Wednesday, December 30, 2020

"An Affront to Justice" Say UN Experts of Trump's Blackwater Pardons

The UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries spoke out today on President Trump's pardons of private security contractors convicted by U.S. courts of War Crimes in Iraq.  “These pardons violate US obligations under international law and more broadly undermine humanitarian law and human rights at a global level”, said Jelena Aparac, the group's chair.  The Working Group called on all States parties to the Geneva Conventions to condemn the pardons.  One hundred ninety-six countries have signed the Conventions, the largest number of any international treaty.  Finalized in 1949 following the horrors of World War II, the rules were intended to limit the savagery of war. The Working Group today cautioned that allowing private contractors to act with impunity would send a signal to all that the laws of war can be selectively violated -- even to the point of murdering civilians -- without consequences. 

December 30, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Some Good Education News

The latest stimulus bill includes a provision restoring Pell Grant eligibility to those who are incarcerated.   The Obama administration began a pilot program awarding Pell grants to 12,000 incarcerated individuals.  The educational program was a success and its restoration for availability for all prisoners had bipartisan support.  Even Betsey DeVos supported the bill.  Education is a critical way for those who are incarcerated to obtain jobs upon their transition back into civil  society.   Access to Pell grants is important but is only one of the necessary steps to improving the lives of both the incarcerated and the formerly incarcerated.  

Recently PBS aired a series of reports on the difficulties faced by formerly incarcerated people.  Often those returning to civil society face substantial barriers to improving their lives.  The barriers placed by our bureaucracies who impose unreasonable costs and other demands on the formerly incarcerated.  These restrictions prevent these formerly incarcerated humans from achieving financial success and independence.  These are only some of the obstacles and indignities formerly incarcerated people encounter.  To read the stories of those interviewed for the PBS series, click here.

December 29, 2020 in Incarcerated, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Pew Research: Most Germans Don't See the U.S. as a Good Partner for Human Rights

Last month, the Pew Research Center published fascinating new data suggesting that the road to re-establishing U.S. relations with its traditional European partners may be a long one.  According to the poll, American perceptions of partnership potential with Germany on a range of issues have remained relatively steady over time.  In fact, nearly three-quarters of Americans say that relations with Germany are good, with 19 percent deeming the relations very good. 

The Germans surveyed hold a very different view.  Among Germans, 79% say that the relationship with the U.S. is bad, a 15 percentage point increase since 2019 .  On specific issues, the perceptions are equally skewed.  For example, only 12% of Germans say that the U.S. is a partner on protecting the environment, compared with 76% of Americans who say the same about Germany.  Pertinent to this blog's readers, clear majorities in Germany do not see the U.S. as a partner on protecting democracy and human rights.

These findings are based on a Pew Research Center survey of 1,007 adults conducted in the U.S. from Sept. 22-28, 2020, a Körber-Stiftung survey of 1,005 adults conducted in Germany from Sept. 10-17 and another survey in Germany of 1,058 adults from Nov. 6-10, 2020. 

December 27, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 25, 2020

'Tis A New and Different Season

Image1We wish our readers the best of the season.  While we miss our traditional gatherings we look forward with hope.  Daylight is growing longer, a vaccine is here, and a new administration is coming! Wishing you and yours restful and comforting holidays.



December 25, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Inter-American Commission Grants Precautionary Measures Against U.S. in Death penalty case

While federal executions have rapidly escalated in the waning days of the Trump presidency, state level executions continue apace.  Christa Pike, the only woman on death row in Tennessee, has been held in solitary confinement for 23 years -- not because of penological policies, but because she is the only woman on death row and is not allowed to mingle with either men on death row or other female inmates not awaiting execution.  She was convicted of a heinous murder committed when she was 18 years old. 

On December 11, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution granting Pike's request for precautionary measures, filed on her behalf by students and faculty at Cornell Law School and members of the federal defender service.  The United States appeared to defend the execution and the process leading up to it, arguing, among other things, that the IACHR's rulings would not be binding on the US but would simply be taken under advisement.

After examining the submissions, the IACHR requested that the United States of America: a) adopt the necessary measures to protect the life and personal integrity of Christa Pike; b) refrain from carrying out the death penalty on Christa Pike; c) ensure that Christa Pike’s detention conditions are consistent with international standards, giving special consideration to her personal conditions; and, d) agree on the measures to be adopted with the beneficiary and her representatives.  

Christa Pike's execution date has not yet been set, but on December 2, after Pike's petition was filed in the IACHR, the Tennessee Supreme Court granted an extension of time for Pike's response to the state's motion to set an execution date.  Pike's response is now due March 8, 2021. 



December 20, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

SCOTUS: Preserving Gay Rights

This week the Supreme Court denied cert for a case that sought to chip away at the rights gained for LGBTQ+ people in Obergefell v Hodges.  Box v Henderson sought to deny two lesbian mothers from each being named on their child's birth certificate.  Many feared that this case would be used to begin the whittling away of LGBTQ+ rights now that the court has a 6-3 conservative majority. 

The case arose under Indiana law where the state court of appeals ordered that both mothers have the right to named on the birth certificate just as different sex parents do when a child is conceived through non-traditional means.  This right is part of the "constellation of benefits" referenced in Obergefell.  The denial of cert was a surprise to many, but most of all to those who are still unwilling to accept Oberefell as law and expected to try at change with the conservative court.

Arkansas had unsuccessfully challenged the same sex parents' right to both be named on the birth certificate not long after Obergefell.  In Paven v. Smith the Supreme Court affirmed the parents' right to both be named on the birth certificate.


December 15, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Federal Tort Claim Brings Settlement in Military Sexual Assault Case

The Department of Justice announced that it had paid $1.4 million to a former student of the Merchant Marine Academy who filed suit after being sexually assaulted.  The former student was a member for the men's soccer team was hazed, restrained and sexually assaulted.  According to Politico, "The settlement marks the first time a victim of sexual assault at one of the nation’s five federal service academies has successfully recovered damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act, under which the federal government recognizes liability for the negligence of its employees, according to the victim’s attorneys". 

In 2016 a different article reported that the Merchant Marine Academy has the highest rate of sexual harassments and sexual assault of all the military academies.  A government sponsored survey revealed that" 63 percent of women and 11 percent of men experienced unwanted advances or other sexual harassment. And 17 percent of women and 2 percent of men endured some kind of sexual assault, defined as unwanted contact, from groping to rape." In the same year only one sexual assault was reported through official channels.  The survey rates were for Merchant Maritime.  Those rates were from the 2014-2016 academic year and were the numbers exceeded the combined rates for all the other military academies.

One spokesman for the Academy said he believed the school was turning a corner.   Another assertion without evidence.


December 13, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 10, 2020

On Human Rights Day: The Human Right to Water, Especially during a Pandemic

Today, Northeastern Law School's Program on the Human Rights  and the Global Economy (PHRGE) released a new report, "Disconnected: How Household Water Shutoffs during the COVID Pandemic Violate the Human Right to Water."  A copy of the report is available here

This report is the latest in PHRGE's series of in-depth reports on household water, sanitation, and human rights in the United States.  The other publications, ranging from a user-friendly guide to using FOIL laws to get information on water access to an analysis of grassroots activism aroung water issues, are available here.

Are the efforts around the country working?  Are folks in your communities, including water policymakers, beginning to recognize that water and sanitation are human rights and taking action accordingly?

December 10, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

May DACA Dreams Come True

Dreamers have been specific pawns in the Administration's anti-immigrant efforts.  The status of DACA youth has been a pawn since immigration "negotiations" began early in the Trump presidency.  When Congress refused to cede to Trump's demands, then the administration took action to strip the Dreamers of protections afforded them by the prior administration.  The Dreamers are US residents who came to the United States as children.  To deport this population means sending these young people to a country of which they have no memory of the country where they were born, and in many cases do not speak the language.   

Finally, on December 4, 2020, Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis, ordered the government to immediately accept applications from Dreamers for work permits.  This restores Obama Era protections. Let's hope that the Biden administration fast-tracks Dreamers' citizenship 

December 8, 2020 in Immigrants, Immigration, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Human Rights Day 2020: A Lot to Address

The coming week will be full of events commemorating Human Rights Day, December 10, with more content available on-line than ever before.  Here are three substantive discussions from around the world to get you started:

Online events (Times are EST):

December 8, 8 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

Please join the Raoul Wallenberg Institute for a panel discussion on Human Rights, Poverty, and Inequality, on December 8, 8 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. EST, featuring UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty Olivier de Schutter and other experts.  

Dec. 10 12:00 Noon

International Bar Association: Resolutions and remedies, from litigation to ombudsman, and international human rights Thursday 10 December 12:00 – 1:00 EST Zoom  This session will explore litigation and dispute resolution. We will look at cases filed against corporations for human rights violations in their international operations, such as the Canadian Nevsun case and the Apple case in the United States, and how other forms of dispute resolution may or may not be better for addressing such issues.

Dec. 10 12:30PM

UN International Human Rights Day Commemoration, December 10, 2020 via Zoom-York University, Toronto. 2020 Theme: Recover Better - Stand Up for Human Rights. This year’s Human Rights Day theme relates to the COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on the need to “build back better” by ensuring human rights are central to recovery efforts. We will reach our common global goals only if we are able to create equal opportunities for all, address the failures exposed and exploited by COVID-19, and apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systemic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion, racism, and discrimination. 10 December is an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of human rights in re-building the world we want, the need for global solidarity as well as our interconnectedness and shared humanity. Thursday, December 10, 2020 from 12:30 - 2:00 PM  CLICK here to register:


December 6, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Administration Steps Up Human Rights Abuses During Its Last Few Weeks

The Trump Administration has stepped up its efforts to inflict as much inhumanity as possible before its demise.  As of now, five people who ae incarcerated in the federal prison system are scheduled to be executed before January 20th.  

The President removed the suspension of capital punishment that had been in place for well over a decade.  The last prior federal execution was 17 years ago.   Among those scheduled for execution is Lisa Montgomery. She would be the first woman executed by the federal government in 67 years.  While Ms. Montgomery's crime was shocking, she committed the crime while suffering from PTSD from being sexually trafficked during her childhood.  According to a Washington Post  report on Ms. Montgomery " Cases in which women are sentenced to death often involve prosecutors portraying the defendant as straying from gender norms by, for example, being sexually deviant or an inattentive mother, Dunham said. He said many women who receive the death penalty were not in their right mind at the time of the crime."  

Recently Ms. Montgomery's two lawyers became ill with COVID-19.  A federal district court recently denied their quest for a delay in the scheduled December 8th execution.  Ms. Montgomery is represented by clinicians and students of the Cornell International Human Rights Clinic. An appeals ordered a stay of execution until December 31st to provide Ms. Montgomery's lawyers an opportunity to recover and continue advocating for their client.  The federal government promptly rescheduled the execution for January 12th.  Wishing the clinic Godspeed in finding a way to extend the execution date for at least an additional nine days so the Biden administration may take action to prevent Ms. Montgomery's execution as well as other future executions.

You may sign a petition to assist Ms. Montgomery here.

December 2, 2020 in Incarcerated, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Period Parity

In case you missed it, Scotland has become the first country in the world to make period products -- i.e., tampons, pads -- free to all who need them. In the U.S., the Tampon Tax Protest is focusing on the thirty that still tax period products -- essentially, a tax on women.  For more information, check out this interactive map which reveals, for example, that Michigan taxes tampons but doughnuts are untaxed, and that South Carolina has a tax on tampons, but amusement park rides are untaxed. The human rights issues with this are apparent, but for a scholarly examination of the issue, check out Professor Bridget Crawford's work here and here.

December 1, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)