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Three-Fifths of an Attorney General Declares POWs “Non-Persons” July 24, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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Roger’s note: Congratulations.  Barak Obama and Eric Holder, with the essential contribution of George Bush, have managed to score a trifecta: a policy and implementation at Guantanamo Bay that is all three, Orwellian, Kafkaesque and Lewis Carroll at the same time.  Torture, indefinite detention, and people who are not persons.  “Execution first, then the trial” shouted the Queen.

And by the way, the three fifths of a person of African slaves that was in the original constitution is even worse than it appears at face value.  Slaves would have been better off if not considered as persons at all.  The southern states lobbied for three fifths so that their slaves would be counted in the census, which in turn determined their level of representation in the House of Representative.  More slaves on the roll via the three fifths gave the southern state more political clout with which to defend slavery.  Thus, being counted as less than fully human was a double whammy against the slaves.  Kafka would have loved it.

 

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Protestors gathered in New York City’s Time Square in April of 2013 to raise awareness of detainee hunger strikes and indefinite imprisonment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. (Photo: flickr / cc /Jordan P)

 

Hand it to President Obama for appointing Eric Holder the first African American Attorney General in US history. Then try to fathom that after generations of civil and human rights work by African Americans — whom the US Constitution once called “3/5 of a person” — it is Holder who declared some brown skinned prisoners of war to be “non-persons.” The men are held outside the law by the US at Guantánamo Bay.

Attorneys for the POWs have asked for an order that would allow group prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, but Holder’s Justice Dept. has formally replied that the men aren’t entitled to relief under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) because the Supreme Court has not found that Guantánamo’s prisoners “are ‘persons’ to whom RFRA applies.”

Holder calls the men “unprivileged enemy belligerents detained overseas during a period of ongoing hostilities.” Calling them prisoners of war would require respecting their human rights.

Cori Crider, an attorney with the legal charity Reprieve who represents some of the men, said in a statement, “I fail to see how the President can stand up and claim Guantánamo is a scandal while his lawyers call detainees non-persons in court. If the President is serious about closing this prison, he could start by recognizing that its inmates are people — most of whom have been cleared by his own Government.”

According to AG Holder, US Appeals Court rulings mean Guantánamo’s POWs — whom he calls “nonresident aliens outside the US sovereign territory” — are “not protected ‘person[s].’” In the infamous Hobby Lobby case Holder argues, the Supreme Court refused to say that the word “‘person’ as used in RFRA includes a nonresident alien outside sovereign United States territory.”

Even if RFRA applied to the POWs, Holder claims, the law “cannot overcome the judicial presumption against extraterritorial application of statutes.” Translation: US Law doesn’t apply at Gitmo, or, the reason the US isolates non-persons at an off-shore military penal colony in the first place is so we can ignore or violate “statutes” with impunity. And if we convince ourselves that “unprivileged enemy belligerents” are not people, we should be able to sleep even if we violate the US torture statute (18 USC, Sec. 1, Ch. 113C), the Convention Against Torture and the US War Crimes Act (18 USC, Sec. 2441) ¾ for years on end.

America’s indefinite imprisonment without charges, hunger strikers and force-feeding

My own jail and prison time, all for political protests, has always come with a clear sentence: six days, 90 days, 180 days; 54 months in all. Anybody who’s been on the inside knows that a release date gives you something fast to hold on to, even if you’re called by a number, fed through a slot, handcuffed for court. But imagine 156 months in a nihilistic “extraterritorial” military prison, with no charges, no trial, no sentence, no visits, phone calls or mail, and no hope.

This is what the USA imposes at Guantánamo, a torturous psychological vice of legal oblivion and manufactured futurelessness. Add to this appalling construction the fact that 72 of 149 remaining inmates were approved for release more than four years ago — but are chained up anyway. Scores of Gitmo’s inmates have looked into this man-made oblivion and decided to die. They are using the only power they have left, the dreadful hunger-strike, both as a protest against their endless detention without trial and their only means of eventually ending it.

The US military has chosen to force-feed hunger strikers, gruesomely plunging plastic tubes up the non-persons’ noses. This abuse violates laws against torture, and the force-feeding schedule is the original basis for the religious rights petition so vigorously opposed by Obama and Holder. The ghastly traumatic stress resulting from enduring force-feeding and the regime of its application make Ramadan’s prayerful group reflection impossible. US District Judge Gladys Kessler has, according to Charlie Savage in the New York Times, publicly condemned the abuse for causing “agony.” For PR purposes the Pentagon and Justice Department call the abuse “enteral feeding.”

Mr. Holder has called “not credible” the prisoners’ complaints about “alleged aspects of enteral feeding” and “allegations that detainees who were being enterally fed were not permitted to pray communally during Ramadan in 2013.” But after the number of hunger strikers reached 106 last year, the military halted its public reporting of the strike.

Significantly, a Navy medical officer at Guantánamo has become the first prison official known to refuse force-feeding duty. The unidentified nurse’s refusal was acknowledged by the Pentagon July 15.

If Holder wins his frightening argument denying the humanity of the men at Guantánamo, even the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals could object. The ASPCA says its vision is that “the US is a humane community in which all animals are treated with respect and kindness.”

Arms treaty supporters hope to see stalled pact move ahead after U.S. election July 29, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in War.
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Roger’s note: “The power of the U.S. gun lobby was evident in President Barack Obama’s sudden reversal of his earlier co-operation, which had helped to close arms transfer loopholes that would have been impossible to plug without the agreement of the world’s largest arms exporter.”

“War is Peace!” says Nobel Peace Laureate Barak “Orwell” Obama.

Published on Saturday July 28, 2012

 

Rifles

Alex Brandon/AP  Global trade in conventional weapons is estimated at $60 billion a year. The huge profits for arms manufacturers are cited as a major hurdle in negotiating an Arms Treaty Pact, which was stalled on Friday after the U.S. asked for a postponement.

 
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By Ward, OliviaForeign Affairs Reporter
 
 Supporters of a global Arms Trade Treaty are vowing to revive it after negotiations came to a halt Friday, a casualty of America’s election-year political wars.

“(We are) determined to secure an Arms Trade Treaty as soon as possible, one that will bring about a safer world for the sake of all humanity,” said Mexico, speaking for a group of 90 countries.

The treaty, aimed at regulating the $60-billion trade in conventional arms, which are estimated to kill more than 700,000 people a year, had appeared to be headed for a successful finish by the Friday deadline after more than three weeks of debating in New York by national arms control teams.

But at the last moment the U.S. told delegates to the 193-country UN conference that it needed more time to consult on the pact. Treaty skeptics Russia and China also asked for a postponement.

Control Arms, a coalition of several dozen international advocacy groups, among them Amnesty International and Oxfam, said the treaty should go speedily to the UN General Assembly “to improve the text and establish a process for its agreement.”

However, there is little hope it could be adopted before next year, after this fall’s U.S. election. There are also fears that it could unravel if some countries demand that negotiations start over again.

The power of the U.S. gun lobby was evident in President Barack Obama’s sudden reversal of his earlier co-operation, which had helped to close arms transfer loopholes that would have been impossible to plug without the agreement of the world’s largest arms exporter.

The National Rifle Association has been campaigning to convince American lawmakers that the treaty would be a disguised “gun grab” that would deny lawful U.S. owners their constitutional right to bear arms. The group is credited with unseating U.S. politicians who take a positive stand on gun control.

As the treaty neared completion Thursday, a bipartisan group of 51 senators wrote to Obama threatening to oppose it if it fell short of what they consider a constitutional guarantee of U.S. gun ownership rights. Each country’s lawmakers must ratify the treaty after it is signed.

Obama’s about-face drew outrage from those who have been striving for such a treaty for nearly 10 years. In 2006, the UN General Assembly voted to begin work on it but lacked the support of the U.S. In 2009 Obama ended America’s opposition and agreed to join the negotiations.

The pact, which covers a wide range of weapons including tanks, armoured vehicles, combat aircraft and helicopters, rockets, warships, and portable weapons, is one of the most contentious the UN has negotiated because it would affect huge profits for highly competitive exporters worldwide.

Under the treaty, exporting countries would be forced to halt transfers of weapons if they judged that these weapons would be used to violate international human rights. Countries would also have to prevent weapons from going to terrorists or organized crime rings, such as Mexico’s drug cartels.

Senior ministers from Britain, France, Germany and Sweden, which backed the treaty, said that “coupled with a growth in the illicit trafficking of arms, we are facing a growing threat to humanity.

“Every year millions of people suffer from direct and indirect effects of the poorly regulated arms trade and illicit trafficking of arms. Hundreds of thousands are killed or injured. Many are raped or forced to abandon their homes. Others live under a constant threat of violence,” they wrote in the Guardian earlier this month.

But Kim Holmes of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank which opposes the treaty, called it “contradictory and unenforceable,” saying it “would bind law-abiding nations while letting tyrants off the hook.”

The treaty’s definition of human rights and acceptable arms transfers “could be used to protect their arms exporters from U.S. competition,” Holmes wrote in the Washington Times.