About Geneve Mantri

Geneve Mantri is the Government Relations Director, for Terrorism and Counterterrorism and Human Rights at Amnesty International USA. He is responsible for advocacy for Amnesty International on national security issues including detainees, torture and accountability. Previously he served as a Stimson Center Fellow working with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN ) on national security issues. He has also served as an Editor at National Defense University, as a consultant to the United Nations Children's Fund and the United Nations Development Program in New York and Eastern Europe. He has also worked as a news producer for Independent Television News in London. He was educated at Warwick University, in the United Kingdom and at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University in Massachusetts.
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House Passes NDAA & White House Won't Veto Indefinite Detention

Update 12/31: President Obama signs the NDAA into law.

© Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) yesterday 283 -136. The bill will make President Obama the first President since the red scare in the McCarthy era to sign a law to introduce indefinite detention in the US. It will keep the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, open potentially forever.

The Non Detention Act of 1971 was introduced specifically to address the indignities suffered by Japanese Americans interned during WW2 and the NDAA is the first bill to seek to actively turn that page back.

Ten years after the attacks of 9-11 with Osama Bin Laden finally removed from the equation, do we really need more draconian powers to undermine the liberties of US citizens? And why would we place that trust in this government, or blindly hand it to a future administration.


Indefinite Detention: 3 Conservative Voices of Reason

The House and Senate are locked in conference this week to thrash out the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2012. It’s a curious sign of the times that there are many conservative voices crying foul over the bill as well as progressive ones. Three in particular are worth noting.

Senator Rand Paul, cast one of the bravest votes last week against a bipartisan group that voted for the NDAA, one of the worst bills to cross the floor this year. It threatens to detain suspects indefinitely, undercuts the rights of US citizens, and sideline our best tools in countering terrorism in one fell swoop.

I don’t doubt the sincerity or passion of those on the opposing side, only their wisdom and their open ended faith in government. Those who place their blind faith and trust in government, and trust that authority will keep itself in check, are liable to find their liberties are eroded as surely as termites eat away an old wooden house.


Internment in the US? Not on Our Watch


A few weeks ago the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was condemned by Senator Reid as so draconian that he could not bring it to the floor. Now it’s back and with an authoritarian vengeance.

The bill has the necessary but perpetually complex objective of outlining the budget and expenditures of the Department of Defense.

This time around, a dubious, ill-informed, and unwise “agreement” has been reached between Senators Levin and McCain to include detention provisions that threaten to bring back internment for the first time since the McCarthy era at the height of the red scare.


Stop the Ayotte Amendment and Support Fair Trials

Update: We did it — thanks to your calls, the Senate successfully defeated Senator Ayotte’s amendment to ban fair trials for terror suspects! But the fight isn’t over. Please continue to help fight against other legislation that would keep Guantanamo open.

Sentor Kelly Ayotte R-NH ©Alex Wong/Getty Images

A new and dangerous amendment has been put on the appropriations omnibus bill on the Senate floor today — and now’s the time to pick up the phone and urge your Senators to vote no. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) has introduced an amendment to H.R. 2112 that would bar all federal trials for foreign terrorist suspects and goes further than any previous attempt to undermine the fight against terrorism.


Reid Stands Against Indefinite Detention in Senate Bill

Senator Harry Reid

Senator Harry Reid © Getty Images

Yesterday, we got some good news on human rights from Capitol Hill: Senate Majority leader Harry Reid threw down the gauntlet against indefinite detention provisions in this year’s National Defense Authorizations Act (NDAA). Reid declared he would not bring the new defense appropriations act to the floor unless provisions related to holding suspected terrorist detainees indefinitely were struck from the bill.

Amnesty members from all over the country have made a concerted impact by taking action in recent days, asking Senator Reid (D-NV) and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) to strike down provisions on indefinite detention from the bill.

In response, Senator Reid has said that the issue should warrant its own hearings after calls from both the chairs of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Pakistani Journalist Disappeared and Found Dead After Criticizing Armed Forces

As many of us were eating hot dogs, tending BBQs and watching fireworks to honor our fundamental freedoms, seven words in the New York Times caught my eye, “Pakistan’s spies tied to slaying of journalist“.  Seven words among the several thousand that pass my eyes every day before I even reach for a cup of coffee, that made me think about the Constitution, and the struggle for human rights.

A forty year old journalist, Saleem Shazad, disappeared on May 29, after writing an exposé of an attack on a Pakistani military base which indicated collusion from inside the armed forces.  Shazad’s body was found in a canal 60 miles from Islamabad.  “Mr. Shahzad suffered 17 lacerated wounds delivered by a blunt instrument, a ruptured liver and two broken ribs, said Dr. Mohammed Farrukh Kamal, one of the three physicians who conducted the post-mortem.”, according to the Times, which said he was the 37th journalist to be killed in Pakistan since 9/11.

The Obama Administration believes that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence directed the attack on him to silence his criticism. The Administration called the treatment of Shazad “barbaric”.  Yet, if anyone is in any doubt Pakistan is a crucial ally of the United States and a democratic state.  It remains the single most important regional country in the struggle against Al Qaeda, and the recipient of more than 20 billion dollars of US assistance since 9/11. These were not the crazed acts of frenzied tribesmen, they were the deliberate calculated acts of agents employed by the state.


Reflections on the Army, Torture and General Sanchez

It is a cold and icy morning in DC and as I slipped and skidded my way to work I clutched the latest copy of Atlantic Monthly.  There are two must reads in the issue for those really interested in national security and terrorism, but for me they read as two parts of the same story.

The first is a survey finding that the best officers in the Army continue to leave after reaching company grade ranks:

“An exclusive survey of West Point graduates shows that it’s not just money. Increasingly, the military is creating a command structure that rewards conformism and ignores merit.”

The January/February 2011 issue of the Atlantic Monthly.

The best and the brightest are serving but they are also leaving.  The civilian sector is filled with great leaders who have served at all ranks of the military and sadly the military’s loss is society’s gain.  But it is an important bellwether when great young people are driven out, and they leave not necessarily because they are lured by better offers, or because of fatigue with multiple deployments, but as a sign of their confidence in the system and who the system chooses to promote.

There are cycles in the life of all institutions and when an organization hits a trough, it often reflects poor leadership at the top, cynicism, and a sense of being part of what General Edward Meyer once called “a hollow army”.

The second piece is another ode to fate of General Ricardo Sanchez.  (Truth in advertising – General Sanchez has backed a truth commission which Amnesty International also supports, and he has at times shared a stage with Amnesty supporters.)


Another Country, Another Assassination

It has been a week of tragic political violence in the United States, and as we collectively mourn our fellow citizens and brave public servants at home, it is sad but timely to recall that in another world the reaction to another assassination has been very different.

Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab was assassinated a week ago at the hands of his own bodyguard, in broad daylight, at Khosar market in Islamabad, a place popular with expats and elites.  He was shot more than 20 times at close range, for the crime of defending a woman who was convicted under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Pakistani policemen secure the site of a fatal attack on Salman Taseer by his bodyguard in Islamabad on January 4, 2011. Salman Taseer, outspoken against the Taliban and other Islamist militants was assassinated on January 4, apparently for opposing blasphemy laws. AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

Taseer, a progressive thoughtful voice for reform, of the Pakistan People’s Party, had filed a petition in defense of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who has been condemned to death for blasphemy, in a case that has sparked international controversy.  Salman Taseer had also defended the rights of Pakistan’s Ahmadi community, who are ruled to be non Muslims, and spoke out against the misuse of the Constitution to persecute minorities.

It is a sad and disturbing comment on the current state of Pakistan that he died at the hands of those who were sent to protect him.  It was shocking that arguably one of the most prominent politicians in the most prominent of states – Punjab, could be shot dead.

But the reaction in the wake of his death has been equally chilling.  The Barelevi party, Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, issued a statement celebrating the killing and warning Pakistanis not to mourn Taseer’s death.  And while thousands attended his funeral, the fear of violence was strong enough to keep President Asif Ali Zadari, from paying tribute, and public sentiment was strong enough to keep others like Nawaz Sharif from attending.

By contrast the 26 year old killer, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, was showered with petals, and feted by many members of the Lawyers Movement who had challenged the government of President Musharaf in 2007, and many others offered to defend him free of charge.

Acts of madmen do not speak for average Pakistanis anymore than they speak for average Americans.  But as we honor the memory of Martin Luther King this weekend, and honor his legacy, we would do well to remember that human rights are still proclaimed at great sacrifice by people across the world in large acts and small in an unending tribute to reaffirm our common humanity.

Funding Bill Threatens Fair Trials for Detainees


The Senate is about to vote on an omnibus spending bill which includes a provision that would represent a major setback to the fight for human rights at Guantanamo. The provision bars the spending of federal funds to move any detainee – including Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – from Guantanamo to the US for any purpose, including trial, through September 2011.

The House passed the measure last week, even though most members did not realize the Guantanamo provision was part of the huge spending bill.

The Obama administration has opposed the measure. Last week Attorney General Eric Holder called the provision:

“an extreme and risky encroachment on the authority of the executive branch to determine when and where to prosecute terrorist subjects.”

This bill would stop the US from bringing terrorism suspects to justice in federal courts — the most experienced and proven forum. These are the very same federal courts that used by the Justice Department during the Bush and Obama administrations to convict more than 400 individuals of terrorism‐related crimes since 9/11. Only last month Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Ghailani was successfully convicted in a free and fair trial and will likely be jailed for the rest of his life.

Amnesty is not alone in calling on the Senate to vote against this provision. Last week a group of 17 military leaders wrote Congress, urging them “to oppose any restrictions proposed for inclusion in the fiscal year 2011 funding bill that would put politics before American values and national security and hinder the President from bringing suspected terrorists to justice.”

And many of our country’s leading national security and foreign policy experts – including General David Petraeus, General Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and five former Secretaries of State from both parties – believe that closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility is essential to U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

There’s still time for us to pressure the Senate and block this provision, but we need you to call your Senators right now and urge them to oppose it. You can reach your Senators by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or email them here.


Senate to Vote on 9/11 Health and Compensation Act

The 9/11 Heath & Compensation Act would ensure medical treatment and compensation for 9/11 responders and other survivors.

In the morning of September 11 James Zadroga, an NYPD detective was driving home after an arraignment in the city.  He was almost there when he turned on the radio, he grabbed a bag and rushed back to Manhattan, leaving his crying wife Rhonda who was seven months pregnant.

In the city he was assigned to a traffic post, but made his way to the World Trade Center, one among ten thousand who combed the wreckage of the North and South Towers for three weeks after the attacks.

So much is clear, so much is unclear.  Why an otherwise healthy, fit, and strong NYPD detective, 216 pounds, six feet tall, who had never smoked, and never suffered from asthma, was forced to go sick in 2002, and why he died in 2006 – aged 34.  His last year was spent tethered to an oxygen bottle, gasping for each breath.

For many the debris that swirled in the air in the wake of the twin towers has never settled.  3,000 people died and the list is still growing.  We look to science and medicine for answers, we find doubt, we could have looked to law for justice, but we found fear. There are many open questions that may never be answered about 911 and its aftermath, but what we owe James Zadroga and his 4 year old daughter is not one of them.  We should weigh a doubt upon a certainty and support the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The act reopens the Victims’ Compensation Fund, ensures medical treatment and monitoring for first responders, and offers liability protections for New York City.

The bill passed the House last month and is fast tracked for action as soon as the Senate returns in November.  Please ask your Senator to support the James Zadroga 911 Health and Compensation Act.