< /head > Colorado Coalition for Human Rights: April 2006

Sunday, April 30, 2006

FBI Investigated 3,501 People Without Warrants

From the AP via Common Dreams NewsCenter:

The FBI secretly sought information last year on 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents from their banks and credit card, telephone and Internet companies without a court's approval, the Justice Department said Friday. It was the first time the Bush administration has publicly disclosed how often it uses the administrative subpoena known as a National Security Letter, which allows the executive branch of government to obtain records about people in terrorism and espionage investigations without a judge's approval or a grand jury subpoena. Friday's disclosure was mandated as part of the renewal of the Patriot Act, the administration's sweeping anti-terror law.

Click here
to read the article.

--Tom Hayes

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Rally for Action in Darfur

A coalition of people who want action taken to stop the genocide being committed in Darfur are holding a rally in Washington D.C. this weekend on Sunday, April 30th. In addition to the main rally in D.C., there will be other rallies across the nation.

To find out more information on the situation in Darfur and to view past posts on this subject click here.

To find a local rally in your state, click here.

Also check out "Sudan's Bashir Rebuffs U.N. on Peacekeepers" from the Washington Post. As the article reports:

Sudan's president has rejected a U.N. appeal to allow its peacekeepers into the Darfur region to help stem a tide of violence that has left more than 100,000 dead and more than 2 million displaced over the past three years, a senior U.N. official told the Security Council on Wednesday.

The remarks represented a setback for a U.S.-backed proposal to send more than 15,000 U.N. and NATO peacekeepers to Darfur to replace an underequipped African Union force of more than 6,000 troops. The Bush administration has accused Sudan and a government-backed militia of committing genocide in Darfur.

--Tom Hayes

Ethics Bill Clears the House in Tight Vote

From the Washington Post:

The House narrowly cleared the way yesterday to vote on an overhaul of congressional lobbying rules after hours of contentious, closed-door meetings yielded a Republican agreement to broaden measures to rein in home-district pet projects and other narrow special-interest amendments.

The 216 to 207 vote followed a tumultuous day in which the measure had to be set aside for five hours while Republicans met in emergency session to revive the faltering legislation. Up to the moment a vote was held last evening, House Republican leaders feared an embarrassing defeat.

But a last-minute deal between House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and rebellious Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee salvaged the legislation, which is now scheduled for a vote Tuesday.

Hastert promised appropriators that they would not alone be targeted by a provision that requires narrowly tailored "earmarks" be identified by the names of their sponsors and be subject to a special type of vote that could remove them. The leadership pledged to broaden the earmark provision in later negotiations with the Senate so that it will apply to all sorts of legislation, from transportation to taxation.

Click here to read the article.

--Tom Hayes

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Supreme Court to Hear Lethal Injection Challenge

From the Washington Post:

Invented almost three decades ago as a humane alternative to other methods of execution, lethal injection is now on the defensive, facing a surprisingly effective attack in the courts from those who argue that it actually can cause intense but undetectable physical pain.

The court challenges have at least temporarily slowed the pace of capital punishment as it was otherwise declining because of falling murder rates and public concern over the system's fairness and accuracy.

Although there is no prospect that the courts will abolish lethal injection, the Supreme Court could make it easier for convicted murderers to press such claims -- further delaying their executions -- if it rules in favor of a Florida death row inmate, Clarence E. Hill, whose case is scheduled for oral arguments today.

Click here to read the article.

Also check out:

High Court Justices Clash Over Executions from the Washington Post.

--Tom Hayes

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Study Finds Healthcare of Katrina Evacuees to be Lacking

Excerpts from a New York Times article:

New York Times
April 18, 2006
Evacuee Study Finds Declining Health

Families displaced by Hurricane Katrina are suffering from mental disorders and chronic conditions like asthma and from a lack of prescription medication and health insurance at rates that are much higher than average, a new study has found.

The study, conducted by the Mailman School of Public Health at
Columbia University and the Children's Health Fund, is the first to examine the health issues of those living in housing provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Based on face-to-face interviews with more than 650 families living in trailers or hotels, it provides a grim portrait of the hurricane's effects on some of the poorest victims, showing gaps in the tattered safety net pieced together from government and private efforts.

Among the study's findings: 34 percent of displaced children suffer from conditions like asthma, anxiety and behavioral problems, compared with 25 percent of children in urban
Louisiana before the storm. Fourteen percent of them went without prescribed medication at some point during the three months before the survey, which was conducted in February, compared with 2 percent before the hurricane.

Nearly a quarter of school-age children were either not enrolled in school at the time of the survey or had missed at least 10 days of school in the previous month. Their families had moved an average of 3.5 times since the storm.

The study's authors recommended expanding Medicaid to provide universal disaster relief and emergency mental health services, as well as sending doctors and counselors from the federal Public Health Service to the region.

The Children's Health Fund, a health care provider and advocacy group, is not the only organization to raise the alarm about mental health care for traumatized children after Hurricane Katrina. A report issued earlier this month by the Children's Defense Fund said youngsters were being "denied the chance to share their bad memories and clear their psyches battered by loss of family members, friends, homes, schools and neighborhoods."


Nepal's King Says He Will Yield Power to Parties

From the Washington Post:

In an emergency television address, King Gyanendra declared Friday that he would hand power to Nepal's main political parties, following 16 days of often-violent protests that have brought the Himalayan country to a standstill.
The king broke days of silence in an effort to calm a street movement that has gained momentum in the face of mass arrests and rushes by baton-wielding police, drawing support from diverse sectors of Nepalese society. Many young protesters demand nothing less than the abdication of Gyanendra, who assumed absolute power 14 months ago.

Click here to read the article.

--Tom Hayes

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Death Penalty in 2005

Amnesty International has released a new report about the death penalty in 2005. The report can be accessed by clicking here, and it has many interesting statistics about the U.S. as well as other countries.

As their website reports:

In 2005
  • at least 2,148 people were executed in 22 countries
  • 94% of them were killed in China,, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the USA
  • An additional 5,186 people were sentenced to death
However, despite the shocking figures, the trend towards abolition continues to grow: the number of countries carrying out executions has dropped for a fourth consecutive year; over the last twenty years, numbers have halved. Mexico and Liberia have most recently abolished the death penalty.

--Tom Hayes

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Supreme Court Denies Appeal of Two Men Unlawfully Detained at Guantanamo

Previous posts have discussed the case of Adel Abdu Al-Hakim and Abu Bakker Qassim, two members of the Uighu ethnic minority in China who have been detained at Guantanamo Bay since January of 2002. In December of 2005, a Federal District Court in Washington ruled that the men's detention was unlawful since neither is an enemy combatant according to the United States military; the same court ruled that neither man could be released on the grounds that they both are not entitled to entry in the United States. Today, the Supreme Court turned down their appeal to be released in the United States without comment. A Federal Appeals Court is scheduled to hear an appeal of the District Court's ruling on May 8th. According to an Associated Press article, the lawyers of the men "filed a special appeal, asking justices to step in even while the case is pending before an appeals court."

Neither man wants to be returned to China, a place where U.S. officials say they are likely to be tortured. The State Department is currently looking for a place to resettle the two innocent men. The obvious question is, why not resettle them here in the United States? The U.S. government is, after all, responsible for robbing them of four years of freedom. Granting the men asylum in the United States seems to be the least the U.S. government could do to compensate them for their hardship.

Click here to read a Washington Post article that gives a good background to the case and others like it.


High Court Weighs Retaliation at Work

From the Washington Post:

Sexual harassment in the workplace is against federal law. An employer is also liable if he or she discriminates against an employee who files a sexual harassment complaint. But the law is vague on a key question: How harsh does the employer's retaliation have to be before it violates the law? That was the issue at the Supreme Court yesterday, as the justices heard oral argument in Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White , No. 05-259 -- a case that could affect the legal rights of millions of workers who are covered by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the main federal law against job discrimination, and their employers.

Click here to read the article.

--Tom Hayes

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Syria Cracks Down on Opposition

Excerpts from this New York Times article:

Syria Imposing Stronger Curbs On Opposition
Published: April 5, 2006

DAMASCUS, Syria, April 4 - Just months ago, under intense international pressure to ease its stranglehold on neighboring Lebanon, the Syrian government was talking about ending the ruling Baath Party's grip on Syrian power and paving the way for a multiparty system.

But things have moved in the opposite direction. Syrian officials are aggressively silencing domestic political opposition while accommodating religious conservatives to shore up support across the country.

Security forces have detained human rights workers and political leaders, and in some cases their family members as well. They have barred travel abroad for political conferences and shut down a human rights center financed by the European Union. And the government has delivered a stern message to the national news media demanding that they promote -- not challenge -- the official agenda.

The leadership's actions were described in interviews with top officials as well as dissidents and human rights activists. They reflect at least in part a growing sense of confidence because of shifts in the Middle East in recent months, especially the Hamas victory in Palestinian elections, political paralysis in Lebanon and the intense difficulties facing the United States in trying to stabilize Iraq and stymie Iran's drive toward nuclear power.

The detentions, the press crackdown, the restrictions on travel and the overall effort to crush dissent are also a response to a fragile domestic political climate and concern over a growing opposition movement abroad.

''I may not be keen on early morning arrests, but this regime was being threatened,'' Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Dardari, a Londoneducated technocrat charged with steering Syria's economic overhaul, said in an interview. ''The survival of this regime and the stability of this country was threatened out loud and openly. There were invitations for foreign armies to come and invade Syria. So you could expect sometimes an overreaction, or a reaction, to something that is really happening.''

On Tuesday, Amnesty International condemned the Syrian crackdown and called on Damascus to release ''all of those arrested due to their beliefs.'' Human Rights Watch said it was sending a letter to the government protesting the arrests.


G.A.O. Finds U.S. Focus on Abstinence Hurts Fight Against Aids

Article from the New York Times:

April 5, 2006
U.S. Focus on Abstinence Weakens AIDS Fight, Agency Finds
Insistence by Republican Congressional leaders that American money to fight the spread of AIDS globally be used to emphasize abstinence and fidelity is undercutting comprehensive and widely accepted aid models, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Tuesday.

The report by the G.A.O., an investigative arm of Congress, examines the effect of a mandate from Congress that at least a third of United States money to prevent the spread of AIDS worldwide be devoted to sexual abstinence and fidelity programs.

It found that the provision had limited the reach of broader strategies to fight AIDS that include the use of condoms — a conclusion strongly contested by a senior Bush administration official.

The report also said the requirement had meant that officials in some countries have had to reduce spending on programs to prevent the transmission of H.I.V. from women to their newborn babies, as well as other prevention strategies.

"It is hampering their ability to implement key elements of the widely accepted model of H.I.V./AIDS prevention — the ABC approach," said David Gootnick, the main author of the report. ABC stands for abstain, be faithful or use condoms.

The new emphasis on abstinence and fidelity emerged in 2003 from the House International Relations Committee as it debated President Bush's $15 billion, five-year AIDS program. Since then, financing for AIDS prevention programs has increased sharply, from $207 million in 2004 to $322 million this year.

The report is based on interviews with United States officials carrying out American-financed AIDS programs in 15 countries, mostly in Africa. They were guaranteed anonymity to encourage candor.

American officials told Congressional investigators that the guidelines were at times ambiguous and confusing. The rules on abstinence and fidelity, they said, have made it more difficult for them to tailor programs to local needs.

Some officials said that although activities to promote condom use have been restricted, they did not understand the distinction between condom education and condom promotion, "causing uncertainty over whether certain condom-related activities are permissible," the report stated.
Dr. Mark R. Dybul, the deputy coordinator of the federal AIDS program, strongly disagreed. He said the program was carrying out a balanced effort that includes all the elements of ABC, a strategy that successfully reduced H.I.V. infection rates in Uganda. The guidelines are generally clearly spelled out, he said.

More broadly, he said, Congress's requirement has brought about what he called a needed shift of emphasis to include abstinence and fidelity, saying that earlier programs had been overly focused on condoms.

But condoms have not been neglected, he said. The number distributed at United States expense has risen during Mr. Bush's years in office, to 429 million last year from 348 million in 2001, federal figures show.

In a statement on Tuesday, Representative Henry J. Hyde, the Illinois Republican who heads the House International Relations Committee, said no report was needed "to uncover the fact that country teams may be resistant to change, and that some adjustment time would be needed to implement new requirements."

Representative Tom Lantos of California, the ranking Democrat on the same committee, differed.

"While this was obvious to those of us who do not have ideological hang-ups, the reality was that only a compromise would fly," he said, referring to the 2003 debate in Congress.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

State Troopers to Act as Immigration Officers

The issue of undocumented immigration has become a frontburner issue in the last few weeks. In this state alone we have seen quite possibly the largest demonstrations the state has ever seen. As well as the banning, yes banning of the American flag in a Colorado middle school due to racial tensions in the school surrounding immigration.

In reaction, members of the Colorado legislature have proposed that a special squad of State Troopers be assembled, and be given the same authority of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE, formerly the INS).

This has proposal has many problems.

First, it blatantly violates the Constitution. Border enforcement is the job of the Federal government, it is not the job of the states. We should look to see if the States' Rights Republicans oppose this as they should.

The second problem, is that this proposal, linked with the fact that eight Colorado Legislators have written a letter to President Bush, urging him to declare a state of emergency in response to what they call an "invasion" of illegal immigrants shows unsettling trends in the attitudes our elected leaders.

This reactionary feeling towards immigrants has only been hardened by the recent demonstrations in support of the human rights of those here undocumented. This allows us to make these connections and see our elected representatives for what they really are.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

U.N. Finds That 25% of Married Syrian Women Have Been Beaten

From the New York Times:

Syria's first comprehensive field study of violence against women has concluded that nearly one married woman in four surveyed had been beaten. The study was released last week as part of a report on Syria by the United Nations Development Fund for Women.
The findings have been published in local news media, helping to draw attention to topics like domestic abuse and honor killings that have long been considered taboo in this conservative society. The study was carried out under the supervision of the quasi-governmental General Union of Women, which oversees the welfare of Syria's women. The study included nearly 1,900 families selected at random, including a broad range of income levels and all regions. The men and women in each family were questioned separately.

Click here to read the article.

--Tom Hayes

Monday, April 10, 2006

Nepalis Defy Curfew to Press Demands for Democracy

From the Washington Post:

Protesters demanding the restoration of democracy took to the streets across Nepal in defiance of a daytime curfew Sunday, throwing stones at security forces and burning government offices, as the political crisis deepened in this Himalayan country.
With both King Gyanendra and his opponents refusing to back down, the situation appeared to be reaching its most volatile point since the king seized absolute power more than a year ago. The well-armed communist insurgency has allied itself with the political opposition, which vowed Sunday to continue demonstrations indefinitely. The government warned it would respond with harsher measures.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Philippines Cracks Down on Journalists

Excerpts from this New York Times article:

April 3, 2006
The Philippines Wages a Campaign of Intimidation Against Journalists

MANILA, the Philippines — The Philippine news media, among the most exuberant and freewheeling in Asia, are coming under serious government pressure for the first time since the rule of Ferdinand Marcos more than 20 years ago.

Along with hints that the government may restrict public assembly, the campaign against the press strikes at the heart of the freedoms won in 1986 when Mr. Marcos was driven from the presidency by a popular uprising.

The pressure involves warnings, watch lists, surveillance, court cases, harassment lawsuits and threats of arrest on charges of sedition. No members of the press have been arrested, although three journalists have been charged with rebellion. No news outlets have been shut down, although troops surrounded several television stations for more than a week recently.

Journalists say the situation is particularly unnerving because of the uncertainty of what is happening or may happen to them.
"I have a number of people on my list," Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said in a recent television interview. "We are studying them."

This aggressive posture follows a one-week state of emergency imposed on Feb. 24 by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in response to what she said was a coup attempt involving an array of enemies who have been calling for her resignation.

Since then, the police have broken up several gatherings that were seen as critical of the president and have briefly detained some participants.

The director of the National Police, Gen. Arturo Lomibao, has told news outlets that they must conform to certain unspecified standards, which it will be up to the government to interpret on a case-by-case basis.
He referred to a new catchall regulation that bans "actions that hurt the Philippine State by obstructing governance including hindering the growth of the econom
y and sabotaging the people's confidence in government and their faith in the future of this country."

Apparently, the goal of all this is to promote self-censorship, said Maria Ressa, senior vice president for news and public affairs at the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Network, the nation's largest.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)


Monday, April 03, 2006

Supreme Court Chooses Not to Review Padilla Case

From the Washington Post:

A potential showdown between the Supreme Court and the Bush administration over the president's war powers was averted yesterday when the court declined to hear the appeal of a U.S. citizen who was held in military custody for more than three years.

By a 6 to 3 vote, the court granted the administration's request not to review the case of Jose Padilla, an alleged member of al-Qaeda arrested in Chicago in 2002, because the administration last November met Padilla's demand to be indicted in a civilian court and transferred from a Navy brig to a civilian jail.

The decision is a victory for the administration because it leaves intact an appeals court ruling that upheld the president's authority to detain Padilla as an "enemy combatant." But the win was possible only because the administration had already made its tactical retreat in the face of negative public reaction and uncertain prospects at the high court, legal analysts said. Until a definitive Supreme Court ruling, they said, it remains an open question whether President Bush could legally detain a U.S. citizen in the United States as an enemy combatant in the future.

Click here to read the article.

--Tom Hayes

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Darfur and the ICC

From the New York Times Magazine, an article about building a case for the ICC against the perpetrators of Darfur. From the article:

Last year the United Nations Security Council referred the Darfur file to the International Criminal Court. And now the horrors of Darfur have become the preoccupation of an extraordinary international team of investigators in a plain and quiet Dutch town. They have no army, but they want to ensure that out of this history — this slow-motion genocide — they can wrest some justice.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo is the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. A veteran Argentine lawyer in his 50's, he has a short, graying beard and Groucho Marx eyebrows that are almost always in motion — excited, alarmed, disappointed. Moreno-Ocampo knows how difficult his position is. "I'm a stateless prosecutor — I have 100 states under my jurisdiction and zero policemen," he said when I visited him in The Hague in January. But he does not see his court as a token body. "No. No! Wrong!" he said, swinging his arms one Saturday afternoon as we strolled by The Hague's medieval prison. He recounted how he had explained the court to his 13-year-old son: "My son is studying the Spanish conquerors in Latin America. Yesterday he says to me, 'They killed 90 percent of the Indians, so today you'd put them in jail?' I said: 'Yes. Exactly. What happened to the native populations in the U.S. and Latin America could not happen today with the I.C.C. Absolutely. Absolutely. We are evolving. Humanity is not just sitting. There is a new concept. The history of human beings is war and violence; now we're saying this institution is here to prevent crimes against humanity."'
The International Criminal Court was created by the Rome Statute in 1998 and began work in 2003 with two goals — to prevent crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes; and to prosecute them. Of the two, prevention is what fires Moreno-Ocampo's ambition; it is what excites his imagination and intellect and fuels his 18-hour workdays, far away from his family, his horses and his farm in Argentina. It's not that he thinks the court can protect the villagers now being killed and maimed and raped in Darfur; his investigation into war crimes there will take years. What he is convinced of is that the prospect of prosecuting war criminals in Darfur and elsewhere will deter others from committing horrific crimes. Genocides "are planned," he told me. "They are not passion crimes. These people think in cost." The I.C.C. is intended to raise the cost. Moreno-Ocampo holds up Carlos Castaño, one of Colombia's top paramilitary commanders, as an example of the court's potential reach. After Colombia ratified the I.C.C. treaty, Castaño laid down his weapons because, according to his brother, he realized that he might become vulnerable to I.C.C. prosecution.

Click here to read the article.

--Tom Hayes


(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)