Tomorrow, Pennsylvania’s Superior Court is set to hear an appeal against an earlier decision to try 13-year-old Jordan Brown in an adult court.
Jordan is charged with killing Kenzie Houk, his father’s pregnant fiancée, in 2009, when he was 11 years old; he is charged with two counts of homicide.
Amnesty International has urged US authorities in Pennsylvania not to try Jordan in an adult court, as doing so could result in a violation of international law. If tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder, he would face life imprisonment without parole.
Jordan Brown is the youngest person known to Amnesty to be currently at risk of being sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. The US is the only country we know of in the world that pursues life imprisonment without parole against children – and it does so regularly. Currently there are at least 2,500 people who are serving life imprisonment without parole for crimes committed before they turned 18.
The USA and Somalia are also the only countries in the world that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits life imprisonment without the possibility of release for crimes committed under the age of 18. Amnesty International is calling on the US to bring its laws in line with international standards on the treatment of children accused of criminal offenses.
It is shocking that anyone this young could face life imprisonment without parole, let alone in a country which labels itself as a progressive force for human rights.
Again and again we’re told that closing Guantanamo is “complicated.” I don’t see what’s complicated about it. Flying a chunk of metal with people in it to the moon? That’s complicated. Following U.S. and international law? Not so much. Try the detainees in federal courts or release them. If they are tried and found guilty, then incarcerate them in the US. I’ll help build a special prison in my neighborhood. If they are found not guilty, then release them. I have a room for rent. The “complicated” rhetoric serves as a stalling tactic and a justification for the whole mess. I don’t buy it. As always, I’m open to being convinced by a logical argument, but the burden of proof is on those who claim it’s hard to follow the law.
Which brings me to Obama’s comments on investigating and prosecuting crimes committed by members of the Bush administration. Since when is moving “forward” in tension with investigating and prosecuting people who broke the law? If we are going to move forward, then investigating and prosecuting crimes is exactly what we have to do. If we are going to move forward, Obama and Congress must commit this country to the rule of law.
As a New Yorker who saw the Towers fall, as an American who is ashamed that his tax dollars have gone towards murder and torture, and as a citizen of the world who wants his family and friends to be safe, happy and free, I am so, so very ready for those responsible for 9/11 to be held accountable, for those responsible for torture to be held accountable, and for a U.S. President to follow the law and uphold human rights. Is it really so hard to do the right thing?