Thursday 22 February 2018

Human rights group seeks arrest of CIA deputy director

The complaint centres on the case of Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi citizen and senior al-Qaeda member who was detained in the wake of the 9/11 attacks (US Central Command/AP)
The complaint centres on the case of Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi citizen and senior al-Qaeda member who was detained in the wake of the 9/11 attacks (US Central Command/AP)

A civil rights group has urged German authorities to issue an arrest warrant for the recently-appointed deputy director of the CIA over claims she oversaw the torture of terrorism suspects 15 years ago.

The European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights has submitted a legal brief to German federal prosecutors alleging Gina Haspel allowed the waterboarding of prisoners at a secret US detention centre in Thailand.

The prosecutor's office confirmed on Wednesday the complaint had been received and is being reviewed. Similar complaints against senior US officials in the past have not resulted in arrest warrants.

Advocates describe waterboarding as a form of "enhanced interrogation", but critics say it amounts to torture because prisoners are made to feel they are drowning.

Ms Haspel was the first female career CIA officer selected to be deputy director in February.

The submission by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights centres mainly on the case of Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi citizen and senior al-Qaeda member who was among scores of Islamic extremists detained worldwide in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Drawing on media reports and congressional testimony, lawyers for the Centre allege Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002, while Ms Haspel was in charge of a detention facility in Thailand known as Cat's Eye base or Detention Site Green.

The submission identifies two CIA contractors, psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, as the only people authorised to have contact with Zubaydah during that time and claims they were answerable to Ms Haspel.

The American Civil Liberties Union is currently suing Mr Mitchell and Mr Jessen on behalf of three men who say they were tortured using techniques the psychologists designed.

A US Senate investigation in 2014 found their interrogation techniques produced no useful intelligence in the so-called war on terror, but some former intelligence officials say the techniques have produced valuable information.

"For the purposes of determining criminal liability, what is most relevant is the fact that as head of the secret prison in Thailand, Gina Haspel followed each day of Abu Zubaydah's torture from August 4 to 23, 2002, and she alone had the responsibility to end this torture but failed to do so," the submission to German prosecutors states.

It also cites the case of Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing in 2000, who was waterboarded at Cat's Eye base in November 2002.

Both men are now held at the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In a separate legal proceeding, Europe's top human rights court ruled in 2014 that Poland had violated the rights of Zubaydah and al-Nashiri by allowing the CIA to secretly imprison them on Polish soil from 2002-2003 and facilitate conditions under which they were tortured.

The ruling by the European Court of Human Rights marked the first time any court had passed judgment on the rendition programme launched by US President George W Bush after 9/11.

Civil rights groups have tried to prosecute several senior US officials implicated in the torture programme, including former CIA director George Tenet, former US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld, top CIA legal counsel John Rizzo and Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of the Guantanamo Bay centre.

The submission naming Ms Haspel is the first in Germany against a high-ranking official still in service with the CIA.

The agency declined to comment on the German group's legal efforts to have her arrested.


Press Association

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