Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Omar Campaign

Justice for Omar

UK accused of legal lapse over detainee
by Miriam Wells The Argus 18 oct 2005

The Government has been accused of breaking the law by remaining silent over Guantanamo detainee Omar Deghayes.

Asim Qureshi, a specialist in international law who advised human rights organisation Cage Prisoners, has produced a report detailing the legal obligations he says the UK has towards Mr Deghayes and is failing to uphold.

Ministers say they are unable to help Mr Deghayes and the other UK detainees because they were refugees rather than citizens before their capture.

Britain granted Mr Deghayes asylum from Libya, the country of his birth, after accepting he may be in danger following the assasination of his father, a political dissident.

But the Home Office says it is now up to Libya to help him. Mr Qureshi's report points out that although Mr Deghayes does not have a British passport, which would entitle him to UK consular help, he was travelling under British identity documents when he was taken to Guantanamo.

Because the UK is signed up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is obliged to make sure any person under its sovereignty has their human rights protected.

The lawyer also claims that by failing to make representations on Mr Deghayes' behalf, the Government has destined him to be sent back to Libya - a scenario which the US has put forward.

This would break an international legal treaty, the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Unusual or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which forbids states from sending people back to countries where they will probably be tortured.

Mr Qureshi said: "International conventions go a very long way in establishing strong norms of international law binding states to act in the best interests of refugees.

"The Government has so far failed to uphold the international rule of law in protesting against the conditions in which these men are being held. "They are not merely foreigners to whom the Government holds no responsibility.

"They are individuals who, having faced oppression and injustice, fled to the UK in order to gain safety, and have indeed been granted it.

"The actions of the Government are based solely on political considerations to simply ignore those people."

Mr Qureshi's report will be presented at an international human rights conference at the European Parliament next week.

Jackie Chase, who is campaigning for justice for Mr Deghayes, is speaking at the conference and it is hoped three others will accompany her to speak to MEPs, although the group is short of funds.

She said: "This is a unique opportunity to speak to some of the best brains in human rights about the case and in particular, get the European Parliament to intervene.

Noura - More Notes from Palestine

The Walls are Closing in

The situation is relatively quiet here in Palestine. Yet it is a
strange kind of quiet and calm that surrounds us. While there are no
daily incursions, and rarely do we see the Israeli military presence
during the day - other than while crossing checkpoints - we know the
building of the wall continues at a frighteningly rapid pace.
Simultaneously, at least hundreds of men have disappeared in the
night in the run up to Palestinian elections, jailed indefinitely
because of their political affiliations in conditions some of which
were recently described as "unfit for cattle" by previous justice
minister Yossi Beilin (about Damoun prison which was recently re-
opened after he ordered it closed).

With few visible signs of the occupation, we discuss and debate:
weather the "pull-out" was valuable or not, who was responsible for
seven more viscous days of shelling in Gaza which is still
recovering from "a state of panic. Children are restless, crying,
frightened and many are wetting their beds. Some children are afraid
to leave home and refuse to go to school. Many are dazed, pale,
insomniac and have a poor appetite. Some pregnant women reported
colics and some were admitted to hospital with precipitated labour.
Many people complain of ear pressure. All are stunned. Israel's new
method of creating intentional sonic booms in our skies was never
used before the disengagement, so as not to alarm or hurt the
Israeli settlers and their children says Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, the
founder and director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. It
seems our biggest nightmare in Gaza is coming true, awakening us
from any dreams of liberation.

While we ponder the Palestinian elections and who has won what
seats, what we are essentially questioning is who will be the
warden's of the prison that has become Palestine. Who will
administer the key, to whom the locks will not even be held - as 57
years of isolation, imprisonment and occupation continue to grow.

Meanwhile most Palestinians we meet are beating their heads with
frustration wondering when the next time (or if) they will ever see
the ocean again, much less leave their villiges. Before 2000
Palestinians were able to travel to Israel with ease. Collectively
they are ALL paying the heavy price of resisting the occupation of
their homeland, with growing pain and resentment. This is the root
of the injustice, for collective punishment is sure to enrage the
entire society, while turning against it's agressors. We [those
seeking human rights] are left longing for a lasting and just
solution to end the generations of suffering.

Cementing the Occupation

Every time I go through the Kalandia checkpoint, there is new
infrastructure built. Every day, it looks more like an
administrative building complete with a paved parking lot! It is the
strangest sight - amidst the detroyed land, rubble, trash and dirt is the seemingly innocent office center that will no doubt be used to facilitate and administer the occupation. For any of you who were hopeful that 'Gaza first' would not be 'Gaza last', this may be act as an indication. This "center" is where the paperwork will be done to ensure the daily doses of detentions, control of movement, economy, water and society can continue with more beauracratic order and organization.

"It's kind of hard to be optimistic when your homey's lying on the
pavement twisted." Tupac. The lyrics to Tupac's songs regularly go
through my mind. A Palestinian friend we met was so happy to see
that we were here because it expanded her shrinking square of hope
which she said sometimes gets smaller by the day. I can not stress
how hopeless most people are, which I believe is why many don't even
want to talk about the situation any more. Another friend I met was
talking to me about ISM and non-violence, he made a point of telling
me how he recently counted over 200 friends of his that have died
since 2002! What could have done differently? Occupation surely did not enter their lives peacefully...and fifty seven years of struggle to simply live their lives in peace, can not be easily forgetten or ignored.

Critical Self Analysis

I think it is important to talk not only about the political situation - but also the society, when possible. It is also vital to have an open and healthy analysis, debate and discussion about the culture. This does happen regularly *behind closed doors* but because of the encouragement and support by some Palestinian friends here, I think it is also important to get it out into the open. In the future I will begin to share the frustrations and the internal difficulties that come from Palestinian Authority and the culture which has been dramatically effected by 57 years of military occupation and growing isolation.

Please feel free to share any observations, thoughts or comments.

love and solidarity,


New Orleans News

Dear friends and allies,

The last couple of weeks have seen a continued outpouring of
initiatives, support, contributions and volunteers from across the US and around
the world. Journalists and human rights workers have exposed many of
the abuses of city, state and federal officials, as well as those of
police, miltary, and disaster profiteers.

Organizing continues on the ground from many different individuals,
organizations and coalitions. There have also, unfortunately, been some
very public attacks and infighting.

Below are some upcoming initiatives. The first is a rally called by a
New Orleans/Baton Rouge based coalition called the New Opportunity for
Action and Hope Coalition, and below that is a National Assembly and
March for Human Rights called by the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund.

Also, here are some resources for information and action:

The New Opportunity for Action and Hope Coalition presents


Featuring Jesse Jackson, Governor Blanco, Congressmen Jefferson and
Melancon, New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas and other
faith, labor, and community leaders.
Saturday, October 29, 2005 - 10:00am-1:00pm
Louisiana State Capitol - Baton Rouge

See for more info.

The New Opportunity for Action and Hope Coalition was formed by
Louisiana-based labor, community and civil rights organizations seeking to
ensure that the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast region is completed in a
way that maximizes its benefits and opportunities to working families
displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

The mission of the NOAH Coalition is three-fold:

• Priority Job Placement and Training for displaced workers in
rebuilding their communities.

• Living Wages for Workers to enable them to support themselves and
their families.

• Access to Immediate Housing in their communities and a plan for
transitioning to long term, affordable housing in that community.

The People’s Hurricane Fund Presents

The People must decide

Jackson, MS December 9th
Gulf Coast National Assembly

New Orleans, LA December 10th
Day of Return
March for Human Rights
Join survivors and others of goodwill to
take back New Orleans from the real looters

• Support family reunification now. The government must provide funds
for all families to be reunited. The databases of FEMA and the Red
Cross must be made public.
• Demand a Victims Compensation Fund as was done after 9/11 for the
people in the World Trade Center in New York City. The $50 billion
belongs to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
• Demand representation on all boards that are making decisions on
spending public dollars for relief and reconstruction. We also demand that
those most affected by Hurricane Katrina be part of the planning
• Demand public work jobs for displaced workers and residents of New
Orleans and the Gulf Coast. We must take the lead in rebuilding our
communities. The jobs must be at union wages so that our communities are
no longer characterized by extreme poverty.
• Demand transparency in the entire reconstruction process. Citizens
must know where all the monies are being spent and with whom they are
being spent.

Support grassroots leadership. Be a part of the solution.

The People’s Hurricane Relief Fund - 3565 Wheatley Street Jackson,
Mississippi 39212
For more information: Please call (601) 346-5995 or visit us on the web

Noura- Notes From Palestine

Palestinians Dying for Relative Calm

I received a few replies to my last email asking me to clarify what I meant by "the situation is relatively quiet here in Palestine.". I
am sorry to say that I am guilty of falling into the same trap as the news media. In my last posting, I failed to mention that from May 1-Sept. 2005, 86 Palestinians lives have been taken; including 15 children*. We should compare it on a humanitarian level, but Palestinians aren't relative - their lives are defined in relation to the well being of their oppressors. And of course there were no Israeli casualties at the hands of Palestinians, so it didn't count.

However, the relative calm that is being experienced here during this time does not come for free, "it is a trade off: the Gaza Strip for the settlement blocks; the Gaza Strip for Palestinian land; the Gaza Strip for unilaterally imposing borders," said Dror Etkes, director of the Israeli organisation Settlement Watch. "They don't know how long they've got. That's why they're building like maniacs." For more in an excellent article explaining the purpose of the building of Qalandyia's administrative center, the ever expanding settlements and the isolation and strangulation of Jerusalem see:,3858,5311688-117700,00.html

Palestinians can only enjoy the luxury of calm when they are finally offered their freedom in return.

If you have any comments, please add them to my blog I'm just getting started and trying to figure out how to use:


Crime and New Orleans

by Jordan Flaherty

People from New Orleans were not surprised to see video of police
beating a 64 year old man in the French Quarter. The only surprise is the
increased attention the incident received due to the continued media
focus on New Orleans, although news reports I saw took pains to point out
the “high levels of stress” New Orleans police are under.

Despite the attempts to explain away the officer’s behavior, the
incident fits into a well-defined pattern of police conduct in New Orleans.
In the last year, seven young Black men have been killed by New Orleans
police, and none of the officers involved have been punished.

This year has seen mounting evidence of a police department out of
control. Less than a week before Hurricane Katrina, on Wednesday August
24, Keith Griffin, a New Orleans police officer, was booked with
aggravated rape and kidnapping. According to a Times-Picayune report,
“Griffin is accused of pulling over a bicyclist under the guise of a police
stop in the early morning hours of July 11. The two-year veteran officer
allegedly detained the woman, drove her to a remote spot along the
Industrial Canal near Deslonde Street, then sexually assaulted her.”

This is hardly an isolated incident. Another recent Times-Picayune
article reported, “in April, seven-year veteran officer Corey Johnson was
booked with aggravated rape for allegedly forcing a woman to perform
oral sex, after he identified himself as an officer in order to enter the
woman's Treme home.”

Another article states “Eight officers were arrested during a six-month
stretch last year on charges that ranged from shoplifting to theft to
conspiracy to rob a bank...In April 2004, 16-year veteran James Adams
was booked with aggravated kidnapping, extortion and malfeasance after he
was accused of threatening to arrest a woman unless she agreed to have
sex with him. “

Police misconduct in this notoriously corrupt city goes back decades,
and occasionally it explodes in scandal. In a September 2000 report,
the progressive policy institute reported “a 1994 crackdown on police
corruption led to 200 dismissals and upwards of 60 criminal charges,
including two murder convictions of police officers. Investigators at the
time discovered that for six months in 1994, as many as 29 New Orleans
police officers protected a cocaine supply warehouse containing 286
pounds of cocaine. The FBI indicted ten officers who had been paid nearly
$100,000 by undercover agents. The investigation ended abruptly after
one officer successfully orchestrated the execution of a witness.”

According to one community activist I recently spoke with who is
familiar with the investigations, “That crackdown just scratched the
surface. They didn’t even really begin to address the problems in the New
Orleans police.”

According to a 1998 report from human rights watch “Former Officer Len
Davis, reportedly known in the Desire housing project as ‘Robocop,’
ordered the October 13, 1994 murder of Kim Groves, after he learned she
had filed a brutality complaint against him. Federal agents had Davis
under surveillance for alleged drug-dealing and recorded Davis ordering
the killing, apparently without realizing what they had heard until it
was too late. Davis mumbled to himself about the ‘30’ he would be taking
care of (the police code for homicide) and, in communicating with the
killer, described Groves's standing on the street and demanded he "get
that whore!" Afterward, he confirmed the slaying by saying ‘N.A.T.’
police jargon for ‘necessary action taken.’ Community activists reported a
chilling effect on potential witnesses or victims of brutality
considering coming forward to complain following Groves's murder.”

The white-flight suburbs around New Orleans are in many ways worse.
During the 1980s, Jefferson Parish sheriff Harry Lee famously ordered
special scrutiny for any black people traveling in white sections of the
parish. "It's obvious," Lee said, "that two young blacks driving a
rinky-dink car in a predominantly white neighborhood? They'll be stopped."

The New Orleans Gambit newspaper reported that 1994, “after two black
men died in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center within one week,
Lee faced protests from the black community and responded by withdrawing
his officers from a predominantly black neighborhood. ‘To hell with
them,’ he'd said. ‘I haven't heard one word of support from one black

The Gambit also reported in April of this year that in Jefferson
Parish officers were found to be using as target practice what critics
referred to as “a blatantly racist caricature” of a Black male. Sheriff Lee
laughed when presented with the charges. "I'm looking at this thing
that people say is offensive," he says. "I've looked at it, I don't find
it offensive, and I have no interest in correcting it."

These accusations of “target practice” gained force a few weeks later
with the May 31 killing of 16-year-old Antoine Colbert, who was behind
the wheel of a stolen pickup truck with two other teens. 110 shots
were fired into the truck, killing Colbert and injuring his passengers.
In response to criticism from Black ministers over the incident, Lee
responded “they can kiss my ass.”

As has been widely reported, the town of Gretna, across the Mississippi
from New Orleans and part of Jefferson Parish, stationed officers on
the bridge leading out of New Orleans blocking the main escape route for
the tens of thousands suffering in the Superdome, Convention Center,
and throughout the city.

As the LA Times reported on September 16, “little over a week after
this mostly white suburb became a symbol of callousness for using armed
officers to seal one of the last escape routes from New Orleans —
trapping thousands of mostly black evacuees in the flooded city — the Gretna
City Council passed a resolution supporting the police chief's move.
‘This wasn't just one man's decision,’ Mayor Ronnie C. Harris said
Thursday. ‘The whole community backs it.’”

Arguably, the actions of the Gretna police were one of the biggest
dangers to public safety to arise from this tragedy, perhaps second only to
the criminally-neglected levees. Anyone that wants to focus on relief
for the “victims” needs to focus on what exactly people from New
Orleans are victims of: racism, corruption, deindustrialization,
disinvestment, and neglect. That is why agencies and organizations such as Red
Cross, FEMA, Scientologists, their hundreds of well-meaning volunteers are
not really providing relief - they aren’t addressing the nature of the

We call hurricanes and earthquakes “natural disasters,” but the
contours of these disasters are manmade. As recent earthquake and
hurricane-related mass deaths in South Asia and Central America demonstrate, who
lives and who dies is intricately related to issues of poverty and
access. Whether the homes are built in safe areas, the soundness of the
structures, the length of time it takes for relief to arrive, all of these
are intricately tied to poverty. And yet the media generally ignores
these issues, and repeats the message that “nature doesn’t
discriminate.” Because of this message, relief is misdirected, and when those
receiving the relief aren’t sufficiently grateful, the givers become

An article in this Sunday’s New York Times reports on a community of
displaced New Orleans residents in rural Oklahoma, where local residents
are “glad to see them go.” “With each passing day,” the Times
reported, they “could feel the sympathy draining away.” The problem is the
perception that this is a problem that could be fixed by a place to stay
in another state, some hand-me-down clothes, and a few meals. For many
of us from New Orleans, what hurts the most is the loss of our
community, and charity doesn’t help to heal those wounds at all. Mayaba Benu,
a community activist currently in the city, told me “I miss everyone.
There’s a lot of reporters here, a lot of contractors and FEMA folks,
but not many people from New Orleans.”

While thousands of out-of-state contractors line-up for work,
including hundreds of trash hauling trucks from around the US lined up near
City Park, the people of New Orleans are still being excluded from
opportunities to take part in the reconstruction of their city. In fact, it
seems to many that out-of-state workers are more welcomed than the New
Orleans diaspora.

Jenka Soderberg, an indymedia reporter and volunteer at the Common
Ground Collective reports from her experience at a New Orleans FEMA
compound, “I went to the FEMA base camp for the city of new orleans. It made
me feel sick to my stomach. We walked around this absolutely surreal
scene of hundreds of enormous air-conditioned tents, each one with the
potential of housing 250 people -- whole city blocks of trailers with
hot showers, huge banks of laundry machines, portajohns lined up 50 at a
time, a big recreation tent, air-conditioned, with a big-screen tv, all
of it for contractors and FEMA workers, none of it for the people of
new orleans.”

Inside the FEMA camp, she was told by contractors, “the tents are
pretty empty, not many people staying here.” However, “we don't combine
with the evacuees -- we have our camp here, as workers, and they have
their camps.”

Soderberg comments, “thousands of New Orleans citizens could live there
while they rebuilt and cleaned their homes in the city. But instead,
due to the arrogance of a government bureaucracy that insists they are
separate from the 'evacuees', and cannot possibly see themselves mixing
with them and working side by side on the cleanup, these people are
left homeless, like the poor man I talked to earlier in the day, living
under a tarp with his mother buried under the mud of their house. Why
can't he live in their tents? It makes me so sad and mad to see so much
desperate need, and then just blocks away to see this huge abundance of
resources not being used. I have seen no FEMA center that is actually
providing any aid for people -- I have been to this main FEMA base camp
and three others in new orleans, and each of them have signs saying ‘No
public services available at this site/Authorized personnel only’”

And with poor people out of the city, the developers and corporations
are grabbing what they can - but there are no shoot-to-kill orders on
these well-dressed looters. NPR and other media have portrayed developer
Pres Kabacoff as a liberal visionary out to create a Paris on the
Mississippi. The truth is that Kabacoff represents the worst of New Orleans’
local disaster profiteers. It is Kabacoff who, in 2001, famously
demolished affordable housing in the St Thomas projects in New Orleans’
Lower Garden District and replaced it luxury condos and a Wal Mart. “New
Orleans has never recovered from what Kabacoff did,” one housing
activist told me. “It was a classic bait and switch. He told the city he
was going to revitalize the area, and ended up changing the rules in the
middle of the game and holding the city for ransom. He made a ton of
money, the rich got more housing, and the poor got dispersed around the

This year, Kabacoff has had his eyes on razing the Iberville housing
projects, a site of low-income housing near the French Quarter. While
Iberville residents were in their homes, they were able to fight
Kabacoff’s plans, and held numerous protests. Now that they are gone, their
homes (which were not flooded) are in serious danger from Kabacoff and
other developers seeking to take advantage of this tragedy to “remake the

The people of New Orleans need a voice in this reconstruction. But
what would community-controlled reconstruction look like? Organizers are
starting to grapple with these issues.

Dan Etheridge works with the Center for Bioenvironmental Research at
Tulane and Xavier Universities. He is currently organizing to create
collaborations and build partnerships between community organizations and
planning professionals “not because its benevolent but because we will
have a better city if the community has a say in its reconstruction.”

He has organized an upcoming conference at Tulane University to bring
together planners, architects, structural mitigation experts,
geographers and other experts, along with grassroots community leaders from New
Orleans, people such as “the social aid and pleasure clubs, Mardi Gras
Indian representatives, ACORN, building unions, artists, teachers,
public housing resident councils, Peoples Hurricane Fund representatives,”
and other community voices.

He hopes this will be “the starting point for an ongoing program, a
networking and organizing opportunity for autonomous public projects. we
want our vision to be part of the master plan for rebuilding the city,
but we want community groups to have access to the skills and funding
they need for smaller projects towards reestablishing the complicated
fabric of the city. Instead of falling through the cracks, we want
projects to grow up through the cracks.”

In a press conference today outside Orleans Parish Prison Critical
Resistance New Orleans organizer Tamika Middleton said “Katrina’s aftermath
reflects the way we as a nation increasingly deal with social ills:
police and imprison primarily poor Black communities for ‘crimes’ that
are reflections of poverty and desperation. Locking people up in this
crisis is cruel mismanagement of city resources and counters the
outpouring of the world’s support and concern for all survivors of Hurricane

Middleton is part of a coalition demanding an independent investigation
into the evacuation of OPP and amnesty for those arrested for trying to
feed and clothe themselves post-Katrina, while calling for real public
safety in a rebuilt New Orleans. “Rising from the devastation of
Katrina, we have an amazing opportunity to rebuild a truly new and genuine
system of public safety for New Orleans,” said Xochitl Bervera,
Co-Director of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children.

Discussing FEMA and other official “relief” agencies, Jenka Soderberg
says, “its so different from how we are working at the common ground
collective, or at Mama Dee's in the city, or the other community places
that people are starting up -- where neighbors are helping neighbors,
people just helping each other. It's so different when we are all human
together, instead of a militarized, razor-wired, fenced-in compound like
the FEMA camp that keeps out the people in need and keeps the
contractors and workers inside.”