“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."
Saturday, October 23, 2010
The Strange Saga of Wikileaks
You have to ask yourself, who is permitting the Wikileaks data dump to continue? Surely if Obama, The Pentagon or the CIA wished to silence Wikileaks, they would be silenced. No?
Iraq war logs: Obama must investigate torture claims, says UN envoy
Manfred Nowak says US is obliged to examine claims that military handed over Iraqi detainees knowing they might be killed
The 400,000 documents, released by the website WikiLeaks in the biggest leak in US military history, paint a disturbing picture of the relationship between US and Iraqi forces. They have fostered suspicions that US forces handed over detainees to their Iraqi counterparts knowing there was a risk they were going to be tortured or killed.
Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur, said under the conventions on human rights there is an obligation for states to criminalise every form of torture, whether directly or indirectly, and to investigate any allegations of abuse.
Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, Nowak, who has spent years investigating allegations of US participation in extraordinary rendition and the abuse of detainees held by coalition forces, said: "President Obama came to power with a moral agenda, saying: 'We don't want to be seen to be a nation responsible for major human rights violations'."
A failure to investigate credible claims of US forces' complicity in torture, Nowak suggested, would be a failure of the Obama government to recognise US obligations under international law. He said that the principle of "non-refoulement" prohibited states from transferring detainees to other countries that could pose a risk to their personal safety.
The documents, which cover the period in Iraq from 2004 onwards, have prompted claims that this principle has not been observed, according to those who have studied them.
Nowak said the US had an obligation "whenever they expel, extradite or hand over any detainees to the authorities of another state to assess whether or not these individuals are under specific risk of torture. If this assessment is not done, or authorities hand over detainees knowing there is a serious risk of them being subjected to torture, they violate article 3 of the UN convention that precludes torture."
Nowak said it would be up to the Obama administration to launch an "independent and objective" investigation with a view not only to "bring the perpetrators to justice but also to provide the victims with adequate remedy and reparation".
He admitted possible sanctions to ensure "powerful states like the United States of America" fulfilled their obligations were "extremely weak". Neither the US nor Iraq had ratified the international criminal convention that would see officials from either country brought before the international courts for war crimes.
Nowak said it was not enough for Obama's administration to suggest the alleged crimes took place before it came to power. "There is an obligation to investigate whenever there are credible allegations," Nowak said, pointing to the administration's decision to end rendition flights as proof it had recognised the need to recognise its obligations under international law and draw a line under the actions of its predecessor.
But he suggested it would ultimately be up to the US courts to determine whether US officials or soldiers had breached human rights laws. "If it is established that a particular individual is responsible for torture directly or by complicity, this person should be brought to justice in the domestic courts," Nowak said.
In Washington there is fury at the latest revelations, following an earlier massive leak of classified documents relating to Afghanistan. The Pentagon has claimed the information published by WikiLeaks will serve only to strengthen America's enemies, but is also arguing that the documents reveal nothing that is not already known.