You are hereHuman Rights
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) 2008 Annual Report
By Stephen Lendman
Established in 1995, PCHR functions independently in Gaza and enjoys "Consultative Status" with the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It's also an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists-Geneva, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in Paris, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network in Copenhagen, the Arab Organization for Human Rights in Cairo, and the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) in Stockholm.
Palestinian lawyers and human rights activists established it to:
- "protect human rights and promote the rule of law;"
- create, develop and promote a democratic culture in Palestinian society; and
- work for Palestinian self-determination and independence "in accordance with international law and UN resolutions."
Guantánamo Bay: the inside story
By Naomi Wolf | Times Online
There’s a McDonald’s on the high street, suburban houses, rats the size of dogs, and 229 of the world’s most high-profile prisoners. Six months after President Obama declared that he would close it down, Naomi Wolf heads to Guantánamo Bay to see whether anything has changed
Six months ago this week President Obama, on his second day in office, promised to close the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, and to undo the secretive and coercive detention and interrogation policies of George W. Bush. But has Obama been as good as his word?
I went to Guantánamo last month to see for myself what difference, if any, Obama’s election had made. My trip was surreal from start to end. I was in line for the rotating junket to the island, and had been given a date by a nervous-sounding and very young Lieutenant Cody Starken. I signed papers that committed me to not reporting classified information — on pain of prosecution. Then I got on a tiny aircraft — unmarked on any announcement board — out of Fort Lauderdale airport.
On the aircraft were bland-looking contractors, male and female, who deflected my small talk, and two young staffers from the Centre for Constitutional Rights, the organisation representing the detainees when no one else would touch the work, and which now co-ordinates hundreds of lawyers from across the country doing so: Pardis Kebriaei, a staff lawyer, and Jess Baen, a legal worker, tried to answer all my questions until my military handler determinedly parted us on our arrival. Lawyers are kept in a compound on one side of the military base at Guantánamo, journalists housed on the other side; they may never communicate with or run into one another. As a journalist, a handler sticks within 18in of you at all times, standing outside when you go to the bathroom and near by when you buy personal items at the commissary; your phone calls and e-mail are monitored. Read more.
The People's Rally, in DC, at Malcolm X Park, for Single Payer - Part 1
On Sunday, July 26, 2009, in Malcolm X Park, in Washington, DC, “The People’s Rally” for a Single Payer Healthcare system was held. It featured a “Speak Out” by the uninsured and the underinsured; and by patients, doctors, nurses, political and community leaders. The lively event was sponsored and supported by the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer, Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, Healthcare Now, and the Spirit of Truth Foundation.
It's been a month since Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was deposed in a military coup. Negotiations on restoring democracy supported by the United States broke down when the coup regime refused to accept a compromise that would allow President Zelaya to return.
The Obama Administration still says it is working for President Zelaya's return, but so far it has not responded to the call from Hondurans for increased U.S. pressure on the coup regime.
Indeed, when President Zelaya tried to increase pressure on the coup regime by threatening to return to Honduras without an agreement, Secretary of State Clinton attacked President Zelaya as "reckless," instead of expressing any concern about repression by the coup regime against President Zelaya's supporters.
After federal border agents detained several Mexican immigrants in western New York in June, an article about the incident in a local newspaper drew an onslaught of vitriolic postings on its Web site. Some were racist. Others attacked farmers in the region, an apple-growing area east of Rochester, accusing them of harboring illegal workers. Still others made personal attacks about the reporter who wrote the article.
Most of the posts were made anonymously. But in reviewing the logs of its Internet server, the paper, The Wayne County Star in Wolcott, traced three of them to Internet protocol addresses at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees border protection.
Homeland Security started an investigation into the posts this month, according to the reporter, Louise Hoffman-Broach, and Richard M. Healy, the Wayne County district attorney. A spokeswoman for the federal agency’s inspector general said she could neither confirm nor deny an investigation; department rules prohibit the use of office equipment for the personal transmission of material that could offend fellow employees or the public. Read more.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed outrage to his combatant commanders after seeing some of the detainee abuse photos now under wraps by the Obama administration...
It’s truly stupefying that today, in the midst of the Obama era, that legions of Americans continue to find it so easy to rationalize and doggedly defend the Bush administration’s torture program.
As more details are revealed it’s clear that never before in human history has such a complex system of abduction, international rendition, and judicial and legislative manipulations been employed to advance and empower an extremely narrow yet far reaching political agenda.
Bush and Co. have turned American democracy on its head and redefined political criminality and neo-fascistic hubris while injecting their poison into the minds of untold millions of Americans via a compliant and self-serving media system. They have rendered Orwell’s horrific vision for the future of humanity in ‘1984’, quaint. But above all, what is most astonishing to me is how they have made my 86 year old Italian-Catholic, Jesus loving mother, embrace torturers and denounce Peace Makers.
My two brothers and I used to have a good laugh when my parents would talk about the ‘good’ Mussolini brought to Italy. For my entire adult life, spirited political hyperbole and great food have always been a part of my family’s dinner table experience. ‘Pass the ravioli – the Japs deserved two nuclear bombs!’ ‘How could you say such a thing I thought you believed in Jesus?’
A study released in April by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press indicates the more often people attend church, the more likely they are to support torture. Sadly, the sobering data supports my own personal struggle growing up in an extremely conservative, Italian Catholic family. I will always remember my parents’ deep-seated belief that the biggest mistake ‘Il Duce’ ever made was aligning himself with Hitler (I think Hitler saw it the other way around) and how amazing my mother’s gnocchi were.
"How cute!" my adults would say when they passed a black baby or a small black child. They'd grin approvingly at the baby and smile their acceptance at the baby's mom. Sometimes they'd extend a hand to brush the baby's cheek to prove their gentility. And then they'd walk a bit further, lean into each other and snark the zinger that angered me then and now, "yeah, they're cute now but wait till they get older." There it was. There it is. The not so subtle prejudice I witnessed in my family that millions of impressionable children witnessed in theirs.
As far back as I can remember I was offended by this language. But others in my family, in my generation, were not. Many assumed the attitudes and language of our adults and continued these prejudices into their adulthoods. Some more strongly than others. Some used the "N word." Some used "ditsoon," the Italian pejorative for blacks. In my large extended family, that includes several police, racial insensitivity was the norm.
There is growing evidence CMUs were created to extract information from inmates for the war on terrorism. Since privacy rights are reduced for the incarcerated, increasing attention to prisoners as a source of information was a logical step for proponents of sustaining a war on terrorism. And by stretching what constitutes a terrorism related charge, the government could consolidate prisoners believed to possess desired knowledge and ignore even basic civil liberties afforded other incarcerated people by invoking “war on terrorism.” To be sure, similar to the tenuous links to terrorism, the extent of any inmate’s knowledge about terrorism is questionable at best.
Ultimately, due to the secretive nature of CMUs, the real explanation continues to be a mystery. What is not a mystery is that the war on terrorism continues to be wrongfully conflated with Islam. This likely explains the disproportionate level of Muslim inmates. Although there are non-Muslim inmates at CMUs, at least one Muslim inmate claims that security guards have called non-Muslim inmates “racial balancers.” Whether or not non-Muslim inmates are mere decoys is unclear. But such a claim should heighten our concern that the government is targeting inmates based on a racial perception of who is a terrorist.
Despite President Barack Obama’s declaration that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam, government practices suggest otherwise.
In June, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed complaints against the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for illegally establishing secret prisons called Communications Management Units, or CMUs. The ACLU also alleged unconstitutional restrictions on Muslim inmates’ right to religious freedom. As a law student investigating the CMUs, the existence of these secret prisons trouble me.
The first CMU was clandestinely established in late 2006 at the federal prison facility in Terre Haute, IN. In 2008, another CMU was established in Marion, IL. According to the government, CMUs were created to “house inmates who, due to their current offense of conviction, offense conduct or other verified information, require increased monitoring of communication between inmates and persons in the community in order to protect the safety, security, and orderly operations of Bureau facilities and protect the public.”
Sounds mundane, right? But the fact is CMUs are a palpable and disconcerting product of xenophobia and the war on terrorism. Concocted during the Bush administration, CMUs are alarmingly reminiscent of McCarthy-era practices and the Japanese American internment camps. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
Agent Orange, the herbicide used as a weapon by US military forces in Vietnam for nearly a decade to defoliate vast stretches of inhabited forest and jungle in an effort to deprive the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces of both cover and a supportive populace, has long been known to have caused a large number of serious and debilitating diseases, many of them passed on to children of those exposed. But now it also appears to cause a peculiar blindness among American journalists.
THE Pentagon's enthusiasm for non-lethal crowd-control weapons appears to have stepped up a gear with its decision to develop a microwave pain-infliction system that can be fired from an aircraft.
The device is an extension of its controversial Active Denial System, which uses microwaves to heat the surface of the skin, creating a painful sensation without burning that strongly motivates the target to flee. The ADS was unveiled in 2001, but it has not been deployed owing to legal issues and safety fears.
Nevertheless, the Pentagon's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) in Quantico, Virginia, has now called for it to be upgraded. The US air force, whose radar technology the ADS is based on, is increasing its annual funding of the system from $2 million to $10 million. Read more.
The Pentagon's top lawyer said Friday that the Obama administration has not abandoned the possibility of transferring some prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention center to a prison in the United States despite strong congressional concerns.
Defense Department general counsel Jeh Charles Johnson told the House Armed Services Committee that some suspected terrorists might be transferred to the U.S. for prosecution and others sent to a facility inside the U.S. for long-term incarceration.
Johnson also said no prisoners would be released from custody inside the country. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley has gone whining to his professional organization, the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Assn., asking for support in calling for President Obama to apologize for saying he acted "stupidly" in arresting Harvard Prof. Henry Gates after first suspecting the prominent African-American scholar of being a burglar caught breaking into Gates' own home.
Sgt. Crowley claims he was totally justified in making the arrest on a charge of "disorderly conduct" (later dropped by the police), because Gates, who actually had been forced to break into his own home during a return from a speaking tour in China when the front door was stuck, had allegedly become "enraged" when the officer confronted him and asked for identification. Crowley claims that Gates called him names, called him a racist, and threatened to file a complaint against him, and that as a result he arrested him.
You're Appointing Who? Please Obama, Say It's Not So!
By Jeffrey Smith | Huffington Post
The person who may be responsible for more food-related illness and death than anyone in history has just been made the US food safety czar. This is no joke.
Here's the back story.
When FDA scientists were asked to weigh in on what was to become the most radical and potentially dangerous change in our food supply -- the introduction of genetically modified (GM) foods -- secret documents now reveal that the experts were very concerned. Memo after memo described toxins, new diseases, nutritional deficiencies, and hard-to-detect allergens. They were adamant that the technology carried "serious health hazards," and required careful, long-term research, including human studies, before any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) could be safely released into the food supply.
But the biotech industry had rigged the game so that neither science nor scientists would stand in their way. They had placed their own man in charge of FDA policy and he wasn't going to be swayed by feeble arguments related to food safety. No, he was going to do what corporations had done for decades to get past these types of pesky concerns. He was going to lie. Read more.
Articles, Blogs, Interviews and Talks from the January, March, May and June 2009 Delegations to Gaza and Occupied Territories of Palestine Updated for July 12 - 23, 2009
New entries to List since July 12 until July 23:
January 1 Long March in GAZA to break the Siege
“Activists plan march to break Gaza siege,” July 1, 2009, Daily Star
Alice Walker, “Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the “horror” in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel”
Rich Moniak, KTOO radio, Juneau, Alaska, July 13, 2009 http://www.ktoo.org/audiofile.cfm?clip=4012
VIPS Member Ray McGovern and Dallas Peace Center member Hadi Jawad organized and participated in the “Dallas Delegation,” a march in George W. Bush’s Dallas neighborhood. Marchers reminded Bush neighbors that they had living among them a criminal who repeatedly and notoriously broke federal and international laws.
Ray McGovern wrote:
In front of Bush house; we stopped long enough to refresh, in a very serious way, memories—by reading the Declaration of Independence regarding the usurpation of our foremothers' and forefathers' rights by another George.
Then we began to read the sections of our beloved Constitution that were trampled by George W. Bush. There are, though, so many such sections that we were not able to finish reading them all in the hot sun.
We did the sensible thing and began to march slowly and solemnly out of the neighborhood...at which point the Dallas police arrived and gave us an armed escort! Our bannering over the nearby Interstate was cut short by the same police, who told us, in effect, this is not Minnesota. In Texas, they said, It is illegal to banner because a distraction could cause a car wreck. We had no Coleen Rowley with us to give us good legal advice, so we drove off (again with police escort) to that major intersection and witnessed for a good while more. Great use was made of those wonderful banners and orange suits. The banners included "WHAT NOBLE CAUSE?" -- Cindy Sheehan's gutsy question of W four long years ago, as she left Dallas accompanied by some of the women of Code Pink and some Veterans for Peace to set up Camp Casey, in honor of her son Casey, killed on April 4, 2004. A year later, Bush made the glib comment that such deaths were "worth it," for folks like Casey died for what noble cause! Cindy, to her great credit, was not going to sit still for that.
NONE OF US SHOULD. And none of us can keep silent when abuses like torture take place in our name. Otherwise, we are all guilty—like those well mannered, obedient Germans of the Thirties.
It was an invigorating experience. I recommend it, or something like it, to all!
The march was facilitated with the help of the Dallas Peace Center. Pictures of the event are below the fold. Click “Read more” to see them.
Z Street: The New Zionist Extremist Group
By Stephen Lendman
On July 6, co-founders Lori Lowenthal Marcus and Allyson Rowen Taylor announced: "Z Street is launched, Will end J Street Treason." More on that below.
Continuing they said:
"Welcome to Z street! No more appeasement, no more negotiating with terrorists, no more enabling cowards who fear offending more than they fear another Holocaust. Z STREET is for those who are willing not only to support - but to defend - Israel, the Jewish State."
Never mind that no nation threatens Israel nor has for decades. It's a regional superpower - nuclearized and defended by the world's fourth most powerful military, armed with the latest state-of-the-art weapons and technology, and not reluctant to use them.
Its only adversaries are self-made and are needed to justify oppression, a culture of violence, an ethnocracy, exclusivity, privilege, and Jewish exceptionalism over others deemed inferior, legitimate enemies, and terrorists.
Zionism is corrosive, destructive, racist, extremist, undemocratic and hateful.
A U.N. tribunal convicted two Serb cousins Monday of having burned alive more than 100 Muslims in what the presiding judge called a part of the "wretched history of man's inhumanity to man."
Milan Lukic and Sredoje Lukic were convicted of crimes dating back to the early 1990s, during the bitter ethnic conflict that ravaged the former Yugoslavia.
Milan Lukic organized a group of local paramilitaries with ties to police and the military, sometimes referred to as the "White Eagles" or "Avengers," according to an indictment. Before and during the war, his cousin Sredoje Lukic worked as a policeman before joining the group.
The crimes include two incidents in which Muslim men, women and children were forced into homes that were then set on fire -- and some who tried to escape were shot.
Milan Lukic was found "guilty of persecutions, murder, extermination, cruel treatment and inhumane acts, as crimes against humanity and war crimes, in relation to six discrete incidents," the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at the Hague said. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Sredoje Lukic was found guilty of "aiding and abetting the commission of the crime of persecutions inhumane acts, murder and cruel treatment." He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
Let me say from the outset that I have the greatest sympathy for 23-year-old Bowe R. Bergdahl, the US soldier in Afghanistan who was captured and is being held by Taliban forces, and for his family, who must be going through a living hell worrying about what is going to happen to him.
But I’m willing to bet you that all of them are wishing, right now, that the US had not decided back in 2001 to begin a campaign of torture and murder against the Taliban fighters that it was capturing in Afghanistan, and against others that it has rounded up in the so-called War on Terror.
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity Send President Memo on Torture
AP sources: Taliban video shows captive US soldier | Watch Prisoner of War Video here.
By Pamela Hess and Lolita Baldor, Associated Press Writers |
...a message to the American people.
"To my fellow Americans who have loved ones over here, who know what it's like to miss them, you have the power to make our government bring them home," he said. "Please, please bring us home so that we can be back where we belong and not over here, wasting our time and our lives and our precious life that we could be using back in our own country. Please bring us home. It is America and American people who have that power."...
On Saturday, a U.S. military official in Kabul, Col. Greg Julian, said the U.S. was "still doing everything we can to return him safely."
Julian said U.S. troops had distributed two flyers in the area where the soldier disappeared. One of them asked for information on the missing soldier and offered a $25,000 reward for his return. The other said "please return our soldier safely" or "we will hunt you," according to Julian.
The American soldier who went missing June 30 from his base in eastern Afghanistan and was later confirmed to have been captured, appeared on a video posted Saturday to a Web site by the Taliban.
Two U.S. defense officials confirmed to The Associated Press that the man in the video is the captured soldier. The video provides the first glimpse the public has had of the missing soldier. Read more.
Government Abandons Reliance On Tortured Evidence In Habeas Case Of Guantánamo Detainee | Press Release
No Credible Evidence To Continue Holding Mohammed Jawad, Says ACLU
The government today stated it would no longer rely on evidence obtained through torture and other coercion in the habeas corpus case challenging the unlawful detention of Guantánamo detainee Mohammed Jawad. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion on July 1 to suppress Jawad's statements, and today the Justice Department announced it would not oppose that motion.
"We commend the government for halting its reliance on evidence obtained through torture and other abuse in Mr. Jawad's habeas case," said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project and a lawyer for Jawad. "Now it is time to send Jawad home to Afghanistan because there is no credible evidence against him. Nearly seven years of unlawful detention is long enough."
The judge in Jawad's military commission trial previously suppressed statements made by Jawad to Afghan and U.S. officials following his arrest, finding that they were the product of torture. However, the government had continued to rely on those same statements in Jawad's habeas corpus challenge, as well as other statements obtained through Jawad's continued abuse at Bagram and at Guantánamo.
Following his 2002 arrest in Afghanistan for allegedly throwing a grenade at two U.S. soldiers and their interpreter, Jawad was subjected to repeated torture and other mistreatment and to a systematic program of harsh and highly coercive interrogations designed to break him physically and mentally. Eventually, Jawad tried to commit suicide in his cell by slamming his head repeatedly against the wall.
As CIA director in 2004, George Tenet terminated a secret program to develop hit teams to kill al-Qaida leaders, but his successors resurrected the plan, according to former intelligence officials.
Tenet ended the program because the agency could not work out its practical details, the officials told The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program.
Porter Goss, who replaced Tenet in 2005, restarted the program, the former officials said. By the time Michael Hayden succeeded Goss as CIA chief in 2006 the effort was again flagging because of practical challenges. Read more.
Report claims Israelis used Palestinians as human shields
From Kevin Flower and Paula Hancocks | CNN
A report from an Israeli advocacy group based on what it says is the testimony of several unnamed Israeli soldiers accuses the Israeli military of intentionally putting Palestinian civilians at risk during its recent operation in Gaza.
The report, released Wednesday from a group called "Breaking the Silence" -- which includes former Israeli soldiers -- has been dismissed by the Israeli military as slanderous.
In the 110-page report, the group said some of the 26 soldiers interviewed said they used Palestinians as human shields during the military's more than two-week long ground operation in Gaza earlier this year.
"In some cases a civilian would be forced to walk in front of soldier while the soldier places his gun barrel on the civilian's shoulder," the report states.
Other soldiers talk about destroying buildings even though the structures posed no direct threat. They also said that white phosphorus was used in densely populated areas and describe the rules of engagement as "permissive." Read more.
Ben Steele hated the young man as soon as he saw him.
The man's almond-shaped eyes, dark hair and olive skin -- Steele had seen those Asian facial features before.
He saw that face when he watched Japanese soldiers behead sick men begging for water, run over stumbling prisoners with tanks and split his comrades' skulls with rifle butts.
"Men died like flies," Steele says. "I thought for a while I would never make it."
Steele, now 91, is one of the last survivors of the Bataan Death March.
During World War II, the Japanese army forced American and Filipino prisoners of war on a march so horrific that the Japanese commander was later executed for war crimes.
Steele returned home to Montana after the war to teach, but he still had something to learn.
When he saw a young Japanese-American student seated in his class one day, he felt both anger and anguish.
What, he wondered, do I do with all of the hate I've brought home with me? Read more.
ICRC: Israel Traps Gazans in Deprivation and Despair
By Stephen Lendman
Founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross is an "impartial, neutral and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance." It also tries "to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles."
It's legally mandated to do it under the 1949 Geneva Conventions and has had a permanent presence in Gaza since 1968. Currently 109 ICRC staff work there, including 19 expatriates. They remained throughout Operation Cast Lead and witnessed firsthand the carnage and destruction that took place.
A family vacation over Independence Day offered a poignant reminder of why, over 30 years ago, my parents sought refuge in the U.S. Fleeing the racial hostility they encountered in Britain after escaping the brutality of the Indian Subcontinent's Partition, they found in rural Missouri economic opportunity, political freedom, and small town Midwestern hospitality. Today, the specter of preventive detention calls into question whether my parents' grandchildren will enjoy the same freedom.
Warrantless domestic spying, detention without trial, torture, and excessive secrecy raised concerns across the political spectrum and fueled recent change in the White House. These policies, however, remain equally noxious under the new administration, which currently entertains proposals beyond even its predecessors' wildest plans.
We should begin by removing the beltway spin. Whether called "preventive," "indefinite," or simply "prolonged," prevention detention schemes are essentially lawless, unconstitutional, and un-American. And whether established through an executive order or an act of Congress, they would undermine—not enhance—our national security.