. But unsatisfied with the progress, the Shia party walked out and threatened to bring further protests.

Perhaps some of this dissatisfaction comes from the continued turmoil of the 20 doctors and nurses arrested earlier this year for treating demonstrators from protests. These doctors and nurses were also accused of stockpiling medical supplies and weapons. On 28 August, a special security court resumed the trial for these 20 doctors. The court adjourned the trial until 07 September, when it will begin hearing defense witnesses.

The 20 doctors and nurses in this situation are among at least 45 medical personnel whom face charges stemming from the anti-government protests. Various human rights groups have heavily scrutinized Bahrain’s usage of a special security court for this manner.

For more information, please see:

Al-Jazeera-Bahrain king pardons some protesters-28 August 2011

Associated Press-Bahrain’s king pardoning some protesters-28 August 2011

CNN-‘Arab Spring’ becoming the Arab Year?-25 August 2011

Gulf News-Bahrain king calls for more tolerance-28 August 2011

Human Rights First-Bahrain Government Makes U-turn on Military Courts-22 August 2011

Impunity Watch-Military Court in Bahrain Pursues Physicians For Giving Treatment to Protesters-16 June 2011

Human Rights Watch-Bahrain: Stop Military Court Travesty of Justice-14 June 2011

The Guardian-Bahrain doctors deny stealing medicines or stockpiling arms-13 June 2011

Evidence of Mass Killings Comes as Hunt for Qaddafi Continues

By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TRIPOLI, Libya — Rebel forces making sweeps around Tripoli to clear out the last of Qaddafi’s forces have found a warehouse containing the charred remains of a large number of prisoners who were killed and burned.

The site was located near the southern Tripoli headquarters of the Khamis Brigade, Libya’s most notorious military unit.  Residents who lived near the warehouse say they heard shooting and explosions on Tuesday evening.  Due to the continued fighting no one was able to investigate until Saturday when residents and rebel forces discovered the remains of at least 53 people.

In addition to the news of the horrific find, Libyan rebels are also concerned over the fate of thousands of other prisoners, who had been held in Tripoli by the Qaddafi regime. Rebel military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani said almost 50,000 people arrested in recent months are still unaccounted for.

It is believed that prisoners of the Qaddafi regime were kept in underground bunkers, which were subsequently abandoned during the rebel push into Tripoli.  Human rights groups have noted evidence of human remains near prisons, but the rebels have yet to accuse anyone of killing the prisoners.

Specifically, Human Rights Watch has documented evidence of at least 17 detainees who were killed in a makeshift prison in Tripoli around August 21. “Torture was rife in Qaddafi’s prisons but to execute detainees days before they would have been freed is a sickening low in the government’s behavior,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The evidence we have been able to gather so far strongly suggests that Gaddafi government forces went on a spate of arbitrary killing as Tripoli was falling.”

Despite the hesitation from the rebel forces to label the missing prisoners as dead they are still attempting to get information on them.  “Between 10,000 and 11,000 prisoners have been freed up until now…so where are the others?” asked Colonel Bani.  Rebel forces are attempting to gather intelligence in hopes of finding clarifying information.  Bani further noted that it would be “catastrophic” if the prisoners had been killed.

This harrowing news, which likely adds evidence for any future war crimes prosecution against the Qaddafi regime, was announced simultaneously with an admittance from the rebels that they have no real leads on where Qaddafi might be hiding.  Rumors place him everywhere from Tripoli to his hometown of Sirte.

An offer was made over the weekend by a spokesperson for Qaddafi to open talks with the rebel government.  It was flatly denied, and described by observers as “delusional.”  The rebel government identifies Qaddafi as a war criminal, and has expressed their desire to put him on trial for war crimes upon his arrest.

For more information, please see:

BBC News — Libya rebels fear for Gaddafi’s prisoners — 28 Aug. 2011

Human Rights Watch — Libya: Gaddafi Forces Suspected of Executing Detainees — 28 Aug 2011

Daily Mail — Libya: Inside Gaddafi’s torture chamber: The bloodstained cells inside a former primary school used to brutalise his enemies — 27 Aug. 2011

Sky News — “Mass Killing” Evidence Found in Libya — 27 Aug. 2011

The Telegraph — Human slaughterhouse discovered in Tripoli — 27 Aug. 2011

No Plans to Evacuate NYC Prisoners before Deadly Hurricane Strikes

by Warren Popp
Impunity Watch Editor-in-Chief

NEW YORK, NY – According to several news outlets, the New York City Department of Corrections does not have an evacuation plan for the approximately 12,000 prisoners held at Rikers Island, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg clearly stated at a news conference on Friday that “We are not evacuating Rikers Island.”

Aeriel view of Rikers Island (Photo Courtesy of Julia Robertson, AP).
Aeriel view of Rikers Island (Photo Courtesy of Julia Robertson, AP).

These revelations have revived stories of prisoners that were not evacuated when hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005.  Solitary Watch quoted the following excerpt from an American Civil Liberties Union Report:

[A] culture of neglect was evident in the days before Katrina, when the sheriff declared that the prisoners would remain “where they belong,” despite the mayor’s decision to declare the city’s first-ever mandatory evacuation. OPP even accepted prisoners, including juveniles as young as 10, from other facilities to ride out the storm.

As floodwaters rose in the OPP buildings, power was lost, and entire buildings were plunged into darkness. Deputies left their posts wholesale, leaving behind prisoners in locked cells, some standing in sewage-tainted water up to their chests…

Prisoners went days without food, water and ventilation, and deputies admit that they received no emergency training and were entirely unaware of any evacuation plan. Even some prison guards were left locked in at their posts to fend for themselves, unable to provide assistance to prisoners in need.

Further heightening the level of concern and indignation amongst critics, the prisoners housed at Rikers Island include juveniles, a large number of mentally ill persons, and even pre-trial detainees, with the latter group not convicted of any crimes. Also adding to the concerns is that more that three-fourths of the island is built on a landfill, which is believed to be more vulnerable to natural disasters.

The Office of the Mayor has responded to criticisms by asserting that the prisoners safety is not being compromised, and that no part of Rikers Island is in Zone A (the mandatory evacuation area). The Wall Street Journal quotes the Mayor’s spokesman as saying, “[w]e are focused on the areas where real dangers exist.” However, Rikers Island is reportedly one of the only islands in the area that is not listed in any of the areas zoned for evacuation.

The Office of the Mayor reasoned that the prisoners do not need to be evacuated because the island, like other islands in New York City, does not actually touch the Atlantic Ocean.  The Mayor’s spokesperson was also quoted as saying that the jail is able to sustain itself and is “prepared to operate and care for inmates in extended emergency conditions,” with a full staff to remain on the island.

These words of reassurance have done little to satisfy those concerned about the plight of the Rikers Island prisoners.  The Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights said that “[i]t is appalling that the City administration is abandoning the men and women at Rikers even after the lessons of hurricane Katrina.”  He called on the Mayor to “take appropriate action immediately to protect the life and safety of everyone confined at Rikers Island and all vulnerable corrections facilities in New York City. Their lives should not be treated as less valuable than those of other New Yorkers.”

For more information, please see:

Center for Constitutional Rights – CCR Says NYC Must Act Immediately to Protect Prisoners at Rikers Island from Hurricane Irene – 27 August 2011

Mother Jones – Rikers Island Prisoners Left Behind to Face Irene – 27 August 2011

New York Magazine – No Evacuation for Rikers Island [Updated] – 27 August 2011

Wall Street Journal – No Evacuation Planned at Rikers Island – 27 August 2011

Solitary Watch – Locked Up and Left Behind: Hurricane Irene and the Prisoners on New York’s Rikers Island – 26 August 2011