Archive for January, 2010

Arguing for Habeas Rights for 3 Men Detained in Bagram

Justice for Bagram

Sign outside hearing for Bagram Detainees

There are 600+ men detained at the US detention center in Bagram Airbase near Kabul, Afghanistan.  Mostly, we know very little about them; even their names were kept secret by the Bush administration, and now by the Obama administration they are still kept as ghosts.

Tina Monshipour Foster, the Executive Director of the International Justice Network, argued for their right to challenge their detention today, in Al-Maqaley v. Gates, she told the court, on behalf of three of those men and their relatives.  She has never met the men, and has been retained only by their families, who also cannot see them.

See Report on al Jazeera English.  The Canadian Press noted that the Obama administration was represented in court by Neal Katyal:

Before joining the Obama administration as the top deputy in the solicitor general’s office, Katyal won a big victory in the Supreme Court in 2006 when he represented Guantanamo Bay detainees facing military commission trials. The Supreme Court found that President George W. Bush’s military tribunals violated the constitutional separation of powers, domestic military law and international law. That ruling also applied international law to the Bush administration’s conduct of the war on terror. The court embraced Article 3 of the Geneva Accords which prohibits humiliating and degrading treatment.

There could be many more who challenge their illegitimate detention in U.S. courts, depending on the decision the appellate level of the US District Court for the District of Columbia renders.  The lower court has already found for the Bagram detainees, against the Obama Justice Department.

The courtroom was filled  with 150 spectators, including dozens of supporters of the IJN’s lawsuit.  Students at CUNY Law School and Yale Law School, along with their professors, worked on the case.  We gathered outside the courthouse this morning, the students bearing signs saying “STUDENTS FOR JUSTICE AT HOME AND ABROAD,” “Charged with Justice,” and “BARACK! Oh, Bagram…”

The law students are passionate about the cases they are fighting on the basis of human rights for people during the “war on terror.”   The lawyers are passionate, and full of arguments up and down on why the denial of even the right to have charges detailed, and the chance to defend oneself is basic to a world we want to live in.

But the government’s case, argued by Neal Kaytal for the Justice Department, contends that giving these detainees any legal rights would to severely hinder the American occupation.

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The Definitive Guantanamo Detainee List

The Guantanamo Files

Andy Worthington's definitive history of Guantanamo detainees and the injustice they've been subjected to

Andy Worthington has spent almost 8 years learning as much as he can about the Guantanamo detainees; all the aspects of their stories before, during, and some after Guantanamo.  World Can’t Wait and other organizations working on stopping the US torture state rely on his work, and we have learned much from his 2008 book The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 759 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and 2009 film Outside the Law; Stories from Guantanamo.

Andy wrote today:

In the hope of providing an antidote to the shameful propaganda and scaremongering that is currently dominating the media (following the failed Christmas plane bombing, and the would-be bomber’s alleged connections to a Yemen-based al-Qaeda group, which includes a former Guantanamo prisoner), I’ve just updated my definitive Guantanamo prisoner list (first published last March), which provides information and links about all 779 prisoners:

I hope that it’s useful not only as a historical document, but also as reference for the cases of the 198 men still held, as those of us opposed to indefinite detention without charge or trial maintain our struggle to close Guantanamo, and to see those still held either charged or released.   Please feel free to cross-post/circulate/publicize.

With the 8th anniversary of Guantanamo’s opening just one week from today, I hope you will study this list, and use it as an indictment of “America’s illegal prison” as Andy calls it.

Beginning Monday, 12 days of a fast, protest, meetings organized by Witness Against Torture and the Center for Constitutional Rights will concentrate on exposing the gap between Barack Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo by January 22, 2010, and the continued detention of 198 men, most all of them without charges, held indefinitely.

I’ll be there!  Join me.

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Like a Line You’ve Heard Before

My friend Curt Wechsler (World Can’t Wait Steering Committee member and editor of FireJohnYoo.org) just sent me a link to Marianne Williamson on Huff Post Saturday:

The whole Obama phenomenon brings up memories from my distant past: the good-looking guy who talks real good, whose line you don’t buy immediately but whose charm is so dazzling that he gradually convinces you that this time it will be different.Yeah. Right. Really different.

All the romance advice books tell women to stay away from that kind of guy.  Once burned, twice shy, and all that.  Seems like there could be a whole genre of books with advice to the Obama-burned.  “He’s just not that into you”;  “Self-Defeating Behaviors: Free Yourself from the Habits, Compulsions, Feelings, and Attitudes That Tie You to Democrats”, etc.

I don’t share Williamson’s fondness for what she sees as the one-time moral force within the Democratic Party.  She sees civil rights legislation, and I see the old segregationist crackers who fought it.  But she highlights some of the reason to feel spurned, and has some insights here:

Democrats seem to have no idea what dark wave is rushing towards them in the form of the 2010 mid-terms. They have no idea how many people will be too depressed to go vote, who’ll be thinking, “We tried so hard last time, and what did it get us?” They have no idea how many people are thinking, as I am, that it’s time to face the facts, no matter how painful they are. If Obama doesn’t retrieve his spine and retrieve it soon, then his Presidency will go down in the history books as one of the biggest disappointments in American history.

And she ends, sticking to her own advice to face facts, with:

I don’t know what we should do, but I know one thing that we shouldn’t do: pretend to ourselves that this man is delivering on what he promised when he first won our hearts.

Even if your heart is broken, my advice is, yes, face facts, and get with the resistance to this very bad direction.  worldcantwait.net

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Torture Lawyer John Yoo Gets a Feature in NY Times

Deborah Solomon relies on snarky questions, usually.  All of them must have been edited from the published version of Questions for John Yoo: Power of Attorney, her column in the New York Times for tomorrow.

We learn that he has a new book, “Crisis in Command,” that he says he has never met Bush or Cheney, despite working in the White House for two years; thinks conservatives have a hard time getting academic appointments;that presidents should have unlimited power, and that he has no interest in what his parents do as psychiatrists.

He does notice that there have been intense protests of him at UC Berkeley, and intends the impression that he doesn’t take them seriously.

I see various groups are protesting a decision by a California government lawyer to teach a course with you that starts on Jan. 12, claiming he is legitimizing your unethical behavior.

At Berkeley, protesting is an everyday activity. I am used to it. I remind myself of West Berlin — West Berlin surrounded by East Germany during the Cold War.

Are you saying the citizens of Berkeley are Communists, reminiscent of those on the dark side of the Iron Curtain?

There are probably more Communists in Berkeley than any other town in America, but I think of them more as lovers of Birkenstocks than Marx.

Communists, Constitutional lawyers, Boalt Hall graduates, and Council members have all been protesting Yoo, admittedly not enough of them with enough intensity, for six years now, for his role as the principal author of the torture memos which set the basis for the US torture state being given legitimacy in the U.S.  Not to mention the international protests, which are forcing the Obama administration into giving the appearance of shutting down Guantanamo, slowly.

I’ve been to Berkeley a lot in the last few years.  I’ve seen very few people wearing Birkenstocks, not that there’s anything wrong with those sandals. The remark is clearly meant to trivialize and dismiss a serious problem.

My main complaint with Berkeley is that there’s a certain smugness from a section of people there about how liberal the place is, best expressed by Boalt Hall law school Dean Christopher Edley Jr. who argues that Berkeley is such a liberal campus that it can tolerate the abhorrent views of a John Yoo.

As we’ve said many times, it’s not Yoo views, or the expression of them that endangers humanity.  It’s the fact that they were given the force of law by the Bush regime, a war crime for which there should be no tolerance!

You can stay up to date at Firejohnyoo.org

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Bagram Detainees Seek Habeas Rights in DC Federal Court

Thursday, International Justice Network Attorney Tina Monshipour Foster will argue in federal District Court for the rights of 3 men detained by the U.S. in Bagram Afghanistan.  InternationalJusticeNetwork writes:

The case, Maqaleh v. Gates, 604 F.Supp.2d 205, is the first legal challenge in U.S. courts on behalf of prisoners detained at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.  The petitioners are two Yemeni citizens and one Tunisian citizen who were all seized outside of Afghanistan from third countries as far away as Thailand.  There is evidence that they were rendered to U.S.-run secret prisons (“black sites”) for torture, prior to ultimately being transferred to Bagram for continued indefinite detention in U.S. Military custody.

The 3 men’s stories are on IJN’s website.

How these cases even came into court is a story of tenacity by Tina Foster and other attorneys.  While working at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and researching the cases of those detained in Guantanamo, Tina said she kept running into families who said their relatives were detained in Bagram.  While Guantanamo detainees eventually represented by US counsel — through much struggle, and with great obstacles — those in Bagram were forgotten.

In fact, it was, and still is, impossible to find out from the U.S. authorities who is detained in Bagram.  It was only through families that the IJN could initiate legal proceedings.

To date, the Obama administration still denies that detainees they hold in Bagram have habeas corpus rights.  That’s what the hearing Thursday is about.

Though President Obama has vowed to close Guantanamo, the Department of Justice has continued to defend the Bush Administration’s position that individuals held at other U.S.-run military facilities have no legal rights. As the organization representing the Bagram detainees, IJNetwork has called on the Obama Administration to end the practices of rendition, torture, and indefinite detention, and provide fundamental human rights to all individuals held in U.S. custody – including Bagram.

I’ll be there, and I hope you join me:

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit333 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001  Ceremonial Courtroom (Room 20)

January 7, 2010

Hearing begins at 9:30 a.m.  Vigil by the CUNY Law Students for Justice at Bagram begins 8:30am email: bagramjustice@gmail.com

333 Constitution Avenue NW @ 3rd Street NW

There will be a rally/vigil after the hearing.

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Reuters Reports NATO Forces Kill Afghan Children in Raid

Afghans were in the streets protesting a raid on a house by Western military forces which killed civilians, including children.

Afghanis Protest NATO Raid Killing Children & Civilians

Afghanis Protest NATO Raid Killing Children & Civilians

The  December 31 Reuters report begins:

American-led troops were accused yesterday of dragging innocent children from their beds and shooting them during a night raid that left ten people dead.

Afghan government investigators said that eight schoolchildren were killed, all but one of them from the same family. Locals said that some victims were handcuffed before being killed.

Western military sources said that the dead were all part of an Afghan terrorist cell responsible for manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which have claimed the lives of countless soldiers and civilians.

“This was a joint operation that was conducted against an IED cell that Afghan and US officials had been developing information against for some time,” said a senior Nato insider. But he admitted that “the facts about what actually went down are in dispute”.

The allegations of civilian casualties led to protests in Kabul and Jalalabad, with children as young as 10 chanting “Death to America” and demanding that foreign forces should leave Afghanistan at once.

President Karzai sent a team of investigators to Narang district, in eastern Kunar province, after reports of a massacre first surfaced on Monday.

It is well known that the vast majority of people dying in the US occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq are civilians. Estimates are 1.2 million killed in Iraq, with more dying from sanctions under Bush One, Clinton, and Bush Two before the March 2003 invasion further destroyed the country.

A village elder was interviewed:

Mr Wafa, a former governor of Helmand province, met President Karzai to discuss his findings yesterday. “I spoke to the local headmaster,” he said. “It’s impossible they were al-Qaeda. They were children, they were civilians, they were innocent. I condemn this attack.”

Why are we allowing this to continue in our names?

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Gaza Freedom March Breaks Thru Media Blockade

Gaza Freedom Marchers, persisting today against being blockaded into their hotels by state security, and kept from marching in downtown Cairo, had several rallies.  They broke through the media blockade as well, and into mainstream western media with their message of support for the people of Gaza, and condemnation of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Gaza Freedom Marchers, Cairo

Gaza Freedom Marchers, Cairo

In Gaza Freedom March…A Call to the World, Alan Goodman covered the actions, noting the repression under which they happened

Tens of thousands of Egyptians and tourists saw the March, and the story is all over the news in Cairo (photo at right is tonight’s Cairo paper). More and more  Egyptians are coming up to us on the street, expressing support for the protest in different ways. It appears that some Egyptians joined the protest and at least one may have been singled out and abducted by Egyptian security.

At the same time, Palestinians and international activists on both sides of the Erez border crossing from Israel protested the siege and blockade of Gaza by Israel, according to Al Jazeera.

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