• Blog
  • May 24th, 2018

There must be accountability for torture.

CIA_floor_sealThe U.S. Senate voted 54–45 on Thursday, 17 May 2018 to approve the nomination of Gina Haspel as the new CIA Director.

After the 9/11 attacks, Gina Haspel worked as Chief of Staff in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Section, the unit responsible for the coordination of the CIA’s infamous rendition, detention and “enhanced interrogation” program.  In late 2002 she was sent to run a “black site” in Thailand where she oversaw interrogations which included torture and with respect to which she subsequently ordered the destruction of videotape evidence.

On the global implications of Haspel being confirmed by the full Senate, Osgoode Hall law professor Craig Scott writes:

Each time the United States’ political and legal systems refuse to pursue any form of accountability for key participants in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pentagon torture programs, it puts another nail in the coffin of the global struggle against impunity for torture.

But Thursday’s vote is more than a failure to hold a torturer to account. It is a grotesque action to make that torturer the public face of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Each time U.S. impunity is confirmed, the torture apparatuses of other states are emboldened. They know it makes U.S. criticism of them that much less likely and they also know that their governments can push back with charges of hypocrisy if the U.S. does try to get righteous with them about their own uses of torture. – Craig Scott

During her confirmation hearing, and in written responses Haspel sent to senators after the hearing, she refused to acknowledge the immorality of the CIA’s now defunct torture program, rendering meaningless her assurance to the Committee that she would in future do nothing “immoral” if asked by the President.

Craig Scott also reminds us that torture is not just America’s problem. Referring to the Counterterrorism Unit where Gina Haspel worked, he states:

It was, for example, this program that saw Canadian Maher Arar detained in New York, flown to Jordan, and passed on to suffer horrific torture in Syria.

On the central question of holding torturers to account, Canada fails as well:

…successive Canadian governments — including the present Trudeau government — have refused to call a commission of inquiry to look into the policy and practice of the Canadian military sending detainees in Afghanistan to the substantial risk of torture at the hands of Afghan security agencies widely known to use brutal interrogation methods as standard procedure.

This continued Canadian abdication of “morality and accountability” may one day be rectified by the International Criminal Court.  But why should this be necessary?  Canadians must continue to determinedly and persistently demand made-in-Canada accountability for these immoral and unconscionable acts committed in our name.

For the full blog post by Craig Scott, click: Trump CIA Pick’s Refusal To Condemn All Torture Is Canada’s Moral Problem, Too (Huffingtonpost.ca blog, 15 May 2018).

For a detailed and harrowing description of the torture inflicted by the CIA rendition program, click: U.S. Navy Reserve Doctor on Gina Haspel Torture Victim: “One of the Most Severely Traumatized Individuals I Have Ever Seen”  (Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept, 17 May 2018).

And see also: The terrible accomplishment of Gina Haspel (Heather Mallick, Toronto Star, 11 May 2018).

Photo credit: Central Intelligence Agency

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  • Blog
  • May 14th, 2018

Update: More fallout from Trump violation of Iran nuclear deal

As we highlighted in our previous blog post, Trump violates Iran Nuclear Deal, on May 8, 2018 President Donald Trump announced his decision to unilaterally reimpose sanctions on Iran, despite its full compliance with the agreement.

RI President Peggy Mason discusses the repercussions with host Don Martin on CTV’s Power Play:

Since then, experts have sought to better understand the reasons behind Trump’s deeply troubling action.  Ramesh Thakur, professor emeritus and former UN Assistant Secretary-General, writes:

Trump has pulled out of the deal not because it was flawed, but because it was working as intended and this posed an insurmountable obstacle to potential military strikes on Iran. As a consequence, Trump’s decision will worsen relations with Europe, destabilise the Middle East, complicate negotiations to reverse North Korea’s nuclearisation and damage the global nuclear order.

Click Trump is master of the art of making America grate (Australian Institute of International Affairs) for his full article.

Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University has an equally pessimistic view of American and Israeli intentions.

On the positive side, European leaders are working extremely hard to salvage the Iran nuclear deal by counteracting American efforts to penalize European companies for continuing to do business with Iran.  In addition to a European Union-wide “blocking statute” to nullify any U.S. sanctions imposed on EU firms, consideration is also being given to measures to increase Europe’s financial independence from the United States:

One proposal is to set up a purely European finance house to oversee euro-denominated transactions with Iran. – French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

If the Europeans actually follow through and develop some much needed economic independence from the United States, that will be one positive result from the otherwise disastrous action by President Trump to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal.

For the full article on European efforts to salvage the deal, see: US faces European backlash against Iran sanctions (Guardian.com, 11 May 2018).

Photo credit: Wikimedia Images (North Tehran Towers)

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  • Blog
  • May 8th, 2018

President Trump violates Iran nuclear deal


JCPOA signatoriesMay 8, 2018.

Former Disarmament Ambassadors condemn Trump’s unilateral breach of international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program

Two former Canadian Disarmament Ambassadors, Douglas Roche and Peggy Mason, today condemned in the strongest possible terms the decision by Donald Trump not to renew U.S. sanctions waivers in violation of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal between the P5+1 countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, UK and USA) and Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

 “The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has ten times certified Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement.  In contrast, Trump’s reimposition of sanctions is a twofold breach of U.S. commitments under the agreement – firstly, not to reimpose sanctions absent an Iranian violation and secondly, not to interfere with sanctions relief by others through so-called secondary sanctions on non-U.S. entities”, they said.

Mason went on to say:

“This is a multilateral agreement so Trump’s reckless action alone cannot kill the deal.  However, it is in serious jeopardy unless other parties, particularly France, Germany and the UK, take immediate steps to insulate their companies and banks engaged in trade with Iran from U.S. retaliation”.

The two former Canadian Ambassadors to the UN also underlined the importance of all other parties to the agreement as well as the broader international community, including Canada, to stand firmly behind the agreement:

“Through its resolution 2231 of 2015, the UN Security Council called on all member states to do their part to implement this agreement.  We therefore call on Canada to stand up for the deal and in particular to take steps to fully protect Canadian companies trading in good faith with Iran.”

Mason underscored the success of this agreement in forestalling Iran’s nuclear program and urged that country to continue abiding by the deal, despite USA provocations. She also noted Iran’s repeated assertions that it would be ready to discuss non-nuclear concerns raised by the USA provided the JCPOA was fully implemented.

She further stated:

“The JCPOA is a strong non-proliferation agreement, mandating robust international monitoring of Iran’s nuclear activities and imposing strict limits on sensitive activities.  Rather than building on this agreement, President Trump has inexplicably chosen to walk away from it, with no discernible plan of action for what comes next.”

Former Ambassador Douglas Roche concluded:

“This is a terrible day in the long struggle for nuclear disarmament.  If the rule of law cannot be upheld, then nightmares for humanity lie ahead.  The Non-Proliferation Treaty is seriously — let us hope not fatally — undermined by the Trump action.  The Canadian government must vigorously oppose this unwarranted move and re-double its efforts to have the nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states work together to preserve the non-proliferation regime.”


Click here  for the reaction of the UK, German and French governments as well as a stark warning from Former President Barack Obama.  And for further analysis see: Saving the Iran Nuclear Deal without the U.S.

Photo credit: USA State Department (showing Signatories to the JCPOA).

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  • Blog
  • May 2nd, 2018

We cannot keep ignoring the endless occupation of Palestine


A capacity crowd attended the Rights under Endless Occupation: Israel/Palestine Discussion at Knox Presbyterian Church on Thursday evening, 26 April 2018.

In her introduction, Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason stated:

This discussion is particularly timely, taking place as it is against a backdrop of the continued use of firearms, including live ammunition, by Israeli security forces against mostly unarmed Palestinian protesters and observers for a fourth straight week near the fence between occupied Gaza and Israel.

Canadian law professor Michael Lynk explained his role as UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, talked about the situation in Gaza, particularly the health crisis, and highlighted many ongoing grave breaches of international law by Israel in relation to the 50-year military occupation.

In paragraph 64 of the advance, unedited version of his latest report,Professor Lynk stated:

… Israel has been in profound breach of the right to health with respect to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Its avaricious occupation — measured by the expanding settlement enterprise, the annexation of territory, the confiscation of private and public lands, the pillaging of resources, the publicly-stated ambitions for permanent control over all or part of the Territory, and the fragmentation of the lands left for the Palestinians — has had a highly disruptive impact upon health care and the broader social determinants for health for the Palestinians.

The second panelist, Brad Parker, is a staff attorney and international advocacy officer at Defense for Children International – Palestine, an independent, local Palestinian child rights organization based in Ramallah. His comments focused on the widespread ill-treatment and torture that Palestinian children encounter by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank:

Israel is the only country in the world to automatically prosecute children [from age 12] in military courts that lack basic safeguards for a fair trial.

In the first week of April, Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, participated in a Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group trip to Israel and Palestine with 17 other MPs from all 5 political parties represented in the House of Commons.  In her comments, she denounced the treatment of children, as well as the Palestinian population in general, under [Israeli] “military dictatorship” and made specific reference to her statement in relation to the shooting of unarmed civilians along the border between Gaza and Israel:

Canada must not remain silent. We must suspend all military trade with Israel and increase pressure for the world community to collectively present an honest broker to replace the United States in this ongoing conflict. Under the administration of Donald Trump, the United States can no longer play that critical role.

For an unedited version of the latest report by the UN Special Rapporteur, Michael Lynk, click here.

For the latest press release on the Gaza situation by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, name, click here.

Photo credit: Ottawa office (MCC Canada). From left to right: Michael Lynk, Elizabeth May, Peggy Mason, Brad Parker.
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  • Blog
  • April 24th, 2018

Civil society and the imperative of nuclear disarmament

NATO-NAC Meeting image

Last week saw two important civil society events on nuclear disarmament. The first, on Thursday, 19 April, was a public forum presented by the Canadian Network for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (CNANW). The second was the 2018 Global Affairs Canada – Civil Society Dialogue on Non-proliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament.

Former Senator Doug Roche opened the CNANW civil society roundtable with a speech entitled “The Vision of a Nuclear Weapons-Free World: Five Starting Points”.

“With a federal election looming next year, the time is ripe for a great new effort by civil society activists to demand that all the political parties commit themselves to signing the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” Roche said.

He urged the peace community to press the Canadian government to respond to the growing concern of Canadians about looming nuclear catastrophe:

“At this perilous moment in world history, we must step up our work and recover the vision to lead to a culture of peace.”

For the full text of his speech, click here.

From this visionary, impassioned speech, we turn to Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason’s somber comments during the government–civil society consultation, on the Trump Nuclear Posture Review.

“The only possible role for nuclear weapons is to deter their use by anyone until we can get rid of them altogether. That is my fervent belief. Nonetheless, if we are to understand the dangers we now face, it is necessary to analyze the insanity that is the new Trump nuclear doctrine.” – Peggy Mason

Click here for the full text of her remarks, and the links to many experts on which she drew.

Mason first examines the vast nuclear weapons modernization program begun under President Obama — the price exacted by the U.S. Senate for its ratification of the New START arms control agreement with Russia. She concludes:

“While New START… sets strict limits on the number of warheads and launch vehicles, nothing in it forbids upgrading or replacing old weaponry and delivery vehicles. The result is an exponential increase in the killing power of the warheads and delivery vehicles that are far more accurate, have much longer ranges as well as many other dangerous new features.”

These new features include new “tactical” nuclear weapons with “lower” yield and greater precision, thereby creating the “illusion of usability” in war fighting.

“Against this [modernization] backdrop, the 2018 Trump NPR uses the deterioration in the security environment since 2010 to justify boosting modernization efforts even more, expanding the role of nuclear weapons and sidelining arms control. …[Thus] it includes a wider range of circumstances in which the USA would consider the first use of nuclear weapons including in response to a cyber attack.”

Russian President Putin has criticized the Trump NPR for “lowering the threshold of nuclear weapons use,” vowing that he will not hesitate to respond accordingly but, at the same time, urging the USA to re-engage in arms control efforts.

At the end of her remarks, Mason highlights the discrepancy between current NATO nuclear doctrine seeking to downplay the role of tactical nuclear weapons and the new American doctrinal proposals going in the opposite direction. She warns:

“It will be imperative, therefore, for Canada and other NATO members who do not possess nuclear weapons to “hold the line” at the upcoming NATO Summit in Brussels on 11-12 July 2018.

This is surely the least that we can expect from our government. After all, at the Liberal Party Convention in Halifax this past weekend, a resolution was passed calling for Canada to sign the landmark Nuclear Ban Treaty.

Click here for the full text of Mason’s comments, with its links to expert analysis of this alarming doctrine.


Photo credit: NATO image (Meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers).

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