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Thursday, December 15, 2011

U.S. lawmaker challenges deepening BREAKDOWN

Human Rights Day
December 10, 1950
Eleanor Roosevelt (left)
Marian Anderson (right)
U.S. global war on terror continues in violation of law, human rights
Re-reporting, editing by Carolyn Bennett

Brennan Center on
Counter-terrorism law
Three years ago, the 

Brennan Center was looking toward a new and corrective era and they wrote this. The U.S. President “has asserted that he is above our laws and has simply flouted those with which he disagreed. … He has subjected American citizens to warrantless wiretapping in violation of our law and Constitution and has cast aside the Geneva Conventions. This pattern of ignoring the law must end with the next President. For this to occur, we must first understand how it came about.

“On the eve of a new Administration, many voices are calling for an accounting of the abuses that have been documented in the course of the ‘war on terror,’ while others suggest that the election of a new President ushers in a new era in which we do not need to look back.

“A critical issue of our time is how the rule of law and the requirements of our Constitution should inform our response to the ‘terrorist’ threat we face at home and abroad. To answer this question, we must understand what our response has been and the successes and failures of our policies.”
A year earlier, on Human Rights Day, then-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, wrote this. “In today’s growing divisions between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the vulnerable, the technologically advanced and the illiterate, the aggressors and the victims, the relevance of the Declaration of Human Rights and the universality of the enshrined rights need to be loudly reaffirmed.”
Eleanor Roosevelt with
Universal Declaration of
Human Rights

“The Universal Declaration and its core values — inherent human dignity, justice, non-discrimination, equality, fairness and universality — apply to everyone, everywhere, always.”

Despite laws domestic and global and despite their clear articulation, super-powered lawlessness continued and spread far and wide. 

Virus of lawlessness, human rights abuse
U.S. “global war on terror”

In 2009 the New Internationalist Magazine reported, “While many state agencies torture and kill people who stand in their way, these agencies now increasingly use counterterrorism as a justification.

“With the United States, the world’s remaining superpower, rebranding torture (which is absolutely prohibited under international law) as a form of interrogation, and holding suspects without trial for years or hauling them before unfair military commissions, human rights have taken a beating.”

Hotspots conveniently U.S.-allied committing rights violations, the New Internationalist reports attributing 2009 human rights organization data:

Afghanistan: arbitrary arrests, detentions and torture by intelligence agents; NATO and U.S. forces have handed over detainees to them. Confessions made under torture are permissible in court. Prisoners held in U.S.-run Bagram facility have no legal representation whatsoever.

Pakistan: Inter-Services Intelligence agency responsible for numerous ‘disappearances’ with the Government admitting to 1,102 people disappeared in Baluchistan province alone. The problem was exacerbated by bounty offered by the CIA for terror suspects. CIA-sanctioned drones targeted to blow up terrorists have caused many civilian casualties both in Pakistan and

South Asia's
Gulf States
Algeria: torture, prolonged secret detention without trial, prison beatings and unfair trials with courts accepting ‘confessions’ as evidence are the norm for terrorist suspects; Hundreds on death row on terror charges. Security forces given legal immunity against charges of human rights abuses.

Egypt: widespread torture by State Security Investigation officials and police; trials by military courts; 1,500 people detained without charge according to official figures: 10,000 according to other sources. Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. aid.

Iraq: in 2008, U.S. forces held 15,500 people (despite the release of 13,000 earlier that year) without charge or trial for security purposes, and the Iraqi authorities held at least 26,000.

Israel: hundreds of Palestinians (including children) detained in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, many held incommunicado for long periods. Most released without charge but trials are held before military courts. Also uses aerial drones, which have killed civilians.

Jordan: thousands held under suspicion of being ‘a danger to society’

Morocco/Western Sahara: over 1,000 Islamist suspects held since 2006; torture is routine; Legacy of enforced disappearances.

Saudi Arabia: barbaric punishments for vague ‘offences’; 2,000 detained in secrecy on security grounds;  United States and Britain praise and promise to learn from a Saudi ‘re-education’ program that keeps suspects detained without charge or trial.

Syria: arbitrary and incommunicado detention widespread for people suspected of the slightest involvement in terrorist activity. Some 17,000 disappeared people, mainly Islamists, remain untraced.

A few within U.S. government challenged this impunity in lawlessness.

New Internationalist Magazine image
Yesterday, U.S. Representative Alcee Hastings reminded the Congress of the United States that what throwing billions at counterterrorism has accomplished in the past decade is a deepening breach of legal and human rights protections under domestic and international laws.

“We tell the American public that we are fighting overseas in order to protect our freedoms,” Congressman Hastings said, “but we pass legislation that undermines those very same freedoms here at home.

“We tell the rest of the world to emulate our democratic traditions and our rule of law, but we disregard those values in a mad rush to find out who can pretend to be the toughest on terrorism.

“We will not defeat terrorism by using the military to lock up innocent people for the rest of their lives on the mere suspicion of wrongdoing.

We will not defeat terrorism by claiming the entire world as a battlefield.

“We will not defeat terrorism by replacing our rule of law with reckless, uncontrolled, and unaccountable powers.

Hundreds of thousands of people have died and many more have been wounded in two U.S. wars, Hastings recalled, and he U.S. has engaged in military action in numerous other countries since September 11, 2001. The United States has “spent more than a trillion dollars. Osama bin Laden is dead, and Obama administration officials have declared that al-Qaeda is ‘operationally ineffective.’”

The United States should therefore “take this opportunity, this moment in our history,” he challenged, “to seriously and carefully deliberate our nation’s counterterrorism efforts.

“We ought to consider which polices are effective and which, in the end, only create more anti-American sentiment.

“We ought to consider which policies align with our national values and which undermine them.

“We ought to consider whether we should continue using the full thrust of United States Armed Forces in country after country or whether a more nuanced approach might better serve our needs.

“…The legislation before us [The National Defense Authorization Act] does not attempt to answer these questions.… 
It commits us to drive even further down the road of fear.
It commits us to more war and more wasteful spending.
It commits us to ceding our freedoms and liberties on the mere suspicion of wrongdoing. 
The legislation establishes an authority for open-ended war anywhere in the world, and against anyone.

It commits us to seeing a ‘terrorist’ in anyone whoever criticizes the United States in any country, including this one.

“The lack of definitions as to what constitutes ‘substantial support’ and ‘associated forces’ of al-Qaeda and the Taliban mean that anyone could be accused of terrorism.

“While this measure includes an exemption for U.S. citizens, it does not protect them from indefinite detention. In one fell swoop, we have set up a situation where American citizens could have their 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th amendment rights violated on mere suspicions. This legislation goes too far.…

“We spend billions of dollars every year on counterterrorism, but we weaken those efforts by tossing aside our own system of justice.”

Sources and notes


Statement by High Commissioner Louise Arbour on the occasion of Human Rights Day December 10, 2007

New Internationalist Magazine

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Democratic Chairman of the Florida Delegation.

“Hastings Blasts Passage of National Defense Authorization Act — (Washington, D.C.), Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Miramar) made the following statement blasting the passage of the Conference Report for H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. The measure passed the House by a vote of 283-136”  — December 14, 2011, http://www.alceehastings.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1039:december-14-2011-hastings-blasts-passage-of-national-defense-authorization-act&catid=72:2011-press-releases&Itemid=

Congressman Alcee Hastings

U.S. Representative Alcee Lamar Hastings has been a member of the U.S. Congress since 1993. Before entering the Congress, he was a United States District Judge for the Southern District of Florida (1979-1989), a judge of the circuit court of Broward County, Florida (1977-1979), and a lawyer in private practice.

Representative Hastings took his academic credentials at Howard University School of Law (Washington, D.C.) and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (Tallahassee, Florida (1963)) Juris Doctor; Fisk University (Nashville, Tennessee) Baccalaureate. Hastings was born September 5, 1936 in Altamonte Springs, Seminole County, Florida.


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