Archive for March 23rd, 2012

Tortured Afghan and Iraqi detainees continue to seek justice

Friday, March 23, 2012 at 7:08 pm by

Torture is a War Crime! in AtlantaIn March 2007, the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a historic lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights First, charging Donald Rumsfeld and other military leaders as responsible for the torture of various detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq. The case was Ali v. Rumsfeld, and it was not the only one of its kind. Other notable cases included El-Masri v. Tenet and Padilla v. Rumsfeld.  Unfortunately, these cases faced great difficulties in their defense of torture victims and were resolutely dismissed.

Just this week, in response to the US government’s failure to investigate and prosecute American officials for the torture of detainees in US confinement abroad, the ACLU filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) against the US on behalf of six torture victims of the US military—three Iraqis and three Afghans. As explained by the ACLU,

The petition is the equivalent of an international legal complaint. It asks the commission, an independent human rights body of the Organization of American States, to conduct a full investigation into the human rights violations and seeks an apology on behalf of the six men from the U.S. government.

Considering the absence of a US judicial and legal framework that addresses such human rights violations, the petitioners and the ACLU decided to bring the case to the international arena. As Steven Watt, senior staff attorney with the ACLU, points out, “No high-ranking government officials have yet been held to account for their actions, and this petition seeks to do just that and to ensure that the government respects basic human rights, including the right of everyone to be free from torture and inhumane treatment.”

Coupled with the release of the petition, the ACLU published a document outlining the extent of the torture and abuse suffered by the six petitioners. The document details what we can unfortunately assume is only a “summary” of the “victims’ abuse.”

The ACLU noted that the Ali v. Rumsfeld case was dismissed in part because “American officials were immune from lawsuits stemming from actions taken ‘within the scope of their official duties.’” So torture is now in the scope of US authorities’ official duties?

News Digest 3/23/12

Friday, March 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

Bringing ICE officers into schools: conflating safety with surveillance and intimidation

Friday, March 23, 2012 at 12:31 pm by

Increasingly invasive Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policies and procedures—and their increasingly broad powers granted by the United States government—have recently led to a controversy in Carbondale, Colorado.  Alvaro Agon, a school resource police officer, who was hired to keep students of the Roaring Fork School District safe, also worked as an ICE agent and was allegedly “using his position to profile Latino students and their families for immigration violations and deportation.”

Back in September 2009, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) issued a press release detailing the allegations against Officer Agon that had recently surfaced, citing testimonies from students in the Roaring Fork School District who claimed to have been targeted by Officer Agon. The press release asserted,

The documented testimonies demonstrate that Officer Agon targets students who are Latino, or appear to be immigrant, and has utilized extreme tactics such as following students home, tracking them for years, and turning their families in to ICE for minor infractions. Taking advantage of his position at the school, AJUA and CIRC believe, Officer Agon has repeatedly crossed the boundary between his two duties by questioning children about their parents to determine immigration violations and pursue them with ICE after school hours.

The Colorado ACLU became involved in October 2009, and the debate over the officer’s conduct resulted in the drafting of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Roaring Fork School Board and Police Departments. The MOU called for “extraordinary discretion where a student’s family immigration status may come into question.”

On Tuesday, the ACLU released a report announcing that “the United States Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties has recently opened an investigation into potential civil rights abuses arising from Roaring Fork SROs’ collaboration with ICE.”  The Colorado ACLU contends that the MOU does not resolve the issue: that this collusion “violates federal law prohibiting schools from erecting barriers that discourage undocumented children from attending public school.”