I think there’s sort of five major components of the crime situation in Venezuela. There’s a corrupt and repressive police. The jail system is practically a school for criminals. When young kids are put into prison in overcrowded establishments with seasoned criminals and they spend their three or four years before they’re brought to trial, they certainly come out differently from what they–more sort of trained and hardened than when they went in. The courts are very deficient. As I said, it takes–there’s a huge backload of cases that aren’t–don’t go through the court system. And so people are just in prison–not at the scale of the United States, of course, I mean, in proportional terms, but in a significant scale. Then there’s the fact that there are so many arms available in Venezuela. The use of arms is very, very widespread, and many conflicts, many personal conflicts are solved through the guns. And there’s also the fact that drugs have become more important as Venezuela has become a route for Colombian drugs to go to U.S. and E.U. markets.
Typically, when a war ends, so does the combatants’ authority to detain the other side’s fighters. But as the conclusion of the US war in Afghanistan approaches, the inmate population of Guantánamo Bay is likely to be an exception – and, for the Obama administration, the latest complication to its attempt to close the infamous wartime detention complex. In December, when President Barack Obama and his Nato allies formally end their combat role in Afghanistan, US officials indicate there is unlikely to be a corresponding release of detainees at Guantánamo who were captured during the country’s longest conflict. The question has been the subject of recent internal debate in the Obama administration, which is wrapped up in the broader question of future detention policy. Already human rights groups and lawyers for the detainees say they anticipate filing a new wave of lawsuits challenging the basis for a wartime detention after the war ends – the next phase in more than a decade of attempts to litigate the end of indefinite detention.
Hidden from public view by barbed-wire fences and windowless concrete walls, a movement is brewing in Alabama that could change America. This Monday, hundreds of men incarcerated in St. Clair and prisons across the state will stop work, adding economic muscle to their demands for wages for their labor, an end to overcrowding and inhumane conditions, an end to the “New Jim Crow” of mass incarceration of African-Americans, and the repurposing the prison system as a tool for genuine rehabilitation in a wounded world. The demands of the peaceful strike action are outlined in detail in the Education, Rehabilitation, and Re-Entry Preparedness Bill (FREEDOM Bill), which was presented to the state legislature by the Free Alabama Movement in January. Melvin Ray, spokesperson for the Free Alabama Movement (FAM) said, “When we look at our situations inside of the Alabama Department of Corrections, we have no choice but to engage in this nonviolent and peaceful protest for civil and human rights. We sleep with rats and roaches. We work for free and eat slop unfit for human consumption. We serve decades in prison solely to provide free labor and without any real prospect for parole, and without any recourse to the courts for justice or redress of grievances.
A White House official told Yahoo that President Obama is prepared to use his pardon power to grant clemency to “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of people who have been jailed for nonviolent drug crimes. The White House’s new moves would follow in the footsteps of a January announcement that the Obama administration would taking the unprecedented step of encouraging defense lawyers to suggest inmates whom the president might let out of prison early, as part of its effort to curtail severe penalties in low-level drug cases. In December, President Obama commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates convicted of non-violent drug offenses involving crack cocaine. Mr. Obama said the eight men and women had been sentenced under an “unfair system,” including the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses that was reduced to 18:1 by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.
Just in time for Seven Days of Action: Global Climate Convergence, CLDC launched a new way for people everywhere to access the essential information needed to assert their rights! The well-known Know Your Rights for Activists training by Lauren Regan offers basic legal information for activists what to expect from law enforcement. As with all of our trainings, this video is not intended as legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship. We also published a Know Your Rights for Immigrant Communities training video, in both English and Spanish. The purpose of this training is to build solidarity with immigrant communities at risk for police and government harassment, and to prevent the deportation and destruction of families and communities.
The season of Passover is upon us. One of the most sacred of Jewish observances, it commemorates the deliverance of the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. The exodus from Egypt may have taken 40 years, but chains of slavery are far-reaching, and the struggle for justice and liberation is long. Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who was the acting bureau chief for Al Jazeera English, just marked his 100th day behind bars in Cairo, one of many journalists arrested and charged as terrorist collaborators simply for doing their jobs. Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Abdullah Al Shamy has been detained for more than 230 days without trial and is in poor health because of his hunger strike. Egyptian prison cells remain full of detainees, among them female students from Al-Azhar university who were sentenced in absentia and report being physically beatenand sexually assaulted by police and guards.
The key witness for the government, Officer Bradley Bovell, was the main focus of attention all week in the Cecily McMillan trial. Since this is a one witness case, his testimony and credibility are critical to the result. This week it also became evident which side of the trial Judge Zweibel is on – he’s almost like having another prosecutor in the room. Throughout the cross-examination the prosecutor objected to defense attorney’s line of questioning, people in the court room say there were scores of objections. The judge ruled for the prosecutor and prevented Stolar from providing any context to what was occurring in Zucotti Park and in the conflict between Cecily McMillan and Bovell. Judge Zweibel is worrisome. In the pre-trial phase he urged Cecily to plea to a felony, telling her if she were found guilty the sentence would be more severe. Now, he is carrying that pro-prosecution attitude into the trial.
Advocating “No War Criminals On Campus!” and “Shut Down Guantanamo, End U.S. Torture,” activists will demonstrate at the Korea Law Center’s Inaugural Conference, where John Yoo is among a day of speakers including high level Korean government officials and business representatives. As the Guantanamo prison camp remains open into its 13th year – and Obama’s promises to shutter it remain unkept — 154 men remain imprisoned there. Most of them have never been charged with a crime. 76 were cleared for release by the US government years ago, 56 of them Yemeni. Since the prisoner’s hunger strike of over one year ago which thrust Guantanamo back into world headlines, approximately 40 men continue this strike.
A Senate Intelligence Committee report provides the first official confirmation that the CIA secretly operated a black site prison out of Guantánamo Bay, two U.S. officials who have read portions of the report have told Al Jazeera. The officials — who spoke on condition of anonymity because the 6,600-page report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program remains classified — said top-secret agency documents reveal that at least 10 high-value targets were secretly held and interrogated at Guantánamo’s Camp Echo at various times from late 2003 to 2004. They were then flown to Rabat, Morocco, before being officially sent to the U.S. military’s detention facility at Guantánamo in September 2006. In September 2006, President George W. Bush formally announced that 14 CIA captives had been transferred to Guantánamo and would be prosecuted before military tribunals. He then acknowledged for the first time that the CIA had been operating a secret network of prisons overseas to detain and interrogate high-value targets.
The “misuse of the Espionage Act,” the over-classification of information, the selective prosecution of individuals by the government for leaks, “unlawful command influence,” “unlawful pretrial punishment,” and violations of “speedy trial rights” will all be issues raised during the appeal. Hollander said Manning’s convictions for violating the Espionage Act set a “dangerous precedent.” She added, “If this case stands, along with some other recent cases, whoever leaks a single page of classified information or even non-classified information runs the risk of prosecution under this act.” Manning was found guilty of five Espionage Act offenses, which is quite significant in the war on leaks and whistleblowers that has been waged by President Barack Obama’s administration.
want the Gates Foundation — whose co-chairman, Bill Gates, has been a steadfast supporter of immigration — to divert the $2.2 million that its trust invests in The GEO Group. The world’s largest operator of private prisons and detention centers, GEO runs 59 facilities across the country, including the 1,500-bed Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. “This isn’t just a moral argument,” said William Winters, senior campaign adviser with the Latino advocacy group Presente.org, which organized the protest. “If the Gates Foundation wants to have the effect in the world they say they want to have, then investing in private prisons is the antithesis of that.” Organizers said they staged the demonstration after getting no response to a letter they sent to Bill Gates a month ago. After the demonstration, a handful of protesters were invited inside, where they presented officials with nearly 11,000 signatures collected online.
On Friday, opening arguments indicated this is a case of the credibility of two witnesses Office Grantley Bovell and Cecily McMillan. There are two different stories of the incident and no witnesses to confirm either version. A video tape of the incident is so unclear that both sides say it proves their case. McMillan has corroborating evidence for her story, photographs taken by her doctor that show bruises on her body, most importantly bruises showing fingerprints grabbing her right breast. McMillan’s version is that Bovell violently grabbed her breast from behind and she instinctively reacted throwing her elbow around to hit her assailant. Bovell’s version is that Cecily was screaming at a female police officer when he arrived and he went over to escort her out of Zuccotti Park. He will testify, according to the opening argument, that Cecily asked her if the cameras were on, then knelled down, came up quickly and threw her elbow into his face.
You’re invited to witness the most important event since WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s trial last summer! Chelsea Manning’s new defense team is preparing for a rigorous appeals process that could go as far as the Supreme Court, forever changing how the U.S. treats whistleblowers. On Sunday, April 13th they’ll be joined by prominent FBI whistleblower Mike German and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, as together they discuss the future of American government accountability, democratic information sharing, and whistleblowing. Join us to learn how you can make a difference!
The trial of Cecily McMillan – a prosecution that should not even be taking place – is in recess today and about half way through jury selection. “We are now up to 7 jurors, and we only need 9 more (the jury is 16 people – 12 jurors and 4 alternates). Cecily’s lawyers were able to once again bring up their desire to mention Officer Bovell’s history of violent conduct and gained permission to question him about it, which is really good for us. Just like anyone, there are good police, and there are bad police… and this one is pretty bad.” Bovell’s history is critically important because the prosecution is essentially a one witness case. Cecily’s case has finally gotten some major mainstream media coverage. The New York Times published a fair story that described Cecily as “a labor organizer, was a nanny and a graduate student at the New School when she was arrested. She has said she went to Zuccotti Park that night to meet a friend, not to join the protest.”
Human rights activists are calling on the government to grant amnesty and unconditional freedom to all political prisoners incarcerated because of COINTELPRO, a secret federal law enforcement program that destroyed Black and dissident organizations in the 1960s and 1970s. Men and women who sacrificed their lives so others could enjoy civil liberties and human rights in America are now aging and suffering failing health as they languish in prison, some for 40 years, and many in solitary confinement cells, unfit even for dogs, said their advocates. It is imperative that those they fought for remember and fight for them, said the activists. J. Edgar Hoover, former head of the FBI, began the covert, illegal CounterIntelligence Program in 1956 to destroy militant organizations.