New Internationalist

Occupied World- The Facts

Issue 376

The post-9/11 War on Terror has cast the spotlight on military occupations from Iraq to Chechnya. But the logic of occupation expands far beyond that as foreign military bases (mostly US) now span the globe. Moreover civilian populations are increasingly treated as an occupied people by their own national security states from Bethlehem to Bogota.

United States

The US continues to hold over 600 detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, outside the protection of US courts and law. According to Amnesty International 3,000 to 5,000 people, mostly of Muslim origin, have been detained by the US Justice Department and forced to leave the country since 9/11. The US Patriot Act, which restricts the rights of both citizens and non-citizens, has provided a template for anti-terrorist laws in many countries. The US Master Terror Watchlist now has five million names on it.3 More than 10,000 private security companies employ an estimated two million guards – four times the number of state and local police.4


Since 9/11 more than 500 people have been arrested on terrorist-related charges with very few convictions. Some 14 people remain in prison under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act. Internet Service Providers are being asked to retain information on their customers’ internet and telephone habits and to make this data ‘searchable’ by the authorities.

Italy and Holland

Are number one and two in Europe in wiretapping their citizens, with Italy at 72 wiretaps per 100,000 people and Holland at 62.5


has 26 journalists in prison for ‘undermining the independence or the territorial integrity of the state’.6


Some 100 US special-operations groups are training armies in Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger as part of a Pan-Sahel Initiative to guard porous borders against arms smuggling and terrorist infiltration mostly from North Africa.8


Liberia The editor of one of the few independent newspapers in the country and three of its journalists are arrested for ‘operating a rebel terrorist cell’.


The Suppression of Terrorism Bill 2001 imposes a mandatory death sentence for terrorists and anyone who aids, abets, finances or supports terrorism – including any journalist publishing materials deemed to support terrorism.9


There are an estimated 500,000 weapons in this country without any effective governance – many produced by Western arms manufacturers. Some 60,000 have been smuggled into neighbouring Kenya.8


is passing a bill that requires anyone buying a long distance phone card to have ID.7


There are about 20,000 armed soldiers employed by private military contractors, mostly from Britain and the US. There is 1 private soldier for every 10 coalition soldiers. Private military companies are now a $100-billion-a-year business worldwide – and growing. The private military is implicated in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and other abuses of the Iraqi people.4


Russia has consistently used the War on Terror as an excuse to ‘engage in extrajudicial executions, arrests and extortion of civilians’ as part of its continued occupation of Chechnya, according to Human Rights Watch. Russia also has one of the world’s largest and most aggressive private security industries with 13,000 security companies employing 250,000 armed security guards.4


is trying to amend its telecommunications law to make illegally intercepted emails usable as evidence in court.8


Thai security forces were responsible for the death of 78 Muslim demonstrators in southern Thailand in the fall of 2004. The demonstrators had their hands tied behind their backs and suffocated piled on top of each other in large army trucks.


In October 2003 100,000 residents were expelled (about 15 per cent of the population) because they represented a potential terrorist ‘threat to the peace and security of the country’.


Although the new government has withdrawn the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act, it has refused to drop charges against the 1,600 people charged under the Act and eliminated safeguards against the interception of electronic and telephone communications.10


The Australian Government has scapegoated asylum-seekers as potential terrorists and either prevented them from landing in Australia or kept them in prison camps. The Howard Government has declared a 1,700 kilometre maritime security zone far beyond the 370 kilometres they are allowed by international law to counter possible terror attacks.,sup>11

US bases worldwide1 Afghanistan, American Samoa, Antigua, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia, Britain, Bulgaria, Canada, Columbia, Cuba, Curaçao, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Greenland, Guam, Honduras, Iceland, Diego Garcia (Indian Ocean), Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Johnston Atoll (Pacific), Korea, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kwajalein Atoll (Pacific), Kygyzstan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand/Aotearoa, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, St. Helena (Atlantic), Tajikistan, Turkey, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Virgin Islands, Wake Island (Pacific).

Mass arrests of Muslims have occurred in the US, Yemen, Pakistan, Morocco, Uzbekistan and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China; all on charges unrelated to specific terrorist acts.2

New capital offences have been introduced relating to terrorism in Guyana, India, Jordan, Morocco, the US, Uganda and Zimbabwe.2

Occupied countries (occupying countries in brackets): Western Sahara (Morocco), Chechnya (Russia), Iraq & Afghanistan (US), Palestine (Israel), Tibet (China), West Papua (Indonesia), Kashmir (Pakistan & India), Puerto Rico (US), Areas of Asian Dagestan (Russia).


  1. ‘Bases of empire’ Monthly Review, March 2002
  2. Amnesty Report 2004: highlights by region.
  3. 24 May 2004
  4. CBC Ideas transcripts ‘In search of security’ 2004
  5. July 15/04
  6. International Federation of Journalists, Action Alert, 22 Nov 2004.
  7. (Reporters Without Borders) ‘Internet under surveillance report’ (2004)
  8., Global Security October Update 2004.
  9. International Federation of Journalists Report, The War on Terrorism, 3 Sep 2002.
  10. 27 Nov 2004
  11., ABC Newsonline, ‘Hill defends maritime security zone’ 17 Dec 04.

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