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Working for Women's Rights in India; Is the US Outsourcing Torture?

Aired February 6, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Five men have gone on trial in India this week for the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old girl, a physiotherapy student who died two weeks later from her horrendous injuries. Her male friend, who was also brutally beaten, but he survived and is telling the story of that terrible night December 16th in court. He is the prosecution's star witness.

In a country that's infamous for what many call institutional misogyny -- crimes against women from acid burnings to sex slavery, rape and murder are commonplace. And yet something about this case has mobilized a nation. Outrage has poured into the streets.

And after a very shaky start, the Indian government quickly approved tough new laws against sexual assault on women, including the death penalty when the victim dies. Last month, a special report by a former Supreme Court justice, J.S. Verma, called for an even broader crackdown, including on systematic marital rape and degrading medical examinations of women who report rapes.

Police say a staggering 60 percent of rapes go unreported. And for those that are, the prosecution and conviction rate are outlandishly low. My guest tonight was the highest ranking female officer ever in the Indian police force. Kiran Bedi made such a difference with her brand of law enforcement that she even became the subject of a documentary, "Yes, Madam Sir."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She joined the police force in the '70s. And she's made waves and enemies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When she qualified in the police service, all hell broke loose. Young men noticed. There was a (inaudible).


KIRAN BEDI, FORMER INDIAN POLICE CHIEF TURNED CORRUPTION ACTIVIST: When I changed the face of the prisons, they were just. When I exposed corruption in the police, I am banished. These are powerful people and there's a high price for going against them.


AMANPOUR: How high a price? My interview with Kiran Bedi next.

But first a look at the other stories that we're covering tonight.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): Officially nearly 3,000 people were killed on 9/11. Now that evidence of CIA torture and other abuse is coming to light, unofficially, there was another casualty, the truth.

And Mali has a new best friend. After France pushed back Al Qaeda, India now pledges millions in aid. Why? Later.



AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit. But, first, many Indian women say that when it comes to reporting rape, the police either dismiss their complaints or fail to protect them from their attackers.

As the first and highest ranking female officer in India's police force, my guest, Kiran Bedi, knows better than most what needs to change: a massive education campaign and an entire overhaul of the police, the courts and politics to combat this systematic scourge of rape and violence against women.

She joined me from New Delhi to talk about this case and how it's shaken up the system.


AMANPOUR: Kiran Bedi, welcome to the program. Thanks for joining me.

When we look at this situation, we see something like 26,000 rapes reported in India -- at least that was the last figure for 2011. That amounts to about one every 20 minutes.

And yet there is almost no conviction.

What is the prosecution rate, the investigation rate, the conviction rate?

BEDI: Well, it's very low. It's abysmally low. And we have a serious problem of delayed trials. Some trials take sometimes 12 years, 15 years, 10 years. And it's not shook the -- this case, which we are now referring to as we discuss, has actually shaken up the entire system and exposed the la garde (ph) judicially.

It's been hugely delayed judicially.

We've got very delayed trials, trial problems. The proportion of the judges to the number of cases they acquire is very, very low compared to many opened-up liberal democracies. I think that's been the serious problem, of delayed trials.

AMANPOUR: When you were a police officer, when you climbed to the highest rank that a woman had ever held in the police force, what did you find when these kinds of crimes crossed your desk?

BEDI: I was exceedingly effective in my -- in my beat patrol system, exceedingly effective. And I did a lot of partnership in coalition with community. I did a lot of community policing. If I was short of manpower -- which everybody at every stage is -- so was I during my time. And all - - and so were my colleagues.

What we used to do was remarkable partnership with community policing, involving the neighborhood watch groups, involving citizen volunteer forces. We used to involve students. I involved even students in bike traffic management during the Asian games in 1982.

We could never do without community policing. I think over a period, as I said, it's shifted to anti-terror, VIP security and law and order. So all reactionary policing and protective policing, leaving the common man to fend for himself.

AMANPOUR: Right. And it certainly doesn't seem to be the woman's police force.

Police tend to not believe women; they put them through terrible interrogations. Certainly also we've heard of these two-finger tests, medical tests that are meant to determine whether a woman has had sex even before she complains of having been raped. I mean, really, the most appalling, degrading treatment of women who've been violated.

Do you see any hope of that changing?

BEDI: Well, I think the December 16th gang rape will change -- will change; they can't get -- they can't be as they were. It could be -- it can't be business as usual anymore in policing.

I think crimes against women -- and one of the amended ordinance provisions is where, if a police officer, if a public official does not record crime, crimes against women, he could be held responsible and prosecuted for it.

See, this is a new change which is coming; where, earlier, they could get away with non-registration of crime. Now with this amended ordinance, and on the recommendation of the Justice Verma Committee, they can't.

Now what we need is massive awareness and education amongst women of their -- of this legal -- massive legal awareness and massive awareness of their rights. And, of course, retraining and updating (ph) of police awareness and police knowledge and skills.

And, of course, expeditious trial and sensitive judiciary so that punishment is a certainty. I think what is important in this country is urgent punishment as a certainty. I think the certainty of punishment will reduce the impunity.

AMANPOUR: And how surprised do you think the government was, the system, the police, when the people of India really rose up and demonstrated and continue to demonstrate after this gang rape that left this poor woman dead December 16th?

How surprised was the establishment?

BEDI: I think they were shaken out of their slumber. As long as they were -- they were as -- see, it took them out of the security and brought them out of their comfort zones. I think they were feeling -- they were -- they were in this, very comfortable in this, around their own security guards and the gated communities and the law and order of being politically directed sometimes to be dispersed.

So I think they got shaken up. And they almost felt threatened that the nation was, the people were up in arms as a civil society, up in arms and their -- they want banks (ph). I think they got shaken up. They were absolutely shaken out of their comfortable seat.

No wonder, you see in -- within 10 days' time, the government of India responded by an ordinance. This is unbelievable.

First of all, Justice Verma Committee did an unbelievable job of such a wonderful, comprehensive report in just 29 days. It's unbelievable in Indian governance.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, how high a price did you pay for trying to fight this kind of crime?

BEDI: Well, I wasn't made the final -- despite my seniority and merit, the bureaucracy and the political fiefdom did not let me be the police commissioner of Delhi. Therefore, I took volunteer retirement, because I didn't want to waste my time doing nothing, nothing much of the high value.

So therefore, I moved out. The price I paid was that I never was made the Delhi police commissioner where I had the rank and the seniority and the merit. Someone two years junior to me got that position. That's the price I paid.

AMANPOUR: Probably the price you paid for being a woman as well, would you say?

BEDI: Well, I was different. I wasn't one of the old boys' club. I wasn't a part of their boys' club. I was different.

AMANPOUR: In 1981, there is this famous story of how you gave a parking ticket to the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, and had her car towed. Apart from the interesting imagery of that, were you trying to send a message about impunity?

BEDI: Absolutely. That's my -- I'm very sensitive about the rule of law and I have absolutely no insecurities about dealing with the VIPs. In fact, I believe that the rule of law must be tougher on those people who are into powerful positions and knowledgeable positions than those who are under the -- in the -- under the -- under ones who are probably not aware of the law.

Therefore, I always applied rule of law absolutely fearlessly and firmly. And in that category, Ms. Gandhi's car also was towed away and was given a parking ticket, because during -- there was only one principle, and I've always followed one principle, is the rule of law. However high, mighty you may be, the rule is -- the law is above you.

AMANPOUR: And you hope now that, as you say, the government has been shocked out of its slumber by this gang rape, you think that the rule of law will get another chance to be properly implemented?

BEDI: They've got a lot of homework to do. They've got a lot of resources to pump in. They've got a lot of retraining to do. And they have to address the judiciary. They have to address judicial delays. That's the challenge.

The question is who tells the judges, who tells the parliamentarians, who tells the elected representatives while everybody's there to tell the police? I think what you really need is all of them to set their house in order, whether it's the police, whether the judges, whether it's the parliamentarians. I think the -- also the community to take -- become more sensitive to each other.

I think it's a package that's needed now. It's a wholesomeness, which exactly what Justice Verma Committee has recommended.

AMANPOUR: Well, we'll be watching.

Kiran Bedi, thank you so much for joining me.

BEDI: Thank you. Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: Violence against women is one of the leading crimes around the world, a culture of impunity simply enables it. Even here in the United States, Congress has allowed the Violence Against Women Act to expire at the end of last year. Just this week, however, the Senate voted to take up a renewal of the act, and we'll have to see if it gets through Congress this time.

And as women in India seek safety and respect, there is also a different danger on the streets of New Delhi. Air pollution: India thought it had got that under control a decade ago.

But with over 6 million cars on the road and nearly 1,500 more added every day, accounting for 70 percent of the pollution, toxic levels are on the rise again, according to the World Health Organization. Some 6.5 million people will die prematurely worldwide every year from air pollution, outdoors and indoors, too, from open fires and leaky stoves, burning animal waste and coal.

And when we return, the secret cost of fighting terror after 9/11. New revelations of torture and other horrific violations of human rights and the toll that they've taken on America's most precious possession: its soul.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. It does seem incredible that torture or enhanced interrogation, as the bureaucrats like to call it, remains a huge subject of debate here in the United States and around the world. After the grim years of such practices under the Bush administration, President Obama came into office denouncing it and banning it.

Yet this debate has again reared its head with the highly controversial, very successful film, "Zero Dark Thirty," about the role torture may have played in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. And the debate doesn't stop at torture.

There is also a shadowy practice started under the Bush administration called extraordinary rendition. Essentially, outsourcing the CIA's interrogation and detention to countries outside the reach of U.S. law. Unlike torture, rendition was not repudiated by President Obama, and the practice continues.

My guest, Amrit Singh, has written a comprehensive report for the Open Society Justice Initiative. It's called "Globalizing Torture: CIA's Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition."

And it's the most detailed description yet of this clandestine CIA practice. It's happened with the help of 54 different countries, from Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and Australia, a list that even includes Iran and Syria.

Amrit Singh joins me now. Thanks for being here.


AMANPOUR: Well, we've pretty much described what your report has said in its -- in its entirety, but in the details, does the United States still practice that and how?

SINGH: Well, we don't know what the U.S. government's current policies are. President Obama disavowed torture, but he did not specifically disavow rendition.

AMANPOUR: So it could still be going on?

SINGH: Rendition could be going on.

AMANPOUR: You don't know for sure?

SINGH: We don't know for sure. There have been reports of secret detention in Somalia that had some CIA involvement. But again, we don't know all of the details yet.

AMANPOUR: And if it was going on, are there provisions that the Obama administration has put in to differentiate extraordinary rendition from what it was like under the Bush administration?

SINGH: We don't know. And there's a -- there was an interagency task force that was set up by President Obama in January of 2009. But the report of that task force continues to remain secret, even though it's not a classified document.

AMANPOUR: Describe what exactly extraordinary rendition is.

SINGH: Extraordinary rendition is the abduction of terrorist suspects off the streets. There are secret flights to different countries, many of them known to employ torture. And they're being subjected to secret detention and possibly torture and other kinds of abuse.

AMANPOUR: So why does the United States need to do that? (Inaudible) when it was doing it, when we know it was doing it?

SINGH: There was no need to do it. But it was a flagrantly illegal program. It violated U.S. law. It violated international law. And yet it continued under the Bush administration.

And it's quite remarkable that what this report shows is that the responsibilities for the program rests not only with the United States but also with 54 other governments, as many as 54. That's about a quarter of the total number of countries in the world.

AMANPOUR: I mean, it is extraordinary. I mean, there's some countries up there that you just can't believe would be involved in this practice. So for instance, countries that are not U.S. allies, Syria, Iran, why were they involved, and how were they involved?

SINGH: We really don't know all of the details. We know that --

AMANPOUR: How do you know they were involved?

SINGH: Well, we know there were -- one of the most well-known cases of extraordinary rendition is the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian national who was abducted from JFK Airport and then taken -- rendered to Syria, where he was held in a tiny, gravelike cell for days and beaten with cables.

Maher Arar, incidentally, is a man who's received an apology and compensation from the government of Canada for its involvement in his case. But the U.S. has yet to even meaningfully acknowledge its -- the abuse that it's responsible for in his case.

AMANPOUR: And was he a case of mistaken identity? Or was he a genuine suspect?

SINGH: Well, I -- it's -- all of the details are somewhat unclear. But he's an innocent man, and he was basically abducted and tortured and secretly detained and not given any explanation or apology from the United States (inaudible).


AMANPOUR: Why does a country like Syria cooperate?

SINGH: Well, it's a very good question. I think that not all of the answers I hear in this report and what this report tries to do is put together the full picture of the global picture, that this is not just a U.S. problem, it's a global problem.

And the fact that so many men and women were tortured and secretly detained really cries out for some kind of redress, for some kind of acknowledgement, and that hasn't been forthcoming.

AMANPOUR: Well, the United States has certainly -- you've briefly touched on this -- not only never put out a report on it; it's never held anyone accountable and, as you say, never, never had any redress or compensation.

SINGH: That's correct.

AMANPOUR: So nobody's been held to account.

SINGH: Nobody's been held to account.

AMANPOUR: Let me play for you a sound bite from John Brennan, who, as we know, is the president's counterterrorism czar. He was his first choice as nominee for the CIA. That was derailed over precisely this issue. And now he's being confirmed again -- or at least the hearings will get underway -- on Capitol Hill tomorrow. Let's play what he said about these practices some years ago.


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA OFFICIAL: I have been intimately familiar now over the past decade with the cases of rendition that the U.S. government has been involved in. And I can say without a doubt that it has been very successful as far as producing intelligence that have saved lives.


AMANPOUR: So when you hear that, is that a justification?

SINGH: It sounds like a justification by Brennan. But it's -- but, you know, the government did not have to engage in flagrantly illegal practices in order to counter terrorism. And it did not need to resort to torture. It did not need to damage the United States' reputation across the world.

AMANPOUR: I guess -- here's my question. Since torture or enhanced interrogation was made possible by that secret Justice Department memo, that that was being engaged in in Guantanamo Bay, why did they have to go to sites, black sites in other countries? That's what I'm not quite sure about.

SINGH: That's a great question. Well, and that gets to the heart of this issue and that is that both secret CIA detention and extraordinary rendition were designed to be conducted overseas. They were designed to be outside the United States so as to evade judicial scrutiny, so as to evade public scrutiny.

They were going to be done in secret, where no one would watch. And it's remarkable that the government still hasn't acknowledged the full scale and scope of this program.

AMANPOUR: The Senate Intelligence Committee has done a huge report, some 6,000 pages, on this whole issue. Do you think that it'll ever be public? Will we ever know what it's -- what it's investigated and uncovered?

SINGH: Well, it needs to be made public and that is one of the issues that John Brennan should be pressed on, that he should support release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report, because it claims to be the most comprehensive account of secret CIA detention and interrogation, and Senator Feinstein has specifically said that majority of the committee members believe that this report would definitively resolve the question about whether America should resort to course of interrogation techniques.

AMANPOUR: Tell me some of the blowback. Has this backfired on the United States? And if so, how? What instances?

SINGH: Well, it certainly has backfired on the United States. What - - the fact that the United States co-opted as many as 54 governments into its illegal operations means that the U.S. is now subject to liability and censure across the world.

Just last year, the European Court of Human Rights held in the case of Khaled al-Masri, a German national, who was rendered from Macedonia to Afghanistan and tortured by the CIA. The court held that Macedonia had violated his rights by cooperating with the CIA in his rendition.

And moreover, the court found that the CIA's treatment of this man amounted to torture. Now that is a serious problem for the U.S.

AMANPOUR: And one other question: it has also impacted some of the intelligence sharing between some countries and the United States, to the detriment of the U.S.

SINGH: Absolutely. I mean, the whole point about counterterrorism operations today is that the United States needs the cooperation of partners, across the world. And what this CIA detention program essentially did, it was that it co-opted governments into illegal activities and exposed them to liability, exposed them to censure, both in the courts and in public opinion.

And so governments today are going to think twice before they say, U.S., we're ready. We're ready. We're on board. We'll cooperate with you when you take on terrorism, because they have to think about what liability they will be subjected to.

AMANPOUR: Amrit Singh, thank you very much indeed.

SINGH: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And as you mentioned, all of this is probably to come up at the confirmation hearings for John Brennan as CIA director, which begin tomorrow. And we'll look into another chapter in America's secret wars: drones and targeted assassination, including Americans. That's on our program tomorrow.

And in the fight against terror, as we've just seen, cruelty can breed cruelty, but it can also create unlikely allies. After a break, we'll turn to the embattled nation of Mali; in its fight against Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, it has found a new best friend.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, earlier we looked inside India as it struggles to keep its women safe and police its streets. But India is also doing something out of character and outside its borders.

A million dollars may not seem like much, but it was a big deal to the New Delhi government last week when it pledged to help upgrade Mali's army in its fight against Islamic extremists. It further promised a whopping $100 million in financial aid once things settled down. India doesn't usually stick its nose into other countries' conflicts.

But last month, when France sent troops to Mali and pushed back Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, India offered its support and now its money.

As the world's most populous democracy with a ferocious appetite for energy, India has become a major players in resource-rich Africa, rivaled there only by China with its own insatiable need for raw materials, which brings us to Mali: poor, but beneath the surface, rich in untapped reserves of gold, uranium, copper, diamonds, gas and oil.

That's it for tonight's program. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.