Category: Justice

Hard to fool a detainee with a fake letter from mom – when he knows she can’t write


Mohamedou Ould Slahi

Guantánamo prison camp authorities tried to trick inmate Mohamedou Ould Slahi by forging a letter purportedly from his mother whom he had been unable to see for years, his brother Yahdih has said.

The ploy, which was intended to persuade him to cooperate with his interrogators, failed not only because they misspelt Slahi’s name but also because his mother could not write.

This week Slahi became the first inmate to publish a memoir while still incarcerated when Guantánamo Diary was published in 20 countries and serialised in the Guardian.

Speaking on Tuesday at an event organised by the Guardian in partnership with Canongate, the publisher of Guantánamo Diary, and PEN, the writers’ association, Yahdih Ould Slahi said his brother had not been able to see his mother before she died at their home in Mauritania in 2013…

The 44-year-old engineer was first detained in 2001 in Mauritania at the request of the US government, then rendered to Jordan and Afghanistan and tortured, and then flown to Guantánamo.

He is one of two inmates whose “additional interrogation techniques” were personally approved by Donald Rumsfeld, then US defence secretary, according to a US Senate inquiry. Slahi was dressed in a burqa, deprived of sleep, subjected to strobe lights, doused in water, threatened with dogs, sexually assaulted by female interrogators and forced to bark and perform dog tricks.

He wrote his memoir by hand after learning English, his fourth language, from his Guantánamo guards and interrogators, and it was published this week after his lawyer, Nancy Hollander, battled for six years to have the document declassified.

Hollander told the event that Slahi’s descriptions of the abuse that he had suffered at Guantánamo had already been confirmed by both the Senate inquiry and a separate investigation by the FBI…

Hollander said her client had been in a form of legal limbo since the US government lodged an appeal after a US district court judge ordered his release…

The American Civil Liberties Union has launched an online petition demanding Slahi’s release.

One more case where Obama’s Administration matches the incompetence of his neo-con predecessor. Incompetence, that is, at differentiating liberal foreign policy from the conservative flavor. There may be some small difference in the total number of civilians killed. But, the destruction of civil liberties, civil rights, human rights guaranteed by international treaty seem to be consistent between both flavors of imperial arrogance.

France presents citizenship to Malian hero of Kosher market standoff

FRANCE-ATTACKS-CHARLIE-HEBDO
Click to enlarge

What should have been an average workday for 24-year-old Malian, Lassana Bathily, an employee of a Parisian kosher supermarket, turned into a hostage nightmare that shook the world just days after one of the deadliest attacks in France in decades.

On Friday, Jan. 9, Bathily, a practicing Muslim, went far beyond his daily responsibilities as a shopkeeper. He courageously aided law enforcement and store patrons through one of two simultaneous standoffs…

His actions inspired a Change.org petition, which compiled more than 300,000 signatures, calling for him to be granted French citizenship and the Legion of Honor. French officials agreed.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve declared Bathily a hero and announced that the country would expedite his citizenship and naturalize him next Tuesday for his bravery.

Bathily came to customers’ aid that fateful Friday, when attacker Amed Coulibaly stormed into the busy Hyper Cache as shoppers prepared for the Sabbath. The gunman threatened to kill the hostages if the police didn’t release brothers Säid Kouachi and Chérif Kouachi, the men responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attack who were, at the time, engaged in a separate hostage standoff in the French countryside.

Bathily valiantly guided costumers into a cold-storage space for protection, turned off the refrigeration, and fled the shop to notify the French police of the heist.

Initially the police considered him a suspect and handcuffed him for an hour and a half…Bathily was eventually able to convince police that he was not an accomplice, but an employee who could aid in the unnerving standoff.

With his knowledge of the store, he provided authorities with critical information about the layout and location of the hostages. Despite their collaborative efforts, four customers were killed that day. Nevertheless, Bathily emerged as the heroic civilian during 54 hours of violence that wracked the nation.

With France now experiencing heightened Islamophobia and anti-Semitism after the attacks, Bathily said he was not fazed by some of the divisiveness.

“We’re brothers. It’s not a question of Jews, Christians or Muslims,” Bathily declared. “We’re all in the same boat, and we have to help one another to get out of this crisis.”

Just one more ordinary working man rising to the demands of crisis around him.

An object lesson for the idjits who descend to bigotry in the face of perceived danger.

Eric Holder just took away an unconstitutional police power


“I’ll give you ten bucks for the iPhone!”

The Department of Justice…has curtailed a federal program that allowed police to seize and keep cash, cars, and other private property without evidence of a crime…

Local and state police will no longer be able to seize and keep private assets through the federal program unless they’re directly linked to public safety concerns. Items that can still be “adopted” include illegal firearms, ammunition, explosives, and property associated with child pornography.

Police have been heavily criticized for using the program to seize people’s assets without evidence of a crime and pocketing the proceeds to fund their own departments.

The change places a big check on police power.

The federal program, expanded through the War on Drugs [of course], allowed local and state police departments to seize private property allegedly used for criminal purposes, even without evidence of a crime, and share the proceeds with federal agencies. Police would keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds, while federal agencies claimed the rest.

States still allow police to seize private assets, but some of the state laws are more limited and force at least some of the proceeds to go to a state’s general fund — instead of the police departments themselves.

Critics of the federal program said it created an incentive for police to unnecessarily stop and search people, since the seizures could be used to fund their own departments. A previous Washington Post investigation found police routinely seized property without any evidence of wrongdoing.

Here’s a good background article: “How police can take your stuff, sell it, and pay for armored cars with the money“.

It’s what happens in a great many municipalities – though, here in one of the poorest states in the GOUSA, I think the money from illicit sales of conficated property is often used just to keep a local township or city afloat. After all, New Mexico has a Republican “Education Governor” who wants to cut the budget for some or all community colleges – and a Municipal League trying to reinstate taxes on food.

The usual three razzy cheers for what today’s conservatives try to pass off as fiscal conservatism.

Still, it’s nice to see the Department of Justice actually practice a little of the good stuff that makes it into presidential speeches.

Pic of the Day

Cop marries ex-Marine
Cop marries ex-Marine

Detective David Currie, 50, and his now-husband Aaron Woodard, 33, tied the knot shortly after midnight on Tuesday, the 7th, when the state legalized gay marriage.

And after requesting permission from his superiors, Currie walked down the registry aisle with full support of the Broward County Sheriff’s to wed in uniform.

All the conservative True Believers in Florida must have their shorts in a truly world-class bunch over this. Meanwhile, a couple of people who love each other get to live a legally married life together.

It was the largest rally ever held in Paris

It was the day Paris united. And with dozens of world leaders joining the millions of people marching to commemorate and celebrate the victims of last week’s terror attacks, it was also the day the world united behind the city…

It was the first time since the liberation of Paris in August 1944 that so many people – the interior ministry said there were too many to count but most estimates put it at somewhere between 1.5 million and 2 million – took to the streets of the city. An estimated 3.7 million took to the streets across the whole country.

As investigations continue into the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine by Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, which left 12 dead on Wednesday, the killing of a female police officer the following day, and the attack on a Kosher supermarket by Amédy Coulibaly on Friday in which four died, the mood among the crowds in Paris was one of unity.

This was a nationwide outpouring of grief, solidarity and defiance. Parisiens of all ages, religions and nationalities turned out en masse not only to show their respect for the victims but their support for the values of the Republic: “liberté, égalité, fraternité” – freedom of speech and freedom of the press…

The noise along the route…rose and fell in waves, with songs and chants of “Charlie, Charlie, Charlie” punctuating the solemnity of the atmosphere and drowning out the helicopters overhead.

At regular intervals, the crowd stopped to applaud police and gendarmes shouting “merci police”; three police officers died in the attacks.

On a political and diplomatic level, it was unparalleled. Protocol rules were ignored as around 50 world leaders congregated in the French capital. Presidents, prime ministers, statesmen and women took buses from the Elysée palace to join the march from Place de la République to Place de la Nation, two of Paris’s best-known squares…

As a powerful mark of respect for those who died, the world leaders took second place, walking behind the families and friends of the victims of last week’s attacks.

Earlier in the day hundreds gathered to honour Ahmed Merabet, 42, the police officer gunned down in the Charlie Hebdo attack. The hashtag #JesuisAhmed has become widely used on Twitter along with #JesuisCharlie.

The events of last week have deeply shocked and scarred the French people who found a sense of collective comfort in coming together on Sunday to say “We are not afraid”. As night fell, they continued to march and gather, reluctant to leave the comfort of the crowd and the momentous occasion.

I shouldn’t be surprised when a journalist discovers there can be something correctly called the “comfort of the crowd”. Not a mob emotion, not even the jubilance of a proper rally; but, the quiet sisterhood and brotherhood of being able to stand in harmony with thousands and tens of thousands of others who are sharing the satisfaction of coming together in a progressive cause. A gathering so large that even the most ignorant and bigoted retreat in fear and confusion from the confrontation they always brag about desiring.

You never lose that feeling. Unless you’ve lost the caring that brought you there in the first place.

I felt it in Washington, DC a few times. The civil rights march for peace and freedom with Dr. King in 1963. Later gatherings just as large against the US War in VietNam. All those hope-endorphins leave a lasting effect on your brain. Maybe that’s why I remain an optimist…

#JeSuisAhmed


Marc Piasecki/Getty Images

After the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, the phrase “Je Suis Charlie” — “I am Charlie” — became the unofficial slogan of solidarity with the shooting victims. #JeSuisCharlie trended on Twitter, and people held up signs featuring the phrase at rallies all over the world.

Je Suis Charlie’s message is an important one in the wake of this horrifying crime. But now a new hashtag campaign, #JeSuisAhmed, has arisen to augment it. Its message of tolerance deserves — perhaps needs — to be heard as well.

#JeSuisAhmed honors Ahmed Merabet, the French police officer who was murdered outside the Charlie Hebdo offices by the same gunmen who went on to murder the magazine’s staffers. Merabet, in addition to being a police officer, is believed to have been part of France’s large Muslim community.

Twitter users have rallied to the hashtag to argue that Merabet, like the murdered journalists, should be honored as a defender of free speech — particularly because he died trying to protect a publication that had mocked and derided his own religion.

#JeSuisAhmed does not dispute the sentiment of Je Suis Charlie. Rather, it adds to it, by calling attention to the importance of tolerance as well as solidarity. That is important in its own right, but it’s also an elegant response to those who might respond to the attack with broad hostility towards Islam, or suspicion of Muslims as a group…

The hashtag was also a reminder that the victims of Islamist terrorists are primarily Muslim

In an update, VOX notes that candyass [my word] sources like the NY TIMES say Merabet’s religion is unconfirmed. While the British press reports that his family says he was Muslim and will be buried in a Muslim cemetery.

Close enough for folk music, folks.

Hastening death and suicide are different

In recent weeks, all of America was captivated by the story of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year old terminally ill brain cancer patient. She died on Nov. 1 of her own free will with the aid of physician-prescribed medication.

Prior to her death, Maynard and her family moved to Oregon, one of only three states that have enacted legislation – known as “death with dignity” or “aid-in-dying” legislation – that sets out strict requirements for competent adults with terminal diseases who wish to end their suffering by being aided in death. Washington and Vermont also have similar laws on the books.

Two other states – Montana and New Mexico – have not passed laws on the issue but have court decisions in place that effectively allow such deaths to take place. The Montana case was Baxter v. State; in the New Mexico case, known as Morris v. Brandenberg, Second District Judge Nan Nash – whose decision is currently being appealed – wrote that:

“If decisions made in the shadow of one’s imminent death regarding how they and their loved ones will face that death are not fundamental and at the core of these constitutional guarantees, then what decisions are..?”

When it comes to making the emotional appeal for such laws, Maynard, with the aid of Compassion & Choices, a leading aid-in-dying organization based in Oregon, told her story in about as articulate, intelligent and compassionate a way as humanly possible. Yet although her story made all the major media outlets, there was one point that was never picked up by any media with perhaps one exception –- what she planned to do, as she explained in one of her video clips, was not a suicide.

Despite this, many of the media captioned her story as one involving her “suicide” or “assisted suicide” (because the medication she used was lawfully prescribed by a licensed physician)…

But when we consider death with dignity, or aid-in-dying, the words “suicide” or “assisted suicide” should forever be banished from the lexicon.

I made this point a few years ago in a “friend of the court” brief for the Baxter court case in Montana; my argument was mentioned in a concurring opinion once the case was decided…

Physicians and other health professionals point to advances in palliative care to assuage the pain and suffering experienced by terminally ill and dying patients as one reason that ending one’s own life may now be avoided in these situations. It is certainly true that such advances have been made, but on balance, a competent adult with a terminal illness or disease must have a choice to end life with dignity on terms arrived at by that person.

A law like Oregon’s permits this option, and allows for what should be a basic human right at the end of life – a right that is to be granted only to those suffering from a painful terminal illness, not those wishing to end their lives for other reasons.

Which is my only dispute with the article. Although in general I don’t find many reasons legit – I can imagine one or another coming to pass. And I would want the right to make that decision.

Before she died, Maynard brought to the public’s attention her well-formed decision-making process and showed how it should apply to people in her specific situation…

In the end, as human thought advances over time, our views on ideas once held sacrosanct change. This is part of the human condition and ingrained within the fabric of social transition. Isn’t it high time that all of us discuss and evaluate the Brittany Maynards of our existence with the proper language that excludes the words suicide or assisted suicide, including anyone who writes, speaks or legislates about the subject in an open forum?

Let’s get little stuff out of the way. Regardless of questions about death with dignity, freedom of choice, you need to take care of the legal clutter impacting anyone in the clutches of the medical-industrial complex. Yes, that’s tongue-in-cheek. I’ve had some damned decent, thoughtful doctors in my life – they can help a great deal in discussions on the topic.

Here in New Mexico, you first should sort out a power of attorney with friend, spouse or significant other. Standard info on Advance Directives is available over here from the UNM medical school. Here’s one of the forms [.pdf] they suggest. I offer the link because it’s the one my wife chose – and she does a better job at this kind of search than I do.

I have to remember to keep my fey sense of humor out of the way. We had our first Death Panel get-together with my wife’s doctor a few weeks back. I have nothing but contempt for the conservative idjits who coined that term – so, of course, I deliberately use it as a joke. My wife’s doctor didn’t smile.

And we were the first patients I think she ever had bring up the topic. My first official discussion with my own doctor is next month – who is the husband of my wife’s doctor. Not really relevant; but, interesting.

The most important thing we learned was this Advance Directives form is more important, thoughtful and primary than the DNR [Do Not Resuscitate] form often referred to in discussions like this. I have one mate up in Canada who has it tattooed across his stomach. But, he’s in terrible health with a truly failing heart. My honey and I are essentially in good health. I have several worn-out bits here and there; but, the basic meat machine still works fine.

A DNR doesn’t allow for accidents or even health disasters which used to be considered inevitably fatal, lingering or otherwise. My wife’s doctor made a sensible case for reliance on this advance directive. A DNR can be added in person or via power of attorney if you end up teetering on the edge. but, a DNR can get in the way of what is reasonable resuscitation, nowadays – with years of perfectly satisfactory life following.

And we live in New Mexico, so unless the state succeeds in challenging current case law, we can rely on assistance from our doctors in a reasonable end to a terminal condition. At least I hope so. That’s the discussion I have next month. My doctor is bright and reasonable. I just presume that includes agreeing with me. :)

Palestine becomes a member of the International Criminal Court


Click to enlargeREUTERS/Francois Lenoir

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has confirmed that the Palestinians will officially become a member of the International Criminal Court on April 1…

On Friday the Palestinians delivered to U.N. headquarters documents on joining the Rome Statute of the ICC and other international treaties, in a move that has heightened tensions with Israel and could lead to cuts in U.S. aid.

Israel will say, Jump! Obama and Congress will ask, “How high?”

The official announcement of the date of the Palestinian accession to the ICC, in the form of a letter from Ban, was posted on a U.N. website. The United Nations is the official depositary of the Rome Statute and many other treaties.

Under ICC rules, Palestinian membership would allow the court, based in The Hague, to exercise jurisdiction over war crimes committed by anyone on Palestinian territory, without a referral from the U.N. Security Council. Israel, like the United States, is not a party to the Rome statute, but its citizens could be tried for actions taken on Palestinian land…

Momentum to recognize a Palestinian state has built since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas succeeded in a bid for de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood at the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, which made Palestinians eligible to join the ICC.

Overdue.

Also overdue is prosecution of Israel for apartheid, all the fascist practices that government has instituted in territory acquired by force of arms.

Simple brief ceremonies wedding same-sex couples throughout Florida

Edgard Perez, Charles Windham
Wedding photo for Edgard Perez and Charles Windham

With arms interlocked, about 20 gay and lesbian couples, too eager to wait any longer, were married in a five-minute ceremony at 3 a.m. on Tuesday at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale as Florida marked a long, arduous journey to become the 36th state to legalize same sex marriage.

Now the nation’s third-largest state, Florida joined the list allowing same-sex unions just six years after the state, led by Republican lawmakers, voted to approve a constitutional ban on gay marriage, which garnered 62 percent of the vote.

“Do you take each other to be your spouse for life?” asked Howard C. Forman, the Broward County clerk of courts, slightly stressing the word spouse. Together, the couples uttered their individual vows to one another. “I pronounce you legally married,” Mr. Forman said.

With that, the couples, their families and friends roared, cheered and clapped, and Frank Sinatra’s “Love” blasted into the room. For Anthony Butera, 44, and Abdel Magid, 45, there was no doubt that marrying as soon as possible in their home state was a must-do. A couple for 12 years, the two donned wedding finery — Mr. Butera wore a cream tuxedo jacket with a black handkerchief and Mr. Magid a black tuxedo jacket with a white boutonniere — and infectious smiles.

“It’s special to be recognized and be treated like everyone else,” Mr. Magid said.

More victories in a nation that supposedly believes in equal opportunity, that preaches to the rest of the world that we are the bastion of democracy and reason – and there still are states and politicians, religions and zealots who believe they have a mandate to prevent equal civil rights for every American. They believed they could do it because of skin color, They believe they can do so because of sexual inclination.

Understanding their misbegotten belief doesn’t make it anymore defensible. Such bigotry belongs in history’s cesspool. Witnessing expressions of love and freedom from these newly-married folks is worth so much more than the hatred and fear of fools.

RTFA for more examples of a new kind of freedom creeping cautiously through the halls of Florida’s backwards government, a state which still tries to dignify the fascist time-warp infecting their brains.