Friday, December 12, 2014

Bill of Rights Day

The Durham City Council will issue its annual Human Rights and Bill of Rights Proclamation at its regular Monday meeting, which happens to fall on Bill of Rights Day (December 15th) this year.  This proclamation was a campaign by the Durham Bill of Rights Defense Committee and other groups several years ago, when the Bill of Rights was being undermined on a national level by Bush-Cheney and immigrant rights were more a major issue in North Carolina.  Obama was supposedly going to bring in hope and change, but the attacks on the Bill of Rights and human rights continue, most recently demonstrated by the CIA torture revelations ( ).

Human Rights Day was December 10th and marks the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights in 1948 ( ).    

This item from an activist calendar lists some other Bill of Rights Day commemorations in the Triangle:

Annual Commemorations on Bill of Rights Day, December 15: Reading of Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Montessori School of Raleigh Students, followed by remarks of Dan Figgins on provisions of UDHR and Bill of Rights, 10 AM, State Capitol Building, 1 E Edenton St, Raleigh. Sponsored by Human Rights Coalition of NC (919-834-4478).  Proclamations from Chair of Orange County Commissioners, Chapel Hill Mayor, and Carrboro Mayor, followed by reading of first 10 Amendments of US Constitution, 12 Noon, Peace and Justice Plaza (corner of East Franklin and Henderson Sts), Chapel Hill. Sponsored by Orange County Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Orange County Peace Coalition (919-942-2535; 919-918-3432).

The Durham City Council will also issue a Safe Drinking Water Act Proclamation Monday.  

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

STN statement - NC's connections to CIA torture

North Carolina Stop Torture Now
Media Advisory
Senate Intelligence Releases Portions of Landmark Torture Report; Will North Carolina’s Role in Torture Be Addressed?
December 9, 2014

North Carolina Stop Torture Now welcomes today’s release of the historic report on CIA torture by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. The report validates what human rights investigators and journalists have demonstrated for a decade: the CIA conducted a years-long, illegal, and immoral program of torture that has cost our nation terribly in lost credibility, the enmity of millions around the world, and the undermining of our democracy.

The report has special significance in the Tar Heel state for two reasons. First, Senator Richard Burr is poised to become Chair of the committee in January. Sen. Burr voted to release the report, but at the same time signaled his intention to attack its conclusions. Second, North Carolina is deeply involved in the human rights abuses described in the report (details below).

It is not only the obligation of the federal government to commit to transparency and accountability for torture, but our state and its political subdivisions are also required to provide facts and details about torture and to accept responsibility for human rights violations,” said Prof. Deborah Weissman, UNC School of Law. “The Convention Against Torture and other treaties oblige us to uncover and take responsibility for our state’s role in the systematic torture of human beings, now confirmed by the Senate report.”

In addition to grassroots activists, prominent North Carolinians have been calling for torture transparency. More than 190 faith leaders wrote to Sen. Richard Burr in 2013, calling on him to support release of the Senate torture report. In addition, over 1,200 North Carolinians have called for an inquiry on North Carolina’s role in torture.

North Carolina and CIA-Directed Torture

Although the report’s executive summary is coming out, North Carolina’s connections to torture may be buried in the body of the report itself. A large volume of evidence has been compiled by journalists and human rights investigators:

North Carolina has been extensively involved in torture in contravention to state, federal, and international law, particularly by sustaining key aviation infrastructure for extraordinary rendition at our public airports. The Johnston County Airport has hosted Aero Contractors since 1979, and Aero remains the airport’s largest tenant. In 2005, the New York Times exposed Aero as “a major domestic hub of the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret air service.” Aero-operated craft secretly flew detainees to torture chambers in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Morocco, and Libya. They also repeatedly visited the CIA black sites in Poland and Romania where torture was performed directly by U.S. officials. Documentation was supplied to public officials and the media in this 2012 report.

NC-based planes and crews played key roles in the CIA rendition program. One of the planes operated by Aero (N379P) was a Gulfstream V jet nicknamed the “Guantanamo Express.” For a critical period during the height of the rendition program, Aero also operated a Boeing business jet (N313P) from a hangar it built at the Global TransPark in Kinston. Together, these two aircraft conducted dozens of missions in which incapacitated detainees were taken secretly to prisons where they were held indefinitely and without access to lawyers, family, or the Red Cross. There, they were interrogated using torture. Highly skilled pilots and crews operated and maintained these aircraft, likely with full knowledge they were working for the CIA. The names of several of the pilots have been in the public record for many years.

Many of the detainees transported to torture by Aero were clearly innocent, were never given due process, and were profoundly damaged. Those who survived still suffer deeply. This includes Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent; Abou ElKassim Britel, an Italian citizen of Moroccan descent; Binyam Mohamed, a UK legal resident of Ethiopian descent; Khaled al-Maqtari, a Saudi national detained in Iraq; and many more. These men were subjected to brutal treatment. They were strung up in painful stress positions for long periods and endured vicious beatings including to their genitals and torso. They suffered prolonged detention in complete darkness, or were bombarded with blasting sounds. So far, human rights investigators have documented that over 135 persons were subjected to extraordinary rendition. Over 30 of these people – and probably many more – were rendered on flights originating at Smithfield or Kinston, NC, as documented by flight logs and other data here.

Since 2005, concerned citizens have repeatedly contacted North Carolina’s elected officials with information about the state’s role in torture. With the release of the Senate Intelligence report on torture, there can be no excuse for public officials to refuse to address responsibility and accountability for North Carolina’s role in such serious human rights violations.