Lethal Injection: 30 Years of Hypocrisy

lethal injection

TEXAS CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, Art. 43.24. TREATMENT OF CONDEMNEDNo torture, or ill treatment, or unnecessary pain, shall be inflicted upon a prisoner to be executed under the sentence of the law.

Hypocrisy: a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially: the false assumption of an appearance of virtue.

30 years ago, just after midnight, Dec. 7, 1982, Texas executed Charlie Brooks with a lethal cocktail of three drugs.  Texas had been execution-free for 18 years, since 1964. The first African American executed in the U.S. since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, Brooks’ final words were an Islamic prayer (“There is no God but Allah. Verily do we belong and verily unto Him do we return.”) followed by a “stay strong” to his girlfriend.


Google, the Benevolent Behemoth?

google censored

Google's new transparency report documents an alarming rise in censorship by governments, from the US to China.

If you are not familiar with Google’s transparency reporting, you should be.

By monitoring access to Google services and publishing that data in real time, Google’s transparency tool “visualizes disruption in the free flow of information, whether it’s a government blocking information or a cable being cut,” which has great potential to augment early warning efforts for mass repression.

At any time, you can see requests for url removal from search results for copyright claims, and see who those purported owners are. As we know from discussion on this blog around PIPA and SOPA, Google’s efforts to combat infringement of intellectual property rights—at least narrowly defined—are in keeping with human rights law, and important for staving off really bad policies.


Iran Global Day of Action a Resounding Success

Protests in more than 80 countries, with numbers ranging from a couple hundred to several thousand, took to the streets on Saturday to stand in solidarity with the Iranian people against the government’s brutal crackdown this summer. Among the 1,000 people in Amsterdam was Iran’s Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi who led the crowd in chanting: “We want to live in peace. Long live peace”.

The event will hopefully force the Iranian authorities to display greater transparency regarding election results and provide those imprisoned with their human rights.

“Our message is very simple,” [Aaron Rhodes, an event organizer] said. “We’re supporting civil and human rights in Iran and we’re calling upon the government in Iran to cease their abuse of power, cease the imprisonment of innocent people and the torture of detainees and stop the violence against people who are simply trying to exercise their internationally protected human right to peacefully protest.”

Back in Tehran, opposition leaders Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Khatami urged the country’s clerics to intervene to help stop the spread of “oppression” by the authorities. They accused the government of “savagery” and that its “interrogation methods are a reminder of the dark era of the Shah”, who ruled until 1979.

Below are some videos from the various rallies across the world:

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post

China Mandates PC Companies Install Software That Censors

By Tony Cruz, Amnesty International USA’s Business & Economic Relations Group

Starting July 1, 2009, the Chinese government is mandating all PC makers such as Hewlett Packard and Dell install software that filters Internet content.  The government says it is to help give parents control over inappropriate material, such as pornography, but Business Week reports that the software blocks political and religious websites. And after the government of China’s recent internet crackdown on the 20th anniversary of Tienanmen Square earlier this month, and the widely known controversial self-censorship of companies such as Yahoo and Google, it is clear that the Chinese government continues to use technology to suppress freedom of expression.

For the last three years, I’ve represented Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) at Yahoo! and Google’s shareholder meetings addressing their decisions to self-censor. I’ve asked executives to support freedom of expression on the Internet through such legislation as the Global Online Freedom Act (H.R. 275) which could help IT companies resist information requests by the Chinese government.

Imagine this scenario: if Yahoo! and Google backed this legislation three years ago, the choice facing HP and Dell today would be an easy one — respect human rights or go to jail. But they have not taken concrete steps to rectify their decision to self-censor, a decision that even Google co-founder Sergei Brin calls a “mistake”. In fact, AIUSA recently pulled out of the multi-stakeholder initiative we joined in 2007, with the goal of establishing voluntary principles to promote and respect human rights on the Internet, because we saw no tangible results.

This week we’re able to see in real-time how critical the Internet is for Iranians as a forum for protest and communication. In China, the Internet is equally vital in voicing dissent and discussing justice and rights. If PC companies cave into the Chinese government’s demands to install software that filters internet content, then it could be the next step towards stifling this budding online democratic movement towards accountability, transparency, citizens’ right to participate.

So what’s next for PC companies? Will they be pioneers in socially responsible business practices or will they bend to the Great Firewall of China?

Join us in defending online freedom in China by taking this simple action.

With contributions from Anna Phelan (BERG) and Lillian Tan, Corporate Action Network Intern

Transparency Still an Unfulfilled Promise by President Obama

The Obama Administration has already taken several laudable steps to separate itself from illegal policies and practices of its predecessor, and I applaud them for it.  I’m glad Attorney General Holder released some of the shocking legal memoranda prepared by the Bush Office of Legal Counsel, which authorized blatantly unlawful and unconstitutional acts by the executive branch.  But I choked a bit on Mr. Holder’s statement that “Americans deserve a government that operates with transparency and openness.”  I agree wholeheartedly, but I find this sentiment glaringly at odds with some of the Justice Department’s own recent actions.

In several pending court cases that began before President Obama took office, summarized by blogger Glenn Greenwald, among others, the Obama Justice Department has recently taken positions that appear to embrace the Bush Justice Department’s expansive view of Presidential power.  For example, in a lawsuit brought against the Jeppesen company, a Boeing subsidiary, by five alleged victims of “extraordinary rendition,” the Obama administration invoked the “state secrets” doctrine to keep certain documents out of the hands of the plaintiffs, with the apparent aim of depriving them of their day in court.  In this and other recent cases where Eric Holder’s Justice Department has taken similar positions, no administration official has bothered to offer any explanation for doing so.  So much for transparency and openness!  Yet these actions cry out for an explanation because, on their face, they are so conspicuously at odds with President Obama’s and the Attorney General’s own declared values and promises.

It’s beginning to appear that what we have is a President who disagrees with many of the specific policies and practices of his predecessor but who reserves the right to adopt them himself — or other, possibly equally illegal practices — if he feels the need in the future.  This should serve as another sad reminder of the need to ensure that honoring our obligations under domestic and international law is not left up to the whim of whoever happens to be our President at any given time.  A good first step would be a thorough investigation by an impartial panel of experts into all US government counterterrorism practices since 9/11, in a manner that enables criminal prosecutions to be undertaken where warranted.  Only by demonstrating that lawlessness has serious consequences can we ensure that whether we have a government that obeys the law does not remain a matter of Presidential preference.