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Commenting on the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA torture, Clare Algar, Executive Director at international human rights NGO Reprieve said:
Commenting on the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA torture, Clare Algar, Executive Director at international human rights NGO Reprieve said:
"This is a good start, but it is far from the whole picture. The names of many victims of rendition and torture are absent - not least that of Khadija al Saadi, who was just 12 years old when she was 'rendered' along with her entire family to Gaddafi's Libya, in a joint CIA - MI6 operation. She, her younger brothers and sister, and so many others are still owed an apology. Instead, those responsible for signing off on her abuse are feted on book tours and chat shows. We are still a long way from acknowledging the horrors of the CIA's torture programme, and achieving real accountability."
Khadija al Saadi, a victim of a CIA-MI6 rendition to Libya in 2004 when she was just twelve years old, who is being represented by Reprieve, said:
"When I was 12 years old, I was bundled onto a dark plane, separated from my parents, and told to keep my two younger brothers and younger sister quiet and calm. They were 11, nine and six years old. All we could hear was our mother crying, saying that we were being taken back to Libya to be executed by Colonel Gaddafi. When we landed, I was told to go and say goodbye to my father, who was bound up and had a needle in his arm. I fainted, because I was sure we were going to be killed. We now have the actual faxes and flight plans that prove that the CIA arranged the whole thing. That is what the rendition programme involved, however hard the politicians try to black out the truth from their report."
Commenting on the UK's involvement in the rendition programme, in the light of reports that it "lobbied" the Senate Committee over the report, Clare Algar said:
"We already know the UK was up to its neck in the CIA's rendition and torture programme. MI6 fell over themselves to take credit for the rendition of Gaddafi opponents - along with their wives & young children - to Libyan prisons in 2004. Yet the British Government continues to fight against real accountability in the UK courts, and have broken their promise to hold an independent, judge-led inquiry into the UK's role in CIA torture. And not content with frustrating accountability at home, they have admitted that they even 'made representations' to US Senate over the contents of the report relating to the UK authorities. This is not the behaviour of a government committed to transparency and democratic accountability."
Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantanamo Bay.
"Policy—and electoral—concerns appear to have always kept Cuba on the SSOT list, rather than actually meeting the legal requirements to be on there," the attorneys argue.
A group of 160 mostly American lawyers on Friday urged President Joe Biden to remove Cuba from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list, a designation acknowledged as meritless and politically motivated by critics and proponents of the policy alike.
Noting that numerous former Latin American and Caribbean heads of state, as well as "hundreds of civil society organizations and thousands of citizens" have asked the Biden administration to lift Cuba's State Sponsors of Terrorism (SSOT) status, the attorneys called on the president "to immediately initiate a review and notification process to remove Cuba from the SSOT list."
"There is no legal or moral justification for Cuba to remain on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list," the attorneys argued in an Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect (ACERE) letter. "Given the tremendous economic, social, humanitarian, and commercial effect placement on the SSOT list has had for the Cuba people, maintaining it for such pretextual reasons continues to be a stain on U.S. foreign policy."
\u201cThere is no legal or moral justification to list Cuba as a state sponsor of terror. This important letter signed by 160 lawyers makes that clear. We\u2019re proud to have helped gather signatures! #LetCubaLive\u201d— CODEPINK (@CODEPINK) 1674503676
In 2015, then-President Barack Obama removed Cuba from the SSOT during a promising but ultimately short-lived rapprochement between the two countries that abruptly ended when former President Donald Trump took office in 2017. The lawyers' letter is a point-by-point refutation of the criteria cited by then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when the outgoing Trump administration re-listed Cuba as an SSOT in January 2021.
These include Cuba's refusal to extradite members of the National Liberation Army, a leftist rebel group from Colombia, who traveled to Havana for peace negotiations with the Colombian government. Such an extradition, the lawyers noted, would have violated Cuba's obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of all participants in the peace talks.
Pompeo also cited the fact that Cuba harbors U.S. fugitives wanted for acts of political violence committed nearly half a century ago, even though no other country has been placed on the SSOT list for such a reason. Aside from ignoring all the Cuban exile terrorists who enjoy not only citizenship but sometimes even heroic status in the United States, the lawyers note that "international law clearly prohibits extradition for acts of political violence."
As the letter states:
To the extent that the 1904 extradition treaty between Cuba and the United States remains in effect and continues to be honored by both parties, it contains a standard political offense exemption. This exception is premised upon a concept familiar to the United States, which is that "individuals have a right to resort to political activism to foster political change." Indeed, this is precisely the sort of "activism" that the United States designates millions of dollars to each year for regime change in Cuba.
"Policy—and electoral—concerns appear to have always kept Cuba on the SSOT list, rather than actually meeting the legal requirements to be on there," the lawyers' letter contends, citing a former Clinton administration Cuba expert who admitted that "frankly, I don't know anyone inside or outside of government who believes in private that Cuba belongs on the terrorist list."
"People who defend it know it is a political calculation," the expert added. "It keeps a certain part of the voting public in Florida happy, and it doesn't cost anything."
Much of that "certain part of the voting public in Florida" consists of Cuban-Americans, who—especially among the older generations—vehemently support isolating Cuba as long as it remains socialist.
"Frankly, I don't know anyone inside or outside of government who believes in private that Cuba belongs on the terrorist list."
Earlier this month, Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.)—the daughter of Cuban exiles who believes that even the sort of democratic socialism found in many of the world's freest and most developed nations brings "misery, oppression, and exile"—introduced the FORCE Act. The proposed legislation would bar Biden from removing Cuba from the SSOT list "until the regime grants basic human rights protections."
Cuba was first placed on the SSOT list by the Reagan administration in 1982. By that time, the island nation and its socialist government had endured a decadeslong campaign of U.S.-backed exile terrorism, attempted subversion, failed assassination attempts, economic warfare, and covert operations large and small in a fruitless policy of toppling longtime leader Fidel Castro. Cuba says U.S.-backed terrorism has killed or wounded more than 5,000 Cubans and cost its economy billions of dollars.
There is no comparable—or any—history of Cuban terrorism against the United States.
In stark contrast, the Reagan administration removed Iraq, then ruled by the dictator Saddam Hussein, from the SSOT list just days before Cuba was added. This was so that the U.S. could supply Hussein's forces with weaponry used to kill both Iranians and Iraq's own restive Kurdish and Shi'a people. Top officials in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations knew that Iraqi forces were using chemical weapons—some of whose components came from the United States and its allies—against both Iranians and against Iraqi Kurds in the genocidal Anfal campaign, but gave Hussein diplomatic cover until he ordered an invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.
\u201cThe resolution by the Berkeley City Council (CA) marks 1 of the 65 different docs passed across the US, demanding the withdrawal of #Cuba from the SSOT list & the lifting of the blockade.\n\nWe thank the ppl of the US, which each day expresses its solidarity through these efforts.\u201d— Lianys Torres Rivera (@Lianys Torres Rivera) 1672758072
More than 100 progressive groups and over 10,000 people have signed petitions and open letters urging Biden to lift Cuba's SSOT designation.
Last October, leftist Colombia President Gustavo Petro asked U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to end the "injustice" of Cuba being listed as a sponsor of terrorism.
"How many more Americans must die before Congress finally has the guts to stop the pharmaceutical industry from getting away with murder?"
"Today, millions of Americans are making the unacceptable choice between feeding their families or buying the medicine they need. Seniors from Vermont to Alaska are forced to split pills in half and many have died because they did not have enough money to fill their prescriptions."
That's what U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in an opinion piece published Monday by Fox News as the two-time Democratic presidential candidate prepares to take charge of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
Sanders stressed that despite national divisions, "on one of the most important matters facing our country the American people—Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Progressives, Conservatives—could not be more united. And that is the need to take on the unprecedented corporate greed of the pharmaceutical industry and to substantially lower the outrageously high price of prescription drugs."
If Congress had the courage to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, we could cut the price of prescription drugs in America by at least 50%.
Various polls from the past two years show that 88% of U.S. adults support making it easier for generic medicines to come to market and restricting how much drug companies can increase prices each year while 83% support allowing the government to negotiate lower prices for Medicare and private insurance.
The Inflation Reduction Act signed last year by President Joe Biden contains modest drug pricing reforms—including allowing Medicare negotiation for some medicines—but not nearly at the scale that Sanders and others had advocated.
"All over this country, the American people are asking, why it is that they pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs?" Sanders wrote. "Why is it that nearly 1 out of every 4 adults in America cannot afford their prescription medication? Why do nearly half of all new drugs in the United States cost more than $150,000 a year?"
"How is it that in Canada and other major countries the same medications manufactured by the same companies, sold in the same bottles are available for a fraction of the price that we pay in the United States?" the senator asked, recalling when, in 2019, he joined a busload of people with diabetes who traveled from Detroit, Michigan, to Windsor, Ontario to buy insulin for a fraction of what they pay in the United States.
"The answers," he asserted, "can be summed up in three words: Follow the money."
Sanders noted the billions of dollars that Big Pharma has pumped into stock buybacks and political lobbying as well as the millions spent on campaign contributions in recent decades. He also pointed out the massive profits that industry giants rake in annually "as Americans die because they cannot afford the medications they need."
\u201cWhen Americans can't afford lifesaving medicine because of greedy Big Pharma, it's time we rethink this entire system. \n\nGreedy pharma firms rip off Americans while Pfizer, Moderna swim in profits\n\nhttps://t.co/scdY9PXCno\u201d— Keilah Bee McDonald (@Keilah Bee McDonald) 1674484698
"Examples of corporate greed within the pharmaceutical industry are limitless. Let's start with Moderna," the senator wrote, detailing how the company "received $1.7 billion from U.S. taxpayers to research and develop the Covid-19 vaccine and billions more to distribute it to the American people," but now reportedly plans to hike the price.
As Common Dreams previously reported, Sanders expressed his outrage over Moderna's potential price increase for the vaccine—a 4,000% markup over its estimated production cost of less than $3 per dose and a quadrupling of the $26.36 price tag for the U.S. government—earlier this month in a letter to CEO Stéphane Bancel.
On Monday, Moderna was far from the senator's only target. He also called out Pfizer's ties to the Republican Party as well as Sovaldi for cashing in on a hepatitis C pill; Japanese drugmaker Astellas for increasing the U.S. price of the prostate cancer drug Xtandi; and Eli Lilly for hiking the price of the medical insulin Humalog.
"It does not have to be this way," Sanders argued. "The reality is that if Congress had the courage to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, we could cut the price of prescription drugs in America by at least 50%. How? By preventing the pharmaceutical industry from charging more for prescription drugs in the U.S. than they do in Canada, Britain, Germany, France and Japan—a concept that is not only supported by progressives, but former President Donald Trump. I will soon be re-introducing legislation in the Senate to do just that."
"A lifesaving drug is not effective if a person who needs that drug cannot afford it," he concluded. "How many more Americans must die before Congress finally has the guts to stop the pharmaceutical industry from getting away with murder?"
While Sanders' takeover of the Senate HELP Committee reportedly has some healthcare industry lobbyists worried—given his longtime criticism of corporate influence on Capitol Hill and support for policies to serve working people, slash drug costs, and create a public universal healthcare system—progress on those fronts is expected to be hampered over the next two years by right-wing Democrats and the GOP's narrow control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Astonishing use of 'but' that enables the efforts of the Saudi regime to blame Khashoggi for his own murder," said one journalist.
The widow of murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Monday denounced former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his comments about her husband in Pompeo's upcoming memoir, in which he questions Khashoggi's journalism credentials and his allegiances.
As excerpts from Pompeo's book, Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love, became public a day before its publication date, Hanan Elatr Khashoggi told NBC News she wishes she were able "to silence all of these people who publish books, disparage my husband, and collect money from it."
Elatr Khashoggi fired back after NBC News reported that in Pompeo's book, he writes of Jamal Khashoggi, "He didn't deserve to die, but we need to be clear about who he was—and too many in the media were not."
\u201c\u201cHe didn\u2019t deserve to die, but we need to be clear about who he was," writes Mike Pompeo about Jamal Khashoggi.\n\nAstonishing use of "but" that enables the efforts of the Saudi regime to blame Khashoggi for his own murder\nhttps://t.co/gX72GEIN8H\u201d— Sasha Chavkin (@Sasha Chavkin) 1674506150
The book contains accusations that Khashoggi "was cozy with the terrorist-supporting Muslim Brotherhood," alludes to his coverage of and friendship with Osama bin Laden when both were young, and says he was an "activist" rather than a journalist.
Elatr Khashoggi, whom the Saudi national married in 2018 in an Islamic ceremony, told NBC that "Jamal Kashoggi is not part of the Muslim Brotherhood" and that he "always condemned" the September 11, 2001 attacks masterminded by bin Laden.
"Whatever Mike Pompeo mentions about my husband Jamal Khashoggi, he doesn't know my husband," Elatr Khashoggi tweeted.
\u201c@_DanMangan @NBCNews Whatever @mikepompeo mentions about my husband @JKhashoggi he doesn\u2019t know my husband. He should be silent and shut up the lies about my husband. It is such bad information and the wrong information. This is not acceptable. #justiceforjamal\u201d— Dan Mangan (@Dan Mangan) 1674504063
Khashoggi, who wrote critically of the Saudi government, was killed in October 2018 by a group of assassins in Istanbul. Khashoggi's family sued Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and accused him of personally ordering the execution in 2020, and a United Nations report found that "high-level officials" in Saudi Arabia were responsible for the murder, but last year the Biden administration recommended that bin Salman, as prime minister, be shielded from U.S. lawsuits regarding the case.
While attacking Khashoggi for his loyalties, Pompeo, a Republican who has said he is considering a 2024 presidential run, notes in the book that the U.S. has a "strategic" relationship with the Saudis to consider.
"Shame on you, Mike Pompeo, HarperCollins, and Broadside Books for publishing these lies about my husband," tweeted Elatr Khashoggi.