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12 December 2004
This article is part of the series Torture U.S. style.
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U.S. abducts people from Western countries to be tortured
By Daan de Wit
The Dutch in the
original article has been translated into English by Idde Lijnse.

The Sunday Times mentions a commercial airplane with masked men abducting people in a drugged state from (Western) countries, ordered to do so by the American government and transporting them to countries where they are being tortured. 'The movements of the Gulfstream 5 leased by agents from the United States defence department and the CIA are detailed in confidential logs obtained by The Sunday Times which cover more than 300 flights. [...] The Gulfstream and a similarly anonymous-looking Boeing 737 are hired by American agents from Premier Executive Transport Services, a private company in Massachusetts.'

'The white 737, registration number N313P, has 32 seats. It is a frequent visitor to American military bases, although its exact role has not been revealed. More is known about the Gulfstream, which has the registration number N379P and can carry 14 passengers. [...] Analysis of the plane’s flight plans, covering more than two years, shows that it always departs from Washington DC. It has flown to 49 destinations outside America, including the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba and other US military bases, as well as Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan, Libya and Uzbekistan.'

Man abducted from Sweden and tortured by electrocution
Kjell Jönsson, lawyer for Muhammed Al-Zery, one of the suspects that have been transported out of Sweden in October 2001, says in The Boston Globe that American masked policemen administered his client anally a sedative, put on diapers and handcuffs and covered his head before bringing him aboard the plane. (See also this photo of the transportation of John Walker, the 'American Taliban'). Once in Egypt, the torture country of destination, Zery was blindfolded for a long time – possibly weeks. One of the methods of torture was the use of electrodes. He told his mother that he had been tortured on an electric chair by electrodes daily for a period of two months on the most sensitive parts of his body, and that he had been laid on an electric mattress four times: 'He would lay on it - like this - and his arms in chains on both sides and his legs in chains too. When they connected to the electricity, his body would rise up and then fall down and this up and down would go on until they unplugged electricity'.

The abducted people from Sweden are still alive and have been lucky in that respect, considering the statement from the well-known former Middle East CIA operative Robert Baer: 'If you want a serious interrogation you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear . . . you send them to Egypt.' The business plane has made seven trips to Uzbekistan. This website has reported earlier on the methods of torture used there, which among others consist of boiling people.

Legal status of citizens in Western countries unstable
The abduction procedure is approved on a presidential level in the US. It has also been approved at the highest level in Sweden. As far as it is known, Bushbuddy Balkenende, the prime minister of The Netherlands, has not yet arrived at the point of handing over Dutch people to the masked pilots. The incidents in Sweden ask for questions about the legal status of (Western) citizens, also recognized by an American judge who therefore asked: 'Could the president of the United States imprison "a little old lady from Switzerland" as an enemy combatant if she donated to a charity not knowing that her money was eventually used to finance the activities of Qaeda terrorists? Possibly, a government lawyer replied Wednesday to this hypothetical case posed by a federal judge as they wrangled over the limits of a president's powers to detain people he deems enemy combatants [...]', as it reads in The New York Times. The lawyer: '[...] theoretically the woman could be detained until her intent was determined'. According to The Sunday Times the business plane has been seen at British airports on some occasions as well. 'Some of the information from the suspects is said to have been used by MI5 and MI6, the British intelligence services', writes the newspaper. 'The admissibility in court of evidence gained under torture is being considered in the House of Lords [...]'.

Other examples of abductions
Three other examples of this kind of abduction:
- 'People are taken to countries where they can be locked up for undefined time, or be interrogated with methods that would be unacceptable in a state ruled by law. Torture is no exception. A couple of examples:
- 24 year old Muhammad Saad Iqbal, was in November 2001 taken in chains on board a civilian aircraft in Djakarta. A few hours later, he was in Egypt. His further fate is unknown.
- In June 2002, the German citizen Mohammad Zammar, was taken by CIA in Morocco and was flown to Syria, where he is kept imprisoned to this day.
- The Canadian citizen Maher Arar was arrested on 26th September 2003 in New York, on his way home to Montreal. He was turned over to the Syrian security service. He was interrogated and tortured for ten months, before he was released.'

Operating procedure: untraceable company hires planes for CIA
Premier Executive Transport Services, the company that hires the business plane registrated in Massachusetts on behalf of the US government, is situated in a lawyers office in the state of Massachusetts. 'In May, Newsweek reported that an undisclosed US agency set up a "covert charter airline" to move CIA prisoners because "it was judged impolitic [and too traceable] to use the US Air Force." Seymour Hersh's new book, "Chain of Command," suggests that a secret group inside the Department of Defense conducts the renditions. A CIA spokesman declined comment for this article', writes The Boston Globe. One of the more familiar air traffic companies established by the CIA in the past for secret operations is Air America. Edward D. Markey, Massachusetts representative in parliament is not happy with the situation: "I am appalled and saddened to learn that a company linked to Massachusetts appears to be aiding and abetting the transport of prisoners to foreign nations where they are likely to face torture in violation of the Geneva Convention", he says to The Boston Globe. The newspaper also reports that the facts came to the surface for the first time thanks to the Swedish tv program Kalla fakta, meaning literally ‘cold facts’. Kalla facta has reported on this in two parts. See the transcripts: part 1, part 2.

US: permission to use evidence obtained by torture
In the past, the US did not permit evidence obtained by torture to be used in court, but (since December 2 last): '[...] the U.S. military panels reviewing the detention of 550 foreigners as enemy combatants at the U.S. naval base in Cuba are allowed to use such evidence, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle acknowledged at a U.S. District Court hearing Thursday', writes Associated Press. '"For the Americans to start saying they'll do this, essentially what they are doing is behaving as a third world dictatorship and frankly is a very great concern"', says Stephen Kenny, an Australian prisoner’s lawyer in Guantanamo. 'Michael Ratner, a human rights lawyer with the Centre for Constitutional Rights, says he was shocked by the Bush administration's admission. "Never in my 30 years of being a human rights lawyer would I ever expected to be in the state that we've arrived at," he said. Mr Ratner says the admission amounts to a tacit acceptance of torture. "You're saying to another country or another place, torture people and we'll just use the product of it," he said.'

Latest news: more of the same
Meanwhile, more photos have shown up of torture in Iraq that took taken place even before the abuses in the Abu Ghraib prison. And a recent report by the Red Cross is highly critical about how prisoners of Guantanamo Bay are being treated. What happens there could well be called torture according to the Red Cross, writes MSNBC: 'The allegation was contained in [a Red Cross] report to U.S. officials after visits to Guantanamo, the [New York] Times said.' Salon quotes a jurist: 'Guantánamo has come to symbolize in international law circles or even diplomatic circles, this attempt by the U.S. to set up law-free zones.' In the battle against the lawlessness the Centre for Constitutional Rights in collaboration with four Iraqi citizens has taken legal proceedings against those responsible for the crimes in Abu Ghraib.

Torture makes information unreliable
About the effectiveness of torture Human Rights Watch says: '"The problem is that torture is not only morally reprehensible, it's also extremely ineffective".' Stronger: '[...] beyond a certain level, inflicting pain is counterproductive', says interrogation expert Mike Ritz. 'Ritz says the goal is to induce emotional or psychological stress in the prisoner by challenging the prisoner on his or her assertions, by withholding information, or even by providing false information. The point is to exploit a prisoner's fear of the unknown. Ritz says physical force - once applied - breaks this tension'. 'Ellie Smith, a lawyer with the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, says history shows torture never reveals facts', writes de BBC. To the case of the Sweden abductees can be added the fact that the TV program that reported on them had discovered ‘serious shortcomings’ in the accusations they were charged with.

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