Posts Tagged ‘torture’

3 UK relief helicopters not allowed into Nepal as retaliation for prosecution of Nepalese Army officer

May 16, 2015

The report today is that 3 RAF Chinook helicopters, which were sent by the UK as part of the earthquake relief effort, have now returned after spending a week grounded in Delhi and never having even entered Nepal. The undertone in all the British reports is that this was an inexplicable and callous act of an incompetent Nepalese government.

But of course, there is more to the story than that and the roots lie in the Nepalese Army and its efforts against the Maoist terrorists in late 1990s and early 2000s. During the height of the conflict the UK intelligence services assisted the government but some retired British Army officers are known to have advised and helped the Maoist terrorists. Then in 2013 a Nepalese Army officer, Colonel Kumar Lama, was charged by the UK in London for torture against Maoist prisoners under the UN’s conventions.

Why Colonel Lama was singled out by the UK for prosecution was partly due to the fact that he had settled in “St Leonard-on-Sea, East Sussex, with his family. He had been serving as a UN peacekeeper in South Sudan shortly before being detained”. But it was also because the British Army officers – all now retired – who had helped the Maoists and some so-called human rights groups were either instigating or assisting the prosecution. Some of the Maoist leaders are now within the normal political process.

The bottom line is that the Nepalese government declined to accept the 3 RAF Chinook helicopters because of the prosecution – perceived as being totally unjustified – of Colonel Lama and the history of British mercenaries in helping the Maoist rebels. The UK has also been accused of assisting the government of the time against the Maoists and to have been complicit in some of the torture – which no doubt took place. But making Colonel Lama the scapegoat by mounting a prosecution in London has irritated the Nepalese government intensely.

The two decades of conflict was marked by abuse by both sides:

S Singh et al, Nepal’s war on human rightsInt J Equity Health. 2005; 4: 9.

…, both the Maoist rebels and the Royal Nepalese Army are engaged in regular intimidation and extortion leading to a climate of intense fear in Nepal. The government forces have resorted to large-scale arbitrary arrests, detentions, “disappearances”, extra judicial executions and torture including rape. Human rights defenders, including lawyers; journalists and members of NGO’s have been arrested, tortured, killed or “disappeared” in Nepal. Nepal held the unique distinction for the highest number of “disappearances” of any country in 2003 and 2004. The Maoists have resorted to torture and deliberate and unlawful killings. According to INSEC (Informal Sector Service Centre), a human rights organisation, nearly 3000 people were killed and about 26,000 people were abducted in 2004 in Nepal. The Maoists have abducted civilians, including teachers and schoolchildren for the purpose of ‘political indoctrination’. 


BBCThree RAF Chinook helicopters sent to Nepal to help the aid effort in the country are to return to the UK having not been used, the government has said. The CH47 Chinooks left the UK two weeks ago to help transport “life-saving aid supplies” and reach stranded victims “in desperate need” of help.

But the helicopters have been grounded in Delhi, in India, for the past week. The Ministry of Defence said it was “disappointed”, saying the decision had been made by the Nepalese government. An MoD spokesman said the Nepalese government, while thanking the UK for the offer, had said the helicopters will not take part in the relief effort.

The GuardianA Nepalese army officer has gone on trial at the Old Bailey accused of torturing two alleged Maoist rebels in his homeland 10 years ago. The prosecution of Lieutenant Colonel Kumar Lama, 47, was brought before a London court because of the UK’s obligations under the UN convention against torture to bring suspects to justice wherever they are detained. Torture, like war crimes, is subject to universal jurisdiction, allowing those who allegedly committed crimes abroad to be tried in Britain.

Lama was arrested in 2013 after settling in St Leonard-on-Sea, East Sussex, with his family. He had been had been serving as a UN peacekeeper in South Sudan shortly before being detained. Charged with presiding over the torture of two men – Janak Raut and Karam Hussain – while in charge of Gorusinghe barracks in Kapilvastu in 2005, Lama denies both counts of inflicting severe pain or suffering.

The prosecution has been brought under section 134 (sub-section 1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. The colonel has indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Opening the case, prosecutor Bobbie Cheema QC said: “The authorities in this country have an obligation in cases where torture is alleged to have been committed if the alleged perpetrators are found within England. “This commitment to prosecute alleged torturers even if the torture happened in an entirely different country and continent is sometimes called the principle of providing no safe haven for torturers.”

Southasia.comAnnapurna Dainik, a Nepali-language newspaper, has claimed the government took the ‘informal decision’ of not allowing the three Chinook helicopters to enter the Nepali airspace because of the arrest and prosecution of Nepalese Army’s Colonel Kumar Lama as well as for the relationship that existed between a senior British Army officer (now retired) and the Maoist guerrillas while they were still in war with the state. …

….. The Royal Air Force flew the helicopters in a transporter aircraft on April 30. It is understood they were originally planned to be flown straight to Kathmandu for reassembly but the aircraft carrying them was diverted to New Delhi when the Tribhuvan International Airport became clogged with relief flights due to the limited number of runways.

The GuardianBritish authorities have been accused of funding a four-year intelligence operation in Nepal that led to Maoist rebels being arrested, tortured and killed during the country’s civil war.

Thomas Bell, the author of a new book on the conflict, says MI6 funded safe houses and provided training in surveillance and counter-insurgency tactics to Nepal’s army and spy agency, the National Investigation Department (NID) under “Operation Mustang”, launched in 2002.

Nepal’s decade-long civil war left more than 16,000 dead, with rebels and security forces accused of serious human rights violations including killings, rapes, torture and disappearances.

“According to senior Nepalese intelligence and army officials involved in the operation, British aid greatly strengthened their performance and led to about 100 arrests,” said Bell, whose book Kathmandu is released in south Asia on Thursday. “It’s difficult to put an exact number on it, but certainly some of those who were arrested were tortured and disappeared,” he said.

Psychologists do not swear any oath to “Do no harm”

December 14, 2014

Theoretically Doctors follow the Hippocratic Oath though I am not certain that all Doctors all around the world actually swear to do so. Psychologists and other therapists are not required to hold to any oath. They do not swear as many believe to “Do no harm”. So the two psychologists who designed and ran the CIA’s torture program and managed to extract $81 million for their services did not break any oaths. (Of course, $81 million for 2 people for 12 years is only $3.375 million per psychologist per year).  In any case any obligations to a patient did not and do not apply. Those being tortured were certainly not their patients – they were just subjects to be wrung dry. Medical Doctors were also around as reported by the Washington Post:

But in most instances documented, medical personnel appear to be enablers — advising that shackles be loosened to avoid extreme edema while a detainee was subjected to prolonged standing or stress positions; covering a wound in plastic during water dousing; and administering “rectal feeding” and “rectal rehydration,” which one medical official described as an apparently effective way to “clear a person’s head” and get him to talk.

The psychologists used the techniques developed by Martin Seligman on dogs. Learned helplessness is a behaviour in which an organism forced to endure aversive, painful or otherwise unpleasant stimuli, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are escapable.

Martin Seligman’s painful animal experiments and theory of learned helplessness began at the University of Pennsylvania in 1967. ….. In learned helplessness studies, an animal is repeatedly exposed to an aversive stimulus which it cannot escape. Eventually, the animal stops trying to avoid the stimulus and behaves as if it is helpless to change the situation. When opportunities to escape become available, learned helplessness means the animal does not take any action. ……. In CIA interrogation manuals learned helplessness is characterized as “apathy”

I suppose torture qualifies as painful and unpleasant stimuli.


Two psychologists contracted by the CIA to create enhanced interrogation techniques for al-Qaeda detainees have come under fire for violating human rights and medical ethics. Although pseudonyms were used in the 480-page report published this week by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, it was clearly referring to Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, who were paid US$81 million for their work.

Both Jessen and Mitchell had worked on  the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program in which soldiers are trained to endure brutal mock interrogations, including waterboarding. After 9/11 they were asked to design an interrogation program. …… 

The strength of ten

 The techniques they designed were based on the notion of “learned helplessness”, which was developed in the 1960s with dogs by Martin Seligman (who is mortified by his indirect link with torture). People who face unending adversity eventually become depressed and give up attempts to improve their situation. The CIA’s psychologists thought that this state would encourage detainees to become cooperative and volunteer information.

Physicians for Human Rights was highly critical of the participation of health professionals in all stages of the CIA’s program. Their involvement in monitoring the torture techniques was central to providing legal protection to interrogators, said PHR, as torture could them be described as “safe, legal, and effective”.

About half – if not more – of the US believes that the CIA torture program was justified even if torture – at heart – is wrong. I observe that the debate in the UK is about under what conditions torture may be acceptable, not on whether torture is wrong. In India, torture in the service of the State or of religion is implicit and considered justifiable. In Sweden torture is absolutely wrong and only to be used by others – where it may be justifiable. The prevailing Value which applies to humans as a whole, it seems to me, is that in certain circumstances, torture is regrettable but acceptable.

Human Rights are whatever a society determines it to be. The UN or European Human Rights conventions are supposed to be well meaning goals but that is all they are. Countries sign up to these conventions only because it is the “politically correct” and expedient thing to do. But what they truly  believe in is something different. Actual values determine actual behaviour. The conventions may represent “values we would like to aspire to” but they are not values that we do have. When Obama proclaims “That is not who we are” he forgets that what we do – not what we say – is who we are.

“That is not who we are” – Barack Obama. Oh Yes it is!

December 10, 2014

I heard Barack Obama trying to make the best of the CIA torture report released by the Senate yesterday. “One of the things that sets us apart from other countries is that when we make mistakes, we admit them. ……… brutal, and as I’ve said before, constituted torture, in my mind. And that’s not who we are.

But of course it is “who we are”. Certainly admitting a self-judged, wrong-doing – after the event – is also part of “who we are”. But the fact of the wrong-doing remains part of the behaviour which constitutes “who we are”. It does not vanish with a subsequent apology.

While behaviour includes what one says, what one does always overrides if the two are in conflict. So, while the US is certainly to be commended on admitting some wrong-doings after the event, it is also quite clear that that behaviour is – at times – quite acceptable. “American Values” clearly do allow torture under certain conditions. Abu Ghraib and My Lai are part of the reality of the behaviour of the US military. Such behaviour is what they are, notwithstanding that the behaviour was later declared to be “wrong”. Those values are ingrained and it is almost certain that some “torture”and some mistreatment of detainees is ongoing right now, to be apologised for later – if revealed. I conclude that torture itself is not against American Values. The Value could actually be formulated thus:

Torture is wrong but permitted, as a last resort, in special circumstances and must be apologised for if later revealed.

The map of all the countries who were complicit – actively or passively – with CIA’s torture program includes most of the countries who speak loudest and most sanctimoniously about human rights. Add to this all the other countries (Russia, China, India, South American countries, …. ) who also use torture in some form, and I come to the conclusion that there is not a single country today where some form of torture (physical as well as mental) is not at least tolerated under some specific conditions. Nobody claims that torture is a “good thing”, but every country also accepts that it can be justified. The concept of “absolute human rights” is fundamentally flawed. The “human rights” that any society is prepared to bestow upon those within or without that society is dynamic and variable.

Currently “what humans are”, all around the world, includes the use of torture – knowing that it is “wrong” – under certain conditions when deemed absolutely necessary.

There are no absolute values either, just as there are no absolute human rights. How should we judge the behaviour of an ISIS executioner with that of a CIA torturer? An ISIS executioner carries out his bloody beheadings in the belief that he is doing “right” in accordance with his values. A CIA torturer carries out his miserable activities knowing that it is “wrong” but that it is in a “good” cause and justified by his values.

I suppose they will both be gathered to the bosoms of their angry gods in their respective heavens.

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