Monday, June 30, 2014

Face of Defense: USS Pennsylvania Sets Patrol Record

Mon, Jun 30, 2014 at 6:49 PM
By Navy Chief Petty Officer Ahron Arendes
Commander, Submarine Group 9

BANGOR, Wash., June 30, 2014 - The Trident strategic missile submarine USS Pennsylvania manned by its "Gold" crew returned home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor here June 14 following a 140-day, record-breaking patrol.
Click photo for screen-resolution image
Navy Rear Adm. Dietrich Kuhlmann, the commander of Submarine Group 9, right, congratulates the USS Pennsylvania's "Gold" crew commanding officer Navy Cmdr. Tiger Pittman, left, following the Pennsylvania's successful 140-day strategic deterrent patrol, a new record for the longest strategic deterrent patrol completed by an Ohio-class strategic missile submarine. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Ahron Arendes
Tridents are nuclear-powered, Ohio-class submarines. The Pennsylvania set a new record for the longest patrol completed by an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine.
The Ohio-class submarines have two crews, called Blue and Gold, which rotate patrols. One crew is at sea usually for 60 to 90 days, while the other trains ashore. In this way, the vessels can be employed at sea 70 percent of the time, when not undergoing scheduled maintenance in port.
The Pennsylvania's "Gold" crew patrol, which began in January, is not only the longest for an Ohio-class submarine, but the longest since beginning of the Poseidon C3 ballistic missile program in the early 1970s, according to records maintained by the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Weapon System Evaluation program.
"It's an honor. It was a challenge. The job kept calling for us to stay at sea but we were ready, willing and able. So we stayed at sea and finished the mission," said Navy Cmdr. Tiger Pittman, the Pennsylvania's "Gold" crew commanding officer.
"I'm incredibly proud of my crew," Pittman added. "I've been amazed by their resiliency throughout the entire time, and not only the crew, but the families. We leave and we serve, but they stay home and they serve as well."
Trident submarines -- nicknamed "Boomers" -- carry as many as 24 Trident II D-5 nuclear ballistic missiles. At 560 feet long and 42 feet wide, they are the largest submarines in the U.S. Navy's inventory.
The Pennsylvania's Navy hull classification symbol is SSBN 735. The SS denotes "Ship, Submersible." The B denotes "ballistic missile," and the N denotes "nuclear powered."
As Pennsylvania emerged from an extended maintenance period in 2013, the patrol had originally been planned to be longer than is considered normal for Trident strategic missile submarine. The crew spent nearly the entire patrol underway, since unlike most other Navy vessels, Trident submarines don't make routine port visits except when returning to home port.
"USS Pennsylvania 'Gold's' patrol is an exceptional example of the flexibility and capability of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine. We had always expected this to be a longer than normal patrol and a highly-capable crew made it happen," said Navy Capt. Mark VanYe, chief of staff at Commander, Submarine Group 9. "When operational commitments changed, we knew the exceptional sailors serving on Pennsylvania and their families back home were up to the task.
"They have excelled across their entire mission set," VanYe added. "We are glad now to have them home and congratulate them on a job well-done."
Upon their return home, Pennsylvania's "Gold" crew was greeted by Commander of Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet Navy Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer, who wanted to personally thank them and congratulate them on a job well-done.
"The SSBN strategic deterrent patrol is the most important unit mission in the submarine force and vital to the defense our nation," Sawyer said. "The Pennsylvania 'Gold' crew was on the front line of deterrence, conducting critical missions from the time the ship got underway until returning home and I couldn't be prouder of what they have accomplished."
The USS Pennsylvania, part of the nation's strategic deterrence forces, is one of eight Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines home-ported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

NEPAL: The police state quite likes torture

Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 11:09 AM
A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission
Courtesy image from AHRC
Nepal is a country where torture and ill-treatment are widely practiced by state and non-state actors. Torture haunts detention centers, and there is no mechanism for the investigation of allegations of torture in the country. The culture of impunity strengthens its hold in Nepal, despite the armed insurgency having ended, and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed, in 2006.
The police have been using torture as if it is the most credible form of investigation. Both the police and the courts are under resourced and suffer from lack of training. The incapacity of the police to investigate a case scientifically and the abuse of power in Nepal restrict the liberty of Nepalese citizens.
Impunity and the incapacity of the Nepal police to investigate cases have been exposed continually. Earlier this year, the police brutally tortured Kalu and Hikmat Chaudhari for trying to teach them about law and jurisdiction. The Nepal police have even tortured children aged 9 and 11. The police are shrewd and try to cover up their tracks. They frequently torture victims when victims are detained in police stations. After releasing them, the police often call them back to torture them again. In some cases that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has helped document, such instances of serial torture have continued for over a year.
Nepal has acceded to the Convention against Torture (CAT) on May 14, 1991. In 1996, the Government of Nepal promulgated the Compensation relating to Torture Act, 1996, also known as the Torture Compensation Act (TCA), which demonstrates a lack of understanding of torture and fails to match the standards of the CAT. Nevertheless the TCA prohibits torture, provides for compensation to victims of torture, and prescribes departmental action against government employees who inflict torture.
The Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2007, penalizes torture. Apart from the TCA and the Interim Constitution, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Act, 2012, the Evidence Act, 1974, the Draft Criminal Code and Country Code, 1963, also contain important provisions against torture. However the NHRC is restricted to only receiving complaints of torture and making recommendations to the government; the government has been turning a deaf ear to these recommendations. And, laws and provisions have not safeguarded more and more Nepalese from falling victim to torture.
None of the provisions and laws related to torture criminalizes the act in Nepal. The government has failed to criminalize torture despite a 2007 Supreme Court order directing it to do so.
The government prepared a bill to criminalize torture; it was tabled in Parliament in 2012. However, Parliament was dissolved before the bill could be passed. The AHRC has learned that the police have expressed strong resentment to the proposed law. Threats have been made that if the government were to pass such a law, the police would not be able to maintain peace and order in society.
Torture and ill-treatment are widely practised on victims who have no connection to the crime being "investigated", in particular to help fabricate charges and extract confessions. And, virtually no perpetrators of torture and fabrication of charges have been tried and punished in Nepal.
When there is an allegation of torture, the allegation is not investigated, forget about being tried and proven, as both the perpetrators and investigators are police officers, often working in the same police station. Consequently, torture remains unaddressed by the institutions of the Nepal State.
The Government of Nepal has to not taken steps to reduce the incidence of torture. It continues to express commitment to criminalize torture, to investigate cases of torture, and to reform the functioning of security forces. These commitments remain unfulfilled.
There is need for an anti-torture law in Nepal, in line with the definition stipulated in Article 1 of the CAT. The Government should also ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) and become a state party. There is also need to bring a Witness Protection Act with robust mechanisms. And, separate mechanisms should be introduced in order to provide trauma counseling services to torture victims.
However, simply promulgating such a law or laws will be insufficient; as such laws are not enforced in practice. To address the core problem, the country will need to strengthen its criminal justice institutions. A legal framework needs to be developed so investigations and prosecutions are possible in the cases of human rights violations, including torture. Unless Nepal strengthens its criminal justice institutions, the practice of torture is going to remain a tool for "investigation".
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.