In Turkey, the crackdown on independent journalism continues. Mehmet Baransu remains in jail, apparently a victim of the government’s crackdown on the Gulen Movement. Other journalists in Turkey have been charged under Turkey’s dangerously vague anti-terror statutes. Meanwhile, a pattern of media outlets sacking voices deemed critical of the government continues, with the newspaper, Milliyet, firing seven journalists this past month. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
When I heard about the shooting in Garland, Texas, my first thought was: Is my family safe?
I grew up in a town near Garland, and much of my family still lives there. I didn’t know who had been shot at or why, but I wanted to know if my loved ones were okay. They were.
My second thought was less urgent: it was just a nostalgia for my hometown in Texas. Its treeless freeways and strip shopping malls were bland. But the people where I grew up were kind and inviting – even the teenagers, and even when it came to people like me.
On Wednesday March 6th at 9 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its ninth periodic oversight hearing of the Department of Justice with Attorney General Eric Holder. It’s not a hearing on drones and the Obama administration’s counter terrorism policy, but it should be.
As we saw with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s confirmation hearing with John Brennan several weeks ago, the Obama administration’s killing program remains shrouded in secrecy and the little information we do know gives grounds to conclude that the program as a whole allows for the use of lethal force that violates the right to life under international law.
Late last night, President Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law with provisions that restrict the transfer of Guantanamo detainees and further impede closure of the prison. Furthermore, nothing was done to correct provisions in last year’s NDAA that further entrench indefinite military detention, unfair trials, and the U.S. government’s “global war” framework, in U.S. law.
The “global war” framework— which holds that the U.S. government is engaged in a global, pervasive, never-ending “war” with al-Qaeda and other vaguely defined groups and individuals—was first articulated by the Bush administration and has been embraced by the Obama administration.
Expressed in the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and reaffirmed in the 2012 NDAA, this “global war” doctrine is used to justify everything from killings with drones to detention without charge at Guantanamo to renditions (still happening, according to a Washington Post report) to impunity for crimes under international law, including torture and enforced disappearances.
Today, Congress again failed to uphold the U.S. government’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. It passed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with provisions that would gravely hinder the effort to close Guantanamo prison, and would further entrench indefinite detention.
This is unacceptable, morally and legally. And it’s a reason why Amnesty International and 28 other human rights, religious and civil liberties organizations sent a letter calling on President Obama to veto the NDAA.
After seeing the new film Zero Dark Thirty, I think there are three things everyone should know:
1) Zero Dark Thirty is not a documentary. The film’s screenwriter, Mark Boal, said: “It’s a movie. It’s not a documentary… My standard is not a journalistic standard of ‘Is this a word-for-word quote?’ I’m not asking to be held to that standard and I’m certainly not representing my film as that. The standard is more, ‘Is this more or less in the ballpark?'”
2) Torture did not help find Osama bin Laden. This is established by the public record and verified by people who have access to classified information. For example, yesterday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) sent this letter to the head of Sony Entertainment with citations pointing out that torture and other abuses did not help find Osama bin Laden.
Few people know about the plight of Guantánamo detainee Hussain Salem Mohammed Almerfedi, but they should. That’s why Amnesty International included his case in Write #4Rights, a special period of global activism from December 5th to 16th marking International Human Rights Day on December 10th.
Almerfedi is a Yemeni national who has been held in U.S. military custody at Guantánamo Bay for over nine years:
- He has never been charged with a crime or brought to trial by the U.S. government for any offence.
- He is one of 55 Guantánamo detainees who were publicly named by the Obama administration in September as cleared for transfer out of the prison.
- He was also cleared for transfer by the administration of former President George W. Bush.
- But he remains held without charge, and could be at Guantánamo for the rest of his life. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Nearly four years ago, on his second day in office, President Obama ordered the Guantanamo prison closed within one year. Today it remains open, with 166 detainees, and human rights violations in the name of “global war” have become the “new normal” there, at Bagram in Afghanistan and elsewhere, including indefinite detention, unfair trials, unlawful killings with drones and impunity for torture.
President Obama must make good on his promise to close the prison, and he must end–and ensure accountability for–human rights violations in the name of “global war.” Yes, there are obstacles to closure and reform–however, if President Obama were to change course and honor the U.S. government’s international human rights obligations, the path forward is clear, because human rights provide a framework that protect and ensure justice for all of us.
Here are 10 concrete steps–by no means exhaustive–President Obama can take now and in the near future to keep his promise and help make his rhetoric on human rights a reality:
1) Immediately recommit publicly to closing Guantanamo, recognize that international law applies to all U.S. counterterrorism operations, and recognize that the right way to close Guantanamo is to ensure that detainees are either charged and fairly prosecuted in federal court, or released to countries that will respect their human rights.
Why would President Obama want a Yemeni journalist, known for his reports of human rights abuses, to remain in Yemeni prison?
That’s the question Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ wants to know after two years in detention following his reports – later proven correct — that the United States was involved in a deadly attack on an alleged al-Qa’ida training camp which took place on Dec. 17, 2009.
Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ was the first Yemeni journalist to allege US involvement in the missile attack on the community of al-Ma’jalah. Shortly after the attack – which killed 41 local residents, including 21 children and 14 women – he wrote articles and spoke to news channel Al Jazeera and newspapers. In addition, 14 alleged al-Qa’ida members were also reportedly killed in the missile attack.
Adnan Latif died at Guantánamo on Saturday, after being held over 10 years without charge—despite a judge’s order that he be released.
Latif protested his treatment with a hunger strike and poetry; these lines were cleared by government censors and serve as a tragic reminder of the urgent need to end indefinite detention and close the prison:
“Hunger Strike Poem”
They are artists of torture,
They are artists of pain and fatigue,
They are artists of insults
Where is the world to save us
Where is the world to save us
from the fire and sadness?
Where is the world to save
the hunger strikers?