19 January 2011

Greenland Questions Denmark over US Rendition Flights

A Wiki leak suggesting government (Danish) duplicity on CIA renditions draws opposition criticism.

Edited by Julian Isherwood

Greenland’s Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist says that he plans to approach the Danish government over  weekend disclosures in a Wiki leak in Politiken, suggesting that the Danish government was not as interested in investigating CIA renditions as it made out.

“I will study the documents before commenting on them. But it sounds serious and is therefore a subject I will be discussing with Foreign Minister Lene Espersen and Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen when I meet them this week,” Kuupik Kleist tells Sermitsiaq, adding that until he has studied the documents he cannot comment furtherGreenland air space and territory is said to have been frequently used by the CIA in its rendition operations.

Greenland members of the Danish Folketing are critical of the government following the disclosures. “The issue has already caused unnecessary differences, so we need to find out what happened and what was said,” says Juliane Henningsen MP for Inuit Ataqatigiit.

Over the weekend, Politiken disclosed a WikiLeak report suggesting that while the government on the one hand told Parliament a full investigation would be carried out into CIA renditions using Danish, Greenland and Faroese territory, a US Embassy memo on talks with Denmark’s Foreign Ministry suggested Denmark wanted the issue to go away quickly and quietly.

Henningsen says she sees the apparent duplicity as a breach of trust in the Danish government.

The Danish opposition has also called for an explanation from the government, both in the form of a debate in Parliament and at the next meeting of the Foreign Policy Committee.

The Danish People’s Party’s Foreign Policy Spokesman Søren Espersen, on the other hand, supports former Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller (Cons) in his understanding of the memo that was written following a meeting between then US Ambassador James P. Cain and a senior Danish Foreign Ministry official.

“He was not the best diplomat that America has had in Denmark. I don’t have much faith in his judgment,” Espersen says.

Former Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller says the memo is Cain’s own view. “I have no way of knowing how Cain has understood discussions with Danish civil servants and during discussions at which I was not present,” Stig Møller says.

Editor's Note: Greenland is an autonomous country in association with the Kingdom of Denmark, and enjoys a broad degree of self-governance, whilst retaining voting representation in the Danish Parliament.

Former top US diplomat questions Danish Govt. Claims

The former US State Dept. Chief of Staff says the CIA does not use (Greenland) airspace without permission.One of the most senior figures in former President Bush’s government has questioned the Danish government’s position regarding CIA rendition flights. The Danish government has said that it had no knowledge of the flights, despite the fact that the aircraft used by the CIA repeatedly flew through Danish airspace and landed at airports in Greenland.
“I find it difficult to believe that the Danish government was unaware of the flights,” says Colin Powell’s former Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson. Wilkerson was chief of staff from 2002 to 2005. Wilkerson says that he has not taken part in any meetings on the CIA’s rendition programme and thus does not have firsthand knowledge of the flights.

“But I have been involved in several other military operations in the past,” says Wilkerson who was also one of Powell’s closest employees when the latter was defence chief. He says that he has also been involved in other military operations which sometimes included the CIA.

“The CIA does not just fly through another country’s airspace without permission. The normal procedure is that the head of the CIA approaches the head of intelligence in the country concerned and says that the United States is about to carry out some missions that will involve that country’s airspace and that the missions are central to American national security,” Wilkerson says.

“It is then up to the intelligence chief of the other country to decide whether he will inform his political masters – but he will normally do that in order to keep his back free,” Wilkerson says adding that permission is normally given without further questions as to what the missions involve.

The former chief of staff says it is normal procedure for governments to say one thing in public and something else to other countries.

“Particularly if it is about confidential conversations and things which – if they became public knowledge – could endanger national security. So that happens in particular when the discussions involve the CIA,” Wilkinson says.

Meanwhile, the Copenhagen Post reported a subsequent reply from the Danish Prime Minister:

PM silent on charges of double-dealing
DV News

Leaked documents suggest government was not interested in confronting US over CIA transports.

The prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, has refused to comment on the government’s role in the alleged illegal transport of CIA detainees over Danish airspace, including Greenland. The issue appeared after Wikileaks published documents from the US Embassy in Copenhagen.

“I will not comment on leaked documents,” the PM told TV2. “The issue has been dealt with and the former foreign minister has answered questions about it in parliament.”

The leaked documents indicate that on the one hand, the government promised parliament to ask the US about CIA’s transfers of detainees while, on the other hand, telling the opposite to the then US ambassador in Denmark at the time. Danish government officials, according to Politiken newspaper, made it clear to the Americans at the time that they wanted the issue to die away.

Flood of Indigenous Demands a Challenge for Chile

Inter Press Service (IPS)
by Daniela Estrada

SANTIAGO (IPS) - While many are sceptical that the Chilean government will deliver on its promise of a shift in indigenous policy, the deadline is looming for the administration of Sebastián Piñera to live up to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recommendations with respect to imprisoned members of the Mapuche community.

"The challenge for this year is preventing a situation where it is the courts that intervene, as a last resort, to try to solve the demands of both the indigenous communities and the owners of disputed lands" claimed by native groups, Jorge Contesse, director of the Human Rights Centre at the private Diego Portales University, told IPS.

"The political authorities have to take a hand in the matter," the lawyer said.

Of the nine indigenous groups officially recognised in this South American country of 17 million people, the Mapuche are by far the largest, with more than a million members.

On Jan. 6, members of the Rapa Nui community filed a complaint of police brutality, which is now before the military justice system. Between September and December, members of the group were violently evicted by carabineros (militarised police) from land that they claim as their own on Easter Island.

On Sept. 9, 29 Rapa Nui clans asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to grant precautionary measures to protect them, a request that is under consideration.

"All of this is happening in the context of a conflict where the Rapa Nui are laying claim to land and demanding self-government, self-determination and immigration control," Camila Labra, a lawyer with the non-governmental Citizen Observatory, which is backing the request to the IACHR, told IPS.

Easter Island, a tourist destination famous for the nearly 900 huge mysterious rock statues that dot the landscape, is located 3,500 km off Chile's Pacific coast and was annexed by this country in 1888. The native inhabitants are of Polynesian origin, and some of them are threatening to declare independence if their demands are not met.

The volcanic rock island is one of the most remote inhabited places in the world, and has a population of 3,800. The Rapa Nui people, who make up 60 percent of the population, want to restrict immigration by mainland Chileans and foreigners.

"The more stubborn the authorities' refusal to engage in dialogue, the more radical the indigenous demands will become," Contesse said. "The more participation by and consultation with indigenous people increases, the more social conflicts will decrease. That is what the government should understand and act on."

The Chilean government has until early February to respond to the IACHR about compliance with the recommendations outlined by the Organisation of American States (OAS) human rights body with respect to cases of violations of the human rights of Mapuche community members sentenced in 2003 under the controversial counter-terrorism law.

Some Mapuche areas in southern Chile have a long history of conflict over what the native communities claim as their ancestral land.

Although more than 600,000 hectares of land have been returned to indigenous communities by the authorities since 1990, activists stage periodic occupations of land, much of it owned by logging companies, and a number of them have been prosecuted and sentenced under the draconian anti-terrorism law.

Abuses against the Mapuche people are also widespread.

An international mission convened in 2007 by the non-governmental Observatory for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, which included representatives from groups like Amnesty International, Norwegian People’s Aid and the Argentine Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), documented dozens of complaints of abuses, such as violent raids of Mapuche homes in which the police often destroy household goods and objects of cultural value, mistreat elderly people, women and children, and hurl racist epithets.

The strategy to take their cases to the courts has brought the Mapuche people a few victories.

On Jan. 4, the Supreme Court accepted a case brought by the Citizen Observatory on behalf of a Mapuche community in the southern city of Lanco who were not consulted with respect to the construction of a garbage dump near their homes.

Prior consultation with native peoples with regard to any project that affects their communities or land is stipulated by International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, in effect in Chile since 2009.

In the meantime, the Anide Foundation and the Children and Youth NGOs Network of Chile (ONG-IJ) are preparing a report to present at a hearing that the IACHR granted them during its next period of sessions at its Washington headquarters in March. The report will describe the "systematic pattern" of police brutality against Mapuche communities, which has particular effects on children and teenagers, psychologist Andrea Iglesias with Anide, a child advocacy organisation, told IPS. They "have been victims of wounds by rubber bullets, intoxication by tear gas and harassment in their schools, and often witnesses to threats of violence," she said.

The two organisations launched a citizens' campaign on Dec. 10 to protest the human rights violations suffered by three young Mapuche Indians prosecuted under the anti-terrorism law even though they were minors. The three youngsters are being held in preventive custody in a juvenile detention centre run by the National Minors Service (SENAME) in the town of Chol-Chol, in the southern region of Araucanía.

The organisations are demanding that the three be released, based on the approval last year of reforms to the counter-terrorism law that stipulate that the severe legislation cannot be applied in the case of adolescents.
On Jan. 19, members of several human rights groups will visit the detention centre where the three are being held, "to jointly assess what situation they are in and what guarantees they have," Iglesias said.

"The judicialisation and criminalisation of persons, communities and organisations that defend their rights is increasingly seen as a strategy that those in power are trying to institutionalise," Milka Castro, director of the juridical anthropology and interculturalism studies programme at the University of Chile law school, told IPS.
The aim is "to silence legitimate demands that are not compatible with the state's export-oriented productive and extractive policies," she said. "And the most worrisome thing is that it is not an isolated policy, but is occurring throughout the continent."

In a column published early this month in the La Tercera newspaper, presidential adviser Sebastián Donoso stated that "the current government came to power with the conviction that public policies towards indigenous people were in need of a major shift, and that trust levels urgently needed to be shored up." Donoso, the government's expert on indigenous affairs, said significant steps have been taken in five areas: cultural promotion; the improvement of mechanisms of land distribution and restitution and productive development; a restructuring of institutions; the creation of effective processes of participation; and the adoption of an integral focus on development.  Castro, however, says "the current authorities' knowledge on the state of indigenous rights in the international legal order is scarce and biased, and they have, why not say it, a discriminatory and racist attitude and conduct." (END/2011)