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Monthly Archives: April 2009

Spanish judge opens new Guantanamo probe

 A Spanish judge yesterday opened a new investigation into alleged torture at the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, according to a copy of the ruling seen by AFP.
Judge Baltasar Garzon would probe the "perpetrators, the instigators, the necessary collaborators and accomplices" to crimes of torture at the prison at the US naval base in southern Cuba, it said.
The judge based his decision on statements by Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, known as the "Spanish Taliban" and three other former Guantanamo detainees – a Moroccan, a Palestinian and a Libyan – who alleged they had suffered torture at the camp.
"It seems that the documents declassified by the US administration mentioned by the media have revealed what was previously a suspicion – the existence of an authorised and systematic programme of torture" at Guantanamo and other prisons including that in Bagram in Afghanistan, Garzon said.
The decision was unrelated to another investigation by Garzon into six officials of the former US administration of George W. Bush over alleged torture at Guantanamo Bay.
Prosecutors this month issued an official request to the judge to drop that probe, saying Garzon was not qualified to carry out such a "general inquiry into policies put in place by the previous US administration."
They also argued the complaint should first have been brought before a US court.
Spain has since 2005 operated under the principle of "universal jurisdiction," a doctrine that allows courts to reach beyond national borders in cases of torture, terrorism or war crimes, although the government reportedly aims to limit the scope of the legal process.
Several human rights groups have asked judges in different countries to indict Bush administration officials over the camp, which US President Barack Obama has vowed to close by January 2010.
More than 800 detainees have been held at the US military prison since 2002.
Some 240 people are still there. About 60 of them have been deemed eligible for release, but the Obama administration is struggling to arrange their transfer to a third country.
The Bush administration had charged about 20 of the detainees on terror-related charges, including two prisoners arrested when they were still teenagers.

Pope apologises for Church abuses

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday apologised for a century of abuses of Canadian Indian children at Roman Catholic Church-run boarding schools, a visiting Canadian archbishop said.
The pope said he was "sorry for what happened, personally and in the name of the Church," Monsignor James Weisgerber told a news conference in Vatican City.
A Vatican communique did not use the word "apologise" but said Benedict had "expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church and […] emphasised that acts of abuse cannot be tolerated in society."
Beginning in 1874, 150,000 Indian, Inuit and Metis children in Canada were forcibly enrolled in 132 boarding schools run by Christian churches on behalf of the federal government in an effort to integrate them into society.
Survivors allege abuse by headmasters and teachers, who stripped them of their culture and language.
As well, they say their education left them disconnected from their families, communities and feeling "ashamed" of being born native.
The pope met with Phil Fontaine, national chief of Canada's Assembly of First Nations, along with Weisgerber, the archbishop of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Fontaine hailed the pope's stance, telling Canada's CBC television: "We can now close the book on this issue of apologies."
He said the pope had spoken of "his own personal anguish over this issue, the fact that so many innocent children were abused sexually and in other ways, and that this was simply intolerable […] and he had such profound regret for what had been done to so many children."

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