End Drone Killing, Drone Surveillance and Global Militarization
You are hereDrones
By Alfredo Lopez
"Connectivity," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a CNN interview last year, "is a human right."
A group of people who have lost loved ones to US drone strikes in Yemen will next week (Tuesday April 1) launch a national organisation with the aim of supporting affected communities and highlighting the civilian impact of the covert programme.
The National Organization for Drone Victims (NODV), which is the first of its kind in Yemen, was founded by Mohammad al-Qawli, an Advisor to the Ministry of Education. Mr al-Qawli lost his brother, an elementary school-teacher, in a January 2013 drone strike in Khawlan, a district near the country’s capital Sanaa.
The launch will bring together a number of families who have lost relatives or friends to drone attacks, including: victims of the December 2013 strike which hit a wedding party in Radaa; and Faisal Ali Bin Jaber, whose brother-in-law, an imam who preached against Al-Qaeda, and nephew were killed in an August 2012 strike.
According to Mr al-Qawli the organisation will seek to investigate and publish facts about drone strikes and their effects on communities with the aim of changing government policy regarding the secretive US programme. While the Yemeni parliament has passed a resolution criminalising drone strikes, they continue with the approval of the Yemeni administration. The past year has seen a surge, with as many as eleven taking place in the first few months of 2014 alone.
The organisation will also seek to assist affected communities with the after-effects of drone strikes including: the economic impact of the loss of families’ primary bread-winners; psychological trauma—particularly in children; and physical injuries.
NODV founder and president Mohammad al-Qawli said: “I founded the NODV in memory of my brother Ali because it was clear that the voices of victims of the US drone programme in Yemen need to be heard and the affected communities need support. There is so much misinformation spread about these attacks and almost no notice paid to the lasting, devastating affect they have on communities throughout Yemen. These attacks are making us all less safe: not only are innocents killed, but drone strikes create instability and radicalisation. By bringing victims together we have the chance to uncover facts regarding the strikes and their consequences and work together towards ending the illegal use of drones in Yemen and preventing further bloodshed.”
UK votes against greater transparency around drones at UN
The UK today voted against a UN resolution seeking to “ensure transparency” around drone strikes, just days after an influential Parliamentary committee called for “greater transparency” around the UK’s role in the US’ covert drone programme.
The resolution, which was voted on at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)today, also“express[ed] deep concern” at civilian casualties resulting from drone strikes.
The UK’s no vote comes just days after the House of Commons’ Defence Committee called for “greater transparency” from the British Government over its reported involvement in the US programme of secret drone strikes that have killed thousands of civilians in Pakistan and Yemen.
The UNHRC resolution, which passed despite opposition from the US, UK and other European states, also raised concerns over “the interruption of education, the undermining of religious and cultural practices and the reluctance to assist the victims of drone strikes for fear of being caught in secondary strikes.” It called upon states using drones – currently the US, UK and Israel – to ensure transparency in their use of drones and “to conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of a violation of international law.”
Ireland was the only European member state to vote in favour of the resolution – it was opposed by France, while Germany – whose intelligence sharing links with the US are reportedly supporting the covert drone programme – abstained. Last month members of the European Parliament voted in an overwhelming landslide of 534 to 49 to ban covert drone strikes.
Jennifer Gibson, Staff Attorney at Reprieve, said: “While the British and European Parliaments have recently made it crystal clear that they want to increase transparency around drone strikes, the governments of these countries seem happy to ignore the voice of the people. This ‘no’ vote from the UK shows that the Government is happy to support US drone strikes without any transparency or accountability. The British people deserve to know what is being done in their name to civilian communities in Yemen and Pakistan.”
JUSTICE DENIED: CITIZEN ACTIVISTS, ON BEHALF OF DRONE VICTIMS, LOCKED OUT AND REFUSED ENTRY TO US ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
By Ellen Grady
Those who delivered the indictment today at the 132 National Guard Base in Iowa; Ruthie Cole, Eddie Bloomer, Elliot Adams, Julie Brown, Michelle Naar-Obed, Chet Guinn, Steve Clemens. Charged with criminal trespass.
We come to the Des Moines Air National Guard base, today, as members of faith based and Catholic Worker communities and the Veterans for Peace who annually join for a week of nonviolent resistance to war and injustice. This week, we aim to raise a call against the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) commonly known as drones. We recognize that the slaughter of war always requires war makers to dehumanize the victims. Reliance on drones exacerbates the dehumanization because the technology allows
war makers to kill a target without identifying clearly who the person is or what the person has done or is doing.
Therefore today we bring to this base the faces of several who have been killed as well as the desire of a young Afghan friend who says, "We want to live without war."
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, "In a free society, few are guilty but all are responsible." If weaponized drones are flown from this base, we, along with RPA crews, share responsibility for consequences including death of targeted victims and whatever trauma is sustained by those who operate the drones.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Photo Credit: Getty Images
In a long-awaited moment in a hotly contested zone currently occupied by the Russian military, Ukraine's citizens living in the peninsula of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to become part of Russia.
Earlier this month, I spoke at a panel in Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond. During the talk, I showed a photo of a young Yemeni boy in the province of Mareb (which was hit by five drone strikes this month), demonstrating how he ducked in his school as soon as he heard the sound of a plane. He was not sure whether it was a drone or a fighter jet, but he has become used to ducking this way ever since his village was hit and his friend hit with a shrapnel.
The next day, I received an e-mail from David Swanson who was on the same panel. He pointed out that the photo of the Yemeni boy reminded him of the photo below, of children in the US in the 1950s ducking in schools for fear of a nuclear explosion.
|photo on left via David Swanson from http://airminded.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/brighton-tech-1942.jpeg, photo on right by Atiaf Alwazir, taken in Mareb on Feb 28, 2013|
The two photos are strikingly similar, both children ducking to save themselves from bombs that kill, wound, and displace people. From the early 1950s until the end of the Cold War, the US government taught "duck and cover" to generations of school children and adults as a method of personal protection in the event of a nuclear war.
In 1951, the American Civil Defense film, "Duck and Covered" geared towards children, portrayed the act of ducking and covering by Bert The Turtle. Wouldn't it be ironic, if we use the lyrics of this American film to teach children in Yemen today how to "duck and cover" from American planes?!
|A Duck and Cover movie poster, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/52/Bert2.png|
Yemeni children living in areas of conflict have the same feeling of fear that has engulfed millions of children around the world. However, unlike their brothers and sisters around the globe, their own government has also abandoned them. No films are being made to teach methods of self protection, no warnings given before US and Yemeni planes strike, and when wounded or when their houses are demolished, no apology or compensation is given.
It shouldn't matter where the person is from, where he/she is living, what religion they follow or don't; human lives are equal, and they all deserve a chance to live in peace and with freedom to move and enjoy this earth that we call home.
The European Parliament today overwhelmingly condemned the covert drone strikes that have killed thousands of civilians in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen.
In a vote this morning, a majority of 534 to 49 MEPs supported a resolution demanding that EU Member States “do not perpetrate unlawful targeted killings or facilitate such killings by other states”, and calling on them to “oppose and ban practices of extra judicial targeted killings.”
Today’s vote will put further pressure on countries such as the UK and Germany to disclose the full extent of their involvement in the covert US programme, both through intelligence-sharing and the provision of infrastructure at US airbases on their soil.
The resolution, sponsored by the Green group of MEPs with cross-party support, also notes that:
- “drone strikes by a State on the territory of another State without the consent of the latter constitute a violation of international law and of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of that country”
- “thousands of civilians have reportedly been killed or seriously injured by drone strikes [but] these figures are difficult to estimate, owing to lack of transparency and obstacles to effective investigation”
- “drone strike policies have been documented as causing considerable harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians in the countries concerned, including deep anxiety and psychological trauma, disruption of economic and social activities and reduced access to education among affected communities.”
Last week, legal charity Reprieve lodged a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning the involvement of NATO member states in facilitating strikes in Pakistan. The complaint highlighted the case of Kareem Khan, whose civilian brother and son were killed in a 2009 strike in the Waziristan area of Pakistan. Mr Khan has in recent days met with Parliamentarians from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands to discuss the impact of drone strikes in the area.
Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said: “Today’s vote represents a triumph of conscience by MEPs, who have issued a clear call to national European governments to come clean on their complicity with the CIA’s illegal drones programme, and bring it to an immediate halt. This should be a wake-up call to countries like the UK and Germany; they need to clean up their act not only by ensuring that they stop cooperating with extrajudicial killings, but also by pressuring the US for greater transparency and accountability.”
Kareem Khan said: “As I prepare to return home, I will take with me this heartening news – that Europe is listening to those who have been harmed by America’s illegal drone war. Not just innocents like my brother and son, but all those who are terrorised daily by the drones circling overhead. Drone strikes are not the answer. Today, Europe has taken a first step to bringing a stop to these illegal, unaccountable killings; I hope that national governments will follow suit, so that one day I may finally get justice.”
Green MEP and chair of the Parliament's sub-committee on human rights Barbara Lochbihler said: "The European Parliament has today raised serious concerns with the use of military drones and the deaths of thousands of civilians resulting from drone strikes. MEPs have delivered a strong rebuke to the practice of targeted aerial killings outside a declared war zone, as well as the use of armed drones in war situations outside of the international legal framework. The EU needs to address the legal, ethical and security challenges posed by the increasing use of drones, including the urgent need to secure complete transparency and accountability. The resolution also stresses that EU member states should strictly refrain from participating in or facilitating extrajudicial targeted killings, for instance by sharing relevant information with countries such as the US."
More videos likely to be posted here.
This Friday, Feb. 28th at 11:00 AM (EST), the Fellowship of Reconciliation will co-host an exciting and innovative live video discussion on militarized and weaponized drones. You are invited to participate in this live program from the comfort of your own home.
FOR will host a roundtable discussion on the legality of U.S. drone strikes, featuring:
- Judith Bello, just released from an 8-day jail sentence in upstate New York for protesting drones at Hancock Air Force Base (Judy's blog)
- Noor Mir, former anti-drones campaign coordinator at CODEPINK (Noor on Twitter)
- Nick Mottern, coordinator of the national Know Drones coalition (follow this anti-drones network on Twitter)
- Moderated by Leila Zand, FOR Northeast regional coordinator/organizer and FOR anti-drones campaign coordinator (Leila on Twitter)
The discussion will be held on Friday at 11:00 AM (EST) using a web-based platform called Vonvo.com. RSVP for the event now via Facebook.
Vonvo recommends using the internet browser Google Chrome (download Chrome here) for its programs.
- Make sure you are using the browser Google Chrome or Firefox (preferably Chrome)
- Strong internet connection on your COMPUTER (mobile connection will not work)
- Login in with your Facebook account to actively participate (not required)
- Go to www.vonvo.com using Google Chrome
- Click the "log in with Facebook" button and sign in
- Scroll down to the "Fellowship of Reconciliation" channel
- Click the "Join Live Vonvo" button (dropdown menu will appear)
- Click the "View Live Vonvo" button
- Enjoy the discussion!
We look forward to your participation in this important conversation this Friday!
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Northeast Regional Coordinator/Organizer
GREEN PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES
Greens oppose Defense Sec. Hagel's plan for a "more drones" Armed Forces, continue to urge an end to the Afghanistan War and deep cuts in military spending
WASHINGTON, DC -- The Green Party called for an immediate halt to all drone warfare and for the Obama Administration to comply with the Constitution's assignment of war powers to Congress.
"The White House has usurped the legislative branch's control over war, by having the CIA wage targeted drone warfare against Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia outside of Congress's oversight," said Howie Hawkins, Green candidate for Governor of New York. Mr. Hawkins is from Syracuse, where drones on combat missions are controlled out of Hancock Air National Guard Base.
"The Obama Administration says it's reducing the use of drones. We demand a complete end to drone strikes, which are killing civilians and, by inciting hostility against the U.S., placing Americans at potential risk of reprisal," said Mr. Hawkins.
Greens said that President Obama has kept Congress and the public in the dark on drone warfare, because the CIA is an intelligence service and part of the executive branch of the federal government. The White House obstructed the CIA from briefing a recent joint closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Armed Services Committee and refused to grant the latter clearance for hearing CIA testimony (http://takingnote.blogs.
The Green Party opposes all drone strikes, whether by the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan or by the CIA in undeclared wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The party has called for an end to the Afghanistan War and for deep cuts to the military budget (http://www.gp.org/index.php/
Only 2% of people killed and maimed by combat drones in Pakistan have been Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives. The rest are either noncombatants or low-level military personnel. The casualties include nearly 200 Pakistani children killed since 2004. Drones also cause widespread terror and disruption of civilian life in areas of deployment, as well as resentment by Pakistanis and Yemenis against their own governments for allowing U.S. drone attacks within their borders.
Green Party leaders noted further troubling use of drone technology, in targeted assassinations of U.S. civilians, without judicial review, under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and in domestic surveillance of law-abiding civilians.
"Drones have emerged as the favorite weapon of the 21st century, because they allow devastating remote-control 'video game' assaults in distant countries without putting U.S. personnel at risk. But drones are creating new enemies around the world. The inevitable global proliferation of drone technology is all too likely to backfire against the U.S.," said Starlene Rankin, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States.
"We have little doubt that the expansion of drone warfare under President Obama and the current war-powers grab would have met widespread and angry protest if it had happened under President Bush," said Ms. Rankin.
Medea Benjamin, in Eurasia Review, notes that "As of today, only the United States, the UK, and Israel have used weaponized drones, but there is already a multi-billion-dollar arms race going on. Israel is the No. 1 drones exporter, followed by the United States and China. Over 80 nations possess some form of drones, mostly for surveillance purposes. Between 10 and 15 nations are working on weaponizing their drones." ("The Dangerous Seduction of Drones," Feb. 19,http://www.eurasiareview.
"Complaint filed at International Criminal Court over NATO allies' complicity in US drone strikes"
By David Swanson, WarIsACrime.org, February 19, 2014
"U.S. Drone Strikes Kill, Injure and Traumatize Pakistani Civilians, Report Finds"
Living Under Drones: press release, September 25, 2012
"Human rights group claims US drone strike killed civilians"
By Mario Trujillo, The Hill, February 20, 2014
MEPs will this week vote on a resolution condemning EU Member States’ complicity in the covert US drones programme.
A draft resolution sponsored by the Green group of MEPs and enjoying cross-party support will be debated today (Wednesday) and voted on tomorrow (Thursday) between 12 and 2pm. The resolution condemns the extrajudicial killings resulting from drones strikes, notes an increase in strikes in recent years in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and demands full transparency from those Member States that possess drones technology (such as the UK).
The strikes represent both a violation of the sovereignty of targeted countries and spread terror among the civilian population, says the resolution; they are therefore illegal under international law. The text further criticises the “opaque and unaccountable” nature of drone strikes, concluding that they pose a grave threat to global peace and security.
Today’s move comes amid growing calls for greater scrutiny of the covert US programme, including the use of US bases in countries such as Germany and the UK to support the strikes. Last week, legal charity Reprieve lodged a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning NATO member states’ role in facilitating the drone programme in Pakistan. The complaint, which followed recent revelations that the UK and Germany support the drone strikes through intelligence-sharing, highlighted the case of Kareem Khan, whose civilian brother and son were killed in a 2009 strike in the Waziristan area of Pakistan.
Mr Khan has in recent days met with MEPs such as Sajjad Karim (Con) as well as UK, German and Dutch parliamentarians to discuss the impact of drone strikes on North Waziristan. The CIA campaign in the area is estimated to have killed thousands of people, many of them civilians including children.
Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said:
“Today’s debate is a welcome step towards greater accountability in the illegal drone war that is currently being waged by the US, with the full complicity of its European partners. The drone programme has killed thousands of civilians, and terrorised many more - in absolute secrecy and with a total lack of accountability, both at the international and domestic level. We hope that tomorrow, MEPs will recognise this wrong, and do what they can to right it.”
Kareem Khan said:
“The US’ secret drones programme has killed hundreds of innocent civilians in Pakistan alone – including my own son and brother – and continues to terrorise many more. Visiting Europe to tell MPs and MEPs about my experiences, I’ve been heartened by the understanding and sympathy of many. I urge MEPs voting tomorrow to think about the devastating impact of strikes in places like Waziristan, and recognise that Europe has real power to stop them.”
Jennifer Gibson, a U.S. lawyer, leads Reprieve’s drones work in Pakistan. Prior to joining Reprieve, Jennifer was at Stanford University, where she co-authored, Living Under Drones -- one of the most comprehensive accounts of the impact of drones in Pakistan to date. She has brought drone victims to testify in Congress and to meet with members of various European parliaments, and recently to the International Criminal Court to file a complaint against the U.K., Germany, and Australia for their complicity in U.S drone murders. Learn more: http://Reprieve.org.uk
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Drone victims are today lodging a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing NATO member states of war crimes over their role in facilitating the US’ covert drone programme in Pakistan.
It has been revealed in recent months that the UK, Germany, Australia, and other NATO partners support US drone strikes through intelligence-sharing. Because all these countries are signatories to the Rome Statute, they fall under The ICC’s jurisdiction and can therefore be investigated for war crimes. Kareem Khan - whose civilian brother and son were killed in a 2009 drone strike – is at The Hague with his lawyers from the human rights charity Reprieve and the Foundation for Fundamental Rights who have filed the complaint on his behalf.
The CIA has launched more than 300 missiles at North Waziristan since its covert drone programme began and it is estimated that between 2004 and 2013, thousands of people have been killed, many of them civilians including children.
The US has immunised itself from legal accountability over drone strikes and the UK has closed its domestic courts to foreign drone victims. In a recent decision, the Court of Appeal in London ruled that it would not opine on the legality of British agents' involvement in the US drone war in Pakistan, for fear of causing embarrassment to its closest ally.
Kat Craig, Reprieve’s legal director, said: “There can surely be no doubt that facilitating the deaths of thousands of civilians – as NATO allies are doing in a plethora of ways - constitutes war crimes. The International Criminal Court, established specifically to hold overwhelming state power to account, is in a unique position to offer some semblance of justice to individual drone victims with nowhere else to go. They must take this complaint seriously and investigate.”
... among people who are not the president.
On Presidents Day, RootsAction.org set up a petition in response to this news:
"An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say," the Associated Press reports -- "and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year."
The petition reads:
"Mr. President, Without making any exception for the president, the Constitution requires adherence to the Fifth Amendment. 'Due process' is mandatory, not optional. Legality is a question of law, not policy. You are not allowed to kill whoever you want on your own say-so."
Within the first several hours, over 10,000 people had signed. You can sign it too.
Here are some of the comments that people have posted:
"Has the CONSTITUTION become an - OPTION ???" —S. Schwenchy, CA
"And we thought Bush was a liar!" —Richard Wilkey, TN
"And you are also not allowed to pass judgement on someone before they are judged by a jury of their peers as you did in the case of Pvt. Manning. I thought you were better than that. My bad." —John Nettleton, OR
"Please, just stop murdering suspicious people. This is like what happened to Trayvon Martin, but there's no trial afterward." —Tim Ferguson, CA
"Expedience is not an excuse. We can't be the good guys just because we say so, we have to act on it too. Killing terrorists just creates more terrorists." —Boola Lomuscio, MA
"A country which can imprison indefinitely its citizens without due process, without ever charging them with any wrongdoing is not a democracy. Period. Let alone the country which can KILL citizens without due process, without ever charging them with any wrongdoing. Obey the law. Obey the Constitution." —Jamil Said, CA
"A President is nothing more than a servant, and if he commits a crime, it is ten times the crime and should have ten times the penalty." —Ronald Denner, MI
"According to the Nuremberg Principles if we remain silent while our government is engaged in illegal activities, then we are complicit, we are equally guilty of being in violation of international law and of going against our most dearly held values. It is our responsibility as citizens, as taxpayers, as voters, to speak out." —Robert Stevens
"All labels aside, ANY president who does not follow his oath needs to be impeached. It really is that simple." —Robert Horan, OH
"All presidents seem to think that the Constitution is for the people to obey, not them. The 5th Amendment provides due process for American citizens. If one suspects criminal activity against the USA, then the suspect must have his day in court. This is part of the democratic process, and NO ONE, NOT EVEN THE PRESIDENT, IS ABOVE THE LAW!" —Robert Glasner, CA
"Amendment IV -- 'The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures' -- Does that include the life of the person?" —David Bean, OR
"America is supposed to have the rule of law, not of men. I don't care how well-intentioned people are; if the precedent is set, then less well-intentioned people will take advantage of it." —Deborah Goldsmith, CA
"Among other reasons, drone strikes kill innocents without exception, and you know it, Mr. President, and that's not something to accept regardless of what your military advisers believe." —Marianne Kenady, WA
"Are we back in the dark ages where the king decides to behead anyone he wants? Seems that way. I don't think that is where we want to be, none of us." —Kenneth Walton, IA
"Are you still a constitutional lawyer? - - Then, why are you acting as you are? That is, choosing and selecting American citizens for annihilation." —William See, OR
"Believe it or not, murder is murder. Murdering a murderer is still murder." —Frank C Benjamin, NY
"Don't stray from the mandates, including the Constitution, you have been sworn to uphold. People accused of crimes are supposed to be tried by a jury of their peers, not one man on a power trip." —John Davis, ME
"Execution of citizens without any due process, especially a jury of peers, is one of the hallmarks of a totalitarian government -- no matter how much the tyrant pleads otherwise." —Robert Anderson, CA
"Execution without arrest and fair trial is unethical, immoral and goes against all American values." —Patricia Robinett, MO
"Extraordinary renditions and torture perpetrated by the Bush Administration was illegal and immoral. Killing without due process, especially an American citizen, is even worse." —Audrey Bomse, FL
"Following our example, I guess it is ok for foreign governments to send drones over our territory to murder dissidents from their country?" —Michael JamesLong, OR
"For a constitutional lawyer, our President does not honor, in any way, shape or form, the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th & 8th amendments to the U.S. Constitution." —Lisbeth Caccese, CA
Read thousands more, pick your favorites, add your own:
A Pakistani man who lost his son and brother to a 2009 CIA drone strike is this week visiting Germany to hold meetings with MPs and Government officials about the impact of the US’ secret bombing campaign.
Kareem Khan will today meet with the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Committees, as well as members of Germany’s Green Party. Tomorrow he is set to meet officials from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
There had been fears for Mr Khan’s safety up until last Friday, following his abduction from his Rawalpindi home by men in police uniforms on February 5. Mr Khan had not been heard from until his release on February 14, after which he revealed that, during his captivity, he had been beaten and questioned about his activities.
Mr Khan is being accompanied on his visit by Noor Behram, a journalist from North Waziristan (the region which bears the brunt of CIA strikes); his lawyer Shahzad Akbar, a fellow of human rights charity Reprieve; and Jennifer Gibson, a staff attorney at Reprieve.
The group is visiting Germany, followed by the Netherlands and the UK, in order to discuss the impact of the CIA drone programme on civilians in Pakistan.
European states have been revealed to be involved in the CIA campaign through the sharing of intelligence used to target strikes, and the provision of crucial infrastructure – notably at US air bases such as Ramstein in Germany and RAF Croughton in the UK.
Kareem Khan said: “I hope my meetings with parliamentarians in Europe will help raise awareness about the real impact of US drone strikes. It is imperative that Germany take a stand on such drones. They are making no one safer, least of all America's allies.”
Jennifer Gibson said: “Given the involvement of European countries in the CIA’s illegal and counter-productive campaign of drone strikes, it is important that politicians and public alike are aware of how this affects innocent civilians on the ground. Mr Khan lost his son and his brother to these strikes, and when he started speaking out, ended up being kidnapped. People in Germany, the UK and the US deserve to know about the abuses that are being carried out in their name – it is high time the drone campaign was brought out of the shadows.”
Further information on Mr Khan’s abduction can be found here:
A Pakistani drone victim who had been missing since being abducted from his home by men in police uniforms on February 5 has been released.
Kareem Khan, who had not been heard from since being taken from his Rawalpindi home, was freed earlier today (February 14).
Mr Khan lost his son and brother to a 2009 CIA drone strike, and had been set to travel to Europe to discuss his experiences with parliamentarians when he disappeared. He was also involved in legal action against the Pakistani police over their refusal to investigate the killing of his relatives.
After being abducted in the early morning hours of 5 February by 15-20 men, 8 of whom were in police uniform, Mr Khan was taken to a cell in an undisclosed location. Later in the day of 5 February, he was blindfolded and driven for approximately 2-3 hours to another undisclosed location where he remained until his release. While detained, Mr Khan was interrogated, beaten and tortured. He was placed in chains and repeatedly questioned about his investigations into drone strikes, his knowledge of drone strike victims and his work advocating on their behalf.
In the early hours of this morning (14 February), he was driven to the Tarnol area of Rawlpindi, where he was thrown from a van after being told not to speak to the media.
Mr Khan is now with his lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, a fellow of human rights charity Reprieve. Mr Akbar, who is also director of NGO the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, had filed ‘habeas’ proceedings in the courts earlier this week in an attempt to secure Mr Khan’s release. In response, a judge from the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court had ordered the Ministry of the Interior, which has oversight of the Pakistani intelligence services, to produce Mr Khan by February 20.
Mr Khan plans to go ahead with his trip to meet parliamentarians in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands later this week. Today he said: “When I was picked up I thought I would never see my family again, that I would never be free again because of all the stories I have heard about disappeared people. Now that I have been released and have seen the news, the efforts of activists, I know it is because of them that I am free, and I would like to thank them.”
Shahzad Akbar said: “What happened to Kareem Khan in last few days is nothing new in Pakistan. We are living in a state of lawlessness where the executive enjoys impunity. The lesson learned though this experience is that we must always raise our voices. We need to take this stand for each and every person who disappears, it is the only way to force those in power to listen. That is why I am so thankful to all the local and international activists who spoke out for Kareem.”
Reprieve legal director Kat Craig said: “It is a huge relief that Mr. Khan has finally been released, though we are deeply concerned to hear about the mistreatment he has endured. No one should have to suffer as he and his family have done for simply trying to get to the truth about the deaths of their loved ones. Serious questions remain for the Pakistani Government on how this was allowed to happen.”
As of this morning, the Lahore High Court has ordered Pakistan's intelligence agencies to produce Kareem on February 20th. Now is the time to put pressure on Pakistani and US officials to make sure he is released as soon as possible.
To that end, we have planned a Twitter storm for TOMORROW, Thursday, February 13th from 11am- 12am EST. (Yes, that's a 13 hour campaign).
Code Pink has also planned a protest TODAY in Washington, D.C. in front of the Pakistani Embassy at 4pm. More details to follow.
We will tweet under the hashtag #FreeKareem to the Pakistani ambassador to the US, the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry and PML-N, the ruling party of Pakistan. Please do the same to amplify our demands.
Here are some suggested tweets:
Suggested tweets to @JalilJilani (Pakistani ambassador to the US) and @pmln_org (Pakistan's ruling party):
- .@JalilJilani @pmln_org Kareem lost a brother and son. Now, he’s lost his freedom. #FreeKareem #nodrones
- .@JalilJilani @pmln_org Prove you are a democratic govt. #FreeKareem #nodrones
- .@JalilJilani @pmln_org Who’s afraid of Kareem Khan? #FreeKareem #nodrones
- .@JalilJilani @pmln_org Kareem speaks out against drone attacks. Gets disappeared. #FreeKareem #nodrones
- .@JalilJilani @pmln_org We need democracy not disappearances. #FreeKareem #no drones
Suggested tweets to @statedept and @johnkerry:
- .@statedept @johnkerry The US killed his family. Pakistan disappeared him for speaking about it. Ensure his freedom! #FreeKareem
- .@statedept @johnkerry Pakistan disappears anti-drone activist. Is this how @statedept promotes democracy? #FreeKareem
- .@johnkerry Kareem’s family was killed by US drone in Pakistan. He was disappeared on Feb. 5 for speaking out against drones. #FreeKareem
- .@statedept Kareem’s family was killed by a US drone in Pakistan. He was disappeared on Feb. 5 for speaking out against drones. #FreeKareem
Also, please call the following numbers to demand Kareem's immediate release:
Pakistan Embassy: 202.243.6500
Pakistan Desk of the US State Dept: 202.647.9823
And, please sign this petition.
Parliamentarians from across Europe have written to the Pakistani Government to raise concerns over the disappearance of a drone strike victim who had been set to meet with them this month in order to discuss his case.
Kareem Khan, who lost his son and his brother in a 2009 CIA drone strike in North Waziristan, had been due to travel to meet members of the UK, German and Dutch Parliaments next week, but has not been seen since being seized from his Rawalpindi home on February 5 by men in Pakistani police uniforms.
Mr Khan had also sought redress through the Pakistani courts, asking them to force the police to investigate the murder of his relatives – judgement in that case was imminent at the time of his disappearance.
Yesterday (February 11), Tom Watson MP, Chair of the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones and a former British defence minister, wrote to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, concerning Mr Khan’s case.
Meanwhile, in response to questions in the Dutch Parliament, the country’s Minister for International Development said Mr Khan’s case had been raised with Pakistan’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, and would be raised again at bilateral meetings between the two countries due to take place later this month. Dutch MP Harry van Bommel has also written to Mr Sharif asking him to investigate Mr Khan’s disappearance.
In Germany, Bundestag member Hans-Christian Ströbele has written to Mr Sharif to ask him to “urgently investigate Mr. Khan’s disappearance [and] locate which Pakistani entity has detained him.” Mr Stroebele has also urged the German Foreign Minister to raise the case of Kareem Khan with his Pakistani counterpart.
Mr Watson said: “I am extremely concerned for the safety of drone victim and journalist Kareem Khan whom I invited to speak to MPs this month. Kareem was seized last week and his family still have had no news of his whereabouts. Given the timing, I am concerned that there may be a connection between his disappearance and his intention to speak to Members of Parliament. I urge both the UK and Pakistani Governments to do everything in their power to secure Kareem’s release, and support his visit to Parliament.”
Mr Khan is represented by Islamabad-based lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who is Director of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights and a fellow of legal charity Reprieve.
Judge orders Pakistani intelligence services to produce missing drone victim
A Pakistani judge today ordered the country’s intelligence services to produce a victim of CIA drone strikes who has been missing since being seized from his Rawalpindi home a week ago.
Kareem Khan, who lost his son and brother to a 2009 CIA drone strike in North Waziristan, had been due to travel to Europe to discuss his experience with parliamentarians in a number of countries later this month. However, he has not been heard from since being detained by a group of men in police uniforms and plain clothes in the early hours of February 5.
The Rawalpindi Bench of the Lahore High Court was today hearing a Habeas petition brought by Mr Khan’s lawyer and Reprieve fellow, Shahzad Akbar. Mr Akbar argued that the intelligence services must have been responsible for Mr Khan’s arrest, as responses filed by the police indicated that they were unaware of the incident. As a result, the judge ordered the various intelligence services overseen by Pakistan’s Ministry of the Interior to produce Mr Khan by Thursday February 20.
Mr. Khan was due to travel to Europe this Saturday (February 15), where he was scheduled to speak with German, Dutch and British parliamentarians about his personal experience with drone strikes and and his work as a freelance journalist investigating other strikes in the region.
Mr Khan is also involved in legal proceedings on behalf of his brother, Asif Iqbal, a teacher, and his son Zahinullah. Mr Khan has asked the courts to order the Pakistani police to launch a criminal investigation into the strike, arguing it constitutes murder under domestic law.
Commenting, Shahzad Akbar said: “Kareem Khan has already lost a brother and son to US drone strikes. Now, he too has disappeared. All because he had the courage to speak out about what happened to him and about the terrible civilian toll such strikes are having. Pakistan’s Prime Minister must launch an immediate investigation into which part of his government abducted Kareem and secure his release.”
Reprieve’s Executive Director, Clare Algar said: “It has now been a week since anyone has seen or heard from Kareem Khan. The Pakistani Government must immediately tell us where he is and why they have tried to silence such an important anti-drones voice. Failure to do so raises disturbing questions of continued PK complicity in the US drone programme.”
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN A CHILD IS ON FIRE?
By Joy First, Mt. Horeb, WI
As a member of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR), we have been working in a number of different ways to bring an end to the illegal drone assassination program being perpetrated by the White House, the CIA, and the Pentagon. We know that thousands of innocent people have been murdered, and that the program continues to kill families in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and other places around the world. So many people are suffering so greatly because of our government’s actions.
On Friday February 7, in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, members of NCNR appealed our conviction from an arrest at a vigil against drones at the CIA on June 29, 2013 when about 50 people rallied at the gates in Langley, VA. After several speakers, six members of NCNR walked to the police line and attempted to deliver a letter to CIA Director John Brennan, trying to set up a meeting to talk about the drone assassination program. After being denied a meeting and engaging in street theater Malachy Kilbride, Max Obuszewski, Phil Runkel, Janice Sevre-Duszynska, Cindy Sheehan, and myself were arrested and charged with trespass. Five of us went to trial on October 22, and were found guilty (Cindy was not able to join us and pled guilty). There were so many things that were not right about the trial and we decided to appeal.
We also decided that while we were at the courthouse for the appeal we would try to visit Assistant US Attorney Eugene Rossi since he is in the same courthouse building. Six activists from NCNR had a 40 minute meeting with Mr. Rossi on May 21, 2013. His office, the Eastern District of Virginia, has jurisdiction over the CIA. We delivered a criminal complaint against Obama, CIA Director Brennan, and others at the CIA who are involved in the killer drone program. During the meeting Mr. Rossi was over-the-top friendly in a very artificial way. He was good at his job and tried to placate us, while constantly trying to change the subject to friendly small talk. We left the criminal complaint with him and he said he would send it up to his boss. Over the last several months, we have followed up with him several times, but, as expected, they are not taking our complaint seriously. We can’t let this drop and so we decided to pay him a visit on February 7.
In preparing for our appeal, we were not able to obtain an attorney, and so we decided we would do the best we could as pro se appellants. Several days before the appeal, we filed a written brief that was authored by Max. There were six arguments made in the brief. In summary:
1) Our First Amendment right to free speech was infringed upon.
2) The government did not present sufficient evidence to show that the order to leave was lawful or that we were on CIA property.
3) The arrest and conviction violated our due process rights under the Fifth Amendment.
4) We were denied sufficient discovery to present an effective defense.
5) We were not allowed to present evidence regarding our First Amendment activities or intent during the trial.
6) The Nuremberg Tribunal charges us all to take action against war crimes, and we were not allowed to bring this up in our defense.
Just the day before the appeal hearing, Attorney Stacy Chaffin, on loan to the US Attorney’s office from the CIA and the prosecutor in our October trial, filed a written brief that was very weak and not supported by case law.
Feeling anxious about what would happen during the hearing, Malachy, Max, Phil, and I walked into the 9th floor courtroom a few minutes before 9:00 am. We were joined by several others who were there for support. Janice received a waiver to appear because of a family matter, but was allowed to join onto Max’s motion. Judge T.S. Ellis III would be hearing the case.
What really surprised us that morning was to see that Assistant US Attorney Rossi was in the courtroom along with his boss, Acting US Attorney Dana Boente. Rossi was the person we met with when we delivered the criminal complaint last June. I don’t suspect that their schedule often allows them to be sitting in on cases in a courtroom, and we wondered why they were there.
There were two other cases that were going to be heard before our case, and this gave us an opportunity to see how the judge operated. During the second case, a young man was before the judge for using cocaine three times while on probation. Judge Ellis went into a long lecture about how some people claim that a drug addiction is a disease. However, Ellis disagrees. He thinks it is a personal choice and that you always have a choice as to whether you take a drug or not. He told the story of his mother who was a smoker. She had surgery four times on her lungs, and it was only after the second surgery that she quit smoking. He said she was addicted to smoking, but the addiction was not a disease, it was a choice. To hear a judge sitting on the bench going against all the scientific medical research that has been done in the important area of addictions was simply astonishing.
Our case began at 10:00 and lasted for less than an hour. Stacy Chaffin represented the government and sitting beside her at the prosecutor’s table was Assistant US Attorney Eugene Rossi. Acting US Attorney Dana Boente was also sitting in the courtroom. It appears they are paying attention to what we are doing.
Judge Ellis began by saying that this was an appeal for an arrest for demonstrating to show opposition to drone attacks. He continued by saying that he doesn’t sit on the bench to determine whether drone attacks are good or bad. Someone at the CIA or in the White House does that. And then he chuckled. That was the first of many inappropriate laughs we heard from him throughout the trial.
Max spoke powerfully about why the responses to our arguments from the prosecutor’s brief did not hold water. The judge had a lot of questions and comments for Max.
One theme that Ellis kept went back to over and over was that we live in a democracy and obviously most people don’t agree with us or we wouldn’t have drone strikes. He also said that we should be going to Congress rather than to the CIA. Max responded that we have made many visits to Congress to talk about this issue.
The judge said if that is the case, then our voices have been heard and we need to just let it go then. He said that some people think drones are good and some people think they are bad. That’s just the way it is in a democracy and if we let our members of Congress know how we feel, then we have done what we can. It seemed very inappropriate for the judge to be arguing about whether drones are good or bad, and whether we should be protesting against them or not.
Max also talked about how we have written letters to various officials, including CIA Director Brennan, and we don’t get a response. The judge lectured about how government officials are not obligated to respond. We can write all the letters we want to, but they don’t have to respond to us.
In the government’s brief it said that our intention was to get arrested. Judge Ellis asked Max if we weren’t there to get arrested. Max responded that we were not. “Was this not an act of civil disobedience?” asked Judge Ellis. Max responded that it was not. Max explained that we were not breaking an unjust law for the purpose of changing it. Rather we were trying to stop our government from breaking the law through the drone assassination program that is responsible for killing thousands of innocent people.
Phil talked eloquently about the Nuremberg Principles and why our actions were an attempt to uphold international law and are binding upon all citizens under customary international law. He also stated that each of us has the duty to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring, even if domestic laws must be broken in the process.
After the government prosecutor made her arguments, the judge handed down his ruling.
Judge Ellis said that he said he did not doubt our sincerity and that we are all intelligent people. However, he said that you could get a group of people who thought drones were good and another group who thought they were bad, and asked who really knows whether they are good or bad. But he did think that probably more people approved of drones than disapproved because otherwise our country wouldn’t be using them. He talked about how there are laws that say our government can use drones. First of all, his arguments didn’t even make sense. It is not simply a matter of opinion about whether using drones to illegally kill innocent people is good or bad. It is bad. Second, there are many legal scholars who would argue that the CIA assassination program is illegal. Third, it is not his job to argue with us about drones, but rather to look at the previous case and determine if procedures were violated during our trial.
Even after Max told him we were not committing an act of civil disobedience, I don’t think the judge understood what Max was saying. He talked about a famous case of nonviolent civil disobedience when Henry David Thoreau did not pay his taxes during the War of 1812. However, the judge got it wrong; it was the Mexican-American war that Thoreau opposed. To me this shows that the judge is not careful in making sure that he knows the facts before he speaks out about something from the bench.
At one point during the hearing Judge Ellis said, “You say innocent people are dying. Maybe they are and maybe they aren’t. It doesn’t really matter.” This statement was followed by his inappropriate laugh. This was one of the many outrageous statements he made.
It was unclear whether he had really read and studied our brief. In his ruling, he briefly and inadequately addressed our first two arguments. He said again that we do not have the right to a meeting or a response from public officials. He said that the officer testified to the boundaries of the CIA and that was enough evidence to prove we were on CIA property.
Regarding our last argument, he said that Nuremberg does not have the force of law. What is it going to take for our courts to start upholding international law? As David Barrows pointed out after the trial, according to the constitution treaties are the highest law of the land.
We will be appealing this appalling ruling to the next level.
Once the hearing was over, Malachy walked over to US Assistant Attorney Rossi and asked if we could meet with him about the criminal complaint we had filed in May. He said he didn’t have time, though he and the Prosecutor Chaffin went into a room for several minutes, presumably to look up how many days we had to file for the next level of an appeal. Again, he acts like the nice guy in trying to help us, but he refuses to address why we are there. We waited for him in the hallway.
When Rossi came out of the room, he told us we had 14 days to appeal. We tried to talk to him about the criminal complaint and he said over and over like a broken record, “I gotta go. I gotta go.” He refused to listen to anything from us and within a minute or so, he was in the elevator. Jack McHale commented that this is who he really is. He acts like the nice guy, but this is who he is. Rude and controlling. Malachy commented that if he listened to us and didn’t do anything, he would be held accountable. Once you know a crime is being committed, you are responsible and therefore, he totally shut out everything we were trying to say by saying “I gotta go.” Max thinks he may be conflicted and if so, that is what we need to play to in the future.
We spent a couple of hours discussing what had happened and talking about what our next steps are. We have a lot of work to do in filing for an appeal, and continuing our follow up of the criminal complaint.
The next day, Saturday, was the regular monthly vigil against killer drones at the CIA. I was glad to be in town so that I could attend the vigil. It was a moving experience to be at the vigil after the stress and tension of the previous day in the courtroom. It is always wonderful to gather together with friends that I have made through this work and who I have come to know and love like family. We go through so much together and our experiences create strong bonds.
As I approached the CIA and saw the crime scene tape across the driveway, it brought back memories of the day last June when I was arrested there. Several people said a few words and I read a piece about the just war theory. I also shared that in Wisconsin we have five grandmothers who will be on trial soon for attempting to deliver a war crimes indictment to the head of Volk Field during our monthly vigil against drones there last May.
We read the names of children who have been killed by drone strikes and while each name was read we placed a stone on the driveway at the gates of the CIA. This was very moving and made it was important to slow down and really think about why we are really doing all of this with the arrests, going to court, monthly vigils etc. Jack McHale’s 5-year-old granddaughter was there and laid a stone on the driveway representing a child who died. It brought tears to my eyes to think that it is children just like her who we are killing with the drones.
Art Laffin led us in song, remembering our hero Pete Seeger by singing If I Had a Hammer at the beginning of the vigil and Step by Step at the end reminding us of the importance of all of us working together for a more peaceful and just world.
Afterwards many of us joined together for lunch at Malachy’s. It was such an enriching experience to spend time together and talk about stories from the resistance, what we learned, and discuss how we could move forward.
Later in the afternoon, Malachy, David, and I watched the movie The Camden 28 about a group of 28 non-violent activists who broke into a local draft board office in 1971. The movie started with one of the defendants asking, “What do you do when a child is on fire? Write a letter?” That statement hit me so hard because there are hundreds of children burning up from drone attacks and this is what compels me to continue working on this issue. What do you do when a child is on fire? Writing letters can be important, but it is a critical and an urgent situation. We have to act now and we have to do more. Children are dying. They are burning, and we must take immediate action. We don’t have time to write letters and wait for and hope others will respond.
I flew back to the sub-zero weather in Wisconsin on Sunday morning thinking about next steps. What is coming up and next is a nationwide Spring Days of Action Against Drones and it is something everyone can and should get involved with. We will be doing some organizing in Wisconsin, and NCNR will be organizing an action at the NSA in April as part of this. It is more important than ever to target the role of the NSA in the killer drone program. Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill have just written about the “shocking interplay between digital surveillance [from the NSA] and Obama’s assassination program.” In the fall Campaign Nonviolence and World Beyond War are working to bring people together and act in resistance. This can provide an opportunity to build towards actions against killer drones.
We will definitely be following up with our criminal complaint in Virginia. I feel like filing this criminal complaint with the proper authorities could be a very important path to continue on. I would like to encourage others to think about how you could file a criminal complaint with authorities in your area. This could be an organizing idea to use around the country during Spring Days of Action Against Drones. NCNR will be putting out more information with details on how this can be done. In the meantime, if you want more information or want to talk about how you might do this, please contact me.
What do you do when a child is on fire? This is the reality of life for too many families that are being attacked by drones overseas. We don’t have time to wait. It is NOW we must join together and take action.
On a personal note, my 7th grandbaby will be born in October. It is all the children of the world that we have to continue the resistance for.
A KPFA interview with Robin, aired 2/2/14 at 6pm (From 3:33 to 6:08 minutes):
From the Associated Press:
"An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say, and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year."
Notice those words: "legally" and "policy." No longer does U.S. media make a distinction between the two. Under George W. Bush, detention without trial, torture, murder, warrantless spying, and secret missile strikes were illegal. Under Obama they are policy. And policy makes them "legal" under the modified Nixonian understanding that if the President does it as a policy then it is legal.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the laws of the nations in which drone murders take place, treaties to which the U.S. is party, international law, and U.S. statutory law, murdering people remains illegal, despite being policy, just as it was illegal under the less strict policy of some months back. The policy was made stricter in order to bring it into closer compliance with the law, of course -- though it comes nowhere close -- and yet the previous policy remains somehow "legal," too, despite having not been strict enough.
Under that previous policy, thousands of people, including at least four U.S. citizens, have been blown to bits with missiles. President Obama gave a speech last year in which he attempted to justify one of those four U.S. deaths on the basis of evidence he claimed to have but would not reveal. He made no attempt to justify the other three.
The new policy remains that the president can murder anyone, anywhere, along with whoever is near them, but must express angst if the person targeted is a U.S. citizen.
The idea that such lunacy can have anything to do with law is facilitated by human rights groups' and the United Nations' and international lawyers' deference to the White House, which has been carried to the extreme of establishing a consensus that we cannot know whether a drone murder was legal or not unless the president reveals his reasoning, intention, motivation, and the details of the particular murder.
No other possible criminal receives this treatment. When the police read you your rights, you are not entitled to object: "Put those handcuffs away, sir! I have a written policy justifying everything I did, and I refuse to show it to you. Therefore you have no grounds to know for certain that my justification is as insane and twisted as you might imagine it to be based merely on what I've done! Away with you, sir!"
The loss of a coherent conception of law is a grievous one, but that's not all that's at stake here.
Numerous top U.S. officials routinely admit that our drone wars in the Middle East and Africa are creating more enemies than they kill. General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan said in June 2010 that "for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies." Veterans of U.S. kill teams in Iraq and Afghanistan interviewed in Jeremy Scahill’s book and film Dirty Wars said that whenever they worked their way through a list of people to kill, they were handed a larger list; the list grew as a result of working their way through it. The wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and the abuses of prisoners during them, became major recruiting tools for anti-U.S. terrorism. In 2006, U.S. intelligence agencies produced a National Intelligence Estimate that reached just that conclusion.
We are shredding the very concept of the rule of law in order to pursue a policy that endangers us, even as it helps to justify the erosion of our civil liberties, to damage the natural environment, and to impoverish us, as it kills many innocent people. Maybe they've secretly got drones doing the thinking as well as the killing.
Hancock 17 Drone War Crimes Resisters' Verdict Is In
All found guilty of disorderly conduct but acquitted of trespassing; Order of Protection extended 2 years; Judge decides to send a message
On Friday, February 7, Town of DeWitt Court Judge David Gideon found twelve of the Hancock Drone War Crimes Resisters guilty of disorderly conduct, but acquitted them of trespassing.They had gone to Hancock Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, NY, on Oct. 25, 2012, to bring a Citizens War Crimes Indictment to the base and symbolically block the gates. Their nonviolent action had called for an end to drone warfare.
Saying, "At some point this has to stop," the judge gave the defendants the maximum sentence - 15 days in jail (starting immediately) and a $250 fine with a $125 court surcharge. He also imposed a two-year Order of Protection, prohibiting the defendants from going to the home, school, business or place of employment of Col. Earl A. Evans, Commander of Hancock's mission support group. Considering that the defendants had never met or knew of him before their arrest, it is clear the intent is to keep people away from the base. Defendant Rae Kramer stated, "No person on the base was intimidated by us, that is clear. But the end result is to deprive me of my 1st Amendment Rights."
In their sentencing statements, the defendants spoke from their hearts and minds. Some reaffirmed their legal duties as citizens to stop war crimes. Clare Grady said, "We went there to stop the war crimes. That was our intent." James Ricks hoped the judge would "sentence us to community service to investigate the war crimes they are committing at the base." Judy Bello said, "The people suffering are so significant. It requires a persistent response," and argued that the international law argument is indeed valid. Mark Scibilia-Carver quoted the Pope saying "violence is a lie," and "Faith and violence are incompatible." Mark Colville challenged the Court, stating, "This court has been found guilty of stopping it's ears to the laws that are in place to protect life. This court has been found guilty of stopping it's ears to the voices of the victims of the drones."
The defendants were prepared for whatever sentence the judge imposed. In the words of Ed Kinane, "Any penalty this court can impose on me is trivial compared to the death sentences imposed on the drone victims."
Of the five defendants not sentenced, one, Elliott Adams, is to be sentenced later. Two others had their cases dismissed on technical grounds, and the remaining two had plead guilty earlier.
The defendants are part of the Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, which seeks to educate the public and Hancock Air Base personnel about the war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan with the MQ-9 Reaper Drone piloted from Hancock Air National Guard Base. See upstatedroneaction.org.
Video of the sentencing and sentencing statements will be available soon at www.peacecouncil.net.
Defendants who were sentenced:
- Judy Bello Rochester, NY
- Daniel Burgevin Trumansburg, NY
- Mark Colville New Haven, CT
- Clare Grady Ithaca, NY
- Mary Anne Grady Flores Ithaca, NY
- Martha Hennessy New York, NY
- Brian Hynes Bronx, NY
- Ed Kinane Syracuse, NY
- Rae Kramer Syracuse, NY
- James Ricks Ithaca, NY
- Mark Scibilia-Carver Trumansburg, NY
- Patricia Weiland Northampton, MA
Read or hear their Jan 31 Closing Statements
On Friday, January 31, the Hancock 17 Drone War Crimes Resisters trial concluded with Closing Arguments. Eight defendants gave legal and moral Closing Arguments, concluding that they be acquitted of disorderly conduct and trespassing, charges they had received after symbolically blocking the gates of Syracuse's Hancock Air National Guard Base (home of the 174th Attack Wing) on October 25, 2012. Their ongoing nonviolent actions there call for an end to drone warfare.
Legal arguments addressed both international law as well as faults with the charges themselves.
Since drone attacks embody terrorism, the defendants were not defying the law, but rather upholding international law and the U.S. Constitution, which holds that treaties made are the supreme law of the land. While due process is fundamental to the U.S. legal system, drone attack victims are not afforded that luxury, so the defendants acted as first responders to the scene of a crime - Hancock Air Base. They argued that judges even at the local level are bound by international law, as wars of aggression and drone assassinations are crimes against peace and humanity. They challenged Judge Gideon to acknowledge his obligation to acquit them.
On October 25, 2012 the defendants were petitioning their government for redress of grievances, as protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Three defendants had just returned from meeting drone attack survivors in Pakistan only weeks before the action. Others had been to war-torn Afghanistan. Another had experienced the U.S. "Shock and Awe" attack on Baghdad. They lamented how difficult it was to make the horror of drone attacks real for the judge and prosecutor. One defendant addressed his spirituality, stating that when you see actions that are evil, you must not look away, but instead cooperate with the work of the spirit and do good. Another brought the conversation back home, saying that war has a cost and a face right here at home in the number of people in jails, and that the amount of money going into warfare could be spent much more productively here.
The defendants argued that the elements of the charges could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. They did not actually interfere with traffic since the gates were already closed and Base personnel chose not to open them. Both the prosecution witnesses and the defendants had testified that the action was orderly and nonviolent; the Nonviolent Pledge the defendants had all taken was read aloud. Since there were no base boundaries beyond its surrounding barbed-wire fence marked and no two prosecution witnesses could agree on the exact location of any other boundary, it was impossible to tell if the defendants had been on public or private land.
Assistant District Attorney Jordan McNamara argued that the defendants were well aware of the Base boundaries and that their intent was to block traffic and disrupt business as usual on the base. He did not address the international law or Constitutional issues raised.
The defendants are a part of Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars (also known as Upstate Drone Action) which seeks to educate the public and Hancock personnel about the war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan with the MQ9 Reaper drone piloted from Hancock. See upstatedroneaction.org.
Previously two people pled guilty and two had their charges dismissed. The defendants who will be receiving a verdict on Friday are:
Elliott Adams, Sharon Springs NY
Judy Bello, Rochester NY
Dan Burgevin, Trumansburg NY
Mark Colville, New Haven CT
Clare Grady, Ithaca NY
Mary Anne Grady Flores, Ithaca NY
Brian Hynes, Bronx NY
Ed Kinane, Syracuse NY
Rae Kramer, Syracuse NY
James Ricks, Trumansburg NY
Mark Scibilia-Carver, Trumansburg NY
Patricia Paki Weiland, Northampton MA.
-- carol baum ###