From the New York Times:
"Seven months before Sept. 11, 2001, the State Department issued a human rights report on Uzbekistan. It was a litany of horrors.
The police repeatedly tortured prisoners, State Department officials wrote, noting that the most common techniques were "beating, often with blunt weapons, and asphyxiation with a gas mask." Separately, international human rights groups had reported that torture in Uzbek jails included boiling of body parts, using electroshock on genitals and plucking off fingernails and toenails with pliers. Two prisoners were boiled to death, the groups reported. The February 2001 State Department report stated bluntly, "Uzbekistan is an authoritarian state with limited civil rights."
Immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, however, the Bush administration turned to Uzbekistan as a partner in fighting global terrorism. The nation, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia, granted the United States the use of a military base for fighting the Taliban across the border in Afghanistan. President Bush welcomed President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan to the White House, and the United States has given Uzbekistan more than $500 million for border control and other security measures.
Now there is growing evidence that the United States has sent terror suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation, even as Uzbekistan's treatment of its own prisoners continues to earn it admonishments from around the world, including from the State Department."
More below the fold.
"The so-called rendition program, under which the Central Intelligence Agency transfers terrorism suspects to foreign countries to be held and interrogated, has linked the United States to other countries with poor human rights records. But the turnabout in relations with Uzbekistan is particularly sharp. Before Sept. 11, 2001, there was little high-level contact between Washington and Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, beyond the United States' criticism.
Uzbekistan's role as a surrogate jailer for the United States was confirmed by a half-dozen current and former intelligence officials working in Europe, the Middle East and the United States. The C.I.A. declined to comment on the prisoner transfer program, but an intelligence official estimated that the number of terrorism suspects sent by the United States to Tashkent was in the dozens. (...)
Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, said he learned during his posting to Tashkent that the C.I.A. used Uzbekistan as a place to hold foreign terrorism suspects. During 2003 and early 2004, Mr. Murray said in an interview, "C.I.A. flights flew to Tashkent often, usually twice a week."
In July 2004, Mr. Murray wrote a confidential memo to the British Foreign Office accusing the C.I.A. of violating the United Nations' Prohibition Against Torture. He urged his colleagues to stop using intelligence gleaned in Uzbekistan from terrorism suspects because it had been elicited through torture and other coercive means. Mr. Murray said he knew about the practice through his own investigation and interviews with scores of people who claimed to have been brutally treated inside Uzbekistan's jails.
"We should cease all cooperation with the Uzbek security services - they are beyond the pale," Mr. Murray wrote in the memo, which was obtained by The Times.
Mr. Murray, who has previously spoken publicly about prisoner transfers to Uzbekistan, said his superiors in London were furious with his questions, and he was told that the intelligence gleaned in Uzbekistan could still be used by British officials, even if it was elicited by torture, as long as the mistreatment was not at the hands of British interrogators. "I was astonished," Mr. Murray said in an interview. "It was as if the goal posts had moved. Their perspective had changed since Sept. 11." "
The official response:
"A senior C.I.A. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he would not discuss whether the United States had sent prisoners to Uzbekistan or anywhere else. But he said: "The United States does not engage in or condone torture. It does not send people anywhere to be tortured. And it does not knowingly receive information derived from torture." "
Here is President Bush, smiling with President Karimov of Uzbekistan:
And here is one of Karimov's victims:
For those who believe President Bush when he says: "We operate within the law, and we send people to countries where they say they're not going to torture the people":
- Why, exactly, was it so important to transfer prisoners to Uzbek custody? Why couldn't we just interrogate them ourselves, unless we were trying to have someone else torture them?
- Why on earth should we believe Uzbek assurances that they would not torture any prisoners we turned over to them?
For everyone else:
- What has happened to our country?
- How can we make it stop?
- How long will we go on having leaders who make us so profoundly ashamed?