Categorie archief: Human rights

Obama’s empty promises

Yesterday Obama announced that he regretted not having closed Guantánamo Bay immediately after being elected in 2009 instead of postponing it. Too bad he admits it only just now after all those years. The men that were detained without trial for many years will never get back the lost time and will never forget the prison hell. One of the detainees is the British resident Shaker Aamer who has been in Guantánamo for thirteen years now even though he has been cleared by the government three times. He has never seen Faris, his son. Just imagine how it would be when it was yóur husband, yóur son, yóur brother who is innocent and is held by a nation that violates human rights but critizises other countries when they do the same.

Cruel torture methods like waterboarding, secret prisons, drones that kill innocent citizens, all-white jury’s that decide the fate of Afro-Americans in a country that has a lot of racist issues and where cops are often a bit too trigger-happy when Afro-Americans in ‘suspicious’ circumstances are concerned. Furthermore there are some bizarre and archaic laws like felony murder where people, often still adolescents, can be sentenced for life for a murder they didn’t commit. When I read the Dutch article¹ about Obama the names of Andy Worthington, investigative journalist, and Clive Stafford Smith, human rights lawyer, popped up in my head. Good to know that there are people that continue their tireless struggle against injustice. Today I want to thank them both for everything they did. People like them make the world a better place.

¹ Spijtoptant Obama: ‘Ik had Guantanamo Bay liever meteen gesloten’ HP/deTijd 19-03-2015
USA: 12 Years of Guantánamo detentions, 12 years of double standards Amnesty International

Photo Pixabay

De lege beloftes van Obama

Zes jaar nadat Obama met veel aplomb en de hand op zijn hart had aangekondigd Guantánamo Bay¹ te sluiten kwam hij gisteren met de opmerking dat hij dat wellicht beter toen metéén had kunnen doen in plaats van het op de lange baan te schuiven. Vreemd dat hij dat nu vele jaren later pas toegeeft en bijzonder wrang voor degenen die ook na 2009 nog jarenlang zonder proces onschuldig hebben vastgezeten in barre omstandigheden. Zij krijgen die verloren jaren nooit meer terug en zullen de hel waarin ze buiten hun schuld beland zijn nooit vergeten. Een van hen is de Brit Shaker Aamer die inmiddels ruim dertien jaar vastzit ondanks het feit dat er al drie keer goedkeuring is gegeven voor zijn overdracht. Faris, zijn zoon heeft hij nog nooit gezien. Stel je eens voor dat het jóuw man, jóuw zoon, jóuw broer was die onschuldig vastgehouden werd door een natie die andere landen de les leest over mensenrechten maar ze zelf met de voeten treedt.

Wrede martelpraktijken als waterboarden, geheime gevangenissen, drones die onschuldige burgers vermoorden, geheel blanke jury’s die over het lot van zwarte Amerikanen beslissen in een land doordrenkt van racisme waar agenten iets te trigger-happy zijn als het zwarten in ‘verdachte’ omstandigheden betreft. Daarnaast zijn er bizarre en archaïsche wetten als felony murder waardoor mensen, vaak kinderen nog, tot levenslang veroordeeld kunnen worden voor een moord die ze niet gepleegd hebben. Toen ik het artikel las in HP/deTijd² kwamen meteen de namen in me op van Andy Worthington, een onderzoeksjournalist die al jaren vecht voor de sluiting van Guantánamo en Clive Stafford Smith, een bevlogen mensenrechtenadvocaat. Fijn dat er mensen zijn die onvermoeibaar doorgaan met de strijd tegen onrecht. Vandaag wil ik hen allebei bedanken voor alles wat ze gedaan hebben. Mensen zoals zij maken de wereld een beetje mooier.

‘Spijt of niet. Het lijken vooralsnog lege woorden van een president die zijn eigen belofte niet waar kon maken.

¹ Waarom ik geen aardling ben (part 2) Marjelle blogt 10-12-2012
² Spijtoptant Obama: ‘Ik had Guantanamo Bay liever meteen gesloten’ HP/deTijd 19-03-2015
USA: 12 Years of Guantánamo detentions, 12 years of double standards Amnesty International
Mijn brief aan Barack Obama Aad Verbaast 20-01-2009

Foto Pixabay

55 years for a murder they didn’t commit!

Last week on the Dr. Phil show I heard three boys talking about the burglary they had committed. My first thought was, well thousands of people commit burglaries all around the world every day, nothing new there. But this specific case was different. A short reconstruction: on the 3rd of October 2012 four boys between the age of 16-21 who are unarmed, break into a house in Elkhart, Indiana. The fifth boy, Levi, is waiting in the car. The boys first knock on the door to check if anyone is at home and when nobody responds they force their entry. On the hallway table are keys and a wallet. Suddenly they hear someone. They panic, flee into the bedroom and try to hide in a closet. The homeowner, who later declared he wasn’t afraid at the time, comes after them and shoots through the door several times. The bullets hit one boy in the thigh and kill another boy, Danzele, 21 years old.

That the boys, also known as the ‘Elkhart 4’, were guilty of an attempted burglary is something no one disputes. But because they were teens¹ and also unarmed you might expect a lighter sentence than what adults usually get for burglary. Then the story gets a bizarre turn. There is a law which says that if at the time of the crime someone is killed, the offenders – in this case the burglars – can be convicted for murder even if they didn’t pull the trigger (felony murder²). But contrary to what Sunny Hostin³ said to Dr. Phil, it was not a typical felony murder, because the boy that was killed was a co-perpetrator and not one of the victims or a third innocent party. What also didn’t help in this case was the US jury system. One of the jury members was on the show and every time he couldn’t come up with an answer he continued emphasizing the words ‘imminent danger’ like a mantra. Imagine that your fate depends on an average citizen with no knowledge of the law and filled with prejudices like you and me. The challenge is to be aware of your own prejudices and to overcome them, something a good judge is more able to do than a juror in my opinion.

What also struck me is that the defense which merely consisted of public defenders didn’t call for any witnesses to give some background information about the boys. Even the boys themselves were not heard. Furthermore, nobody questioned the actions of the homeowner. The fact that he shot unarmed teenagers who were running away and tried to hide from him, and while doing so injured one of them and killed another, was apparently considered to be a perfectly normal and legal act. Thanks to trial by jury – jurors can be easily influenced, they probably have good intentions but know nothing of legal matters – and a rattling legal system in Indiana that didn’t take into account the fact that three of the boys were adolescents at the time, and where archaic laws like felony murder have been wrongly4 interpreted, they were sentenced to 45-55 years in prison for a murder they did not commit. Welcome to America5.

Dr. Phil 17-01-2014 (on Dutch television: 08-08-2014)
The Elkhart 4: A Burglary Gone Wrong (part 1) abc NEWS 27-07-2014
The Elkhart 4: Should Teens Be Given 50-Year Prison Sentences? (part 2) abc NEWS 27-07-2014
Free the Elkhart
Three Elkhart teens appear on ‘Dr. Phil’ The Elkhart Truth 17-01-2014
Teen would-be burglars convicted of felony murder receive ‘extreme’ 50-year sentences for ‘crimes they didn’t commit’ The National Post of Canada 09-10-2013
The Elkhart Four and the Unjust Application of the Felony Murder
Rule on Teens
The Huffington Post 10-04-2013
Support Jose Quiroz Facebook 28-06-2014

¹ Adolescent development and brain science research show that, compared with adults, children and teenagers are less able to perceive and assess risks. The brain is fully grown at the age of 25.

² The felony murder statute in Indiana states the following: “A person who kills another human being while committing or attempting to commit arson, burglary, child molesting, consumer product tampering, criminal deviate conduct, kidnapping, rape, robbery, human trafficking, promotion of human trafficking, sexual trafficking of a minor or carjacking … commits murder, a felony.”
How then can it apply to the case of the Elkhart 4? The four boys did not kill Danzele Johnson, it was the homeowner that killed Danzele and he was not committing a felony according to the verdict.

³ Did Sunny Hostin make a huge mistake on Dr. Phil? We examine the case law that says she did! 18-01-2014

4 See also Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia decision, Davis v. Judge Fox and Sands The conclusion of the justices is that the majority of states in the US do not allow for felony murder prosecution when a co-perpetrator is the person who is killed.

5 My America – Interesting series of documentaries by Michiel Vos