The Washington Examiner is reporting that Judge Russell Canan of the D.C. Superior Court has dropped all charges against 27 (some reports say 24) defendants arrested at the U.S. Capitol on January 21 in a demonstration called by Witness Against Torture. The protesters were demonstrating peacefully on the steps of the Capitol, dressed as Guantanamo prisoners in orange jump suits, and with banners reading “Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives,” calling for President Barack Obama to shut down Guantanamo prison. Police say they refused to disperse as ordered.
Inside the Capitol Rotunda, at the location where deceased presidents lie in state, fourteen activists were arrested performing a memorial service for three men who died at Guantanamo in 2006. Initially reported as suicides, the deaths may have been — as recent evidence suggests — the result of the men being tortured to death (see Scott Horton, “Murders at Guantanamo, March 2010, Harpers).
One of the protesters was contacted by cell phone after the judgment for acquittal, according to a story at MassLive.com:
[Patricia] Wieland, contacted by cell phone outside the court house, called the ruling a major victory because it upheld the First Amendment, namely the protections for freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly.
“We did exactly what the First Amendment tells us to do,” she said. “We actually exercised the First Amendment and won.”
SCOTUS Stiffs Arar Complaint, While RCMP Investigating U.S./Syrian Officials in Arar Rendition
According to a press release by Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the U.S. Supreme Court "decided today not to hear the [CCR] case on behalf of Canadian citizen Maher Arar against U.S. officials for their role in sending him to Syria to be tortured. I discussed last November the en banc decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, where the court made it clear that victims of extraordinary rendition, i.e., kidnapping and being sent to be tortured, as Arar was, right from JFK Airport in New York City. (File this in the "it could be you" department.)
Glenn Greenwald castigated the Supreme Court’s decision in his column today, "The U.S. wins the right to abduct innocent people with impunity":
The Canadians, who cooperated with the U.S. in Arar’s abduction, conducted a sweeping investigation of what happened, and then publicly "issued a scathing report that faulted Canada and the United States for his deportation four years ago to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured," and made clear he had done absolutely nothing wrong. Then, Canada’s Prime Minister personally and publicly apologized to Arar, and announced that Canada would compensate him with a payment of $ 8.5 million.
But what has the U.S. done. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. Really worse than nothing, as the Obama administration actively sought to prevent Arar’s suit, including filing a brief arguing against the Supreme Court taking up the Second Circuit ruling. Furthermore, the U.S. has refused to allow Arar into the United States, even though it admits he never did anything wrong. The only reason for this is to keep his story from being heard.
Meanwhile, according to CCR, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are investigating U.S. officials involved in the rendition of Mr. Arar.
According to Mr. Arar and his attorneys, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has been conducting a criminal investigation into U.S. as well as Syrian officials for their role in his rendition to torture.
To their knowledge, this is the first time the existence of the RCMP’s criminal investigation of U.S officials has been made public. Mr. Arar has met with the RCMP in conjunction with the investigation.
Said CCR Senior Attorney Maria LaHood, “The U.S. should be conducting its own criminal investigation of the officials responsible for sending an innocent man to Syria for a year to be interrogated under torture, not covering for them. Again, the Canadians are doing the right thing by criminally investigating not only Syrian officials, but officials from the U.S. as well. The Obama administration should look to the Canadian example and do what’s right – apologize to Maher and hold his torturers accountable.”
It’s a good thing (for certain people) that the United States is quite large, because as this country sinks into the status of an international pariah, intent on protecting its torturers, if not the right to torture prisoners it considers outside the pale of national and international law, U.S. officials involved in these crimes against humanity will soon find they cannot go to even Canada, as they would fear arrest and prosecution.
Those more interested in Maher Arar’s case should check out this CCR link.
Those, like myself, who could not attend the Culture Project’s "Blueprint for Accountability" shindig at Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, NYU, on June 7, with Valerie Plame, Ron Suskind, Jeremy Scahill, Robert Kennedy, Jr., Vince Warren and others, can now watch the unchaptered video of the event online here.
The full text of the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) complaint to the federal Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP) is now online, offering the opportunity to sign on to complaint itself. The official petition draws upon findings by PHR that the CIA experimented on detainees in its custody, based upon the following evidence of wrongdoing detailed in declassified government documents. See PHR’s full investigatory report here.
PHR’s filing has been joined by other major human rights and civil liberties groups, including Amnesty International, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Center for Victims of Torture, Human Rights Watch, International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and Psychologists for Social Responsibility.
ACLU reminds us that June is "Torture Awareness Month," and is using the occasion to publicize many of the torture documents it painstakingly won via hard-fought FOIA lawsuits. Now, if they would only sign on to PHR’s OHRP complaint. Hey, ACLU, what’s up with that?
Update: An ACLU kindly wrote to remind me that ACLU has been supportive of PHR's report on Bush-era human experiments on torture, citing this article, as well as support for the PHR/New York Civil Liberties Union push for passage of New York State anti-torture bills.
Originally posted at The Seminal/FDL