Reports Indicate European Union Countries Rendered People to CIA for Torture

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December 10, 2014
It appears that Poland, Romania and Lithuania hosted CIA “black sites”, which were effectively torture chambers, according to The Guardian. Evidence points to other European countries cooperating with the US spy agency in organizing covert rendition flights, including Britain, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania, The Guardian said.

MOSCOW, December 10 (Sputnik), Marina Elagina — There are strong indications that Poland, Romania, Lithuania and other EU allies of the United States were deeply involved in the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program and rendered terrorist suspects to the US spy agency for torture, UK’s The Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday.

The claim comes as the US Senate Intelligence Committee released on Tuesday a 525-page summary of a detailed investigation into CIA interrogation techniques that were used on alleged al-Qaeda agents in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington, DC.

Despite being a brave attempt by the US government to come clean on its own human rights abuses, the report did not explicitly name nations involved in the unlawful renditions or those that also hosted the CIA’s “black site” torture camps in Europe.

In September 2001, US President George W. Bush signed a covert memorandum granting the CIA unprecedented counterterrorism authority, including the covert capture and detention of individuals. The same year, CIA agents started exploring the “possibility of establishing clandestine detention facilities in several countries,” according to the 2014 torture report.

“To encourage governments to clandestinely host CIA detention sites, or to increase support for existing sites, the CIA provided millions of dollars in cash payments to foreign government officials,” the summary said, adding that foreign governments were encouraged to “think big” in terms of US financial assistance.

Poland

All countries, who cooperated with a US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) torture program, must investigate their role in a global network of human rights violations, Amnesty International has said.
© Sputnik/ Denis Voroshilov
US Global Partners Should Come Clean on CIA Torture Cooperation: Amnesty

In July 2014, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Poland violated an international treaty to protect human rights by hosting secret CIA prisons on its territory. The case was filed by two CIA detainees, Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri, who claimed they had been tortured at a secret CIA facility in a Polish forest before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay. An investigation, opened in Poland in 2008, is still underway.

Romania

In 2012, al-Nashiri, a Saudi national accused by the CIA of masterminding the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, lodged a complaint with the ECHR claiming he was transferred from the CIA’s secret prison in Poland to a “black site” in Romania, where US agents continued to torture him.

Swiss Sen. Dick Marty, who investigated unlawful CIA operations on behalf of the Council of Europe, confirmed in a 2007 report that such sites “did exist in Europe from 2003 to 2005, in particular in Poland and Romania.” Both countries have denied any involvement.

Lithuania

 

1015229439Abu Zubaydah, described by the CIA as the first “high-value detainee” to be captured and questioned by US intelligence in the wake of 9/11 attacks, was held in a secret CIA prison in Lithuania in early 2005, and filed a complaint against the country’s government in 2011.

According to ECHR records, the facility was purpose-built as a CIA detention facility with permission from “high-level Lithuanian authorities.” “The highest state authorities were aware of the CIA’s illegal activities on their territories,” the Swiss investigator said later in his report.

Sweden

To date, Sweden is the only country that has paid damages to the victims of its extraordinary renditions. In 2006, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that Sweden helped CIA agents render asylum seekers to Egypt for torture in violation of the global torture ban.

In 2001, Swedish officials expelled Mohammed al-Zari and another Egyptian, Ahmed Agiza, to Egypt at the behest of the US spy agency. Sweden permitted the CIA to ship them to Egypt despite its knowledge that Egypt was a “torture state.”

Britain

The British government has so far prohibited any domestic inquiry into its involvement in the CIA’s global kidnap and torture operations, according to The Guardian.

A 2012 report by Human Rights Watch cited official documents unearthed in the Libyan capitol of Tripoli after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s government “showing a close degree of cooperation among the US, the UK, and other Western governments with regard to the forcible return and subsequent interrogation of Gaddafi opponents in Libya.” The Guardian said Mi6 agents were involved in at least two renditions to Libya alongside the CIA, during which male suspects were kidnapped together with their wives and children, aged 6 to 12.

British officers are also known to have interrogated Guantanamo inmates in Cuba and detainees at the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, while the UK government provided secret US rendition flights with logistical support, according to British daily.

Italy

Italy is the only country to have ever convicted CIA agents of abducting foreigners and sending them to a torture state.

In 2003, Americans snatched Egyptian cleric Abu Omar on the street in Milan and secretly transported him to Egypt, despite his official asylum status in Italy. In 2009, an Italian court found 22 CIA operatives, a US military official and two Italian spies guilty of the kidnapping and sentenced them each to five years in jail. All CIA agents were tried in absentia. None were handed over to Italy.

The court established that Omar was first brought to a US air base at Aviano near Venice, and then transferred to America’s Ramstein base in Germany, from whence he was flown to Egypt. The 2007 report of the Council of Europe established that the CIA performed some 1,000 rendition flights over Europe in the previous six years, using a web of European airports and US military air bases.

Germany

Germany was implicated in aiding CIA renditions in 2004 after a German national of Lebanese descent named Khaled El-Masri was mistakenly kidnapped in Macedonia by CIA agents and flown to a US detention facility in Afghanistan, prompting condemnation by the European Court of Human Rights. The German government denied its participation in the blunder.

According to a 2013 report by George Soros’s NGO Open Society Justice Initiative, a total of 54 foreign governments participated in CIA rendition operations in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on US soil. These countries hosted CIA prisons, tortured people, assisted America in renditions and provided information leading to secret arrests of alleged terror suspects.

Obama on Senate’s CIA report: “We tortured some folks”  – watch video

 

 

What You Need to Know About New CIA Torture Report

The US Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to release a long-anticipated 500-page summary of the report on post-9/11 torture practices used by the CIA, on Tuesday, December 9. The White House fears that the “potentially explosive” report could trigger violence against US citizens overseas.

Sputnik –  12/09/14

MOSCOW, December 9 (Sputnik), Ekaterina Blinova — The US Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to release a long-anticipated 500-page summary of the report on post-9/11 torture practices used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), on Tuesday, December 9.

“Two years ago, the Senate Intelligence Committee completed its investigation into the detention and torture of detainees in CIA custody during the Bush administration. The report has been the subject of lengthy negotiations, conflicts and even legal threats between the committee and the CIA, and it has sparked intense partisan battles within the committee itself,” writes Dafna Linzer, Managing Editor of MSNBC.com, in her article “5 things to look for in the Senate’s torture report.”

The comprehensive report dubbed “CIA Torture Report” contains a 6300-page description of CIA interrogation techniques used against detainees including waterboarding, prolonged sleep deprivation, use of stress positions, mock executions, threats against children, use of power drills and etc. These methods have been qualified by human rights groups as inhuman torture practices.

As the CIA has expressed deep concerns regarding releasing the full document, the committee and the White House decided to publicize a redacted 500-page version. However, the White House fears that the “potentially explosive” report could trigger violence against the US citizens overseas. It led “the Obama administration to raise security precautions at US embassies worldwide,” the ABC News reports.

After the tragedy of 9/11, the CIA began a program to capture al-Qaeda members and detain them at secret prisons, also known as “black sites.” At these sites, the CIA operatives carried out interrogation techniques against prisoners, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and his counterpart Ramzi bin al-Shibh, in order to learn more about al-Qaeda.

Only in 2006 did US President Bush publicly acknowledged the existence of the CIA secret prison network. Remarkably, prominent members of the Bush administration, particularly former Vice President Dick Cheney and former CIA Director Michael Hayden, insisted repeatedly that “torture works.” Dafna Linzer cites Cheney as saying that the waterboarding “produced phenomenal results for us.”

The report, however, proves the opposite, according to an official familiar with the document. It should be noted that in April 2012, the committee published a press release, which claimed that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” had not provided any valuable information leading to the finding of bin Laden, the infamous al-Qaeda leader. “The enhanced interrogation techniques produced zero actionable intelligence,” the committee has found.

“The report is likely to blame CIA leaders for false portrayals of the value of the interrogations or for keeping details from congressional leaders and even the White House. Expect every named former CIA official to deny it. And expect to never know the truth,” writes Dafna Linzer and adds: “And don’t look for good guys – there aren’t any in this report.”

Poland Risked Lives of Own Citizens Hosting CIA Prisons: Lawmaker

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© Sputnik/ Igor Zarembo

December 10, 2014

Poland sacrificed the security of millions of its people for the sake of friendship with the United States when Warsaw agreed to host CIA prisons on its territory.

There are strong indications that Poland, Romania, Lithuania and other EU allies of the United States were deeply involved in the CIA's enhanced interrogation program and rendered terrorist suspects to the US spy agency for torture, UK's The Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday.
© Flickr/ Justin Norman

 

Reports Indicate EU Countries Rendered People to CIA for Torture

 

MOSCOW, December 10 (Sputnik) —Poland put the lives of ordinary Poles at risk when it agreed to host CIA prisons on its soil, Polish Sejm speaker told Sputnik Wednesday.”By making a decision to host CIA prisons on the territory of Poland, Leszek Miller [former Prime Minister] and Aleksander Kwaśniewski [former President] agreed to increase the terrorist threat to their own people. They risked the health and lives of millions of the Poles in the sake of friendship with the United States,” Andrzej Rozenek said.Rozenek’s comment comes after the release of the so-called CIA torture report compiled by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which included more than 500 pages of a detailed investigation into controversial interrogation techniques that were used by the CIA on alleged al-Qaeda terrorists, following the 9/11 attacks on Washington and New York.

Poland, Romania, Lithuania and other EU allies of the United States were deeply involved in the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program and rendered terrorist suspects to the US spy agency for torture.”Unfortunately, this is a situation when a gross violation of the Polish legislation is supported by such high-ranking officials as the president and prime minister. The report indicates the absence of democracy and human rights in our country,” Rozenek stressed.

He also expressed hope that “extensive conclusions will be drawn and all those responsible for torture in CIA prisons will be brought to justice.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Amnesty International’s counter-terrorism expert Julia Hall said that the United States and all of the countries that cooperated with it to transfer, detain and torture suspects, have an “international legal obligation to ensure full accountability for crimes under international law, including torture and enforced disappearances.”

According to Amnesty International, Italy, Lithuania, Romania, Sweden, Britain and Poland, which hosted a secret US prison at Stare Kiejkuty from 2002 to 2005, are among the countries that have cooperated with the CIA.

 

Torture report reveals how Poland objected to CIA’s secret jail on its soil – but became ‘flexible’ after being bought off with large cash payment

Admission: Former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski (pictured right, alongside former Afghan leader Hamid Karzai) today confirmed that Poland granted permission for a secret CIA prison in the country Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2867879/CIA-paid-Poland-ease-qualms-secret-prison-Senate-report.html#ixzz3Ld1XSsqq Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Admission: Former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski (pictured right, alongside former Afghan leader Hamid Karzai) today confirmed that Poland granted permission for a secret CIA prison in the country  

U.S. President Barack Obama last night discussed the CIA torture report’s publication during a telephone call with current Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz.

The heavily redacted report did not mention Poland by name, but documents relating to the site match other reports that identify them as originating in the Eastern European nation. Among these documents is European Court of Human Rights ruling relating to a CIA-run ‘black site’ in Poland.

By John Hall

The U.S. Senate Committee’s torture report has claimed Poland initially objected to the CIA’s secret prison on its soil but became ‘flexible’ after being bought off with a large sum of money.

After denying the fact for years, former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski today admitted that Poland had granted the CIA permission to run the secret prison, but insisted his officials had not authorized illegal treatment or torture of its inmates.

Human rights groups believe at least eight terror suspects were held at a Polish prison codenamed ‘Blue’, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

This morning former Polish president Kwasniewski admitted that the prison existed, but insisted that the secret operation was halted amid pressure from the country’s leaders.

‘Poland took steps to end the activity at this site and the activity was stopped at some point,’ he told Warsaw based Radio TOK FM this morning.

The prison is thought to have operated from December 2002 until autumn 2003. Kwasniewski was in power from 1995 until 2005, but has always denied the site’s existence until now.

Detainee: Human rights groups believe at least eight terror suspects were held at a Polish prison codenamed 'Blue', including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (pictured) - the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2867879/CIA-paid-Poland-ease-qualms-secret-prison-Senate-report.html#ixzz3Ld2NvmiF Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Detainee: Human rights groups believe at least eight terror suspects were held at a Polish prison codenamed ‘Blue’, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (pictured) – the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks

Global: At its height, the CIA program included secret prisons in countries including Poland, Afghanistan, Thailand, Romania and Lithuania - locations that are referred to only by color-themed codes in the report

Global: At its height, the CIA program included secret prisons in countries including Poland, Afghanistan, Thailand, Romania and Lithuania – locations that are referred to only by color-themed codes in the report

According to a ruling by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights  the CIA operated a facility near the village of Stare Kiejkuty in north east Poland.

It is one of a network of sites around the world where Al Qaeda suspects were held and subjected to interrogation techniques that human rights groups say amounted to torture.

The CIA torture report, which was published yesterday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, described how seriously the rendition programme strained relations with Poland – a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member and one of Washington’s staunchest European allies.

People close to the Polish authorities at the time say Poland felt an obligation to protect its relationship with Washington, even as it knew hosting the facility was open to legal challenge.

‘The agreement to host a CIA detention facility in Country created multiple, ongoing difficulties between Country and the CIA,’ the report said. All direct mentions of the name of the country were blacked out, but other details matched those already known to relate to the East European country.

Divisions: Polish officials were also said to be disappointed not to have been given more warning of the 2006 acknowledgement of the detention programme by then U.S. President George W Bush (left)

Divisions: Polish officials were also said to be disappointed not to have been given more warning of the 2006 acknowledgement of the detention programme by then U.S. President George W Bush (left)

The CIA torture report said the Poland proposed drawing up a written memorandum of understanding defining the CIA’s roles and responsibilities at the facility, but the agency refused.

Poland’s government allegedly then refused to accept the planned transfer of new detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The torture report claims that decision was only reversed after the U.S. ambassador to Poland intervened on the CIA’s behalf. The following month, the CIA allegedly provided several million dollars to the country. The exact figure was deliberately blacked out on the document.

The report did not name the representative who intervened, although the American ambassador to Poland at the time was Christopher Hill. A woman who answered the telephone in his office at the University of Denver, where he now works, said he was not immediately reachable.

After the money changed hands, officials speaking for the country’s political leadership indicated Poland ‘was now flexible with regard to the number of CIA detainees at the facility and when the facility would eventually be closed,’according to the report.

Years later, Polish officials became ‘extremely upset’ when details of the detention programme began to emerge from U.S. government sources, the report claimed. The officials were also said to be disappointed not to have been warned of George Bush’s admission of the programme in 2006.

Controversy: Chained detainees are seen arriving at Camp X-Ray on Guantanamo Bay ahead of interrogation about their suspected involvement with terrorist groups including Al Qaeda or the Taliban

Controversy: Chained detainees are seen arriving at Camp X-Ray on Guantanamo Bay ahead of interrogation about their suspected involvement with terrorist groups including Al Qaeda or the Taliban

Adam Bodnar, vice-president of the Warsaw-based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, said of the Polish authorities at the time: ‘They betrayed the Polish constitution for money, to a great extent, and all the values that are associated with the Polish constitution.’

The Polish constitution states that no one can be subjected to torture, or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.

Bodnar said the diplomatic tensions outlined in the report explains why Obama telephoned the Polish Prime Minister on the eve of the report’s publication.

The two leaders ‘expressed hope that the publication of this report will not have a negative effect on Polish-U.S. relations,’ according to a statement from the Polish prime minister’s office.

Senior U.S. administration officials confirmed the subject of the Senate report came up during Obama’s call with Kopacz.

 

“Globally, there are hundreds of artists under far greater threat to their freedom and lives who deserve the same attention.”

Pussy Riot members. Photo: Misha Japaridze, file/ AP

There are hundreds of artists who perform under threat to their freedom and lives, who also deserve our solidarity.

After Pussy Riot, artists everywhere must stand up for each other

By Mark LeVine

It’s impossible to know yet whether the wave of international support received by the Russian punk collective Pussy Riot during their just completed trial impacted the verdict in any way. But it’s clear that the plight of the three young women who each now face the remainder of two years’ imprisonment has ignited the passion of US and European artists, from Sting to Madonna, who have publicly called for their freedom.

Western artists can and should support their Russian comrades. But the support received by Pussy Riot is sadly an aberration. As a rule, European and US artists have been strangely – and inexcusably – silent when it comes to recognising the plights suffered by their fellow musicians and performers around the world, where freedom of expression receives little protection, censorship is prevalent and artists routinely face the threat of prosecution and jail from their governments, and more dangerously, threats to their physical safety and even lives by conservative social forces.

Ole Reitov, of the international NGO Freemuse, which advocates on behalf of freedom of expression for musicians and composers – including Pussy Riot – believes the problem is rooted in the reluctance of managers and lawyers to encourage political engagement by their A-list artists. “But even when you reach them, a lot of ‘great names’ have a blind spot in terms of freedom of expression for fellow artists, which was in fact one of the motivations for creating Freemuse.”

System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian agrees, declaring that “too few organisations organise just around musicians”. In his view, “Artistes should boycott performing in countries that do not allow free expression of their opinions. This is one reason System of a Down has never played in Turkey. If we can’t use the word genocide on stage without threats of arrest or worse, it is not a conducive venue for artistic expression.”

In focus: Russia’s Pussy Riot

Certainly, the right to artistic freedom is one of the most basic human rights, enshrined in Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declare in part: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers… Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”.

Human rights, but not for artists?

Well-known artistes, including Bono, Adam Yauch, Bruce Springsteen and others, have long lent their name to human rights organisations and campaigns such Amnesty International and the Campaign to Free Tibet. But many have generally remained silent when it comes to supporting fellow artists under threat. If musicians are all “from the same tribe”, as the world music pioneer Manu Dibango put it, the richer members of the tribe have not been nearly as kind to their poorer relations as they ought to be.

And so even now, as artistes – most recently, including Madonna – are flocking to support Pussy Riot, they continue to ignore the plight of other artistes presently in jail. If you go to the Freemuse website, you can see how many artists are under threat and how broad the range of countries is in which their rights are repressed. According to their latest estimate, violations are occurring in some 120 countries, with Afghanistan, Cameroon, China, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Somalia, and Turkey among the most repressive.

As I discussed in a column last month on the plight of Moroccan rapper El Haked, well-known artists continue to perform in countries where others have been jailed in much the same manner as the members of Pussy Riot, without saying or doing anything on their behalf. It’s easy to support a cool riot girl band in a country that is a traditional adversary of the “West” and where a primary concern seems to be women’s rights, but when it comes time to support a rapper jailed by a “friendly” Arab monarch, suddenly even the most extroverted singers seem to get stage fright.

Writers take the lead

We can compare the lack of uniform support for fellow musical artists to the far more developed and coherent support for writers world-wide by fellow members of their craft – as embodied in the organisation PEN, the world-wide association of writers, which for ninety years has acted “as a powerful voice on behalf of writers harassed, imprisoned and sometimes killed for their views”.

PEN is run by journalists and writers, who are generally more articulate and well connected to their writing colleagues than musicians. Musicians have neither the organisation nor social and political power (or often education) to similarly promote their interests. Even the most political artists, from Marcel Khalife to Rage Against the Machine, focus on broader political issues rather than their fellow music-makers.

At the level of the music business, it’s even harder to get people involved, since, as a “business” – especially one whose century-old model is crumbling beneath it – music industries in most countries need airplay on government-controlled radio stations and support to fight against piracy, to stay afloat. This situation provides little incentive to rock the political boat.

As one activist put it, rarely you might get a music executive such as Richard Branson who will sign the Sex Pistols and use their political “infamy” to help sell records and brand his company as hip and cutting edge, but such figures are increasingly rare these days in the mega corporate-dominated music industry.
Putin weighs in on Pussy Riot case

The problem is that, as long as long as artists, and the music industry more broadly, don’t take this seriously at the organisational and institutional levels (when is the last time that the Grammy Awards, ASCAP, BMI, SECAM, or even the X-Factor or American Idol ever mentioned artists under threat?), musicians will continue to face the same and even graver threats to their freedom as Pussy Riot, without anyone in the wider world taking notice or helping to publicise their plight.

A uniform code of conduct, now

In order to change the dynamics, musical artists, singers, composers, producers, arrangers, engineers, DJs, managers and music industry professionals need to together adopt a universal code of conduct that will ensure that they are aware of the situation in all countries in which they work, perform and sell their products and provide a standard set of guidelines and references for behaviour to prevent the continuation of the present situation, in which some artists get global attention to their plight while others suffer in silence.

Such a code could include the following provisions:

A declaration of support for all artistes who engage politically. As Madonna put it in supporting Pussy Riot, “art should be political”, and even artists who aren’t willing to put themselves on the line benefit when there is greater freedom for their colleagues to do so. The musical community must no longer sit idly by and allow fellow musicians to face such challenges and threats alone.

Artists need to stay abreast of developments affecting fellow artists and music industry professionals around the world and use their often extensive social media, concert and other appearances to help publicise specific threats or actions as they arise.

They should develop much more coordinated relations with organisations, such as Freemuse, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, to ensure that they are aware of threats to artists in countries in which they are touring, recording, or otherwise appearing professionally, and to use all means available to support them and call attention to their plight while in these countries.

Artists need to encourage their fans to become more involved in the plight of musicians globally and in their own countries, and educate them about the dangers of censorship and how to fight it.

Most important, artists need to support all artists who are being persecuted because of their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, political affiliations, non-violent social and political activities, or expression of personal, social or political views, even when their views might not agree with their own.

Boycotts, a divisive issue

There is one issue that will no doubt divide artists and that is the call to refuse to perform in a country in response to its policies on various issues. Here the obvious example is the BDS, and specifically boycott, campaign against Israel, which has led some big name artists to cancel performances in the country in protest of its ongoing occupation.

Russian Orthodox Church organises against Pussy Riot punks

As of now, there are few if any calls for artists to boycott performances in a country besides the Palestinian BDS call, and artists such as Tankian, who have a special commitment to a particular issue such as the Armenian genocide or Tibet. As one A-list manager explained to me: “The most important thing for most artists first is to be heard, and boycotting goes directly against that.”

While politically engaged artists such as Jello Biafra came to support BDS after examining all the arguments, less militant artists have been turned off by the sometimes aggressive attempts to persuade them. For the record, Pussy Riot supporter Madonna played Israel on May 31, while the Chili Peppers are scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv in September.

But if calls for boycotts were to multiply – if, for example, there was a call to boycott Russia by activists in response to the jail sentences handed down against Pussy Riot – artists would be in a very difficult situation.

Today more than ever, artists survive on touring rather than selling records. If a group tours globally the chances are high that they will perform in a fair number of countries with problematic records on issues such as freedom of speech (China, Russia, Morocco, Poland, Dubai, Turkey, Abu Dhabi, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Cameroon and many other countries come immediately to mind).

And of course, for “anti-imperialist” artists there would be little choice but to boycott the US and most NATO countries – some 50 countries presently contribute troops to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, for example – as well as Russia and China, given their clearly imperialist foreign policies.

Such a list would, of course, leave very few countries left to tour.

Because of this, it is unlikely that most artists will begin agreeing to boycott systemic human rights violators; nor is it that clear that citizens in such countries would prefer artistes to stay away until the situation improves (in Morocco, for example, most activists I’ve spoken with do not advocate boycotting its famed festivals – with the exception of the giant Mawazine festival, which is clearly used as a propaganda tool by the government).

Moreover, artists from smaller global south countries who literally must survive on a few prestigious festivals each year would find it practically impossible to boycott them on political grounds, no matter how sympathetic they might be to the plight of local artists.

Ultimately, individual performers will have to determine whether the situation in a particular country is serious enough for them to sacrifice the income and experience of performing there in order to support fellow artists or oppressed citizens or occupied peoples.

But particularly today, when the internet and social media have made it so much easier to spread the word about oppression to fans and the broader public, it’s no longer excusable for artists to remain silent most of the time, and only lend their support when the world is already watching or the artists involved are particularly media-friendly. Certainly many Russian artists feel this way. As dance-pop artist Sasha Gradiva explained when she heard I was writing this column: “I feel a deep connection with these girls… and would welcome the creation of a community of artists and musicians whose aim was supporting artists who have been persecuted because of their art.”

I’m sure the members of Pussy Riot were thrilled that Madonna wore a balaclava in their honour at her Moscow concert, and that Red Hot Chili Peppers donned Pussy Riot t-shirts at their Russian concerts (we’ll see if the Chilis show a similar concern for Palestinian prisoners – inclusing artists – when they perform in Israel). But, globally, there are hundreds of artists under far greater threat to their freedom and lives who deserve the same attention.

It’s time to pull the mask off music censorship globally; if the trial of Pussy Riot can encourage greater attention and solidarity from privileged Western and global artists to the plight of their comrades living in the cultural and political trenches, the group will truly have earned their place in the pantheon of musical, and political, heroes.

Published by Al Jazeera

About the author:

Mark Levine is professor of Middle Eastern history at UC Irvine and distinguished visiting professor at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden and the author of the forthcoming book about the revolutions in the Arab world, The Five Year Old Who Toppled a Pharaoh.

His book, Heavy Metal Islam, which focused on ‘rock and resistance and the struggle for soul’ in the evolving music scene of the Middle East and North Africa, was published in 2008.

In focus: Russia’s Pussy Riot

Published on Aug 7, 2012 by AlJazeeraEnglish

In Moscow, the trial of the activist-feminist group known as Pussy Riot continues into its second week. The case has captured both domestic and international attention, with the Russian opposition rallying around them as an anti-Putin symbol. Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan takes a closer look at what these women are all about.

Russian Orthodox Church organises against Pussy Riot punks

Published on Apr 22, 2012 by AlJazeeraEnglish

Thousands of Orthodox Christian worshippers have turned out in the Russian capital Moscow for a prayer to support the controversial Church in what it perceives to be an attack on its authority.

They refer to a confrontation involving Pussy Riot, a local punk rock band who took over the capital’s main cathedral to sing their songs in a political statement in February.

Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton reports from the Russian capital.