State RUMINT: Malinowski for State DRL, Sewall for CT or PM


Updated: Two more Clinton administration alums may be tapped for senior State Department posts.

The Obama administration may name Human Rights Watch's Tom Malinowski to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), sources tell the Back Channel. Harvard's Sarah Sewall is also rumored to be up for a top State Department job, with some sources saying the White House has picked her for Counterterrorism Coordinator, others hearing Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.

Sewall, a lecturer at  the Harvard Kennedy School and expert in the field of protecting civilians in wartime, did not respond to queries from the Back Channel. The State Department and White House declined to comment on whether the appointment was in the works.

The Back Channel previously heard that the bureau's Deputy Coordinator Anne Witkowsky was also under consideration for the Counterterrorism Coordinator post, which was formerly held by Daniel Benjamin, who left in January to head Dartmouth's Dickey Center for International Understanding.

Sewall, a member of the Obama/Biden transition team, previously served in the Clinton administration as the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Peacekeeping and as the foreign policy advisor to then Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.

Malinowski, the Washington director for Human Rights Watch, is expected to be nominated to succeed Michael Posner as Assistant Secretary of State for DRL. He did not respond to a query from the Back Channel Friday.

Malinowski previously served as a foreign policy speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright, and as a member of the State Department policy planning staff. Continue reading

Human Rights Watch report identifies 27 Syrian torture centers

Human Rights Watch has identified 27 facilities throughout Syria where Syrian intelligence agents have tortured tens of thousands of people detained since the start of the uprising in March 2011, the rights group said in a report released Tuesday.

Based on more than 200 interviews with former detainees, including women and children, and defectors from the Syrian military and intelligence agencies, this report focuses on 27 of these detention facilities. For each facility, most of them with cells and torture chambers and one or several underground floors, we provide the exact location, identify the agencies responsible for operating them, document the type of ill-treatment and torture used, and name, to the extent possible, the individuals running them. The facilities included in this report are those for which multiple witnesses have indicated the same location and provided detailed descriptions about the use of torture. The actual number of such facilities is likely much higher.

In charge of Syria’s network of detention facilities are the country’s four main intelligence agencies, commonly referred to collectively as the mukhabarat.

The 12-page report also identifies the commanders of a dozen of the facilities. (Those identified with command responsibility for torture in the report are likely to become the targets of legal cases in the United States and Europe, an expert from the region suggests.) Continue reading

Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak sentenced to life in prison

Former Egypt strongman Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison by a Cairo court Saturday.

Mubarak and his former Interior Minister Habib al Adly should be sentenced to life terms for being accessories “to murder in the killing of more than 240 demonstrators in the last six days of January 2011,” the presiding Egyptian judge Ahmed Refaat said in delivering his sentence, the New York Times reported.

“Judge Ahmed Rifaat said Mr. Mubarak and his former interior minister, Habib al Adli, were guilty on charges of accessory to murder and attempted murder of protesters,” the Wall Street Journal’s Matt Bradley reported from Cairo. “But he acquitted the six senior interior ministry officials whom prosecutors had also accused of killing protesters.”

Scenes of chaos erupted outside the courtroom as the sentence was read.

Mubarak, 84, observed the proceedings from a cage inside the courtroom. He was later reported to have suffered a health crisis after arriving by helicopter at a military prison, Egypt state television reported. He was admitted to the prison hospital after initially refusing to leave the helicopter, reports said.

Analysts said they found the verdict somewhat confusing. Namely: how could the judge find Mubarak and the ex-Interior Minister Adly guilty of being accessories to the murders of the protesters, while acquitting the six Interior Ministry police accused of having actually carried out the killings. Continue reading