For four years, U.S. officials in both Republican and Democratic administrations told me in my work as a human rights advocate that “Saudi Arabia is ready to end the war,” and that it’s just a matter of “finding a face-saving way to exit.” What they mean is, “Is there a way for Saudi Arabia to credibly claim it won the war?” Ignoring the obvious answer of no—Saudi Arabia started a war everyone knew was a mistake—the U.S. government has instead engaged in the business of helping to starve millions of people to assuage crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.Continue reading
Water For All
By some estimates, more than two million people in the United States do not have running water and sanitation in their homes. Water utilities shut off water access to about one out of every twenty people, or close to fifteen million people, every year for nonpayment. Unsurprisingly, this affects racial minorities more than others. This barbaric practice has likely killed tens of thousands of people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Given how wealthy the United States is, it doesn’t have to be this way. And throughout the pandemic, we’ve caught some brief glimpses of alternatives. Though the federal government declined to pass a national moratorium on water shutoffs, some states and cities passed laws to prevent utilities from shutting off water to people during the pandemic.Continue reading
Michael Ratner Was A Revolutionary Lawyer Like No Other
When Michael Ratner died in 2016, the world lost one of the great human rights lawyers of the past century. A descendant of holocaust survivors, Ratner embodied the courage and integrity that is often sorely lacking among his peers in the legal field, taking on cases that seemed impossible to win, but were always essential to protecting human rights. He served as president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) as well as the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), and spent much of his life advocating for the protection of civil liberties and civil rights.
One of his greatest achievements was winning the case Rasul v. Bush, which set the legal precedent for hundreds of detainees held in Guantanamo Bay to be able challenge their detention in U.S. courts.Continue reading
From Rikers To Santa Rita: Close The Death Camps!
January 27, 2022/25th Sh’vat 5782, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps, where so many of our ancestors were incarcerated and enslaved, raped and robbed, maimed and murdered.
We are an anonymous collective of Jewish New Yorkers who are striking this day, across the five boroughs of NYC/across occupied Lenapehoking, in solidarity with the hunger strikers at Rikers Island and with all who are resisting this genocidal regime. This is a regime which took the lives of 15 fellow New Yorkers last year alone – a number which has continued to rise in the new year. Add that to the 44+ incarcerated people across New York State who perished after becoming infected with COVID in custody. We know a death camp when we see one, and Rikers Island is a death camp.Continue reading
Following ‘Unjustifiable’ UAE Bombing, US And UN Condemn Yemeni Retaliation
Saada, Yemen – In a scene rife with chaos and crying, volunteers and a rescue squad pulled the bodies of 91 prisoners from the rubble of the Sa’ada City Remand Prison in southern Yemen on Tuesday. Early last Friday morning, United Arab Emirates (UAE) warplanes supported by the United States targeted the overcrowded prison, which houses up to 3,000 inmates from across Yemen and Africa. The attack was one of the deadliest since the war began in 2015.
At least 91 people were killed and more than 236 seriously injured in the attacks, which left bereaved families in shock across Yemen and Africa. Witnesses describe the scene of the attack in its first minutes as chaotic and tragic. Fighter jets were heard over the skies of Saada while people were sleeping, before three violent explosions were heard from the prison, red fires mixed with dust and smoke illuminated flying rubble.Continue reading
Trial Monitors Condemn Judges For Attacks On Donziger
This executive summary presents an overview of key findings of a international group of legal scholars and practitioners who conducted impartial monitoring of the case of United States v. Steven Donziger, No. 19-CR-561 (LAP); 11-CIV-691 (LAK). This summary sets a brief background, the principle findings of the monitoring group and the Panel’s recommendations. The summary contains no footnotes; references to relevant sections of the fully-footnoted report are provided.
The Panel has determined that the conduct of judges and prosecutors in Steven Donziger’s case has led to numerous and serious violations of his rights with respect to liberty, arbitrary detention and fair trials under international human rights law, in particular Articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the United States in 1992.Continue reading
Leonard Peltier Pleads For Help Amid Constant COVID Lockdowns
Never mind that he shouldn’t be in a federal prison at all.
Leonard Peltier, the Native American rights activist whom the FBI put behind bars decades ago without any evidence that he committed a crime, tells HuffPost that his facility’s prolonged COVID-19 lockdowns and failure to provide at least some inmates with booster shots has left him ― and likely others ― unbearably isolated and preparing for death.
“I’m in hell,” Peltier said in a Friday statement, “and there is no way to deal with it but to take it as long as you can.”
Peltier, who is 77 and has serious health problems including diabetes and an abdominal aortic aneurysm, said “fear and stress” from the prison’s intense coronavirus lockdowns are taking a toll on everyone, including staff.Continue reading
We Are Human, But In The Dark We Wish For Light
For over a decade, Alaa Abd el-Fattah has been in and out of Egypt’s prisons, never free of the harassment of the military state apparatus. In 2011, during the high point of the revolution, Alaa emerged as an important voice of his generation and since then has been a steady moral compass despite his country’s attempts to suffocate his voice. On 25 January 2014, to commemorate the third anniversary of the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak’s government, Alaa and the poet Ahmed Douma wrote a moving epistle from their dungeon in Tora Prison, Cairo. This prison, which houses Alaa and other political prisoners, is not far from the beautiful Nile and – depending on Cairo’s traffic – not too far from the Garden City office of Mada Masr, where the epistle was published.Continue reading
The Scandal Of US Prisons
Michael Carvajal, director of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons (BOP), resigned in disgrace last week after being overwhelmed by scandals, none of which were necessarily of his doing so much as they were a result of his unwillingness or inability to make changes to the Justice Department’s largest and best-funded bureau. The scandals—and his resignation—reinforce the conventional wisdom that the BOP is broken and must be overhauled dramatically.
The Associated Press reported that Carvajal, a Trump appointee, was forced to resign after more than 100 BOP employees had been arrested for or convicted of crimes during his short two-year tenure. The employees were prosecuted for crimes ranging from smuggling drugs and cell phones into prisons to sell to prisoners, to theft, to a warden raping a prisoner.Continue reading
Ugandans Escalate Movement Of ‘Radical Rudeness’ Following Violent Arrest Over Mean Tweet
“Men with guns are breaking my door. They say they’re policemen but are not in uniform. I’ve locked myself inside.”
This was the final Facebook post by Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, 2021 winner of the PEN Pinter International Writer of Courage Award, on Dec. 28. Within minutes of his post, Rukirabashaija was abducted by Uganda’s Special Forces Command, a military outfit notorious for torturing nonviolent activists.
Rukirabashaija — author of a political allegory novel and an autobiographical book detailing his previous torture — has only surfaced once since his brutal kidnapping. When his lawyer Eron Kiiza summoned Rukirabashaija’s captors to present him in court, they violated the summons and brought their victim to his rural home in Iganga to search his home, much to the terror of his wife and children.Continue reading
Guantanamo Bay: ‘Ugly Chapter Of Unrelenting Human Rights Violations’
Geneva – On the 20th anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees at Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, UN experts* condemned the facility as a site of “unparalleled notoriety” and said its continued operation was a stain on the US Government’s commitment to the rule of law.
“Twenty years of practising arbitrary detention without trial accompanied by torture or ill treatment is simply unacceptable for any government, particularly a government which has a stated claim to protecting human rights,” said the independent experts, appointed by the Human Rights Council.
“As a newly elected Member of the Human Rights Council, the experts again call on the United States to close this facility and close this ugly chapter of unrelenting human rights violations.”Continue reading
The Highest Attainable Standard Of Health Is A Fundamental Right
As we enter the new year almost two years after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020, the official death toll from COVID-19 sits just below 5.5 million people. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says that there is a ‘tsunami of cases’ due to the new variants. The country with the highest death toll is the United States, where the official number of those who succumbed to the disease is now over 847,000; Brazil and India follow with nearly 620,000 and 482,000 deaths respectively. These three countries have been ravaged by the disease. The political leadership of each of these countries failed to take sufficient measures to break the chain of infection and instead offered anti-scientific advice to the public, who suffered from both a lack of clear information and relatively depleted health care systems.Continue reading
Why US Prisons Don’t Want Prisoners To Read
In a recent piece for Protean magazine entitled “The American Prison System’s War on Reading,” Alex Skopic writes, “Across the United States, the agencies responsible for mass imprisonment are trying to severely limit incarcerated people’s access to the written word—an alarming trend, and one that bears closer examination.” From outright banning books and letting prison libraries fall into decay to the intrusion of for-profit electronic reading services that inmates have to pay for, the assault on prisoners’ ability to read books while incarcerated is one of many calculated cruelties that make the US carceral system so inhumane.
In this episode of Rattling the Bars, TRNN Executive Producer Eddie Conway speaks with Skopic about the American prison system’s war on reading and its deep (and racist) historical roots.Continue reading
Forced Displacements In Colombia Increase By Over 169% During 2021
The Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), on December 22, warned of an alarming increase in massive and multiple forced displacement events in Colombia during 2021. The CODHES reported that between January and November, 2021, 82,846 people were forcibly displaced from their homes and territories, a figure that represents an increase of 169.3% as compared to the same period in 2020. The CODHES further reported that a total number of 167 displacement events were recorded in these eleven months, which represents an increase of 65.3% in relation to the same period in 2020.
CODHES also reported that this year’s increase in displacement incidents had been marked by an increase in displacement of Afro-descendant and Indigenous communities.Continue reading
First ‘Summit For Democracy’ Should Be The Last
More than 100 nations’ presidents, prime ministers, and kings met virtually at the Summit for Democracy on Dec. 9 and 10. It was the first meeting in history on this scale where the application — or ostensible application — of the democratic principle in the governance of national affairs was used as a criterion to invite participants to an international meeting.
There are three ways to look at the summit.
A naïve view is to consider it as a meeting of like-minded states, interested in learning from each other about how to improve the application of democratic principles at home. (For that, however, there are already many other venues.)
More realistic is to see it as an attempt to create a loose association of states, which would promote abroad their model of governance, assuming it is the only one compatible with the aspirations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.Continue reading