Posts Tagged detention

Join Me to Stop “Stop & Frisk”

On Friday, October 21st, I plan to join in a non-violent civil disobedience action as part of a new and very important, courageous, campaign to stop “Stop and Frisk.”

I am answering a call issued by Cornel West and Carl Dix to engage in non-violent civil disobedience to stop this illegal policy of the New York Police Department.   Carl and Cornel say:

The NYPD is on pace to stop and frisk over 700,000 people in 2011! That’s more than 1,900 people each and every day. More than 85% of them are Black or Latino, and more than 90% of them were doing nothing wrong when the pigs stepped to them…WE ARE STOPPING ALL THIS.  YOU MUST JOIN US IN DOING THAT.

To be clear, I have never been stopped or frisked by the New York police solely because of my appearance, as 1,900 men are, every day, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, who is also fighting “stop and frisk.”  I haven’t been thrown up against a wall, detained, questioned or jacked up solely because I fit a vague description. But, I don’t want to live in a city where people have to go through this.

I have been arrested over the years, but so far, solely in the process of protesting injustices ranging from U.S. wars of occupation to murders by police, or the targeting of abortion providers by people who wanted to kill them.  I believe people have to take action to stop injustice.

That’s exactly why I’m joining Carl, Cornel, Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, Rev. Stephen Phelps, Rev. Omar Wilks, and others in an action to stop the NYPD from what they say is a practice which is “illegal, racist, unconstitutional and intolerable.”

Carl Dix, interviewed today in Revolution, described why he, Cornel and others decided that mass resistance to “stop and frisk” is necessary

The intensifying brutality being enforced in the inner cities is like a slow genocide that could be accelerated.  This must be met by unleashing resistance that is broader, fiercer and more determined.  And unleashing this kind of resistance around Stop and Frisk in NYC on October 21 and nationwide on October 22 would have a powerful positive impact on the situation.  It could speak to very real questions people have.  It can bring to the people occupying Wall Street a sense of how the police brutally enforce inequality and oppression 24-7 in the ghettos and barrios across the country.  And it can address the question many oppressed people have of whether there are any forces that would stand together with them in fighting the hell the system brings down on them or are they alone in this fight.  This resistance could contribute to creating a sense that things really don’t have to be this way among a diverse and growing section of the people.

So, all of you who want to do some good, who feel beaten down, or who feel unstoppable, join this action in some way.

Follow @StopMassIncNet on Twitter.

Send a support statement to debrasweet@worldcantwait.net.

Join us in taking the action, or come along to cheer us.  As the call says

If you are sick and tired of being harassed and jacked up by the cops, JOIN US. If you have had enough of seeing your brothers and sisters, your cousins, your aunts and uncles and fathers stepped to and disrespected by the cops, JOIN US. If you don’t want to live in a world where people’s humanity is routinely violated because of the color of their skin, JOIN US. And if you are shocked to hear that this kind of thing happens in this so-called homeland of freedom and democracy—it does happen, all the damned time—you need to JOIN US too—you can’t stand aside and let this injustice be done in your name.

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Way to Drive out an Illegitimate Regime!

Watching the delirious celebrations in Egypt, and spreading to cities across the region, and the world, you’ve got to feel the joy.  A hated dictator, who until a month or so ago held unchallengeable power, is gone, relatively quickly, through the action of people in the streets.  Standing up to the police state, the open on-the-street killing of protesters, the jailing and torture of 10,000 political prisoners as S.O.P., Egyptian youth have opened something up which is doubtless making other repressive governments nervous.

Thousands Surround Presidential PalaceWhere this all will go we can’t know.  But never tell me, again, that protest “doesn’t do any good.”  People used to ask, when we began World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime, “what does that mean? drive out?”  The last 3 weeks provide a stunning example.  Received via Twitter: “ya’ll know we could have done this w/ Pres Bush right?? it’s not too late to end the war & torture. world can’t wait.”

Our responsibility to stop the crimes of our own government is really acute now.  The Egyptian military is now in charge.  Exactly the problem!  As World Can’t Wait posted today:

The Mubarak regime was “Made in the U.S.A.” Since 1979, the U.S. has given the regime $35 billion, $1.3 billion per year in military support.  Because of this, Egypt has a large military, and the world’s 4th largest fleet of F-16 fighter planes. Egyptian police who have held 10,000 political prisoners receive training from the U.S. military.  Even the tear gas fired on demonstrators is “Made in the U.S.A.”

Despite decades of torture, disappearing political opponents, and the most open brutality against its own citizens, neither Republican or Democrat leaders plan to reduce military aid to Egypt (LA Times 2/9/11).

The Army was under the control of and trained under the Mubarak regime, and successive U.S. administrations which showered it with money, while the country was a police-state dictatorship for decades.  Wolf  Blitzer on CNN just now:

“I’m sure the U.S. leaders are relieved that the Egyptian military is in charge, because they have a strong relationship with them.”

Will the U.S. stop its “rendition” relationship with state torture in Egypt?  Mubarak’s man, Omar Suleiman, who seems to be out along with Mubarak, was also the CIA’s man.  According to Stephen Soldz of Psychologists for Social Responsibility:

Each rendition was authorized at the very top levels of both governments….The long-serving chief of the Egyptian central intelligence agency, Omar Suleiman, negotiated directly with top Agency officials. [Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt] Walker described the Egyptian counterpart, Suleiman, as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way” (pp. 113).

Stephen Hendricks, in his fascinating 2010 book, “A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trial “ traces the CIA – Egypt relationship back 60 years:

One of the earliest recipients of the CIA’s training was Egypt.  The trainers were former Nazi commanders from Germany who were recruited by the CIA not long after the Second World War, probably because the agency was then inexperienced in brutality and wanted men of expertise.”

Hendricks goes on to describe, in gruesome detail, the torture of Abu Omar (Osama Mustafa Hassan Masri), a suspected member of the Muslim Brotherhood who fled Egypt.  He was kidnapped by a CIA team in Milan, and “rendered” back to Egypt, where he was tortured for over a year, and released for 23 days, long enough to tell his story.  When the Egyptian State Security Service notified him to return and pick up his identification papers, without which he could not move about, he returned to the prison, only to disappear completely, never to be heard from in the last 7 years.

That’s the legacy of the Egyptian torture state, paid for and used by the United States.

That’s the legacy we have to learn about, resist, and stop.

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State of the Union: War on Terror Goes On and On, and On…

On Tuesday January 25, at the same moment Congress gathered for the State of the Union address from Barack Obama, almost a hundred people gathered to discuss “Torture, Guantanamo and Accountability” at DePaul University Law School in Chicago.  It’s been difficult over the last 2+ years to fill a room for such a discussion, so we were heartened by the participation of 40 law students and attorneys.  Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, a distinguished research professor emeritus at the law school, and founder of the International Human Rights Law Institute; and Candace Gorman, who represents two men imprisoned at Guantanamo, spoke with me on the panel.

Dr. Bassiouni described the “chasm” between the promises made by Obama while campaigning and the actions of Obama as president, regarding the rule of law as represented by the United States.  Candace told the story of one of her clients, still in Guantanamo.  He is apparently one of the 48 who will be detained indefinitely, bringing some of the students to tears of frustration.  We’ll have more on the program soon.  Listen to Dr. Bassiouni and Ms. Gorman in an excellent hour-long discussion on Chicago public radio WBEZ.

Guantanamo prisoners

Many of the men still imprisoned at Guantanamo may never be released

Our colleague Andy Worthington, about to tour Poland with former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, took the time to describe the Obama’s administration’s plans for those imprisoned at Guantanamo in Obama’s Collapse: The Return of the Military Commissions:

This year the President’s bitter surprise for the prisoners (which has encouraged a widespread peaceful protest at the prison, as reported here) was two-fold. The first was his failure to veto a military spending bill passed by Congress, which contained cynical and unconstitutional provisions preventing the transfer of any prisoner to the US mainland, in which lawmakers also demanded the power to prevent the release of prisoners to countries regarded as dangerous…

The second bitter surprise for the prisoners was the announcement last week, first mentioned by the New York Times, that, although federal court trials have effectively been suspended, specifically derailing the administration’s stated intention to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in federal court, the administration is preparing to push ahead instead with trials by Military Commission for at least some of the 33 men recommended for trials by Obama’s Task Force.

No, none of those plans were part of the State of the Union address.  Those of you listening for “real change” in Obama’s direction on the wars Tuesday night were disappointed.  Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City, and an opponent of torture, spoke on Democracy Now January 26 about the speech:

He didn’t mention human rights at a time when he has assassination lists for the first time in our nation’s history, that include U.S. citizens. No due process—we don’t just have indefinite detention anymore; we just go out, put their name on a list, and kill them. The invocation of state secrets, it’s absolutely obliterated any notion of checks and balances. Our courts have been removed from that equation, by and large, when it comes to torture, when it comes to warrantless wiretapping by our government. No discussion about that, of course. And we’re seeing, really, an institutionalization by this president of some of the worst abuses and what we, a lot of us, thought were just aberrations during the Bush years.

I’d like to note what Obama did say:

…because we’ve begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored.  Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high. (Applause.) American combat patrols have ended, violence is down, and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America’s commitment has been kept. The Iraq war is coming to an end. (Applause.)

…We’ve also taken the fight to al Qaeda and their allies abroad. In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan security forces. Our purpose is clear: By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.

Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home. (Applause.)

Last I heard, the Defense Department is balking at even a 2014 pull out date of Afghanistan.  The unjust, immoral, illegitimate occupations continue, and with them, the “war on terror” against civilians across the region.  It’s up to us to bring out that reality to people.

I saw John Boehner pinch up his face when Obama obliquely mentioned the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  As much as the reactionaries howled against letting gays be out in the military, I have to say that any gay person who actually decides now to enlist has lost their mind.  Just because one can now serve openly does not mean the whole enterprise of occupying countries and killing civilians should involve you!  I say, “don’t ask, don’t tell….no — DON’T GO!”  It’s a bad thing, as several professors have written me, that because DODT is being repealed, colleges are now planning to open the doors once again to military recruiters.

I’ll see you in Washington D.C. on March 17-19 as we step up the visible protest on the anniversary of the Iraq war.

Crimes Are Crimes - No Matter Who Does Them

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Closing Guantanamo Requires Us

Over an intense week protesting the beginning of the 10th year of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, I continued to learn more.  The situation for the 173 men there is changing, though not towards a just resolution.

After nine years, it got through to me that use of the word “detainees” indicates something impermanent, as if one is “detained” doing an errand.  The men have been imprisoned; they are prisoners.  So we shall call them prisoners and released prisoners.

Many thanks to Andy Worthington for coming to the U.S. last week, speaking and talking with all us involved in trying to end the U.S. regime of indefinite detention, based on torture begun by the Bush regime.  His attention to the cases of 774 men, and grasp of the prison’s history is remarkable.  You can see and support his work here.

Protests last week centered on the demand that Guantanamo be closed, with justice.   A statement still circulating to that effect is here.  Groups in other cities, and 100 fasters around the country, continue to speak out.  World Can’t Wait in Chicago is sponsoring an event January 25 at DePaul University with Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, attorney Candace Gorman, and myself.

Thanks to Witness Against Torture, leading an ongoing fast for justice through January 22, two years from the day Barack Obama promised to close Guantanamo.  Thanks to the attorneys who have defended the prisoners, too numerous to name here, and who shared their sense of outrage with us.  And to the Center for Constitutional Rights and Amnesty International for a dramatic and intense protest Tuesday January 11 in front of the White House, and later at the Department of Justice.

The voices of the former prisoners — who of course could not be with us at the protest, as they are still considered “enemy combatants” though they were never charged — came through.  Omar Deghayes, who speaks so movingly in the film Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo, sent a message read in front of the White House by Kathy Kelly:

…This past December 19th just marked three years to the day that I tasted freedom again and was released from Guantánamo to the warm embrace of my family and the community who fought so hard for my freedom. But not a day has passed since in which my thoughts and prayers have not remained with the 173 men who continue to languish in Guantánamo, detained without trial, most of them not facing any charge, and entering their tenth year of being separated from their loved ones. 90 of these men have actually been cleared for release long ago…

January 11, 2011 Andy Worthington speaking to protesters & media in front of the White House

Andy Worthington explained to the hundreds of people standing in the street before the White House, what’s happened to the 173 men left.  In a piece that summarize the pace of closure, Guantánamo Forever? makes the case that the Obama administration, as indicated back in May 2009, is making indefinite detention a permanent feature:

…it is reasonable to propose that Guantánamo is now a permanent institution for a variety of reasons. The first concerns a number of cynical moves by lawmakers in recent months, inserting provisions into a military spending bill that are explicitly designed to keep Guantánamo open — a ban on using funds to transfer Guantánamo prisoners to the U.S. mainland to face trials, a ban on using funds to buy or build a prison on the U.S. mainland to hold Guantánamo prisoners, and a ban on the release of any prisoner cleared for release by the President’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force (composed of representatives of government departments and the intelligence agencies) to countries considered dangerous by lawmakers — including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen…

Andy looks further into this situation in Nine Years Later: The Political Prisoners of Guantanamo, showing some of the complex factors behind the paralysis.  An even larger group of prisoners are held in Bagram, at the U.S. air base, in what the U.S. argues is a “war zone” so that the prisoners may not have habeas corpus, echoing the Bush regime of 5 years ago.  Military tribunals, or “commissions” have been widely derided as unjust.  Obama says some of the prisoners are “too dangerous to release” or to try.  Is it that what would come out in court would be too revealing of the illegitimacy of the war on terror?  And concludes

Until these problems are solved and the Guantanamo prisoners are either tried or released, President Obama’s contribution to this bitter legacy of the Bush administration is to be presiding over the unthinkable: a prison where, however the prisoners have been designated, they are almost all held in indefinite detention and are, indeed, political prisoners.

Over the next year, we will experience the ten year anniversaries of 9/11, the PATRIOT Act, the attack on Afghanistan, and the opening of Guantanamo.  We have something to say now, and over the next year, about whether the outrages associated with the Bush years continue along, or are sharply opposed by more and more people.

World Can’t Wait began its Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime in 2005 with:

YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.

YOUR GOVERNMENT is openly torturing people, and justifying it.

YOUR GOVERNMENT puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.

And we ended it with, “The future is unwritten.  Which one we get is up to us.”

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Going on 9 Guantanamo Years

Lost in the flurry of bills passed as Congress ended was the inclusion in the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act of language that forbids any Pentagon funds being used to transport any detainee from Guantánamo to the U.S. for any reason.   There’s no evidence that the Obama administration really opposed this language; they’ve accepted that detainees such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed won’t be tried in federal courts.  They’ve delineated a group of detainess for indefinite detention for the reason that they’ve been tortured, and such information, from the government’s standpoint, can’t be made public.

Guantanamo protestSo still, 174 men sit in Guantánamo, including the large group of Yemenis who are caught between denunciations by the U.S. authorities of the anti-government forces in Yemen, and U.S. support for same.  The hope many felt two years ago, in anticipation of an end to the Bush torture regime is dead.  Yet courageous lawyers, writers, and activists still struggle for humanity to know the truth about the illegal prison Bush built in Guantánamo, and the need for the wider complex of Bush-era torture, indefinite detention, rendition, and secret prisons to really end.

Andy Worthington, who will be in the States next week to participate in protests of Guantanamo, wrote today, in Christmas at Guantánamo:

I thought I’d take this opportunity to remind readers who may be searching the Internet because they need a break from eating and drinking, or because they want to get away from their families for a while, or because the TV is so relentlessly pointless, or because they don’t celebrate Christmas, about some of the 174 men still held in Guantánamo, for whom concern is particularly appropriate right now, as, between them, the Obama administration and Congress seem to have ensured that the majority of them will be spending many more Christmases at Guantánamo…”

It’s not only that Guantánamo should have been closed, and isn’t, but that the virulent Islamophobia, the illegitimate “war on terror;” the secret renditions begun under Bill Clinton; the covering for torture by the allies in Iraq and Afghanistan continue.  I thank Glenn Greenwald for pulling our attention yet again to Wikileaks, for what they revealed this year on the crimes of our government, past and current, as regards torture, rendition, and detention, in What Wikileaks Revealed to the World in 2010 – a pattern of utter suppression of peoples’ rights, outside the law.

In two weeks, we’ll be in Washington with Witness Against Torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and activists who won’t let this issue go, no matter who the president, or what the promises are.

Please join us in Washington, or where you are, in making visible resistance and protest.  Guantánamo, and the whole torture regime that brought it, must be ended!

Rally and “prisoner procession” to the Department of Justice, followed by non-violent direct action.
Date and Time: Tues, Jan. 11, beginning at 11 am
Location: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — The prison at Guantanamo will enter its 10th year of operation on Tuesday, January 11. Witness Against Torture is working to make sure this second decade never begins.

Starting at 11am that morning at the White House, Witness Against Torture launches a Daily Vigil and Fast for Justice that will continue for 11 days and include demonstrations throughout Washington. The days of action will begin on January 11th with a rally of a coalition of human rights and grassroots groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights and Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, followed by a “prisoner procession” to the Department of Justice, where members of Witness Against Torture will engage in nonviolent direct action…

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Interviews from Syed Fahad Hashmi’s Sentencing

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Why the U.S. is Losing Afghanistan

As people who follow World Can’t Wait know, we’ve been opposed to Barack Obama’s plans to expand the US occupation of Afghanistan since the 2008 campaign began.  Now that Obama has expanded the US occupying forces beyond 150,000 (not including all the contractors outside the US military) and is pressuring European allies to send more troops, how is the occupation going?

Reminders:  Obama kept Bush’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has promoted the expansion into Afghanistan.  He’s expanded Bush’s quiet drone war, and is now has two unmanned drone programs (run by the military and the CIA), making far more attacks than Bush ever did.  The administration endorsed the “election” of Hamid Karzai over widespread, incontrovertible evidence of massive fraud in it.

So how is all that working?  I had a chance to hear Anand Gopal speak Monday night, at a Brooklyn for Peace event.  I hope his talk will be broadcast, but in the meantime, I’ll report from my notes.

Anand Gopal gave us important information with “America’s Secret Afghan Prisons,”  a piece based on 24 interviews with detainees and families of those held at Bagram Air Force Base, called “Obama’s Gitmo.”  See a ten minute interview by Russia Today (who surely has an interest in counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan) with Gopal.

Gopal stated that the Taliban had virtually been removed from Afghanistan in 2001-02 with the US invasion, relatively easily.    Now, they once again dominate 1/2 of the country.

The main reason for this he cited was the civilian casualties caused by US/NATO attacks.  He said that the Taliban also kills civilians, directly or indirectly, but that the civilian population thinks the US occupation is what’s responsible for the deaths.  There have been major protests in all the cities, and every time that a group of civilians are killed by NATO or US forces, with American flags and effigies of Obama burned.  People are very angry.

Another reason the US occupation will fail, Gopal said, is that they are supporting the “corrupt and predatory” Karzai government, which is viewed as the enemy by much of the country.  During the 1990′s civil war, the Northern Alliance, and other warlord groups now allied with Karzai were responsible for horrific treatment of women.  In areas they controlled, girls not married by the age of 12 were raped,

When the people protested the treatment of women, so bad that in 2003 hundreds of women drowned themselves rather than be raped by the Northern Alliance, the Karzai government did nothing, because Karzai needs the warlords to hold onto power. Because people in the country are preyed upon by the warlords, get no help from the Karzai government or the U.S. government, they have turned increasingly to the Taliban, despite the crimes against people they have committed.

Another reason for the U.S. lack of success in “winning hearts and minds” of the Afghan people Gopal cited is the “lack of reconstruction.”  He said that 85% of the billions marked for reconstruction goes to US contractors.   Of the remaining 15% much goes to the warlords.  He said the major Kabul-Kandahar highway built by the Bush regime a few years ago is falling apart from shoddy construction.

Gopal said the only solution for the people of Afghanistan is the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The Toronto Star reported Sunday February 7 in Afghans flee ahead of planned NATO offensive

Mohammad Hakim, a 55-year-old tribal leader in Marjah, said fear has risen over the past two weeks and he knows at least 20 families who had left. He himself planned to take his wife, nine sons, four daughters and grandchildren to live with relatives in Lashkar Gah.

“Everybody is worried that they’ll get caught in the middle when this operation starts,” he said in a telephone interview.

Hakim said he was worried about the length of the operation.

“I can stay for one or two weeks,” he said. “But if I have to leave my agriculture land for months and months, then how will I feed my family?”


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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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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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