Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Pot Calls the Kettle Black

Granma International Online posts (surprise, surprise) the following news item:

WASHINGTON, June 18.—A Pentagon report acknowledges that U.S. Special Forces used unauthorized torture techniques in Iraq during incidents in 2004.

The text admitted that soldiers fed the prisoners only bread and water for up to 17 days, used unauthorized interrogation methods and stripped the prisoners of their clothes, notes PL.

One of the documents cited by the report stated that one prisoner died after being subjected to violent interrogations in Mosul in 2004, although it did not specify the cause of death.

The documents, publicized for the first time, were censured in parts, concealing names of specific soldiers and the locations of the military units involved.

The publication of the report comes at a time in which cases of war crimes committed by U.S. soldiers in Iraq are coming to light...

Horror of horrors--except when you consider that the story is taken from a publicly released Pentagon report and the 'censured' [sic] names of the soldiers and locations reflect security and privacy measures. Heck, the reason 'war crimes' are coming to light is because the U. S. Armed forces polices itself and makes public information as it completes investigations.

Awfully convenient of Cuba's propaganda organ to bring attention to irregularities in U.S. military procedure when the Castro regime's hands are far from clean--and they not only don't police themselves; it's like pulling teeth to get any info out of them.

Amnesty International, (which, incidentally, has not stinted to hound the U.S. about possible human rights lapses,) has quite a bit to say about Cuba's prison system. Of particular interest is the treatment of 'prisoners of conscience:' those who have run afoul of the regime for speaking out against the government, or possessing and lending published material deemed objectionable--the sort of thing that gets one an interview with Rolling Stone and the accolades of gushing news anchors north of Havana Harbor.

Now the main objections, I believe, were food restrictions, unspecified maltreatment, and removal of clothes. While I've heard stories about Cuban prison food, I'll reserve comment for lack of published data at my fingertips.As for the 'unauthorized interrogation methods' and confinement, I submit a non-random sampling, with emphasis on the accusations made:

Death row prisoners have at times been subjected to extremely poor conditions. One letter from a death row prisoner says he was confined in a windowless cell, with no toilet or running water, and was denied the right to go outside for months at a time. In July 2000, non-governmental sources in Cuba reported that one death row prisoner had been held for 18 months in solitary confinement in a closed cell where temperatures often reached 32 degrees centigrade.
--The Wire, July 2002

On 4 March, 12 dissidents were allegedly beaten and detained by state security officers and paramilitaries in a hospital in Ciego de Avila, where they were visiting a colleague who had been beaten during an earlier demonstration. They were still in detention without trial at the end of 2002. One of the detainees, Juan Carlos González Leyva, is blind and was subjected to severe conditions which reportedly aggravated his high blood pressure and other medical problems.
--Amnesty International Report on Cuba 2003 (covering calendar year 2002.)

Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, serving a sentence of 20 years in Kilo 8 Prison, Camagüey Province, was reportedly beaten on 13 October 2004 by a group of guards while handcuffed. The guards reportedly stamped on his neck which caused him to pass out. He went on hunger strike in protest.

In another case reported to Amnesty International, a police officer at La Bamba Correctional Centre grabbed Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina from behind, hit him on the head and pushed him to the ground when he was saying goodbye to a visitor in November 2004. Two other prison officers then reportedly held him down and beat him while he was handcuffed. He was then held for four days at barracks in Baracoa. He is now reportedly being held in Paso de Cuba Prison in Baracoa municipality. According to reports, proceedings to charge Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina with "resistance" and "disrespect" have been opened against him.

On 14 September 2004 Arnaldo Ramos Lauzerique was reportedly beaten at Holguín Provincial Prison. During a search, the prison guards took some papers and his personal diary from him. When he protested, they reportedly took him out of the cell, threw him to the floor and beat him, causing back pain for several days. On 18 September he was also reportedly pulled out of the shower and threatened with being beaten again.

In October 2004, Luis Enrique Ferrer García, the youngest of the 75 dissidents arrested in March 2003, was reportedly stripped and beaten by prison guards and officials in the Youth Prison of Santa Clara.

--Online document titled:
Cuba: Prisoners of Conscience: 71 Longing for Freedom.

Amnesty notes that they are 'not aware of any investigation having been carried out into these recent reports of ill-treatment. International human rights standards require that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment be investigated.' On the 2003 annual report they state:
AI last visited Cuba in 1988. The government did not respond to AI’s requests to be allowed into the country.

Reminiscent of the old Cold War days: I recall reading in Hedrick Smith's The Russians that every time the Soviet Union had a commercial airlines crash, the newspapers would spend a week or two running any air crash stories they could find from other countries. Then they would bury a one-paragrapher on their own accident somewhere in the recesses. Except in this case, good luck finding that one-paragrapher.

If the newspapers of a country are filled with good news, the jails will be filled with good people.
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003)
(Thanks to Food For Thought compiled by Jack Tourette for the reference.)



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