By Adam Jacobson
Law and Security Program
The latest round of hearings in the Guantanamo Bay military commission trial against the alleged 9/11 conspirators veered into strange territory Tuesday when a lawyer for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) argued against a defense request for the government to turn over information from the Red Cross’s consultations about the detention and treatment of the 9/11 defendants.
The ICRC has consulted with Defense Department officials on the detention and treatment of the 9/11 defendants. The defendants’ lawyers have claimed that because the Defense Department (which is acting as prosecution in the Guantanamo military commissions) has the information from its consultation with the ICRC, the defense should also have access to the information that applies to their clients.
Matthew MacLean, an attorney for ICRC, testified that, to maintain the Red Cross’s objectivity and unique access to observe prison conditions around the world, the ICRC cannot divulge the information it gathers and discusses with states, unless it chooses to do so. Several of the defendants’ attorneys argued that there was no relevant U.S. law that would prevent them from receiving the information. Others argued that because all defense attorneys are technically Defense Department employees, that they may be able to access some classified version of the information. The prosecution agreed with the ICRC, but was willing to discuss “options” with the organization. There was any real indication of what that actually means.
By Adam Jacobson
Law and Security Program
The case against Khalid Shaikh Muhammad and the other alleged 9/11 conspirators started back up again this week at Guantanamo. Judge James Pohl probably summed up the proceedings best, when, in the middle of courtroom technical difficulties, he let out a loud, frustrated sigh.
Later, as defense counsel and prosecution sniped at each other over the standards for late motion filing, Judge Pohl remarked, “As I’m constantly being reminded by both sides, things down here don’t run as smoothly as they would other places.” He’s not wrong.
By Meg Roggensack
Business and Human Rights
Last week, we urged companies to treat the PRISM disclosures as an opportunity for greater transparency. The ability to proactively share details on government data requests has been limited, but Mr. Snowden’s leak changes these possibilities. At play now is a test of corporate fidelity to user trust and user privacy. In fact Google, today, has taken the lead and asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to lift their gag order on its data requests.
In March, Google announced that it pushed back against the government and won the ability to include ranges for the number of National Security Letters and user accounts affected in its transparency reports. Microsoft, which released its first transparency report this year, is now sharing aggregated ranges for the number of national security-related and law enforcement requests received. And Yahoo and Facebook have recently shared similar disclosures, with statements indicating fuller transparency reports are on the horizon.
Despite these disclosures, though, we still need more substance. We know that the companies “scrutinize” every data request and ensure their response accords with the law and their own policies. It would be helpful to know what these policies are.
As members of the Global Network Initiative, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook have made express commitments to proactively protect the privacy rights of their users, supporting the position that a right to privacy implies a right to know who has your information. Two weeks ago, these companies could say very little. But now, we’re in conversation, and the expectations are changing. President Obama has already called upon his oversight board to convene. And companies are in a position to get greater latitude.
What would be helpful, beyond numbers and percentages on data requests, are better explanations of the policies these companies hold in relation to national security—and the protocols they use to implement such policies. The issue here is broader than PRISM (or Programs “2015” and “702”). What we need to see is how, specifically, companies have been managing the privacy risks their users face in light of a global environment where national security has been front and center.
By Sara Jane Ibrahim
Refugee Protection Program
A teenage victim of trafficking and rape from the Balkans applied for asylum thirteen months after coming to the United States. Despite extensive evidence and testimony describing her trauma and her difficulties talking about what had happened to her, she was denied asylum. Why? Because she missed the one-year asylum filing deadline.
Urge your Senators to protect women fleeing from persecution by eliminating the asylum filing deadline.
It’s reasonable to ask why some people in need of asylum don’t apply for it immediately. But when you think about the experience of persecuted refugees, the answer is clear. Many are traumatized and isolated. Most speak little or no English. Some don’t even know they’re supposed to, or able to, seek asylum.
Victims of gender-based violence face an additional hurdle: shame. The asylum process requires them to talk to a stranger about the abuse they’ve suffered—a forbidding task for most, especially for women from cultures where they would be scorned and perhaps ostracized if the nature of their mistreatment became known.
We’ve been working to make sure that the immigration bill now being considered by the Senate includes better protection for refugees. A filing deadline, no matter the length, turns away vulnerable refugees who need our protection. Urge your Senators to protect refugees by keeping Section 3401 in the immigration bill intact.
By Katharina Obser
Refugee Protection Program
The House of Representatives recently passed the 2014 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill, and while several disappointing amendments that were attached to the bill passed, one good, pro-human rights one—which would have eliminated the so-called detention “bed mandate”— failed to muster up enough votes.
Co-sponsored by Reps. Deutch (D-FL) and Foster (D-IL), the amendment would have done away with a quota that requires ICE to detain 34,000 immigrants on any given day. While the amendment did not succeed, it received 190 votes, including the support of eight Republicans. The vote reflects a growing discomfort with this arbitrary and fiscally irresponsible approach to the use of immigration detention.
What’s wrong with a bed mandate?
By Daphne Eviatar
Law and Security Program
This is a cross post from The Huffington Post
Thirteen years after the USS Cole was bombed by an approaching vessel in the Yemen port of Aden, a military commission in Guantanamo Bay is trying to figure out if the act constituted “terrorism” and if “terrorism” is a crime that can be charged in a military commission.
We still don’t know.
The pre-trial hearings of alleged al Qaeda bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who’s been in U.S. custody since 2002 and spent four years under “enhanced interrogation” in secret CIA prisons, are dragging on slowly at the Guantanamo war court. As the lawyers argue, the judge is just now trying to figure out what are the proper charges and which rules govern bringing the case to trial.
On Thursday morning, Air Force Captain Daphne Jackson, representing al-Nashiri, argued that a recent ruling of the federal court of appeals of the D.C. Circuit suggests that “terrorism” itself is not a crime that can be charged separately from the acts that were committed.
By Daphne Eviatar
Law and Security Program
This is a cross post from The Huffington Post.
Does an accused man have the right to hear classified evidence he already knows, when it’s directly relevant to whether he’ll be put to death?
Not in a U.S. military commission, according to the government. Prosecutors argued Wednesday that Guantanamo detainee Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of plotting the bombing of the USS Cole 13 years ago, can be excluded from hearings that present any classified evidence – even if that evidence is of his own torture by U.S. agents in a CIA prison.
The government has acknowledged that al Nashiri was held secretly in CIA “black sites” and subjected to waterboarding, among other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” for years after he was captured by U.S. authorities in 2002.
By Latonia Haney Keith & Steven Schulman
As S. 744, the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, hits the floor for debate today, lawyers around the country have engaged in discussions around the various provisions that may allow pro bono attorneys to serve clients in more effective and efficient ways.
The Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo), an organization with more than 120 members who lead the pro bono practices at 85 of the nation’s largest law firms, is focused on how S.744 can allow our colleagues to provide free legal services to immigrants more effectively and efficiently.
By Marc Jayson Climaco
New Media Content Specialist
Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping at the U.S.-China Summit (June 7-8)
President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jingping met this weekend in Palm Springs, covering topics from North Korea, cybersecurity and cyber theft, to the environment, and the economy. But what about human rights? It was absent from the conversation as Xi and Obama develop a new model for U.S.-China diplomacy.
Gary Kasparov, famous chess champion and Russian human rights defender, said at our inaugural Human Rights First Summit last December that “if human rights does not come first, it doesn’t come at all.” We agree and this is why we’ve been pressing the United States to put human rights at the heart of U.S.-China diplomacy.
China’s human rights record is atrocious. Since Xi became president, 15 activists have been detained and arrested for calling to end corruption in the Chinese government and Tibetans have been sentenced to prison terms for self-immolations. Nobel Laureate Lui Xiaobo received 11 years of prison sentence for advocating for a transition to democracy. His wife, Liu Xia, has been put on indefinite house arrest.
The day before the U.S.-China meeting, Chinese government gave Chen Guangfu, brother of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng, and their mother passports. This is promising, yet this gesture came after over one year of judicial and physical threats against Guangcheng’s family. Guangcheng’s nephew Chen Kegui, who was arrested under politically-motivated charges for protecting his family from government thugs, remains in jail.
We welcome the efforts by the United States and China to develop a new, stronger relationship with each other. But human rights must be at the heart of this effort.
Tienanmen Square survivor Yan Jiangli forewarns in the Daily Beast that if human rights is not at the center of U.S.-China dialogue, “the Chinese government will be emboldened to continue their repressive policies” which will “ultimately be counterproductive to American security and Chinese stability.”
By Diana Sayed
Human Rights Defenders Program
Haleema Abdulaziz Al-Sabagh, a Bahrain nursing assistant, has had her appeal verdict delayed yet again. Al-Sabagh was arrested at her workplace at Salmaniya hospital last January and charged with taking first-aid medicine for the treatment of injured protesters off-site. The 35-year-old mother of a 2-year-old was sentenced to prison in September, and was scheduled to hear her appeal verdict this past Monday. She will now have to wait until June 16 to find out her fate – after she will have served 9 months of her year-long sentence.
A network of underground medical treatment centers – often in people’s private homes – has sprung up in Bahrain to treat those injured in protests because if activists seek treatment in a state-run public hospital, they are likely to face interrogation and arrest. Al-Sabagh is accused of taking medical supplies from the hospital where she worked to resource one of these underground facilities.
According to the family of Al-Sabagh, the prison authorities have denied her access to proper medical care for the last two months. Her family has stated that she suffers from severe back pain, yet prison authorities have stated they will only release her to the hospital for treatment if she is unconscious. The facilities within the prison clinic are insufficient and her family says she is only given limited treatment of painkillers.
The Bahraini promptly launched a brutal crackdown on the peaceful protests in February 2011 and called in forces from the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Dozens of people have been killed in the crackdown, and the security forces have arrested hundreds, including doctors and nurses accused of treating injured protesters. A report published by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in November 2011 found that the Bahrain Regime, headed by the Al Khalifa family, had used excessive force in the crackdown and accused the government of torturing political activists, politicians, and protesters.
The Bahraini government’s repeated efforts to crack down and imprison human rights defenders and prominent members of civil society does little to convince the international community of their commitment to reform and upholding minimum standards of human rights.
The targeting of Bahraini medics is one of the most widely-reported symbols of the harsh government crackdown. Sadly, Al-Sabagh’s is one of several cases of Bahraini medics who have remained in prison after convictions.
- Dr. Ali Al-Ekri, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon was arrested in March 2011, abducted, and subjected to torture, solitary confinement and detention over a six-month period. He was later charged in a military court and sentenced to 15 years in prison before being retried by a civilian court and his sentence reduced to five years.
- Hassan Matooq, an emergency department nurse was arrested on March 24, 2011 from the Emergency Department by twenty masked soldiers. He was convicted of taking unapproved photographs and “fabricating reality.” He received a three year sentence.
- Ibrahim al-Demastani, head of the Bahrain Nurse’s Society, volunteered to provide medical care at Salmaniya hospital and Pearl roundabout and also trained protesters in first aid. He was arrested on 17 March, 2011 for “hiding and harboring a fugitive.” The alleged fugitive was a protester who was badly injured during a demonstration. Al-Demistani was subjected to torture and forced to sign false statements as well as being forced to witness the torture of his colleagues Dr Ali Al-Ekri and Rula Al-Saffar. He is currently serving a sentence of 3 years imprisonment and the list goes on.