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Submissions to the UN Universal Periodical Review

October 26, 2010

Editor’s note: On Nov. 5 2010, the U.S. government will be required to appear before the United Nations in Geneva, at what is called a “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR) of Human Rights in the United States. Three categories of information will be presented:

  1. The U.S. Government report
  2. Summary of previous UN Recommendations
  3. Summary of Stakeholder (Civil Society) reports

This third section combines the reports of 25 human rights groups in the U.S. The U.S. Human Rights Network (USHRN) coordinated the submission of these 25 reports, which expose and detail violations of human rights by the government. The reports include information on the death penalty, criminal justice, political repression, racial profiling and U.S. political prisoners. 4sm is printing the summary of two reports below.

The full reports are available for download by visiting http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodiesUPR%5CPAGES%5CUSSession9.aspx. You can contact the USHRN to get more information and these documents at:

Malcolm X Center
321 W. Antrim Dr.
P.O. Box 16102
Greenville, SC
29607 USA
enjericho@gmail.com

State Repression: Submission to the UN-UPR

While recent years mark key anniversaries in U.S. political and social history, e.g. public accommodation, voting rights, school desegregation, civil rights and anti-war protest landmarks, the protection and advancement of civil and human rights have declined amidst the celebration of these landmark years. The current environment tends to be little more than a cover for law enforcement which has grown increasingly more repressive and hostile to the U.S. Constitution’s 1st, 4th, 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, in addition to international obligations.

The United States has remained true to its longer history of political repression and use of its criminal justice system to quash dissent. In addition, it falls short of meeting its international human rights obligations as provided in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, U.N. treaties that it has ratified, and other international instruments. More specifically, its violations are of basic human rights protected in the International Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Police in the United States, along with other arms of law enforcement, continue to be used to suppress efforts demanding recognition, protection and fulfillment of social and economic human rights; namely, the right to education, health, housing, work, and social security. Such efforts, sought individually and collectively, have, and continue to be primary targets and are met with racial profiling, surveillance, infiltration, provocation, immobilization, arrest, detention, police violence, prosecutorial misconduct, excessive sentences, and death — all with impunity. 1960s Civil Rights Movement activists caught in the government drag net known as COINTELPRO are victims of such misconduct and remain in prison to this day.

Police still routinely make unfounded mass arrests and detentions to keep people off the streets and out of the eye of the media, which tends to be accommodating. There is the return of police-initiated violence at demonstrations, arrest of unembedded journalists, and the use of so-called less-lethal weapons against peaceful protesters. These weapons—among them chemical sprays, impact projectiles, and electroshock weapons, cattle prods of the 1960s—are often associated with fatalities. This practice persists though condemned by several independent panels and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

Ongoing and pervasive profiling throughout the United States on the basis of race, immigration status, national origin, religion or ethnicity, under the guise of fighting illegal immigration, drugs, and terrorism, have resulted in increased migrant deaths, mass incarceration and use of torture against African Americans and other persons of color. Law enforcement officers, throughout the country, who have engaged in torture for the purpose of extracting confessions continue to escape prosecution while individuals who were tortured are prosecuted or languish in prison based on the use of coerced confessions in their criminal cases.

In addition to the Abu Ghraib style Chicago Police Torture Cases (Burge Cases) of 1973, is the current case of the San Francisco 8 (SF8). Both are examples of the longstanding domestic use of torture against African Americans by law enforcement officers. The Burge Cases were based on race.  The SF8 case is based on race and political beliefs and activities. Thirty years ago, Black Panther Party for Self Defense members (a social justice organization) were tortured over several days, in various ways including electric cattle prods to their genitals, confessed and signed pre-written statements regarding various crimes and the 1971 death of a San Francisco Police officer. In 1974, a federal court ruled that the tainted statements were inadmissible and the charges dismissed. Not only have the perpetrators never been brought to justice, but also two of them now serve as agents with the Anti-Terrorist Task Force of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office under the auspices of U.S. Department of Homeland Security and have resurrected the dismissed charges based on the tainted confessions. This is a violation of article 5(b) and (d) of the Convention guaranteeing the right to be free of excessive force and the rights to freedom of speech, expression, assembly and association.

The Government’s increasing disregard for the U.S. Constitution and its human rights obligations is further displayed in its treatment of Muslim, Arab and South Asian inmates. In 2006 and 2007, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP or “Bureau”) secretly created the Communications Management Unit (CMU), a prison unit designed to hold dangerous terrorists and other high-risk inmates, requiring heightened monitoring of their external and internal communications. Many prisoners, however, are sent to these isolation units for their constitutionally protected religious beliefs, unpopular political views, or in retaliation for challenging poor treatment or other rights violations in the federal prison system. Over two-thirds of the CMU population is Muslim, even though Muslims represent only 6 percent of the general federal prison population.

In 1996, the U.S. government established Special Administrative Measures, or SAMs, to limit the communications of prisoners with an alleged reach and ability to commit violence; now SAMs can be placed on anyone with a “proclivity for violence.” Without criminal conviction, it limits contact and ability to communicate with the outside world – including members of the family. SAMs are being imposed disproportionately on Muslims suspected of connections with terrorism and is typical of how terrorism suspects are being treated in U.S. prisons and courts.

Recommendation for Action by the U.S. Government

  1. Take leadership role to insure creation of public education and protections afforded under U.S. Constitution and international treaties and conventions are applied vigorously.
  2. Adopt and ratify all major treaties and conventions, without RUDs.
  3. Commute the sentences and release all U.S. Political Prisoners/Prisoners of War (PP/POWs) and exiles from the COINTELPRO/Civil Rights Era immediately and unconditionally.
  4. The United States must institute an Executive Review of all cases involving those imprisoned as a result of COINTELPRO and adopt the necessary measures to ensure the right of COINTELPRO PP/POWs/Exiles to seek just and adequate reparation and satisfaction to redress acts of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and to design effective measures to prevent the repetition of such acts.
  5. That Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier, at a minimum, be afford a new trial.

 

Political Prisoners in the United States of America: Submission to the UN-UPR

In 1976, a Congressional sub-committee popularly known as the “Church Committee” was formed to investigate and study the FBI’s covert action programs. The Church Committee concluded that the FBI “conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.” The Committee’s factual findings revealed massive human rights violations against U.S. citizens based on race, political ideas, and political affiliations.

In the final reports of the Committee, permanent means of congressional review were recommended. Shockingly, none of the recommendations made by this Congressional committee addressed the human rights violations suffered by dozens of civil/human rights activists who were victimized by the U.S. government’s political repression against African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Native American communities. Such repression resulted in murders, injuries, false arrests, malicious prosecutions and lengthy imprisonments of scores of political activists. Many of these persons languish in prisons throughout the United States, political prisoners and prisoners of war, subjected to cruel and inhumane conditions. Several have died in prison; others have endured years of solitary confinement, poor medical care, and various other forms of abuse, including periodic perfunctory parole hearings resulting in routine denial of release. Others are exiled abroad with bounties on their heads and in fear of U.S. rendition.

Today’s political prisoners, prisoners of war, and exiles were civil/human rights activists who became victims of the FBI counterintelligence program called COINTELPRO. COINTELPRO consisted of a series of covert actions directed against domestic dissident groups. In these programs, the Bureau went beyond the collection of intelligence to secret actions designed to “disrupt” and “neutralize” target groups and individuals. These techniques were adopted wholesale from wartime counterintelligence techniques. It is indisputable that COINTELPRO was responsible for maimings, murders, false prosecutions and frame-ups, destruction and mayhem throughout the country. It had infiltrated every organization and association that aspired to bring about social change in the United States, whether with or without the use of arms. Hundreds of members of the Puerto Rican Independence movement, the Black Panther Party (BPP), the Young Lords, the Weather Underground, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Republic of New Africa (RNA), the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), the Chicano Movement, the Black Liberation Army (BLA), Environmentalists, the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), peace activists, and everyone in between were targeted by COINTELPRO for “neutralization.”

Government Repression Included Murder

In 1969, the FBI and local Chicago police agents were responsible for the predawn assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark as they lay asleep in their beds. Hampton and Clark were the leaders of the Chicago office of the Black Panther Party.

Harsher Sentences and Repeated Denial of Parole

Many of today’s political prisoners were incarcerated as a direct result of COINTELPRO’s activities, namely, they were targeted because of their political beliefs and/or actions. Unlike those convicted and sentenced for similar crimes, political prisoners were given much harsher sentences and subsequently routinely denied parole. Former BLA member, Sundiata Acoli (a.k.a. Clark Squire), the codefendant of exiled Assata Shakur, was sentenced to life plus thirty years for the death of a New Jersey State trooper. He was eligible for parole after twenty years. After serving twenty-two years, however, the New Jersey parole board denied him parole and gave him an unprecedented twenty-year set off. Susan Rosenberg was sentenced to fifty-eight years for possession of explosives and denied parole despite her exemplary prison record. Mumia Abu Jamal, a former Black Panther Party member, was sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. Leonard Peltier was sentenced to life in 1975; another model prisoner, he was denied parole again in 2009. Acoli and Peltier are but recent examples of the use of the parole process to exact political punishment. Parole officials often acknowledge the advancing age, deteriorating health, significant release plans and good prison records of these aging PP/POWs.

Recommendations

  1. All U.S. political prisoners/prisoners of war (PP/POWs) imprisoned as a result of COINTELPRO must be immediately and unconditionally released from U.S. prisons.
  2. The United States must institute an Executive review of all cases involving those imprisoned as a result of COINTELPRO.
  3. The United States must initiate a criminal investigation into the conspiracy to commit the murder of Fred Hampton, Mark Clark and other political activists targeted by COINTELPRO.
  4. The United States must adopt the necessary measures to ensure the right of PP/POWs to seek just and adequate reparation and satisfaction to redress acts of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and to design effective measures to prevent the repetition of such acts.
  5. The United States must, at a minimum, afford death row inmate Mumia Abu Jamal and Native American Leonard Peltier new trials.

Notes

This Report was submitted by The National Conference of Black Lawyers and The Malcolm X Center for Self Determination. The cluster group is comprised of NGOs, grassroots organizations, church groups, attorney organizations, elected officials, college professors, law professionals, students, concerned citizens, and others. Read the UPR Political Prisoner Report: http://www.ushumanrightsnetwork.org/sites.default.files.PoliticalPrisonersReport.pdf

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