Activists want 'CIA jail' truths

Thailand and the United States must come clean on allegations of Thailand's role in an alleged, 54-nation network of CIA-run prisons and torture houses in the post-9/11 months, human rights groups said Wednesday.

A 216-page report titled "Globalising Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition" was the latest documentation made public Tuesday in the US by the Open Society Justice Initiative, a group funded by George Soros. It listed Thailand among 54 countries that helpd the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) in its campaign against al-Qaeda with "secret detention, rendition and interrogation programmes" after the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US.

Pornpen Kongkachonkiet said her Cross Cultural Foundation group raised the issue with US President Barack Obama when he visited Thailand last November. The CCF statement was sent to the US embassy but there was no feedback or comments on the issue. The Thai government also did not respond.

Abu Zubaydah, a top al-Qaeda planner, was water-boarded by CIA interrogators at a secret site in Thailand after his arrest in Pakistan in 2002.

"At least one of these black sites is said to have been in Thailand," said Ms Pornpen. "Not only are both Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri alleged to have been detained at this facility, but it is also alleged that they were also tortured during their detention by US officials, who were aided by Thai officials," said Ms Pornpen.

It is now well known that Zubaydah was held at a still-secret location in Thailand and subjected to water boarding. Ms Pornpen's allegation that Thai officials aided in the "enhanced interrogation" are new.

A brief description was provided in a New York Times article in 2009.

Abu Zubaydah was originally captured in Pakistan on March 28th 2002, and shortly thereafter was transported to Thailand for interrogation.

In addition to water boarding, Ms Pornpen said CIA methods of interrogation included using nudity, sleep deprivation, sensory overstimulation, loud noises, temperature manipulation, prolonged shackling, and dietary manipulation.

She said CIA attorneys sought advice in June 2002 on the legality of such "enhanced interrogation techniques" (EITs). On July 24, 2002 the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) advised the CIA that the EITs were legal, despite the prohibition against torture found in section 2340A of Title 18 of the US Code. Zubaydah was moved to another secret detention facility in Poland in December 2002 before being relocated to Guantanamo Bay in 2006, where he is still being detained.

Al-Nashiri was captured in Dubai in October 2002 and was eventually flown to the same Thai black site where Zubaydah was being held. It is alleged that EITs were immediately used with Nashiri, including the act of water-boarding.

Abdel-Hakim Belhaj is another detainee who alleges that he was held at a Thai black site was subjected to torture in 2004, Ms Pornpen said.

"We urge Thailand and the US to investigate independently and open to the public about the black site(s) in Thailand. We wish Mr Barack Obama and Ms (Prime Minister) Yingluck Shinawatra to ensure that any bilateral cooperation will not lead to any kinds of human rights violation including torture and ill treatment," said Ms Pornpen.

"Enhanced interrogation techniques" has been used widely in the war on terror and its content amount of torture and ill treatments which is violation international human rights laws, she said.

The "Globalising Torture" report identified 136 people who had been held or transferred by the CIA and described what is known about when and where they were held.

Thailand was among 14 Asian countries, named by Amrit Singh, the author of the Open Society report, while Ms Singh also found evidence that 25 countries in Europe and 13 in Africa lent some sort of assistance to the CIA, in addition to Canada and Australia.

The report adds new detail to what is known about the handling of both dedicated al-Qaida operatives and innocent people caught up by accident in the global machinery of counterterrorism.

Some of the harsh interrogation methods the CIA used on prisoners under former US president George W Bush have been widely denounced as torture by President Obama, who banned such techniques except in special circumstances.

Successive Thai governments from the time of premier Thaksin Shinawatra have never admitted there were such operations in the country. Thailand contributed troops to the US invastion of Iraq in 2003, and sent army engineers to help in the war in Afghanistan.

Last December, the European Court of Human Rights found the CIA responsible for the torture of Khalied el-Masri, a German citizen abducted by the agency and taken to Afghanistan in a case of mistaken identification.

Last week, an Italian appeals court convicted a CIA station chief and two other Americans of the kidnapping of a radical cleric taken from the streets of Milan in 2003 and sent to Egypt. Twenty-three Americans had previously been convicted in the case. All trials were held without the defendants.

Surachart Bamrungsuk, Chulalongkorn University's associate professor of political science, said the report showed the special military relations the US has with Thailand.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, from the same faculty, said the report has yet to see confirmation or acceptance of any level of the authorities from the US and its 54 allies.

"We should call for (new) Secretary of State John Kerry to comment on the issue," said Mr Panitan. "It's a good opportunity for Kerry to set the right tone for the reelected Obama administration which focusing on Asia."

The international community should call for US retired officials, victims and organisations that work on the issue to continue work to dig out details.

"Digging on the issue will certainly be difficult from either the US or Thailand since it will certainly involve many high-ranking officials and prime ministers, most of them retired or in some cases fugitives. But this is a big wake-up call and a lesson for Thailand that pursuing or developing greater military and security cooperation with such major powers as the US, China and Russia should be discussed by parliament, if not explained to the public," said Mr Panita, who was an adviser to governments headed by Chuan Leekpai and Abhisit Vejjajiva.

"If there is a clear and accountable framework of military collaborative deals, people will not question such good programs like the proposed Nasa scientific activities at the U-Tapao facilities," he said.

Related search: Thailand, United States, secret jail operations, security, terrorism, Barack Obama

About the author

columnist
Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
Position: Senior Reporter