Monday, July 24, 2006

Amnesty Int'l New Report: Systematic Torture of Political Suspects Entrenched in Jordan

WASHINGTON - July 24 - Amnesty International released its new report, Jordan: "Your Confessions are Ready for You to Sign": Detention and Torture of Political Suspects, exposing Jordan for its continued use of torture on political suspects. The report reveals that Jordan maintains a military security agency that detains, interrogates and tortures suspected political opponents and alleged terrorist suspects. Jordan has also received and allegedly tortured nationals transferred to the country in apparent coordination with the United States, United Kingdom and other governments.

"The use of torture is widespread in Jordan, especially when political opponents are involved," said Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA's Executive Director. "Rather than demanding that Jordan cease this practice, the United States, United Kingdom and other nations have chosen Jordan as a central hub for transporting terror suspects knowing full well of Jordan's reliable use of torture, cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees. The irony is that these governments have criticized Jordan's use of torture numerous times, yet, the transport of terror suspects through Jordan continued with a wink and a nod."

The General Intelligence Department (GID) -- a military security agency directly linked to the Jordanian prime minister - - is the primary instrument of abuse of political detainees and for obtaining forced "confessions." GID agents have a wide range of powers and are virtually free from impunity. According to the U.S. State Department 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the most frequently reported methods of torture included beating, sleep deprivation, extended solitary confinement, and physical suspension. Defendants charged with security-related offenses before the State Security Court claimed they were tortured to obtain confessions and claimed to have been subjected to physical and psychological abuse while in detention.

Amnesty International describes dozens of cases of individuals subjected to torture and ill-treatment in Jordan, ten of whom appear to be victims of the United States' renditions program.

Yemeni national Hassan Saleh bin Attash was 17 when he was arrested in early September 2002 in Pakistan. After four days in a Karachi prison he was taken to the U.S.-run "Prison of Darkness" in Kabul where, he told his lawyers, he was held and tortured until September 19, 2002. He was then rendered to Jordan. Attash was held in Jordan for 16 months during which time he was repeatedly tortured in the "courtyard," believed to be within the GID detention center in Wadi Sir, Amman. The methods of torture he suffered during interrogation include being hung upside down, beaten on the soles of his feet, and threatened with electric shocks. His lawyer said that Attash told his interrogators "whatever they wanted to hear". There are reports that Attash was hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross during their visits to this detention center. In January 2004, he was returned to the so-called Prison of Darkness in Kabul - likely, according to flight logs, via the January 8, 2004 US Gulfstream jet (N313P) flight from Marka military airport in eastern Amman to Khwaja Rawash international airport in Kabul. He was subsequently moved to the U.S.-run prison at Bagram, Afghanistan, before being sent to Guantánamo, reportedly either in May or September 2004, where he still remains.

The methods, likelihood, severity and duration of torture vary according to a number of factors. Suspected "Islamists" and Palestinian-origin Jordanians, for example, are more likely to be tortured. One victim of unlawful detention and transfer stated that while held in Pakistan, U.S. officials interrogating him said, "If you don't talk to us, you're going to Jordan...The Pakistanis can't do exactly what we want them to do. The Arabs will deal with you."

According to the Amnesty International report, Jordan has been known to obtain "confessions" of political prisoners through torture. Once these "confessions are attained, cases go to the State Security Court (SSC) -- where judgments regularly appear to be based on little more than these "confessions". Over the last ten years, over 100 defendants have alleged before the SSC that they were tortured to make them "confess". The SSC has failed to adequately investigate any of these claims. Disturbingly, the SSC has imposed death sentences in a number of these cases -- some of which have already been carried out.

"Jordan has a responsibility, for its citizens' safety, to bring to justice anyone who threatens that protection," said Zahir Janmohamed, Amnesty International USA's Advocacy Director for Middle East and North Africa. "But it cannot deny internationally agreed human rights, particularly the obligation to prohibit and prevent torture. The Jordanian government needs to implement strong measures to end torture and other cruel and ill treatment by its military and security agencies."

Amnesty International has been documenting the same torture concerns in Jordan and the same absence of safeguards for more than 20 years. Amnesty International recognizes that the Jordanian government has put in place certain mechanisms aimed at reducing incidences of torture, but notes that they have been largely ineffective, as torture persists in Jordan and is particularly entrenched in the GID.

Among the organization's recommendations to the Jordanian government is curtailing the powers of the GID and ensuring a separation of power -- both in law and in practice -- between the authorities responsible for detention of suspects and those responsible for interrogation and ceasing Jordan's participation in renditions and other secret transfers of prisoners.

For a copy of new report, Jordan: "Your Confessions are Ready for You to Sign": Detention and Torture of Political Suspects," please contact the AIUSA office at 202-544-0200 ext. 302.

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