~~ “What’s the Right Thing to Do?” – Michael Sandel ~~
A daughter’s freedom vs her sibling’s lives, by Zohra Bensemra Feature/Photo-essay
As the village wells dried up and her livestock died in the scorched scrubland of southern Somalia, Abdir Hussein had one last chance to save her family from starvation: the beauty of her 14-year-old daughter, Zeinab.
Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race, by Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr., ProPublica
Imagine if, during America’s Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers. That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays. The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls “Ethnic Affinities.” Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.
Japan remembers Hiroshima, by Kiyoshi Takenaka Report
Japan marked the 71st anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Saturday as its mayor urged world leaders to follow in U.S. President Barack Obama’s footsteps and visit, and ultimately rid the world of nuclear arms.
Iraq Inquiry: a catalogue of political failure, by Michael Holden and William James
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s justification, planning and handling of the Iraq War involved a catalogue of failures, a seven-year inquiry concluded July 6 in a scathing verdict on Britain’s role in the conflict.
Hissène Habré: a pivotal case for international justice in Africa. By Pierre Hazan Analysis
On May 30, in an African court, history was made. In an unprecedented move, a former president was convicted of human rights abuses by a foreign court. In another historic ruling, the accused was also sentenced on counts of sexual abuse and the rape of a prisoner. The conviction of Chad’s former dictator, Hissène Habré, comes at a crucial time for international justice in Africa.
Fighting for transgender rights in the U.S. By Reuters Report/Photo-essay
Kate Lynn Blatt once lived as a woman at home but went to work in a battery factory as a man, a painful phase in her gender transition that would later propel her to the forefront of a constitutional battle for transgender rights in America.
The Irreconcilable Narratives of America’s South, by Ruth Hopkins, Wits Justice Project
In Montgomery the narrative of a proud confederacy is visceral and dominant and is echoed in its street names, buildings, signs and statues. But the Equal Justice Initiative, instead of protesting the display of Southern pride and honour, has started an elaborate and ambitious remembrance project that not only includes the collection of soil from sites of lynchings to remember the victims. . … read more
UN Court Finds Karadžić Guilty in Bosnia Genocide Trial. By Thomas Escritt and Toby Sterling
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the most senior political figure to be convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, was sentenced to 40 years in jail by U.N judges who found him guilty of genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and of nine other war crimes charges.
The Dunblane massacre at 20: how Britain rewrote gun laws. By Peter Squires
Thomas Hamilton walked into Dunblane Primary School, near Stirling, Scotland on March 13 1996, armed with four legally-owned handguns and over 700 rounds of ammunition. In three to four terrible minutes, he fired 105 shots killing 16 children and their teacher, and wounding 15 more children. His last shot killed himself. In the 20 years since Dunblane, a great deal has been learned about preventing gun violence.
Filth, disease, sex and violence for South African female inmates. By Ruth Hopkins
International Women’s Day on March 8 turns the spotlight on the fate of women, in particular their achievements and the slow pace of progress. An often overlooked group are women prisoners. Their needs, views and struggles barely figure in South African feminist discourse, let alone in the mainstream debate in society.
Bosnia divided two decades after peace deal. By Daria Sito-Sucic
A metal capsule containing over 20,000 wishes for the future was stored away in a Sarajevo museum, to mark the 20th anniversary of the peace deal that ended the Bosnian war but left the country deeply divided and dysfunctional.
When the Womb is a Crime Scene. By Nina Martin
Women in Alabama are running afoul of the state’s “chemical endangerment of a child” statute, the United States’ toughest criminal law on prenatal drug use. Passed in 2006 as methamphetamine ravaged Alabama communities, the law targeted parents who turned their kitchens and garages into home-based drug labs, putting their children at peril. A woman can be charged with chemical endangerment from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, even if her baby is born perfectly healthy, even if her goal was to protect her baby from greater harm.
Pope to Canonize Friar Serra: a halo stained with blood? Story and photo-essay by Reuters
Was he a saint or a sinner, an evangelizer or an enslaver? While visiting the United States, in one of the most controversial acts of his papacy Pope Francis will confer sainthood on the 18th century Spanish missionary Friar Junipero Serra, and in doing so, dive into a cultural battle.
South African prison inmate ‘tortured to death’. By Ruth Hopkins
Several inmates incarcerated in South Africa’s Mangaung prison have died under suspicious circumstances. Documents that were recently provided to the WJP and eyewitness accounts contain shocking allegations that inmates were tortured before they died, while the prison registered their deaths as either “natural” or “suicide”. More worryingly, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is aware that G4S’ recordkeeping of deaths in custody is not up to standard and that deaths through torture may go undetected. Despite that knowledge, it has not held G4S accountable.
Mass grave reveals organised violence among Europe’s first farmers. By Rick Schulting
The discovery of 26 bodies with lethal injuries in a 7,000 year old mass grave in Germany provides more evidence of organised large-scale violence in Neolithic Europe. One theory blames the environment. A period of climatic instability led to increased competition for resources and eventually to conflict – including the extermination of some entire communities. This interpretation very much divides the room.
Ethnic groups flee as Syrian Kurds advance against Islamic State. By Humeyra Pamuk
Cemal Dede fled his home in a remote Turkmen village in Syria after warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State bombed the house next door. He had no idea he wouldn’t be coming back. Dede says the Kurdish YPG militia did not let his family of seven return to Dedeler near the Turkish border, telling him it was now Kurdish territory and Turkmens like him had no place there.
Are countries legally required to protect from climate change? By Sophia V. Schweitzer, Ensia
On June 24, 2015, a court in The Hague ruled that greenhouse gas reduction is a state obligation. This marks the first time the issue has been legally declared a state obligation, regardless of arguments that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend on one country’s efforts alone. Here’s what that could mean for the rest of the world.
In Srebrenica, digging for the dead and fighting denial 20 years later. By Daria Sito-Sucic and Maja Zuvela, Reuters
Tens of thousands of people will gather at a cemetery near Srebrenica in Bosnia on July 11 to mark the 20th anniversary of Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two, still tortured by voices of denial and a seemingly endless search for the dead. Abandoned by their U.N. protectors toward the end of a 1992-95 war, 8,000 Muslim men and boys were executed by Bosnian Serb forces over five July days, their bodies dumped in pits then dug up months later and scattered in smaller graves in a systematic effort to conceal the crime.
Former IMF head Strauss-Kahn acquitted in French vice trial, by Pierre Savary and Brian Love
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund, was acquitted of sex crime accusations by a French court on June 12, the final chapter in a transatlantic scandal that destroyed the political ambitions of a man once tipped to become his country’s president. The court dismissed charges that the former International Monetary Fund chief’s sexual escapades with prostitutes amounted to “aggravated pimping.”
Do Europe’s Revolving-Door Prisons Compound Terror Threat? By Sebastian Rotella
If prison terms were tougher, the January attacks in Paris might never have happened, critics contend. Particular cases underscore a worrisome reality at a time of unprecedented radicalization among youth in Europe. European law enforcement is good at catching terrorists, but not so good at keeping them locked up. The problem is evident in France and Belgium, two nations that have seen the largest number of extremists travel to Syria to fight.
Haitian descendants risk losing Dominican citizenship, expulsion. by Eve Hayes de Kalaf
Dominicans of Haitian descent face expulsion to Haiti, a country many do not know, where they have no family ties and whose language they do not speak. Even if they are not deported, the threat will presumably hang over them and they will have formally lost their status as equals within the DR. They are discovering that despite what their paperwork may say, they are foreigners in their country of birth. It is hard to escape the conclusion that for the Dominican state, they were never really citizens in the first place.
United Steelworkers Buried Evidence about Warlord After Labor Deal. By Jonathan Jones and T. Christian Miller
The United Steelworkers of America uncovered evidence that in the early 1990’s Firestone had been the source of money and logistical support for Charles Taylor, the notorious Liberian warlord whose violent bid for power had ensnared the country in a horrific civil war. The union then developed plans to use what it believed might have been criminal conduct by Firestone as leverage in the contract negotiations. But the steelworkers union never made its findings public. Instead, it buried the investigation of Firestone’s role in the Liberian civil war, and the company’s actions remained secret for more than 20 years.
U.S. conviction of David Hicks, Guantanamo Detainee, not valid. By Raymond Bonner
The United States acknowledged the conviction of Australian David Hicks, held for nearly six years in Guantanamo Bay, was not legally valid. Hicks was one of the first people sent to Guantanamo. He figured in a key U.S. court decision that expanded the rights of detainees held in the offshore prison. Initially charged with multiple crimes, including conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, attempted murder, and aiding the enemy, Hicks ultimately pleaded guilty to a single charge of providing “material support” to terrorism.
Auschwitz: ‛It took from three to 15 minutes to kill the people . . . ’ By Michael Sasges
The world marked in 2015 the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, one of the most horrific of the 20th Century horrors. Excerpted here are the reasons for judgment prepared by members of the International Military Tribunal for Germany that tried German leaders accused of war cimes is one of the earliest summaries of the causes and consequences of the horrors perpetrated in the camp.
Torture unlawful and unhelpful: ACLU. By Marcellene Hearn
One of the most important takeaways from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report summary is that senior CIA personnel — which the report refers to as CIA headquarters — knew from the very beginning that torture was unlawful and learned quickly that their brutal program was pointless.
From 2002 to 2007, America’s Central Intelligence Agency tortured prisoners to no avail; misled elected officials, journalists and the public; kept prisoners in conditions that led to their deaths, and “damaged the United States’ standing in the world.” None of these allegations are new. Never before, though, have they come from the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which released a set of official conclusions that can only be called damning.
Jerusalem attack: The third intifada is here. By Asaf Siniver
The attack on a Jerusalem synagogue in which four Jewish worshippers were killed and eight were injured has sparked new fears that fighting between Israel and Palestinian could flare up once more. The attack, by two Palestinians carrying meat cleavers and a gun, has the potential to kick off fresh religious confrontation and a third intifada. … In a conflict littered with seemingly isolated incidents, attacks and counter-attacks, it is sometimes difficult to see the wood for the trees. But taking a long-range view of the conflict since the failure of US secretary of state John Kerry’s mission to the region that ended in April 2014, the inescapable conclusion is that the third intifada is already here.
Verbatim: Bombing to lose; air attacks bolster insurgents –review. By Michael Sasges
After reviewing almost 23,000 United States Air Force sorties over Afghanistan, an American academic concludes that aerial attacks and shows of force are a poor counter-insurgency tool. It’s an important historic document: it furthers a discussion that began 90 years ago when the Italians in North Africa, and the British in the Middle East, inaugurated aerial attacks, and it adds to the discussion of current strategy to battle the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq from the air.
Verbatim: Canada court blocks Zahra Kazemi suit against Iran. By Deborah Jones
A law suit against Iran by the son of journalist Zahra Kazemi, who died after an alleged beating, rape and torture in an Iranian prison, hit a wall Friday in Canada’s top court. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Kazemi’s son Stephan Hachemi could not sue Iran’s government and key officials for $17 million Canadian for his mother’s suffering and death, because they are protected under Canada’s State Immunity Act.
Deadly Force in Black and White America. By Ryan Gabrielson, Ryann Grochowski Jones and Eric Sagara, ProPublica
An analysis of statistics supports what has been an article of faith in the United States’ African American community for decades: Blacks are being killed at disturbing rates when set against the rest of the American population. Young American black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater, according to a ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings.
A joint report by two United Nations organizations focus on recent Islamic State (also known as IS, ISIS, and ISIL) ethnic-cleansing atrocities in Iraq. The report, by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, covers the period from July 6 to September 10. It lists what a UN release describes as “a litany of serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross abuses of human rights that have been perpetrated by ISIL and associated armed groups,with an apparent systematic and widespread character.”
Grandmother’s reunion in long wake of Argentina’s Dirty War. By Louise Mallinder
For 36 years, Estela Barnes de Carlotto, one of Argentina’s leading human rights campaigners, has searched tirelessly for her missing grandson. This month, she announced that he had finally been found. This discovery was the result of sustained campaigning by Estela and grandmothers like her, who maintained hope that their relatives were still alive, decades after their “forced disappearances” in Argentina’s “Dirty War”.
Ruling on Srebrenica may affect UN peacekeeping. By Regina E Rauxloh
A Dutch civil court in the Hague ruled that the relatives of some 300 men and boys killed after being evicted by Dutch peacekeepers from the Potočari compound could receive compensation from the Dutch state. The relatives of the thousands of men and boys who had fled into the woods where they were hunted down and summarily executed by the Serbs, received nothing. A key question is whether this legal decision will have any impact on other UN peacekeeping missions.
Canadian Court Expands Aboriginal Rights. By Deborah Jones
Canada’s top court greatly expanded aboriginal rights in Canada’s westernmost province, in what may stand as a landmark decision affecting control of a vast swath of land and resources, in British Columbia and beyond. The case, Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, was sparked in 1983 when the provincial government licenced a commercial company to log the Chilcotin. The licence was disputed by the Chilcotin residents who lived there long before the mid 1800s when — without their consent — England claimed the land as a colony, and named it British Columbia.
U.S. Death Penalty Report Cites Value of Taping Interrogations. By Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica (Public access)
The crime was brutal: Rebecca Lynn Williams, a 19-year-old American mother of three, was raped and later stabbed 38 times, left dead in her home in rural Virginia in June 1982. Justice was swift: Earl Washington, a local farmhand with an IQ of 69, confessed to the crime less than a year later and was sentenced to death in January 1984. And, fortunately, a gross legal mistake was eventually caught: After 17 years in prison, much of it on death row, Washington was freed, DNA evidence having made clear he had nothing to do with Williams’ rape and murder.
Oscar Pistorius and South Africa’s VIP Justice. By Ruth Hopkins (Subscription)
Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial in South Africa, dubbed the trial of the century, has hogged the limelight since he was arrested and charged for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year. The “OP” case however, is hardly representative of South Africa’s criminal justice system — but rather exposes the ugly face of class justice. The trial has revealed a level of quality of the legal process that the criminal justice system is capable of producing, but ordinary South African citizens are by no means guaranteed a fair trial.
American Cleared of Murder After 24 Years in Prison. By Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica (Public access)
In a hearing that lasted less than 15 minutes, Jonathan Fleming’s more than 24 years in prison came to an end. The 1990 murder conviction was expunged from his record, leaving his family jubilant in a packed courtroom in Brooklyn, New York.
Murder Charge Thrown Out in Stillborn Case. By Nina Martin ProPublica (Public access)
A Mississippi judge has thrown out murder charges against a young woman in the 2006 death of her stillborn child, a significant setback for prosecutors in a controversial case that has been closely followed both by women’s rights groups and those interested in establishing rights for the unborn. Rennie Gibbs, who was 16 when she gave birth to her stillborn daughter Samiya, had been indicted for “depraved heart murder” after traces of a cocaine byproduct were found in the baby’s blood.
A Stillborn Child and a Charge of Murder. By Nina Martin ProPublica (Public access)
Rennie Gibbs’s daughter, Samiya, was a month premature when she simultaneously entered the world and left it, never taking a breath. To experts who later examined the medical record, the stillborn infant’s most likely cause of death was also the most obvious: the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. But within days of Samiya’s delivery in November 2006, Steven Hayne, the American state of Mississippi’s de facto medical examiner at the time, came to a different conclusion. Autopsy tests had turned up traces of a cocaine byproduct in Samiya’s blood, and Hayne declared her death a homicide, caused by “cocaine toxicity.”
Hidden in a Heart, a Discovery Beyond Belief. By Marshall Allen, ProPublica (Public access)
Linda Carswell thought her quest to recover her husband’s heart had come to an end. Finally, after almost a decade, she would be able bury it with his other remains. She could have peace of mind. Instead, the saga has taken a macabre twist that she calls, “beyond belief.”
Commander in Guatemala Massacre Sentenced to 10 Years. By Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica (Public access)
A United States federal judge sentenced a former Guatemalan Army officer to the maximum 10 years in prison Monday for immigration crimes, ruling that the ex-commando obtained U.S. citizenship by concealing his role in the massacre of 250 men, women and children in a Guatemalan village in 1982. Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes, 55, in recent years had worked as a karate instructor in the desert suburbs east of Los Angeles. In October, a jury convicted the former lieutenant of unlawful procurement of naturalization and making false statements on immigration forms when he concealed his service in the Guatemalan military and asserted that he had never committed a crime.
Lasting Harm of Temporary Work. By Michael Grabell, Olga Pierce and Jeff Larson, ProPublica (Public access)
This was it, he told his brother Jojo. He would finally be able to pay his mother back for the fender bender, buy some new shoes and, if things went well, maybe even start a life with his fiancee who was living in Atlanta, Georgia. After getting his high school diploma, completing federal job training and sending out dozens of applications, Day Davis, 21, got a job. It was through a temp agency and didn’t pay very much, but he would be working at the Bacardi bottling plant, making the best-selling rum in the world.
Private prison operator accused of using drugs and electric shocks. By Ruth Hopkins (Subscription or day pass)
A South African prison, run by the beleaguered multinational private security company G4S, allegedly forcibly injected inmates with antipsychotic medication and used electroshocks to subdue and control them. Prisoners, warders and health care workers said that involuntary medication was regularly practised at the Mangaung Correctional Centre near Bloemfontein. The company, G4S, denies any acts of assault or torture. The allegations are according to at least 35 sources – prisoners as well as security guards, prison and health officials – and based on medical records seen by reliable sources, legal documents and video footage shot inside the prison.
What has gone so horribly wrong with South Africa’s police? By Ruth Hopkins (Subscription or day pass)
Steven Mothao was walking back home from a piece job on August 10, 2010, through Fordsburg in Joburg. Out of nowhere, three police officers appeared and pushed him against a wall. While onlookers gawked, the police officers slammed Mothao into a police van. He was detained in a police cell for 22 hours. For the first 14, he wasn’t offered a glass of water. Then Mothao was out on the street again. The police officers never identified themselves, they did not have an arrest warrant, and they did not inform Mothao of the reasons for his arrest. He sued the Minister of Police for damages and was awarded R150 000 in March.
Gitmo: Hunger strikes and indefinite detention. By Cora Currier, ProPublica
It’s been 11 years since the first detainees were brought to Guantanamo Bay. But the future of the prison, and the fate of the men inside it, is far from certain. As of April 25th, 94 men at Gitmo are currently on hunger strike, by the military’s count. Here’s a primer on what’s going at the island prison.
The U.S. botched chance to stop American behind India’s 9/11. By Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica (Public access)
During a meeting overseas last summer, a senior U.S. official and Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of Pakistan’s armed forces, discussed a threat that has strained the troubled U.S.-Pakistani relationship since the 2008 Mumbai attacks: the Lashkar-i-Taiba militant group.
Chinese “most-wanted” fugitive Lai Changxing deported from Canada. By Deborah Jones (Subscription or day pass)
A Canadian court cleared the way for China’s most-wanted fugitive Lai Changxing to be sent home to face expected criminal charges. “The life of the applicant is in the Chinese Government’s hands,” ruled Judge Michel M.J. Shore of Canada’s Federal Court, citing a Chinese proverb. China earlier promised not to sentence Lai to capital punishment if he is tried and found guilty. Canada, which does not practice capital punishment, prohibits the return of prisoners to countries where they might be put to death.
If an appeal is not launched, or fails, the ruling will end Lai’s 12-year battle to remain in Canada. The case has soured diplomatic relations between the two countries, and pitted Western ideas about human rights against China’s treatment of prisoners.
The Case of the Serial Killings: Gruesome details in Pickton pig farmer trial. By Deborah Jones. (Subscription or day pass)
Wedged between white-capped mountains and sparkling blue ocean, Vancouver is lauded for multicultural livability, ranked worldwide as a top travel destination and is preparing to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. But lately a grim pall has blanketed the western Canadian city of 2.2 million, for reasons far worse than the freak winter storms. The harrowing details of a grotesque serial killer case are bringing to the surface the city’s seamy underworld, usually confined to the squalid 10-block open drug and sex market known as the Downtown Eastside. The seaminess surrounds the trial of pig farmer Robert William Pickton, charged with murdering 26 drug-addicted prostitutes.
Air India: Not Guilty. Judge’s ruling ends trial; questions linger. By Deborah Jones. (Subscription or day pass)
The ruling by Judge Ian Bruce Josephson absolving two Sikh nationalists in the bombing of Air India Flight 182 divided the packed room in the Vancouver Law Courts: supporters of the accused gasped with relief while relatives of the 329 victims cried in disbelief that their 20-year quest to bring the killers to justice would be unfulfilled. Josephson’s ruling, that the chief witnesses against Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri were not remotely credible, still leaves intact a whodunit of global proportions, among other issues. Who conspired to plant bombs on flights leaving Vancouver and connecting with two Air India planes? Will the acquittals fan once ardent passions among extremist Sikh separatists, who two decades ago waged a ferocious fight with India for an independent Sikh state called Khalistan? The massive investigation and trial did not even touch the hardest question for all Canadians: Is the country prepared to stop an attack by the next group of extremists?
Canada’s homegrown pimping industry. By Deborah Jones. (Subscription or day pass)
Like any mom, Rachel Harnish, 46, loves to show off photos of her children. “That’s Marie,” she says, pointing to a pudgy blond toddler in pigtails, a sand bucket in her hand, framed on a wall in the Harnish’s comfortable house in a Halifax suburb. Rachel brings out an album, points to pictures of a coltish girl swimming, skiing with her older brother and younger sister, posing for school portraits. Then, Rachel reaches the place where her daughter vanishes from the album’s pages. There is a silent pause. Through the window comes a faint sound of traffic on the nearby highway. There, an occasional big luxury model with tinted windows goes by, heading for Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Behind the smoked glass of some of these cars, men snort cocaine and fondle teenage girls. The girls are headed for a life of prostitution, torture and, sometimes, death. Girls like Rachel Harnish’s daughter. This is their story.
Suicide, or murder? Jane Hurshman Corkum’s violent life and death. By Deborah Jones (Subscription or day pass)
In February, 1982, Billy Stafford’s wife blew his brains out as he slept, drunkenly slumped behind the steering wheel of his pickup truck near their home at Bangs Falls, Nova Scotia. It was a turning point for Jane Hurshman Corkum, and for public understanding of wife-battering. First her trial, and later a book, focused attention on the horrifying tale of her life. Now Hurshman Corkum too is dead. Her body was found in her car, parked in an empty lot on the Halifax waterfront. A bullet had been fired into her chest.