Latin America Only UN Region Not Involved in US Torture Program

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Dec. 14, 2014 – The 53 countries involved in the CIA torture program hail from four of the five UN regional groups and eight of those countries hosted CIA torture prisons.

Overall, more than one-quarter of the UN’s 193 member states were involved in the torture program, which was detailed in a US Senate select committee report released last week.

Four countries belonging to the Eastern European group – Bosnia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania; three countries in the Asian group – Afghanistan, Iraq and Thailand; and Morocco in the African group were home to secret CIA detention facilities, or “black sites,” where torture took place, in addition to Guantanamo Bay, according to the Open Society’s Globalizing Torture report.

Forty-five other countries, as well as Hong Kong, facilitated US torture, from providing information to US authorities, to allowing CIA rendition flights stopover and refuel, as well as detaining and handing over individuals to CIA custody.

Almost half are European with thirteen of the countries named belonging to the Western European and Others Group, including permanent Security Council member the UK, as well as Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain, in addition to Australia and Canada, while six Eastern European countries were involved including Croatia, Georgia and Macedonia.

Twelve countries from the African group are named including South Africa, Egypt and Zimbabwe as well as twelve from the Asian group including Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Syria.

None of the 33 countries in the Latin American and Caribbean group were named in the report.

List of UN member states implicated in US torture program:

Afghanistan
Austria
Australia
Albania
Algeria
Azerbaijan
Belgium
Bosnia-Herzegovina
Canada
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Djibouti
Egypt
Ethiopia
Finland
Gambia
Georgia
Germany
Greece
Iceland
Indonesia
Iran
Ireland
Italy
Jordan
Kenya
Libya
Lithuania
Macedonia
Malawi
Malaysia
Mauritania
Morocco
Pakistan
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Saudi Arabia
Somalia
South Africa
Spain
Sri Lanka
Sweden
Syria
Thailand
Turkey
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
Uzbekistan
Yemen
Zimbabwe

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

First Timers Chad, Georgia, Lithuania and Saudi Arabia Among Those Vying for UNSC Seats in 2014-15

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The new Security Council members will deliberate in the newly renovated council chamber which re-opened this month. (photo: courtesy of Norway/UN)

April 10, 2013 – Six countries have declared their candidacy for the five vacancies up for grabs in October’s election for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council.

So far, Chad, Chile, Georgia, Lithuania, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are running for election to the Council for 2014-15, though it’s looking more like an election process than race at this stage. 

Among the six, Georgia and Lithuania are the only two running in a competitive race. One of them will replace Azerbaijan who currently occupy the Eastern Europe seat, but whose term ends Dec. 31, 2013. Neither Tbilisi nor Vilnius has served on the Council, and Lithuania, if successful, would be the first Baltic country elected to the 15-nation body.

Chile, whose likely next president, Michele Bachelet, recently stepped down as head of U.N. Women, last served on the Council in 2003-04 and was one of the the so-called ‘Middle Six’ delegations whose vote was fought over by those for and against the invasion of Iraq. 

The Latin America group at the UN typically presents a “clean slate” for candidates meaning each candidate runs unopposed so Santiago is virtually guaranteed to replace Guatemala.

Nigeria and Chad are running for the two African seats to replace Morocco and Togo. Nigeria has served four times on the Council, most recently in 2010-11 while Chad has never. Unless other candidates are announced in the interim both are assured of a two-year term.

Saudi Arabia, one of the 51 founding members of the U.N. in 1945, has also never served on the Council. It looks set to replace Pakistan for the Asia-Pacific group Arab swing seat – the African and Asian groups take turns every two years to nominate an Arab country: Morocco was elected from the African group for 2011-13 so it is now Asia’s turn to nominate an Arab state.

– Denis Fitzgerald

UN to (Again) Call on U.S. to End Cuban Embargo

Nov. 12, 2012 – The United Nations General Assembly will vote Tuesday on a resolution calling on the United States to end its 52-year embargo against Cuba, but there’s little reason to believe the outcome will alter the Obama administration’s Havana policy.

The U.S. bans its citizens from travelling to or doing business in Cuba.

Ending the embargo is seen as a move that could strengthen Obama’s relationship with his Latin American neighbors who are unanimously against “el bloqeo.”

The resolution has been approved every year since first introduced in 1990.

Brazil’s representative said after the vote last year that the embargo “went against international law and inhibited regional relations” while Argentina’s said “it went against the principles of international law and the UN charter.”

After Monday’s success in the General Assembly vote for election to the Human Rights Council, which the U.S. topped with 131 votes in the Western Group, Tuesday’s vote is likely to see the U.S in the tiniest minority when the votes are tallied.

Last year, 186 countries voted for the text while only Israel joined the U.S. in voting against it. Even Canada, normally a staunch ally of the U.S. and Israel, voted for lifting the embargo.

While President Obama has laxed some of the travel restrictions – making it easier for students and religious groups to visit and allowing Cuban-Americans to visit Cuba as much as they want – he has renewed the trade ban each year of his presidency.

Cuba is the only country placed on the U.S. Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 after the removal of North Korea in 2008.

There’s speculation that Obama’s strong showing among Cuban-Americans in last week’s election will harbor a change in policy but that’s unlikely to include a lifting of the trade embargo.

The continuing detention of Alan Gross is currently the main source of tension between Havana and Washington with the State department contractor reported to have lost 105 pounds since his arrest in December 2009 for crimes against the state.

Arguably, more important factors are that Havana-born Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R), who will continue as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez (D), set to take over the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – should John Kerry get a cabinet post, – are both firmly opposed to any easing of the embargo.

The Senate’s two other Hispanic senators, recently elected Texas tea party candidate, Ted Cruz, and Florida’s Marco Rubio, both Cuban-American like Menendez, are also firmly opposed to lifting the embargo.

Cuba says as a result of the embargo the U.S. Treasury department has frozen $245 million in funds destined for Havana as of December 2011.

It also says the embargo is preventing Cuban medical facilities from importing artificial skin for burn patients and faces challenges importing replacement stent valves for heart patients, among other medical restrictions, that all result in delayed treatment and higher patient costs.

Havana made these claims in a report prepared by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which is available here.

– Denis Fitzgerald 

Nov 13 Update: The resolution was adopted by a vote of 188 in favor and 3 opposed – the U.S., Israel and Palau.