US sends 'dangerous message' by turning blind eye to Guantanamo tortures - UN

The US is in “clear violation” of the United Nations Convention against Torture over “gruesome” abuses committed by its agents in locations such as Guantanamo Bay, according to a UN official.

The UN's special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, noted in a Wednesday statement that "perpetrators and policymakers responsible for years of gruesome abuse have not been brought to justice, and the victims have received no compensation or rehabilitation," despite a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report acknowledging the use of torture in US custody.

The UN rapporteur also stated that torture reportedly continues at US sites, including Guantanamo, despite former President Barack Obama ending the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in a 2009 executive order.

 
Britain's opposition Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson © Toby Melville

Melzer accused the US of being in "clear violation" of the UN's Convention against Torture and of sending a "dangerous message of complacency and impunity to officials in the US and around the world."
He stressed that his particular concern regards detainees who face "prolonged detention in almost complete isolation," according to a release on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Melzer noted the case of Guantanamo inmate Ammar al-Baluci, a Pakistani citizen and alleged 9/11 co-conspirator, who was named 153 times in the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report. Baluci is said to have suffered torture during more than three years at CIA "black sites" before eventually being moved to Guantanamo, where he reportedly endures further abuse.

“Mr al-Baluchi has been held in isolation at a severely restricted-access facility at Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade,” Melzer said, elaborating that "noise and vibrations are reportedly still being used against him, resulting in constant sleep deprivation and related physical and mental disorders, for which he allegedly does not receive adequate medical attention."

The special rapporteur made clear that the ban on torture and ill-treatment is "absolute and allowed for no exceptions whatsoever," according to the UN release. “This is one of the most fundamental norms of international law, and its violation is listed among the most serious international crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Melzer said.

 
Omar Khadr © Todd Korol

"...I therefore now urge the US to live up to its legacy, to end its policy of impunity and to bring its own perpetrators to justice," Melzer added. He noted that a "society bruised by torture and abuse" can only heal when the "truth about secret policies and practices is fully disclosed to the public and when full reparation and rehabilitation is granted to victims."

Melzer also requested once again to be allowed an official visit to Guantanamo and to interview inmates. "I very much regret that, despite repeated requests, my predecessors and I have consistently been refused access to Guantanamo and other high security facilities, in accordance with the standard terms of reference of my UN mandate,” he said.

Guantanamo Bay, which turned 15 years old in January, has long been the subject of scrutiny from the US and abroad, particularly for its use of torture and for holding prisoners without charge. Although President Obama campaigned with a promise to shut it down, that vow was never fulfilled. Meanwhile, his successor Donald Trump has expressed his support for the facility.

"There should be no further releases from Gitmo," Trump tweeted in January, less than three weeks before his inauguration. "These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield."

@realDonaldTrump There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.

Around 800 prisoners have been detained there over the years, often subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" including waterboarding. Some have reportedly been stripped naked and confined to dark cells for significant periods of time. Inmates went on a major hunger strike in 2013 to protest their detention and treatment at the facility, resulting in authorities force-feeding them.

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Trump loses his big bet on Alabama U.S. Senate race

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Trump’s Expected Surprise with Jerusalem

If there’s a feature that distinguishes the administration of the North American president, Donald Trump is the lack of a foreign policy platform, augmented by some sort of fatal obsession to dismantle what could be called the legacy of his predecessor, Barack Hussein Obama.

Without risking exaggeration it can be said that in that line of thoughts falls the recently publicized decision of the United States of transferring from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem the embassy of their country in Israel.

The acknowledgement of Jerusalem as eternal and indivisible capital of Israel, according to a resolution of the Parliament of that country not recognized by the international community has been a red line that neither far-right U.S. presidents have dared to cross, Ronald Reagan and his Santa Fe platform included.

The implications of the measure is great and the repercussions that will soon take place, deep both for the U.S. political credibility and the razorblade equilibrium of that volatile area which is the Middle East where Washington has key interests since, in essence, condones geographical expansion through territories under military occupation.

For the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the moving of the North American embassy is some sort of manna falling into his lap in an adverse international political landscape to his plans of territorial expansion since such behavior leads to the perpetuation of a conflict of seven decades.

It must be remembered that, after the acceptance by the UN General Assembly of Palestine as an Observer non-member State, the same status that The Vatican, several European countries decided to recognize it and establish diplomatic relationships.

Without overlooking that it violates the IV Geneva Convention, of compulsory execution for all members of the international community, which outlaws the annexation of occupied territories by military forces, as it’s the case of Gaza, Cisjordania and East Jerusalem.

Although in days previous to the North American announcement were abundant the talks on the topic, there was a tiny expectation for common sense to prevail and President Trump backed down or, at least, looked for a way of commitment that allowed him that impossible exercise of serving two masers at the same time.

But pessimists were right all along and the North American leader chose to bang his fist on the table, but that on the long run, it can be harmful for the interests of his country in those Muslim States, among which Washington has allies whose first reaction has been quick to appear.

Turkey, a NATO member summoned an urgency meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference; the Arab League called a meeting of chancellors to approach the topic and it’s expected, mainly, the reaction of Egypt and Jordan, the two only Arab countries that have diplomatic relationships with Israel.

In a wide perspective the announcement has domestic repercussions in the United States, since it pleases a large sector on both chambers of the Congress favorable to Israel that have not accepted Trump just yet as one of their own, and abroad whose magnitude is yet to determine, given their implications in a matter of worldwide interest for being controversial and due to its political consequences.

In its Prophecies the French theurgist of Jewish origin Michel of Nostradamus whom prophesied four centuries in advance the birth of Adolf Hitler and the catastrophe he caused, he predicted that the Third World War would begin in Jerusalem. It’s very unlikely that, for lack of a new Hitler, and for the contention impose by atomic arsenals, Trump’s decision can cause another war.

But it’s also true that opens a period of risks from which it can emerge, as paradoxical as it seems, a clearer vision of the need to fix the Palestinian drama.

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Donald Trump: His new risky setback

Miami Diario website informed on Tuesday that a federal judge decided to override President Trump’s order to deny funds for “sanctuary cities.”

The judge, William Orrick, of the San Francisco Courtroom in California, who temporarily blocked the executive order deemed as unconstitutional.

Orrick said the head of state cannot impose new conditions to funds previously approved by US Congress.

The Department of Justice of that country issued a communiqué, where it stated that “Orrick exceeded his authority” by blocking Trump’s order.

Therefore, it appealed the ruling before the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court headquartered in San Francisco, court below the Supreme Court.

That order was issued during Donald Trump’s first week in the White House geared at stopping the migratory flow.


What are “sanctuary cities”?

They are those cities that treat immigrants with fewer rigors, that is, cities that limit just how much local law enforcement officials comply with federal immigration authorities.

Those places are under the scrutiny of the government and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has dedicated substantial efforts to eliminate them.

Among the cities with those characteristics are for example: Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, administered by the Democratic Party.

It’s timely to recall that the said executive order establishes the reduction of the federal budget for those cities, in case they reject to pursue and arrest the immigrants.

Under it, Trump approves that local authorities act as immigration officers up to the maximum range allowed by the law.

In United States there are more than 300 sanctuary cities that somehow protect the illegal aliens who live there.

Then, as El País daily drew attention in its European edition last April, now it is the fourth time in which this executive order is blocked in the courts.

In other words, a huge setback for both President Donald Trump and his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Dangerous road that could lead the head of state to a juncture with an almost impossible exit.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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USA Announces New Restrictions on Travel and Trade with Cuba

The US government announced today greater restrictions for Americans interested in doing business with Cuba and traveling to the Caribbean island, in compliance with the presidential memorandum that reverses important aspects of the rapprochement between the two countries.

The State, Commerce and Treasury departments announced the adoption of 'coordinated actions' to implement the document signed by President Donald Trump on June 16 in Miami, Florida, which included vetoing Americans to make transactions with more than 180 entities of the Caribbean nation.

It also requires that all nonacademic 'people-to-people' educational trips be conducted under the auspices of an organization that is subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

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Moon-Trump: Mistrust

It’s possible that when these lines come out, US President Donald Trump has already arrived in South Korea, as part of his Asian tour, which started in Japan and should end in China.

Perhaps one could figure out South Korea is on the paper the least disturbing country for the US head of state, but I do not think so, because President Moon Jae-in has been rebellious before his American counterpart, who has had to resort to his own military pressures and Seoul’s Main Staff to prevent the South Korean leader from carrying out his long-standing desire of talks with the authorities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (Spanish acronym RPDC), confident, as he has said, it is the only way the peninsula is not destroyed by a nuclear annihilation.

Moon has been clear and sincere with Trump, but the latter downplays the consequent reasons of a head of state who was actually elected by a vast popular majority in the early elections summoned after the removal of the previous president, because of proven corruption cases and abuse of power.

Trump not only almost ignored Moon, when he visited Washington and said he was in favor of a dialogue with Pyongyang, but also made derogatory comments about his South Korean counterpart on a phone conversation with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, for his stance before the DPRK.

"Trump underestimated the President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, calling him “beggar”, for insisting in his calls for dialogue with North Korea”, revealed Hankyoreh newspaper, which is edited in Tokyo.

Quoting Japanese television network Fuji TV, the newspaper explained the US president called his South Korean counterpart like that during a phone call with Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe, hours later that North Korea launched a missile that passed through Japanese airspace.

Moon “is acting like a beggar”, said Trump to Abe to state his dissatisfaction with Seoul, for its position before the nuclear weapons tests of Pyongyang, said the Japanese daily, besides highlighting that the US head of state asked his partner “not to tell anyone about the need for military pressure on North Korea.”

But such pressure, as one can assume when it is about Democratic Korea, made that country remark it would defend its nuclear development “in the face of the hostilities of U.S. and its puppets.”

Trump has said he’s “100% with Shinzo”, and highlighted that Tokyo should help Washington in case “it is attacked by Pyongyang”, and indirectly confirmed that Washington is pressing Seoul, geared at taking war actions against its northern neighbor; as many countries believe that keeping the pressures against North Korea would lead to a military catastrophe.

Shortly before the American head of state started his Asian tour, Moon has asserted that a war in the Korean Peninsula is something that will never happen again, and claimed that United States would not undertake any military action against the North without the consent of the South. In addition, he thinks that Trump’s statements sought to increase pressure on Pyongyang and did not indicate an imminent attack.

Of course, the South Korean authorities do not trust these statements, because of the controversial personality of Trump, and reiterated that their tests are based on their right for self-defense before the frequent joint military exercises of Washington and Seoul in the peninsula.

NOT ONLY WAR PRESSURE, BUT COMMERCIAL AS WELL

Tensions with Pyongyang promise to lead the first meeting between Trump and Moon in Seoul, where thousands of people rallied against the presence of the US magnate and demanded a peace policy toward the North. The protesters also rejected the insistence of the US president to renegotiate the trade deal with South Korea, partly due to his concerns about alleged imbalances in the steel and car exchange.

"We’re renegotiating a trade deal with South Korea right now, and hope it would be equitable. It will be a fair deal for both parties. It has been a tough deal for the United States”, Trump said.

The US president, who slammed during his electoral campaign the trade deal inked by his predecessor Barack Obama, first referred to its renegotiation and claimed he would seek a “new deal”.

Trump’s statement surprised members of the South Korean government and business leaders in Seoul, who did not expect the possibility of renegotiation to be on the table in the meeting, the Wall Street Journal said today.

Months earlier, in Washington, Moon had only talked about bilateral ties: “We will promote economic growth and job creation to ensure our peoples enjoy greater mutual benefits through the collective efforts we have committed to make.”

Standing by his side, Trump had just slammed the trade deal, popularly known as Korus FTA, by denouncing that since its entry into effect to 2016, the US trade deficit with South Korea had increased by over $11 billion”, nearing $28 billion.

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross had previously stated that the main cause of the trade imbalance is “the car trade”, that is mainly carried out “based on South Korean standards”, and added there is another problem with the trade of “steel” products” from South Korea to the United States, because part of them come from China and are sold below their market price”.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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Cuba: Yankees’s Hostility and Blockade are Still Ongoing

November 1st the UN General Assembly will put to vote once again the resolution "Necessity of putting an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba."

Counting this one there’ll be 26th occasions in which the resolution is passed; last year added the support of 191 States out of the 193 that integrate the United Nations. Only the United States and its partner Israel voted against it. But the blockade is still unscathed, in an open challenge not only to the consent and international right, but to the opinion of the North American people and the Cuban residents in that country.

After the hope raised by Obama’s modest but important steps toward an improvement on the relationships with Cuba, a few months of Trump have been enough to gear into reverse and undermined what had been advanced. On June 16th, in a hostile speech, filled with coarse lies and stupidities that reminded the most aggressive times of the imperial politics toward Cuba, the U.S. president announced the change in a Miami theater packed of Cuban origin counter-revolutionaries. His administration set new obstacles to the almost nonexistent possibilities that North American entrepreneurs had to trade and invest in Cuba and additional restrictions to its citizens to travel to Cuba. Let’s not speak about the hilarious sonic ray with which their diplomats were attacked in Havana, which dozens of North American scientists of several fields have classified as nonexistent.

In March 2016 the North American Department of Treasure announced that it would authorize the use of the dollar by Cuba in its international business and to banks of that country to grant credits to Cuban importers of authorized North American products. A flat joke. Even at present neither thing has been able to come true.

The blockade worsening is intact in the financial and extraterritorial way, what causes deep damages to Cuba’s economy and brutally blocks the people’s right to development. That also implies another flagrant violation of the international right, by applying North American laws to third-parties, expressed in fines to foreign companies having business with Cuba, the denial of banks and international financial institutions to carry out operations with Cuba for fear of being fined, as well as the persecution of Cuban international financial transactions.

A few examples on how operates the extraterritorial application of the blockade: on June 20th, 2016 the Dutch mail company TNT returned to the Cuban consulate in Madrid two postal shippings bound to the embassies of Cuba in China and Indonesia. On August 1st, 2016 the same company canceled the postal service to the Cuban consulate in Rotterdam, Holland. The firm alleged that the refund was due to the U.S. blockade against Cuba. The suspension of these services creates serious inconveniences in the delivery of documents to overseas Cuban residents.

The fines issued by the banks are several. On January 13th, 2017 Washington fined the Canadian Toronto-Dominion Bank with 516105 dollars. The office corresponding of the Department of Treasure alleged that 29 transactions related with Cuba of that institution went through the North American bank system between years 2007 and 2011.

In April 2017, a German supplier refused to give Medicuba S.A. a device used in the diagnosis of prostate cancer. The supplier argued that the blockade prevented him from selling it. There are many more cases.

The blockade causes a lot of damage for every passing minute in every last aspect of the life of Cubans. In education, culture, sport, food science and, of course, in the economic development. Regardless the perfection with which Cuban economy is steered. Likewise there would be unbridgeable setbacks caused by the blockade of the most powerful and aggressive military power which largest market is the nearest to the Cuban.

Because of the blockade, Cuban patients lack irreplaceable drugs, only produced by North American laboratories. Cuban boys and girls don't have for that same reason access to drugs or oncology and cardiologic devices produced in the United States, the champion of human rights.

Amilkal Labañino Valdés / Cubasi Translation Staff

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America should strengthen, not abandon, relationship with Cuba

The drawdown in personnel from the American embassy in Havana and the Cuban embassy in Washington in the wake of mysterious attacks on U.S. officials is a setback to the efforts begun by President Obama to reverse a five-decade policy of isolation that failed to advance U.S. interests. But whether the perpetrators of the alleged attacks, be they rogue elements of Cuban security forces or perhaps a third country like Russia or North Korea, are successful in damaging ties between the United States and Cuba will depend on how the U.S. government and American businesses, travelers and civil society respond.

The Trump administration has said its withdrawal of personnel is not intended to impede engagement, but rather to safeguard the health and security of American diplomats. Although courageous State Department diplomats pleaded to maintain the U.S. mission at full strength, the drawdown is a step any administration would have taken in the face of a danger to American personnel that it could not identify or mitigate. The expulsion of Cuban diplomats, however, was a more contentious step, given that the United States does not necessarily believe the Cuban government authorized the alleged attacks.

How long it will be before the American and Cuban embassies are fully staffed again is impossible to predict. Both governments remain at a loss to explain the source and method of the alleged attacks, which have apparently caused hearing loss and brain injury. The FBI has not detected any devices inside or outside American diplomatic residences in Havana or been able to replicate in lab tests the effect of the suspected attacks.

Inevitably, diplomatic engagement will be hampered during this period. Cuban travel to the United States will also diminish as the understaffed U.S. embassy reduces consular services for Cubans seeking a U.S. visa. Still, other forms of engagement do not have to end. On the contrary, now is the time for advocates of greater ties to stop those in either country seeking to drag the relationship backward.

Most importantly, supporters of engagement should make sure the alleged attacks do not dampen U.S. travel to Cuba. Since the diplomatic opening nearly three years ago, travel to the island has soared. The low crime rate in Cuba makes it among the safest places in the world to visit, but the State Department is now discouraging all travel to the island. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged that no U.S. private citizens have been affected by the alleged attacks, but since some apparently occurred at hotels where American citizens would stay, the State Department was required to issue a travel warning.

The cultural and natural splendor of Cuba should continue to motivate Americans to travel to the island. Even those skeptical of governmental engagement should feel comfortable visiting the island for cultural exchanges, as the hospitality industry is the sector with the largest entrepreneurial engagement and private employment. Private sector establishments, which employ about one-third of Cuban workers, depend on spending by foreign visitors to thrive. As Cuba recovers from Hurricane Irma, continued engagement has a humanitarian imperative as well.

Americans also have an incentive to visit Cuba before the Treasury Department issues new regulations governing travel there, as mandated by President Trump in June. The regulations are a few weeks overdue, and it is unclear when they will be issued. Treasury officials who oversee sanctions prefer to prioritize countries like Russia, Iran and North Korea, rather than proctor whether Americans step foot on a Caribbean beach.

Similarly, U.S. companies should not overreact and abandon the island. U.S. corporate leaders regularly complain about the challenges of navigating the bureaucratic and political thicket in Cuba. The travel warning and reduction in embassy commercial officers could cause some companies to delay or reconsider their Cuba plans. Savvy outfits, however, will look beyond the current diplomatic imbroglio and consider the first-mover advantage and long-term value of investing in Cuba. For its part, the Cuban government, which continues to signal its appetite for engagement with foreign companies, should expedite to the extent possible the approval of business petitions. The conclusion of a few high-profile deals could move other companies from the sidelines and beget more deals.

Finally, U.S. civil society, which has been instrumental to the process of normalization, should intensify engagement with their Cuban counterparts. Universities, sports leagues, cultural institutions, human rights groups, and research centers like the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, which is developing a lung cancer vaccine in collaboration with a Havana medical center, daily demonstrate how American engagement with Cuba enriches the lives of people in both countries.

The perpetrators of the alleged attacks on U.S. officials apparently wanted the U.S. and Cuban people to drift apart again. Whatever the origin of the illnesses afflicting U.S. diplomats, Cuban opponents of President Raul Castro’s opening to the United States will be pleased if Americans disengage from Cuba, and critics of normalization in the United States are cheering the renewed tensions. For the benefit of the Cuban people and Americans with a stake in the relationship with Cuba, it is important that the latest developments do not derail the historic reconciliation between the two countries.

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