Archive for the 'Human Rights' Category

04
Nov
10

We’re Finally Stepping Up to the Plate

We’ve advocated Human Rights for years, starting with the Carter Administration, and only now are we beginning to account to the international community regarding our own violations.

The best that can be said is “it’s a start”

Holding America Accountable at International Human Rights Review

Source: (http://goo.gl/jDyQpPosted by Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director, ACLU of Arizona

This Friday, and for the first time ever, the United States will submit to a peer review of its human rights record as part of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which is taking place this week in Geneva.

I’m in Geneva as a member of the ACLU delegation to observe these proceedings. Panama and Mongolia were reviewed on Tuesday; dozens of countries submitted questions and recommendations on how well these two democratic nations were promoting and protecting human rights within their borders.

Delegates from Spain, the Netherlands, and Portugal commended Mongolia forissuing a moratorium against the death penalty earlier this year, but they urged the Mongolian government to take it a step further and immediately commute all death sentences. While most countries consider the application of the death penalty a gross violation of international human right norms, the United States continues to apply it in 35 states throughout the country. Just last week,Arizona executed Jeffrey Landrigan using a drug imported from England(according to Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard) and despite lingering doubts surrounding his guilt.

The death penalty is a topic that will surely come up on Friday morning when the United States submits to its review. And given the controversy over S.B. 1070, there’s no doubt that questions regarding racial profiling and immigration enforcement also will be raised during the U.S. review — topics that hit close to home. Although some of the most dangerous provisions of S.B. 1070 were blocked by a federal court judge, federal programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities continue to thrive in Arizona despite concerns over racial profiling and unlawful detentions of legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens. A recent study based on Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network found that these programs target low-level offenders who pose little public safety threats (PDF) and wrongly identified about 5,880 people who turned out to be United States citizens.

In between the country reviews, I attended one of several “side events” held throughout the weeklong UPR session. One side event was organized by the Center for Reproductive Rights and focused on sexual and reproductive health care for marginalized populations in the U.S. Another side event sponsored by the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty addressed the lack of adequate housing in United States and the amazing efforts of nongovernmental organizations — or NGOs — in stepping in to address the housing needs of communities across the country especially in the midst of the economic crisis.

These first few days of my weeklong trip to Geneva have been extremely inspirational. I’ve had the opportunity to meet advocates from other NGOs who are working tirelessly to incorporate the human rights principles that are being discussed here in Geneva back home. We oftentimes forget that while we’re among the largest, wealthiest country in the world, we also continue to tolerate and condone violations of international human rights norms. The question is: will the U.S. live to its promise to lead by example and take the UPR recommendations seriously? Let’s hope so!

 

 

04
Nov
10

It’s Time to Get your Kicks – Where – The Airport

Only one question prevails: Is life imitating the movies or are the movies imitating what’s happening in our police state (country)?

Conducting a pad-down search on individuals simply on the grounds they won’t submit themselves to a peek-a-boo scanner test is foolishness.  What about prudish grandma coming to visit the grandchildren or perhaps the Queen of England, our President or maybe even the Pope?

Okay, these are extremes, never the less where’s the line drawn?  Aren’t we really becoming what we fought against in the Cold War, regarding the Police States in Eastern Europe – Yes we are!

TSA Meets “Resistance” with New Pat-Down Procedures

Source: (http://goo.gl/x949Efrom Blog of Rights: Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union

 

The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) even-more-invasive pat-down searches for people who opt-out of the strip-search machines at airports have generated some striking stories of people’s encounters with TSA agents. Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlanticrecounts:

At BWI, I told the officer who directed me to the back-scatter that I preferred a pat-down. I did this in order to see how effective the manual search would be. When I made this request, a number of TSA officers, to my surprise, began laughing. I asked why. One of them — the one who would eventually conduct my pat-down — said that the rules were changing shortly, and that I would soon understand why the back-scatter was preferable to the manual search. I asked him if the new guidelines included a cavity search. “No way. You think Congress would allow that?”

I answered, “If you’re a terrorist, you’re going to hide your weapons in your anus or your vagina.” He blushed when I said “vagina.”

“Yes, but starting tomorrow, we’re going to start searching your crotchal area” — this is the word he used, “crotchal” — and you’re not going to like it.”

“What am I not going to like?” I asked.

“We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance,” he explained.

“Resistance?” I asked.

“Your testicles,” he explained.

The New York Times‘ Joe Sharkey was manhandled less delicately: “[I] was required to stand still while I received a rough pat-down by a man whose résumé, I suspected, included experience at a state prison.”

Another passenger gives an even more graphic description of his humiliating and invasive pat-down here:

He stood behind me and placed his arms around my neck, surprising me with how strong and firm his grip was — it felt like someone choking me from behind. He squeezed the area around my collar, his neoprene blue gloved hands tickling my ears. And he kneaded around my shoulders, pressing with his fingertips into my muscle, as if he were tenderizing a piece of meat. With my arms held out straight he grasped both his hands around each one and pulled all the way down to my wrist.

Unfortunately, the TSA’s escalation from a back-of-the-hands pat-down to a full-on grope is no laughing matter — in fact, they tried to make a more invasive grope the norm back in 2004, until travelers pushed back and the TSA quietly retreated back to lighter touch.

Travelers have the right to opt for a pat-down instead of exposing themselves to the radiation and prying eyes of an anonymous TSA agent in another room. But as ACLU Legislative Counsel Chris Calabrese told USA Today: “Are we giving people two intolerable actions at airports? They can be virtually strip-searched or endure a really aggressive grope?”

That’s exactly what the TSA is doing, in its latest bit of security theater designed to try to make us feel safer without actually increasing safety. And it’s really no choice at all. As Goldberg points out, “the effectiveness of pat-downs does not matter very much, because the obvious goal of the TSA is to make the pat-down embarrassing enough for the average passenger that the vast majority of people will choose high-tech humiliation over the low-tech ball check.” In fact, Goldberg reports that he was told directly by a screener, “That’s what we’re hoping for. We’re trying to get everyone into the machine.”

The TSA’s website reports that 317 strip-search machines (a.k.a. “advanced image technology” machines, or AITs) have been deployed at 65 airports across the country. Is your home airport one of them? Check this list, and if you’re of the male persuasion and not keen on the naked machine, we suggest you prepare The Resistance.

If you’ve been forced through an AIT or want to report abuse during airport passenger screening, contact us using this form. We’re collecting individuals’ stories in order to determine the scope of this problem and evaluate future action. The information you provide in this questionnaire will be kept confidential unless we contact you and obtain your permission to share it with others.

 

 

22
Oct
10

Just a simple letter could lead to someone’s Freedom

Make your words count by providing Freedom for someone who spoke out against injustices!

When was the last time you wrote a letter?  Not emailed…butreally wrote a letter.

What if I told you that writing a letter could help save a life?  We’ve got nearly 50 years of history that proves this fact.
It was a letter of passion written in 1961 by Amnesty’s founder, Peter Benenson, that ignited a movement that’s now more than 2.8 million strong.

 

It was a letter of solidarity sent by many, but for the cause of one, that just weeks ago helped lead to the release of Ethiopian prisoner of conscience and 2009 Write-a-thon case Birtukan Mideksa from life imprisonment.

It is a letter of thanks signed by a person who has experienced unthinkable human rights abuses that both warms our hearts and fuels our fire.

So it should be no surprise that it’s a letter of hope that I’m asking you to pledge to write now.

Join Write for Rights – the world’s largest letter writing event.

In the days surrounding Human Rights Day – December 10 – people from more than 50 countries will unite to write letters on behalf of those in danger of severe human rights abuses.

Our global network of activists, acting independently and in groups of various sizes, will then go to work sending truckloads-worth of letters and postcards to repressive governments and other officials responsible for neglecting human rights.

In the U.S., we will shine our light on 12 specific cases from around the world who are in need your support and solidarity, including:

·    Aung San Suu Kyi – democracy icon imprisoned in Myanmar for most of the past 21 years after winning elections by a landslide
·    Majid Tavakkoli – a student leader imprisoned in Iran for speaking at a peaceful demonstration marking Student Day.
·    Women of Atenco – beaten and raped by police and left without justice in Mexico.

Your words have power.  They can bring freedom.  They can deliver justice.  But most importantly, they can offer hope and let human rights defenders around the world know that they are not alone.

Thank you for standing up to Write for Rights!

Source: (http://goo.gl/zofl) By Michael O’Reilly, Senior Campaign Director Individuals at Risk

 

 

21
Oct
10

Court Allows Arizona to Kill Prisoner with Secret Drugs

The old saying “And Justice for All”, again holds true!

Secretly trafficking and then openly using unapproved drugs is now A-OK.  That’s the message sent out yesterday by the Arizona Supreme Court, which allowed state officials to conceal their source for sodium thiopental (we know only that it’s NOTHospira, the one FDA-approved supplier), and to continue with plans to execute Jeffrey Landrigan on October 26.

It is already well known that the death penalty compromises the integrity of the medical profession.  Doctors, nurses, and EMTs are all bound by an oath to “do no harm” but all are involved, in a variety of ways, in the deliberate killing of prisoners.  Now, it appears that our zeal for capital punishment is undermining the integrity of efforts to control and regulate powerful drugs.

Normally, if you acquired a controlled substance from a non-FDA approved source and announced your intention to use it for a non-FDA approved purpose, you would expect some sort of legal trouble.  But, apparently, as long as that non-FDA approved purpose is putting someone to death, the normal rules don’t apply.  Instead, you get to keep the source of your drug supply a secret, and you get to use those drugs however you want.

As for Jeffrey Landrigan, some DNA testing litigation in his case continues, and there is a clemency hearing on Friday.  Landrigan’s case is sadly typical, in that his trial lawyer failed miserably to present mitigating evidence, and in that no federal appeals court has cared enough to hold a hearing on that issue.  It is a bit unusual in that the judge who sentenced him to death now says she would not have done so, had she been aware of information that lawyer failed to present.

So while it appears the Arizona officials can kill Jeffrey Landrigan with a drug it got from God knows where, there is still a chance to convince them that they shouldn’t.

Source: (http://goo.gl/eijE) – Death PenaltyUnited States | Posted by: Brian Evans, October 21, 2010 at 1:49 PM

 

17
Oct
10

Q+A : Are Thailand’s “Red Shirts” regrouping?

The larger percentage of Thais are Freedom loving people who suffer under the elitist, non-populist, non-people elected government, so in essence it’s a hypothetical question to ask.

(Reuters) – Thousands of anti-government “red shirts” demonstrated in the old Thai capital of Ayutthaya on Sunday to demand the release of their leaders and scores of comrades detained since bloody protests in April and May.

The “red shirts” remain a potent extra-parliamentary force, five months after the military cracked down to end a protracted rally that paralysed central Bangkok for weeks.

Here are some questions and answers about the red shirts and the risk they pose to stability in Thailand.

WHY ARE THEY DEMONSTRATING?

The movement, made up mostly of urban and rural working-class Thais, believes the current government is illegitimate and that its backers, the royalist establishment elite and military, have undermined democracy and the judiciary, ensuring the dissolution of parties loyal to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a coup in 2006.

The focus of their 10-week protest from mid-March to May was to demand an immediate election. That was not met and the protests spiralled into rioting and bloody clashes with troops, leaving 91 people dead, nearly 2,000 wounded and more than 30 commercial buildings damaged by arson.

The red shirts are gathering frequently to protest at the detention of their leaders and an estimated 175 demonstrators, and to highlight what they say were human rights abuses and unlawful killings by the military, which broke up the mass rallies.

Source: (http://goo.gl/KmQg) – Reuters, By Martin Petty, BANGKOK | Sun Oct 17, 2010 7:22am EDT

 

11
Oct
10

The Uphill Climb for Thailand’s Red Shirts

Despite bringing thousands into the streets, pro-democracy protesters face a bleak future

 

Although the weekend rallies served to raise the Red Shirts’ political profile after they were driven out of Bangkok in disarray in May, there appear to be no prospects for reconciliation. The Reds, who draw their strength from the impoverished rural northeastern region of the country, want political reform and political change.

The Bangkok-based elite are satisfied with the political status quo, especially after their resounding victory in May, and appear determined to preserve it with force. After the military used armored personnel carriers, assault rifles and other weapons to crush the Reds, the armed forces have enjoyed a powerful position, with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dependent upon their support for his political survival. The military budget has almost doubled since the 2006 coup, to Bt154 billion (US$5.1 billion).

Source: (http://goo.gl/1ZhkAsia Sentinel – Written by Richard S. Ehrlich

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11
Oct
10

Thailand’s Grim Human Rights Situation

The latest arrest of an editor demonstrates the government’s growing threat to freedom of expression

 

Does the United Nations really care about the human rights situation in Thailand? The brief but painful answer appears to be No. This is because, despite Thailand’s appalling human rights records in the past few years, in June the United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously elected, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Thailand’s ambassador to Geneva, as its current president.

But it seems that Sihasak is working under heavy duress. Gross violations of human rights in Thailand are embarrassing Sihasak and his fellow Thai diplomats. Some wonder how Thailand could defend human rights elsewhere in the world when the protection of human rights among its own people is a failure.

On Sept. 24, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, an online news editor in Thailand, was arrested under the country’s 2007 Computer-related Crimes Act. She has been detained in Khon Kaen police station in Northeastern Thailand. Chiranuch is the Executive Director of Prachatai (Thai People), a Thai online media portal that contains news, opinion, and a forum for discussion about current affairs in the country. Thailand’s Immigration Police (Investigation and Suppression Division) arrested Chiranuch at passport control in Suvarnabhumi International Airport as she returned from her overseas trip – to Hungary, where she was attending the “Internet Liberty 2010” conference.

Chiranuch was arrested supposedly on the ground that she had allowed certain materials to be posted on her website – materials that were perceived by the police to be a danger to the so-called national security. It was reported that these materials were written and posted by unknown Prachatai readers. Chiranuch asserted vainly that she could not stop readers from posting to the site. But police claimed that she had the right to remove materials once they were posted. She however refused to do so, according to the police.

Source: (http://goo.gl/3r4E) Asia Sentinel – Written by Pavin Chachavalpongpun

 




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