Protecting Americans Abroad, And Human Rights

If you were detained abroad, would you want to be guaranteed access to help from your Embassy?  Of course you would.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from officials at the Department of Justice, the State Department, prominent constitutional lawyers, and Clare Gillis, a journalist who spent 44 fearful days detained in Libya, in support of the Consular Notification Compliance Act, legislation introduced earlier this summer by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

This bill enlists state law enforcement officials and federal courts to comply with a 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling, known as the Avena decision, which ordered the U.S. to remedy its failure to inform 51 foreign national death row prisoners of their right to access their consulate “without delay”.  This right is specified by the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations (VCCR), which became U.S. law in 1969. One of the 51 men, Humberto Leal, was recently executed by Texas as Leahy presented his legislation.

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Who Cares About Treaty Obligations? Not Texas.

Can the United States find a way to respect a simple treaty obligation?  One of such obvious importance for protecting Americans traveling abroad?  We’ll find out within a week.

Under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, foreign nationals who are arrested while abroad have the right to contact their consulate “without delay” for legal assistance. However, Texas authorities never informed Mexican national Humberto Leal of this right.

Now, the case of Humberto Leal, due to be executed on July 7 for the 1994 murder of a 16-year-old girl in San Antonio, has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Government of Mexico has filed an amicus brief in support of Leal’s Supreme Court petition, noting that the United States has continued to be a “forceful advocate” for Americans detained in Mexico, and urging the U.S. government to uphold its end of the treaty.

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US citizen critically injured protesting illegal wall in Ni'ilin, West Bank

Tristan Anderson    Photo:  www.activestills.org

Tristan Anderson Photo: www.activestills.org

Tristan Anderson, a 37 year old American, was shot in the head by Israeli forces with a high velocity tear gas canister while participating in an on-going protest of the wall being built illegally by Israel in the West Bank town of Ni’ilin.  Another Ni’ilin villager was also shot.

Four residents of Ni’ilin, including children, have been killed while protesting the confiscation of their land in the recent past.

[Note:  In 2004, the International Court of Justice found all parts of the wall being built on Palestinian land illegal and that these portions should be removed.  Instead the GOI continues to build the wall on occupied territory - including this portion in Ni'ilin.]

According to the IDF, the protestors were ‘endangering security forces’.  According to eyewitnesses, the IDF were stationed on a hill overlooking the protest and the protest had already begun to disperse when a tear gas canister was fired directly at people.  Tristan was not near any stone throwers or throwing stones himself.

A fellow protestor from Sweden said she could see Tristan’s brain when she went to provide aid and that medical personnel and the ambulance was detained outside the village by the IDF, but were finally allowed to pass and tend to Tristan.  The video below shows the paramedics when they arrive on the scene, clearly marked, while the IDF continues to fire tear gas canisters directly at the medics, the wounded and those trying to help.

WARNING: Video provided has some gruesome footage towards the end.

This Monday, March 16 2009 marks the 6th anniversary of the death of another US citizen, Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by an American made Caterpillar bulldozer while trying to negotiate with the driver not to destroy the home of a Palestinian pharmacist in the Gaza Strip.  She was 23 years old.

UPDATE (March 13):  Orly Levi, a spokeswoman at the Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv, tells Ha’aretz:

He’s in critical condition, anesthetized and on a ventilator and undergoing imaging tests,” She described Anderson’s condition as life-threatening.

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollack told Ynet:

“… the firing incident took place inside the village and not next to the fence. There were clashes in the earlier hours, but he wasn’t part of them. He didn’t throw stones and wasn’t standing next to the stone throwers.”

“There was really no reason to fire at them. The Dutch girl standing next to him was not hurt. It only injured him, like a bullet.”

UPDATE (March 13 11:50pm): Tristan is sedated and in surgery, being seen by an ophthalmologist, and will likely be in surgery for some time.

UPDATE (March 14  7:42pm:  Tristan’s girlfriend, Gabrielle Silverman, talks of trip to hospital and Tristan’s condition on Bay City News and KTVU.

Note: Friends of Anderson will hold a demonstration on Monday at 4 p.m. at the Israeli Consulate, located at 456 Montgomery St. in San Francisco.

UPDATE (March 15):  Photo of the new tear gas canister type (with propeller) that hit Tristan Anderson.  Photo from www.palsolidarity.org website.

UPDATE (March 15):  A public statement by the parents of Tristan and articles written by Tristan can be found at the San Francisco indymedia website.

BACKGROUND INFO:

More information on the two Palestinian minors/children killed in 2008 by IDF in Ni’ilin from www.btselem.org:

Yusef Ahmad Yunes ‘Amira
17 year-old resident of Ni’lin, Ramallah and al-Bira district, injured on 30.07.2008 near the Separation Barrier in the area of Ni’lin, Ramallah and al-Bira district, by gunfire, and died on 04.08.2008. Did not participate in hostilities when killed. Additional information: Died after being critically wounded during a confrontation with soldiers and Border Police.

10 year-old resident of Ni’lin, Ramallah and al-Bira district, killed on 29.07.2008 in Ni’lin, Ramallah and al-Bira district, by gunfire. Did not participate in hostilities when killed. Additional information: Killed when taking part in a procession against the Separation Barrier in Nil’in.

On September 23, 2008 a Jerusalem Post article ran about an incident where tear gas was used against a European Union official and delegation when he was visiting Ni’ilin.

UPDATE (March 23, 2009 2:30pm est):  According to Ma’an News Agency, Israeli troops beat some activists and journalists who were gathered for a press conference by Tristan Anderson’s parents in an east Jerusalem neighborhood.

UPDATE (April 17, 2009 12:00pm est):  A Palestinian man was killed by Israeli forces in Bi’lin, West Bank by the same tear gas canister type that had critically injured American Tristan Anderson only a month ago during a protest.