You are hereTorture
Dear Friends, We truly have transitioned. Long days of sitting in court room 312, wandering its halls, trying to ignore the pastries in the café while sipping hot tea, are over. Most of the day was spent out of doors – at Occupy Washington D.C., processing through the city, haunting the Washington Monument and the White House and introducing “the cage” to the public. And at four o’clock this afternoon, we lifted the Guantanamo Cell that had spent the day leading our procession around the city, over the stanchions that prevent vehicles from entering the White House grounds, and wheeled it onto Pennsylvania Avenue to begin what will be a continuous vigil (92 hours) until January 11th. As we write (11:30pm on Jan. 7th), three of our community are there at the White House, to be replaced by another shift soon.
Dear Friends, As we prepare this daily update, folks are trickling back to the church from a Clarification of Thought meeting on Witness Against Torture with our friends at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Laughter is hushed as the lights are turned down, mattresses are spread out in every direction across the floor. Day 4 of our fast is coming to a close. We have all kinds of news to share with you today. Shortly after our morning began, the jury returned a guilty verdict for Judith Kelly. Mike Levinson delivered a statement that gripped the whole courtroom and was sentenced. Brian, Judith and Carmen will be sentenced on Thursday, January 12th. While we await the sentencing of these friends in Washington, DC, we also celebrate the release from prison of other friends; Bonnie Urfer, Michael Walli and Steve Baggarly. They each served eight months in prison for crossing the line at the
Dear Friends, We write to you this evening with the report that the jury found Brian Hynes, Mike Levinson, and Carmen Trotta guilty on all charges, but were “truly deadlocked” by the end of the day concerning Judith Kelly. The jury was sent home and will resume in the morning. With the close of the trial tomorrow, we will be shifting our efforts to be a presence on the street throughout the city. As we do so, we are ever mindful, as Matt Daloisio said tonight, that “there is a difficulty in choosing how to act and be in solidarity with those who have very little choice.” When we gathered tonight, instead of expressing in full our own reactions and questions of today’s court proceeding (we shared a single word each, which you will find below!), we read twice over the poetry of Abdul al Baddah, so that the most words shared in our circle would come from a man detained at Guantánamo.
Every time our court proceedings reconvene (and this happens several times a day because of the various breaks), these words are announced: “Now hearing the United States VS. Shakir Ami….” This statement never fails to surprise us. Mr. Aamer (as his name is correctly spelled) has been detained at Guantánamo since Febuary of 2002 and has spent much of his time there in solitary confinement. But Shaker Aamer’s name is spoken in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia today because two years ago on January 11th, Brian Hynes was arrested on the steps of the Capital Building and gave Mr. Aamer’s name as his own. Since then, within the District of Columbia, this name is legally (and bureaucratically) tied to Brian’s fingerprints. And beginning with an “A”, it has become the official title of our court case.
This recently released report, Indefensible: A Reference for Prosecuting Torture and Other Felonies Committed by U.S. Officials Following September 11th, serves as a practitioner’s reference addressing the domestic and international laws implicated by the actions of certain former high-ranking government officials. The report lays the groundwork for litigation against those responsible for approving and using illegal interrogation techniques that were the official policy of the Bush Administration.
More than a decade after the onset of the Bush Administration’s post-9/11 anti-terrorism policies, not a single torture survivor has succeeded in holding a top government official accountable in a U.S. court for the indefensible act of torture due in large part to legal maneuvering by both the Bush and Obama Administrations. While certain actions taken by President Obama indicate his desire to break with the lawlessness characterized by the Bush Administration, he has failed to fulfill his international legal obligation to investigate these crimes of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The report is a call for action. If accountability cannot be achieved through the courts, it becomes even more critical that the U.S. government properly investigate acts of torture either through the appointment of a Special Counsel or alternatively by Congressional enactment of a Commission of Inquiry.
The report is the result of a multi-year collaborative effort between Human Rights USA and the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University Washington College of Law.
Read the full report, and view the press release. In addition, you may request a hardcopy of the report by e-mailing email@example.com. Please include “Accountability Report Request” in the subject line, as well as the appropriate return address listed in the body of the e-mail. You may also make a request by calling (202) 296-5702.
Dear Friends, In its opening statement of our court trial, the government repeatedly insisted that “this was not the time and place” – not the time to present our grievances against the continuation (or, as is recently evident, perpetuation) of Guantánamo, not the forum for debating these issues. And yet we maintain that now is always the time and place to speak out against Guantánamo. This January 11th will be the tenth anniversary of the Guantánamo Bay detention center as the site of the torture and indefinite detention of men caught up in the United States “War on Terror.” Of the 171 men remaining there at this moment, eighty-nine are cleared for release but without any host country, most of the rest held without due process. None of these facts, however clear and basic, are permissible in the courtroom. The prosecutors fear that it runs the “risk of enflaming the passions of the jury.” Justly so! But why this fear? There are many groups of people working to counter that fear and the bureaucracy that upholds it, many people working to create viable means of closing such detention centers as Guantánamo and Bagram. And so both within and beyond those restrictive courtroom walls, it is our hope that over the next ten days our fast and vigils, our presence and witness, all of this community building that connects each of us across this country and world… it is our hope to enflame to passions of humanity to trust in itself again. In Peace, Witness Against Torture ***In this e-mail you will find: 1) DAY 1 – Update and Reflections (Compiled by Amy Nee) 2) DAY 1 – Courtroom Analysis (By Molly Kafka) 3) A link to the Blog of the Legal Times - http://tinyurl.com/7ove9ob 4) A link to “Final Curtain: Obama Signs Indefinite Detention of Citizens Into Law As Final Act of 2011, by Jonathan Turley” - http://tinyurl.com/7uzqttd 5) A link to Jan. 11, 2012 Press Advisory - http://2012.witnesstorture.org/pr-12-5-11 ===================================== Day One – Update and Reflections, compiled by Amy Nee
By Dave Lindorff
It’s fascinating to watch the long knives coming out for Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul, now that according to some mainstream polls he has become the front-running candidate in the Jan. 3 GOP caucus race in Iowa, and perhaps also in the first primary campaign in New Hampshire.
By Dan DeWalt
Predator Odrona is about to sign a military authorization bill [Carl Levin's S-1867] that puts every one of us at risk of being detained by our own military. If the government decides that you are a terrorist threat, the military will be able to kidnap you and deny you the right to a trial or even the right to know why you're being held.
19 December 2011 - Almost two-thirds of countries asked by human rights groups about their involvement in extraordinary rendition flights have failed to comply with freedom of information requests – with European nations in particular accused of withholding evidence of the controversial CIA programme.
By John Grant
Ft. Meade -- Saturday, December 17th was Bradley Manning’s 24th birthday, and at least 300 supporters gathered outside Fort Meade, Maryland, where the military was in its second day of a preliminary hearing process that’s expected to take about a week. Manning worked in military intelligence and is alleged to have released military secrets to WikiLeaks, which released the material publicly.
By Dave Lindorff
No Execution for Mumia: 30 Years after a Police Shooting, Abu-Jamal Backers Vow to Free Him from Life in Prison
By Dave Lindorff
The mood was both celebratory and angry among a 1000-plus overflow audience packed into the balcony space of the Constitution Center in Philadelphia on the evening of Dec. 9.
The crowd of supporters of Philadelphia journalist and black political activist Mumia Abu-Jamal had come to denounce the over 29 years that he has spent locked in solitary confinement on Pennsylvania’s grim death row since his conviction for the shooting of a white police officer, Daniel Faulkner. But they were also there to celebrate the surprise decision, announced two days earlier by Philadelphia DA Seth Williams, not to seek to reinstate Abu-Jamal’s death sentence, which had been permanently vacated by a recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Abu-Jamal Should be Leaving Death Row Hell: Philly DA Announces No Attempt to Seek New Death Penalty for Mumia
By Dave Lindorff
The decision has finally been announced: There will be no execution of African-American journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who in 1982 was convicted and sentenced to death in a highly-controversial and seriously corrupted trial before “hanging” Judge Albert Sabo of killing white Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner on December 9, 1981.
At a press conference this morning, current Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, with Faulkner’s widow Maureen Faulkner at his side, announced that in the wake of a US Supreme Court decision in October not to hear an appeal of a Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that had upheld the lifting of Abu-Jamal’s death sentence, he would not seek a new jury trial to try and re-sentence Abu-Jamal’s to death.
Groups will mark 10th anniversary of first detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay with rally, human chain starting at White House
(Washington, D.C.)– A broad coalition of human rights groups and other like-minded organizations will mark the 10th anniversary of the first detainees being jailed at the U.S.-controlled detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Wednesday, January 11, 2012, by holding a rally at Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., beginning at 12 p.m. Participants are urging President Barack Obama to keep his promise and shut down the detention facility.
When we read Andy Worthington’s website telling the stories of the Guantánamo prisoners, we are shocked and dismayed and above all sick at heart. Stories of goat-herders, carpenters, farmers on their way to buy tractor parts who happened to be in the vicinity of an attack on US troops and who were wearing olive drab jackets--an item found in large numbers at the bazaar. Stories of people picked up because they had been named by local rivals. Stories of people sold to the US for the bounty being offered for “terrorists.” Stories of people working for the Karzai government arrested, beaten, and sent to Guantánamo for years. In some ways these are stories of error, incompetence, and over zealousness on the part of US military and intelligence personnel. But that would be to discount the actual horrors of what was inflicted on the bodies and minds of the prisoners when the rule of law and common
In a world full of injustice—from battered women to clubbed seals to the Club of Europe, from neglected children to nuclear weapons to mountain top removal, from torture at Guantanamo to torture at Bagram to torture in Chicago’s prisons to the torture of the death penalty, from famine in Somalia to deforestation to families being broken by Arizona’s immigration laws—how do you choose what to work on?
Most people choose what affects them most personally, what they feel like they can change, what breaks their heart. Some people choose what seems most strategic: if this small thing changes here, it might move all these other things along in the right direction. Some people race from topic to topic to topic, needing to be everywhere and in the middle of everything. Some combo of the first and second stance seems like the right place to be, right?
I start with all this because I have been thinking about Guantanamo. The notorious and often forgotten gulag is in the news again this week because the Senate voted on Tuesday to retain a provision within the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow the military detain terror suspects on U.S. soil and hold them indefinitely without trial. In addition, the measure—which passed in a bipartisan show of fear-mongering and brutality—would close the door to civilian trials for terror suspects and place restrictions on resettling the dozens of men at Guantanamo who have been cleared for release.
Protesting on 1/11/12 for Guantanamo Prisoners like Shaker Aamer, 10 Years in US Custody and Now Dying
A British resident with a British wife and four British children, Shaker Aamer has never been charged or tried, and yet, as Clive Stafford Smith reports, in an article, a press release and a letter to the British foreign secretary William Hague, all cross-posted below, he remains held, exactly ten years since
Yesterday, the ACLU and over 30 other organizations sent a letter to the Senate asking them to oppose an effort in Congress that threatens to revive the use of torture and other inhumane interrogation techniques. If passed, an amendment introduced by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) to the Defense Authorization bill would roll back torture prevention measures that Congress overwhelmingly approved in the 2005 McCain Anti-Torture Amendment, as well as a 2009 Executive Order on ensuring lawful interrogations. It would also require the administration to create a secret list of approved interrogation techniques in a classified annex to the existing interrogation field manual.
By Dave Lindorff
The growing number of video clips and photos showing police in Darth Vader-like riot gear assaulting peaceful demonstrators with everything from tear gas and mace to truncheons, point-blank shots with beanbags and rubber bullets, and of course the ubiquitous fist and club, have made a bad joke out of claims that America is either the land of the free or the home of the brave.
The hideous pepper spraying of college students at UC Davis yesterday reminds me of a similar case in the 90s, which I've written about several times before.
In 1997, environmentalists were staging a sit-in against the cutting of old forest in Humboldt county. The police sprayed pepper spray directly into the protesters eyes in similar fashion to what happened in UC yesterday and then used liquified pepper spray and applied it directly to the protesters eyes with q-tips. I'm not kidding. There's video:
I was writing about the use of tasers when I wrote this piece back in 2009:
Why is it that the taser videos always show a bunch of cops sauntering around, three or four of them bent over a prone person in handcuffs, blithely administering the taser as if they are merely wiping a speck of dust off the suspects shirt? I think that's the part I find so chilling --- it's so methodical, so cold, so completely inhuman --- that it seems like something out of a dystopian sci-fi novel featuring robots or aliens.
You walk into a large, bright gallery full of large colorful portraits, portraits of men. They are fairly ordinary looking men. They could be from Western Asia or the "Middle East."
You approach one and look at him for an instant. He looks normal, relaxed, almost expressionless, certainly expressing no very strong emotion.
Before you can look long, your eyes are drawn to the curving lines of words swirling around the canvas like leaves in water. You read words like these, twisting your head almost upside down to follow them:
"FROM THE TIME OF MORNING PRAYERS THEY WOULD DRAW A CIRCLE ON THE WALL, AND I HAD TO STAND ON MY TOES TWO HOURS WITH MY NOSE TOUCHING THE CIRCLE."
You read on as more words flow around this one canvas. You read about dogs and cattle prods and death threats and harm to loved ones, sleep deprivation and confinement in a box and living human beings piled up like suitcases in a truck.
Kammen also asked Pohl if he would fulfill his obligation under international treaty to report to "outside authorities" evidence that Nashiri's "torture" was arranged by high public officials, doctors, psychiatrists and lawyers. "I will comply with the law," Pohl responded.
28 October, 2011 - A human rights group has filed a lawsuit against Lithuania for its role in a CIA rendition program which allegedly involved the illegal detention and torture of “high-value detainee” Abu Zubaydah.
Zubaydah, who was initially captured by American and Pakistani special services in a raid in Pakistan in 2002, spent some of his time in custody in a secret detention center in Lithuania, according to the Interights group. The European country allegedly collaborated with the CIA on its program of secret prisons, which allowed suspects to be incarcerated and tortured outside American territory.
Oct. 28: Rachel Maddow expresses exasperation that Paul Wolfowitz is still treated by the media as if he has credibility on foreign policy matters despite his infamous history of disastrously poor judgment.
By Dave Lindorff and Linn Washington, Jr.
With Mumia Abu-Jamal’s sentence of death now formally vacated, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision last week not to consider an appeal by the Philadelphia District Attorney of a Third Circuit Court panel’s ruling that that sentence had been unconstitutional thanks to flawed jury instructions from the trial judge and a flawed jury ballot form, many of those who have long called for his execution are now saying, fine, let him rot in prison for the rest of his life.
October 21, 2011 - Ottawa: Hundreds of protestors have asked the Canadian authorities to arrest former US President George W Bush for war crimes after he reached a Surrey hotel on Thursday.
Bush and his predecessor Bill Clinton were among the keynote speakers attending the annual Surrey Regional Economic Summit at the Sheraton Guildford Hotel. Human-rights groups, including Amnesty International were demanding the arrest of Bush.
Gail Davidson of the Lawyers against the War expressed outrage over the federal government for ignoring its responsibility in not arresting Bush.
Canadian Government Has Legal Obligation under UN Convention Against Torture
to Prosecute Alleged Perpetrators of Torture, Rights Groups Say
Prominent Individuals and Organizations Sign on in Support
October 19, 2011, Surrey, BC—Tomorrow, four individuals who allege they were tortured during George W. Bush’s tenure as president of the United States will lodge a private prosecution in Provincial Court in Surrey, British Columbia against the former president, who is due to visit Canada for a paid speaking engagement at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit on October 20. The four men will take this step after repeated calls to the Canadian Attorney General to open a torture investigation of George Bush went unanswered. Human rights groups and prominent individuals will sign on in support of the effort.
The four men, Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani and Murat Kurnaz, each endured years of inhumane treatment including beatings, chaining to cell walls, being hung from walls or ceilings while handcuffed, lack of access to toilets, sleep, food and water-deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, sensory overload and deprivation, and other horrific and illegal treatment while in U.S. custody at military bases in Afghanistan and/or at the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay. While three of the plaintiffs have since been released without ever facing charges, Hassan Bin Attash still remains in detention at Guantánamo Bay, though he too has not been formally charged with any wrongdoing.
“I lost my family, my father, my health, my education because of George Bush. Although I was completely innocent, I lost nearly 10 years of my life,” said former Guantánamo detainee and torture survivor Muhammed Khan Tumani. “I suffered greatly while detained at Guantánamo, and continue to suffer. I have restrictions on my travel and cannot travel to see my father who is ill. George Bush must face justice and be held accountable for his actions, which continue to cause me and so many harm.”
On September 29, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) submitted a 69-page page draft indictment to Attorney General Robert Nicholson, along with more than 4,000 pages of supporting material, setting forth the case against Bush for torture. The indictment, incorporated into the criminal information lodged today, contends that by Bush’s own admission he sanctioned and authorized acts that constitute torture under the Canadian criminal code and the Convention Against Torture (CAT).
Katherine Gallagher, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who is assisting the plaintiffs, said, “George Bush’s brazen admission to authorizing torture techniques and unlawful detentions, including enforced disappearances, must not be met with indifference. His years of impunity must come to an end. Even if the United States has failed to meet its obligations to hold torturers accountable, Canada has an opportunity and a legal obligation to position itself on the right side of history and the law.”
Matt Eisenbrandt, legal director of the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ), who will submit the filing on men’s behalf, added, “Canadian law could not be clearer. If an alleged torturer is present in Canada, the government has the power to prosecute. As a signatory of the Convention Against Torture, Canada has an obligation to initiate an investigation when Mr. Bush sets foot in this country.”
More than 50 human rights organizations from around the world and prominent individuals signed on to support the call for George W. Bush’s prosecution, including former UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture, Theo van Boven and Manfred Nowak, the International Federation for Human Rights, and the Canadian-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. A number of the human rights organizations which signed on are facing the on-going harms of the “counterterrorism” policies advanced under the Bush administration and then adopted or employed in their own countries.
Former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, said: “The main aim of the UN Convention Against Torture was to eradicate safe havens for persons who commit, order, or participate in acts of torture worldwide. States parties to the Convention, including Canada, have a legal obligation to arrest all persons suspected of torture with the aim of bringing them to justice. There is plenty of evidence that President Bush authorized enhanced interrogation methods against suspected terrorists, some of which clearly amount to torture, such as waterboarding.”
Last February, the Center for Constitutional Rights, along with other human rights organizations, attempted to initiate criminal proceedings against Bush during a private speaking engagement in Geneva, but he canceled after news of the planned prosecution came to light. Following the cancellation, CCR and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights released the “Bush Torture Indictment,” which can serve as the basis for country-specific indictments against Bush in any of the 147 countries that have ratified the UN Convention Against Torture or have universal jurisdiction laws for torture.
Prior to the filing of this case, CCR and the CCIJ twice (on Sept. 29, 2011 and Oct. 14, 2011) petitioned Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General Robert Nicholson by letter to launch a criminal investigation against Bush during his October 20 visit to Canada, but received no response. George Bush and former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney both recently made trips to Canada, without any legal consequence.
A copy of the filing can be viewed in full here. The Letter of Support is available in English and French.
The Canadian Centre for International Justice works with survivors of genocide, torture and other atrocities to seek redress and bring perpetrators to justice. The CCIJ seeks to ensure that individuals present in Canada who are accused of responsibility for serious human rights violations are held accountable and their victims recognized, supported and compensated. For more information visit www.ccij.ca
The Center for Constitutional Rights, in addition to filing the first cases representing men detained at Guantánamo, has filed universal jurisdiction cases seeking accountability for torture by Bush administration officials in Germany, France and submitted expert opinions and other documentation to ongoing cases in Spain in collaboration with ECCHR. The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Further details regarding the Center for Constitutional Rights’ Bush Torture Indictment can be viewed at: http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/bush-torture-indictment.Visit www.ccrjustice.org. Follow @theCCR.
By John Grant
At the end of this chaotic YouTube video, made at the end of a huge victory by the activists occupying Wall Street, and their thousands of supporters, one of many outraged demonstrators is heard hollering: "He ran over his fuckin' leg!"
Well, I've looked at the video three times and that seems a pretty accurate description of what this cop did.
At first, the scooter's front wheel seems to be in front of the young man's leg. The guy, by the way, is a clearly legal observer wearing an official National Lawyers Guild yellow observer hat. He seems to be in serious agony at this point. So it seems likely he has already been run over once.
No New Penalty Trial Likely: US Supreme Court Confirms 3rd Circuit Ruling Lifting Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Death Penalty
By Dave Lindorff
Here’s a prediction: Seth Williams, the district attorney of Philadelphia, will decide not to seek to reimpose the death penalty on Mumia Abu-Jamal, the world-famous journalist, former Black Panther and condemned prisoner who has spent the last almost 30 years of his life on Pennsylvania’s overcrowded death row.
The choice belongs to Williams, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided, on its second time dealing with the issue, not to overturn the decision of a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which had, on orders of the Supreme Court, reheard, reconsidered and reaffirmed its earlier decision upholding the tossing out of Abu-Jamal’s death sentence by a lower federal district court.