About Tom Parker

Tom Parker is the former Policy Director for Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Rights at Amnesty International USA. He was previously Executive Director of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center in New Haven, Connecticut and has worked extensively during the past five years as a consultant on post-conflict justice issues for clients such as USAID, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Open Society Institute on projects in Darfur, Iraq and Georgia. Tom has also served as a war crimes investigator with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and as a counterterrorist official with the British government. Tom has held adjunct positions with both Yale University’s Residential College Seminar Program and Bard University’s Globalization and International Affairs Program teaching courses on trends in international terrorism and counter-terrorism. He has also been a member of the adjunct faculty of the Defense Institute for International Legal Studies (DIILS) serving as an instructor on counterterrorism training programs in countries as diverse as Latvia, Rwanda, Nepal, Albania, Thailand, Lebanon and Sri Lanka. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics, the University of Leiden and Brown.
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GOP Candidates Pledge to Bring Back Torture

Still from Amnesty film on waterboarding

Still from Amnesty film on waterboarding

Saturday’s Republican Debate in Spartanburg, South Carolina, treated us once again to the now traditional quadrennial spectacle of American politicians pledging to torture terrorist suspects.

The debate was intended to showcase the candidates’ national security chops and current frontrunner Herman Cain took the opportunity to demonstrate that he was fluent in doublespeak by calling for the reintroduction of waterboarding while simultaneously declaring that he abhorred torture.


One of Guantanamo's Forgotten Prisoners

Shaker Aamer protest in London

Shaker Aamer was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007. (Photo by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer, a former UK resident of Saudi descent, has been held without charge at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for nearly 10 years. He was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007 but is still inexplicably incarcerated more than four years later.

Shaker was detained by irregular Afghan forces in Jalalabad in December 2001, shortly after the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom. By his own account he had been in Afghanistan working for a Saudi charity and no compelling evidence refuting this contention has been presented.


Dudley Do-Wrong

Protest Bush Canada

Activists protest former President Bush's visit to Canada

Last week former President George W. Bush visited British Columbia, Canada, to give a speech at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit. He was reportedly paid $150,000 for his appearance.

Setting aside the fact that the Bush administration had much the same effect on America’s economy that the iceberg had on the Titanic, there is another good reason why President Bush was a very poor choice of speaker.

As President of the United States, George Bush ordered the torture of detainees in US custody.


The Man in the Mirror

Unmanned drones are only one tool states are using to commit assassinations and murder. © AFP/Getty Images

On a warm autumnal morning last month, three men lounging outside a mosque in Istanbul were chopped down with military precision by a burst of automatic fire.

The gunman took the time to make sure none of his targets had survived, firing a bullet at point blank range into the head of each victim as they lay sprawled on the ground.

The three dead men – Rustam Altemirov, Zaurbek Amriyev and Berg-Khakh Musayev – were all Chechens. A Russian arrest warrant had been issued for Amriyev in connection with the January 2011 bombing of Moscow airport, which claimed 35 lives. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Unlocking the Truth of Secret CIA Prisons in Lithuania

secret prison lithuania

There are allegations of renditions between Lithuania and other European countries © Amnesty International

On Thursday Amnesty International launched a new report, Unlock the Truth, on the Lithuanian government’s abortive investigation of CIA ‘black sites’ that operated on their soil.

In December 2009 Lithuania became the first, and so far only, European state to publicly acknowledge that it had allowed the CIA to operate secret prisons on its territory. In January 2010 the Lithuanian Prosecutor General initiated a criminal investigation into the revelations.


Iranian Guards Compare Evin Prison to Guantanamo

The release of detained American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer by the Iranian government last Wednesday was a rare bit of good news. They have now arrived back in the United States and on Sunday gave their first press conference on US soil.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal at press conference in New York, September 25 (Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

Josh and Shane were detained by the Iranian authorities, along with their friend Sarah Shourd, while hiking along the Iraq- Iran border in 2009.

They were held in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison on espionage charges for more than two years. They had little contact with the outside world and communication with their families was almost impossible.


Remembering 9/11

On September 11th, 2001, my wife and son were in Logan Airport waiting to board a flight to New York. I was almost 4,000 miles away working in Mostar, Bosnia.

At the time I was a war crimes investigator working for the United Nations and I was in Mostar to take a statement from a former Bosnian Prisoner of War who had been tortured by his captors.

When we finished for the day I went next door to a small café and my eye was drawn to the television in the corner, which was running footage of emergency crews responding to some kind of major disaster.

It took a few minutes for the full story of what had happened in New York to unfold and, as it did so, my blood ran cold.


CIA 'Shocked' Prisoners They Sent To Libya Were Tortured

Abdel Hakim Belhaj ©Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

This past weekend has provided a few new insights into what Dick Cheney’s policy of ‘working the dark side’ actually entailed and offered a piquant example of the law of unintended consequences.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) was able to gain access to the headquarters of Libyan Intelligence after the organization’s building in Tripoli fell to rebel control. HRW’s researcher found files detailing the relationship that developed between the CIA and Gadhafi’s external intelligence service in the years after September 11th.


Dick Cheney's Ten Year War on Truth

Amnesty activists protest Cheney's memoir at Department of State

Amnesty activists present Cheney's memoir as evidence of war crimes to the Department of Justice on August 30th. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)

On Tuesday former Vice-President Richard ‘Dick’ Cheney published his memoirs, In My Time, and, as widely expected, he has used this new platform to restate his wholehearted support for some of the most egregious human rights abuses committed by the Bush administration.

We thought it might be instructive to examine some of the claims he makes in his memoirs and see how well they stack up against the established facts.

In an interview with CNN in June 2005 Dick Cheney spun a rosy picture of conditions in Guantanamo:

“We spent a lot of money to build it. They’re very well treated there. They’re living in the tropics. They’re well fed. They’ve got everything they could possibly want.”


Close Gitmo and Help Solve the Debt Crisis

(JTF Guantanamo photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Gino Reyes)

It is not news to any taxpayer in the country that the United States is facing a debt crisis and that public spending is under scrutiny like never before, yet one decade-long drain on the public exchequer has so far escaped the financial meltdown completely unscathed: The Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.

The main detention facility at Gitmo cost about $220 million to build and, according to the White House, estimated annual operating expenses come in at around $150 million.

To give you an idea of the kind of value for money this investment represents, the Bureau of Prisons noted last year that it cost $27,251 to incarcerate someone in the federal prison system for a year, as compared to an estimated cost of $650,000 per inmate at Guantanamo.

In additional to the hundreds of millions of dollars lavished on the detention facilities, still more money has been poured into the development of courtrooms for the Military Commissions which, since their establishment in 2006, have only heard six cases.