Sunday, May 31, 2009

UPDATED: US Spying, Searches and Seizures - What good are they?

Immigration Concerns - where are they going? Are the makers of these various rulings concerned about rights and decent human compassion?

Here I want to open up a discussion on this post concerning the relationship of Surveillance, Spying and the various rampant US Searches and Seizures going on today. Are these various Seizures now following our constitution? Our US rulings? When and how have they become illegal - or have they?

Looking back, how were Sen. Russ Feingold and others in Congress and various leaders outside Congress rightfully concerned about the US Patriot Acts? And although they passed, were these Acts amended partly because of his hard work? Were they changed enough? Who are others who've have helped mitigate the full effect of these Acts?
In what way have they become worse over time?

In which way is Obama encouraging more constitutional approaches to these Seizures? Or is he? And finally, what do the Spying, Searching and Seizures accomplish? To whom is the gov't really accountable? Do we the citizens have a say? If so, are we using this opportunity to better our gov't?

How does this "listening in" and how do all the searches and seizures over time really make people more secure and to work toward harmony and peace? When are they counter-productive? When do they create much more anger and hostility toward America and the gov't then the benefits?

Connie - the oneheart blogger

Let's start with this one...

05.31.09 - 10:59 AM on Common Dreams dot org here

Death, Taxes, Unreasonable Search and Seizure, and Then Deportation

by Abby Zimet
Get Adobe Flash player
Horacio Arturo Cervantes, 42, poses for a photograph at his home in Greeley, Colo., on Monday, May 3, 2009. Cervantes, from Mexico was honest about paying his taxes even though he was in the U.S. illegally. The seizure of his tax records led to his arrest and now he is facing deportation charges.
Horacio Arturo Cervantes, 42, at his home in Greeley, Colo.

Talk about a rock and a hard place. A group of illegal immigrants in Colorado are facing deporation and criminal charges after a prosecutor seized thousands of confidential records from taxes THEY PAID. The ACLU has protested the seizure of almost 5,000 tax records that netted 70 cases. Horacio Arturo Cervantes, a Mexican father of four, was paying taxes in hopes of getting U.S. citizenship. Kinda makes you wonder why he'd want it.

"If it's a crime to pay taxes, then the IRS should also be charged," said Maria Eugenia Rey.

Access to Top-Secret Papers at Issue in Wiretapping Case


Other timely items are coming soon from various perspectives of these related issues.

Please DISCUSS these concerns HERE or at Common Dreams dot org - Do you mind please passing on this post to others? And thanks for tuning in!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Holding Onto Our Common Humanity

May 30, 2009
By Bob Herbert
Op-Ed Columnist

Overload is a real problem. There is a danger that even the most decent of people can grow numb to the unending reports of atrocities occurring all around the globe. Mass rape. Mass murder. Torture. The institutionalized oppression of women.

There are other things in the world: a ballgame, your daughter’s graduation, the ballet. The tendency to draw an impenetrable psychic curtain across the worst that the world has to offer is understandable. But it’s a tendency, as Elie Wiesel has cautioned, that must be fought.

We have an obligation to listen, for example, when a woman from a culture foreign to our own recalls the moment when time stopped for her, when she was among a group of women attacked by soldiers:

“They said to us: ‘If you have a baby on your back, let us see it.’ The soldiers looked at the babies and if it was a boy, they killed it on the spot [by shooting him]. If it was a girl, they dropped or threw it on the ground. If the girl died, she died. If she didn’t die, the mothers were allowed to pick it up and keep it.”

The woman recalled that in that moment, the kind of throbbing moment when time is not just stopped but lost, when it ceases to have any meaning, her grandmother had a boy on her back. The grandmother refused to show the child to the soldiers, so both she and the boy were shot.

A team of female researchers, three of them physicians, traveled to Chad last fall to interview women who were refugees from the nightmare in Darfur. No one has written more compellingly about that horror than my colleague on this page, Nick Kristof. When I was alerted to the report that the team had compiled for Physicians for Human Rights, my first thought was, “What more is there to say?”

And then I thought about Mr. Wiesel, who has warned us so eloquently about the dangers inherent in indifference to the suffering of others. Stories of atrocities on the scale of those coming out of Darfur cannot be told too often.

The conflict has gone on for more than six years, and while the murders and mass rapes have diminished, this enormous human catastrophe is still very much with us. For one thing, Sudan has expelled humanitarian aid groups from Darfur, a move that Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, recently told Mr. Kristof “may well amount to genocide by other means.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict and the systematic sexual attacks on Darfuri women have been widely reported. Millions have been displaced and perhaps a quarter of a million Darfuris are living in conditions of the barest subsistence in refugee camps along the Chad-Sudan border.

The report by Physicians for Human Rights, to be released officially on Sunday (available at, focuses on several dozen women in the Farchana refugee camp in Chad. The report pays special attention to the humanity of the women.

“These are real people with children, with lives that may have been quite simple, but were really rich before they were displaced,” said Susannah Sirkin, a deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights.

The conditions in the refugee camps are grim, made worse by the traumas that still grip the women, many of whom were witnesses — or the victims — of the most extreme violence.

“I don’t think I was prepared for the level of just palpable suffering that they are continuing to endure,” said Dr. Sondra Crosby, one of the four interviewers. “Women were telling me they were starving. They’re eating sorghum and oil and salt and sugar.”

Dr. Crosby and her colleagues had a few crackers or cookies on hand for the women during the interviews. “I don’t think I saw even one woman eat the crackers, even though they were hungry,” she said. “They all would hide them in their dresses so they could take them back to their children.”

The women also live with the ongoing fear of sexual assault. According to the report, rape is a pervasive problem around the refugee camps, with the women especially vulnerable when they are foraging for firewood or food.

“It is so much easier to look away from victims,” said Mr. Wiesel, in a speech at the White House in 1999. “It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes.”

But indifference to the suffering of others “is what makes the human being inhuman,” he said, adding: “The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity, we betray our own.”

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

AFGHANISTAN - Bagram Theater Internment Facility: 600 people - another version of GTMO?

The Bagram Theater Internment Facility in Afghanistan in many ways is another version of Guantanamo. It holds around 600 individuals—outside any legal framework.

HRF staffers Gabor Rona and Sahr Muhammed Ally just returned from a trip to Afghanistan to study the situation on the ground.

Their interviews with former detainees tell a familiar story: after capture in their homes, detainees were hooded, shackled, given orange uniforms, held in isolation and sent to Bagram for several years without knowing the basis for their detention and with no process to challenge their detention. Some are transferred for prosecution in Afghan courts, but these trials are based on little or no evidence, as exposed in HRF's Arbitrary Justice report last year.

Sahr and Gabor are documenting their findings in a report and have already met with the administration's Special Task Force to discuss their recommendations on detentions in Afghanistan.

Read all of Human Rights First latest and find the reports here

The Power of Culture vs. The Culture of Power

From May 29, 2009

For the second time, the Israeli Army has tried to shut down the Palestine Festival of Literature, a "traveling cultural roadshow" touring the West Bank with internationally known Palestinian and European writers. After armed forces closed down opening night in East Jerusalem's Palestinian National Theater, the French came in to host the events; last night, the British did.

"Talking about what literature is and what it means in a fraught political situation is the most honest thing we can do," said British writer Jeremy Harding. "They didn't like that."
Read Comments and see more provocative articles at Common Dreams dot org

Be Lost in the Call

One World/One Sea
NOTE about the poem below: I don't think the poet or "God" would mind if you put another word in the place of those kinds of names. If the "usual" term has no meaning for you - try putting in it's place something which for you is the "Great Aliveness" of your deepest understanding.
Lord, said David, since you do not need us,
why did you create these two worlds?

Reality replied: O prisoner of time,
I was a secret treasure of kindness and generosity,
and I wished this treasure to be known,
so I created a mirror: its shining face, the heart;
its obscure back, the world;
The back would please you if you've never seen the face.

Has anyone ever produced a mirror out of mud and straw?
Yet clean away the mud and straw,
and a mirror might be revealed.

Until the juice ferments a while in the cask,
it isn't wine. If you wish your heart to be bright,
you must do a little work.

My King addressed the soul of my flesh:
You return just as you left.
Where are the traces of my gifts?

We know that alchemy transforms copper into gold.
This Sun doesn't want a crown or robe from God's grace.
He is a hat to a hundred bald men,
a covering for ten who were naked.

Jesus sat humbly on the back of an ass, my child!
How could a zephyr ride an ass?
Spirit, find your way, in seeking lowness like a stream.
Reason, tread the path of selflessness into eternity.

Remember God so much that you are forgotten.
Let the caller and the called disappear;
be lost in the Call.

Rumi summarized his life work as follows:

The outcome of my life is no more than these three lines:

I was a raw material
I was cooked and became mature
I was burned in love.

(and in many other ways through his poems)
You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.
Today as much or maybe more than at any other time in history following "The Call" is to Walk on Water, to know and understand a little more than your own little place - to follow -- Love

Friday, May 29, 2009

Torturing Democracy - Bill Moyers Journal: Friday May 29 2009

On-air and online, BILL MOYERS JOURNAL has stayed on the story of how the U.S. government bypassed the rule of law and military tradition in the wake of 9/11, pushing for new interrogation methods and the powers to detain prisoners.

On-air, Bill Moyers has spoken with many legal and policy experts: international lawyer Phillipe Sands, investigative journalist Jane Mayer, former Bush administration official Jack L. Goldsmith, reporter Mark Danner and constitutional scholar Bruce Fein, and others.

Launch a player to see BILL MOYERS JOURNAL's complete coverage of torture and the rule of law, or browse the videos below.

On the Web, BILL MOYERS JOURNAL has information on the hearings on interrogations by the House Committee on the Judiciary's Subcommittee on the Constitution, as well as a summary of the national debate about torture and the history of the Geneva Conventions. Just Go here

Published May 29, 2009.

"Freeze means Freeze"

Click here to send the President a message telling him you support his "Freeze means Freeze" approach to Israeli settlements:


Continued Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank is a real obstacle to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and as President Obama said, settlements "have to be stopped."

Of course, Israeli settlements aren't the only obstacle to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinians also have responsibilities of their own: they must bring an end to terror and incitement against Israel and maintain a ceasefire in Gaza.

Israel also needs to allow for Palestinian freedom of movement in the West Bank and to open the Gaza border crossings for humanitarian supplies and reconstruction materials.

You and I know that the dance between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama over settlements is just getting started. As in the past, Netanyahu will stall hoping his American backers have enough time to undermine the President's efforts in Congress or convince the President that the political costs of bold leadership are too high.

We've got to make sure the President and his Administration hear from the majority of Americans like us who support the President's call for a settlement freeze, without exceptions, right now.

Send a message to the President supporting his "Freeze means Freeze" approach to Israeli settlements:



Isaac Luria
Campaigns Director
J Street
May 28, 2009

"I hated my part in the charade of murder and horror - I never had an original thought..."

"I sat there in agony thinking about all that had led me to this private hell. My idealism, my patriotism, my ambition, my plans to be a good intelligence officer to help my country fight the communist scourge - what in the hell had happened? Why did we have to bomb the people we were trying to save? Why were we napalming young children? Why did the CIA, my employer for 16 years, report lies instead of the truth?

"I hated my part in the charade of murder and horror. My efforts were contributing to the deaths, to the burning alive of children - especially the children. The photographs of young Vietnamese children burned by napalm destroyed me." : Ralph McGehee former CIA intelligence analyst - "I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all members of the military profession I never had an original thought until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher- ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service." : General Smedley Butler. USMC (Ret.)
"The civility of no race can be perfect whilst another race is degraded. It is a doctrine alike of the oldest and of the newest philosophy, that man is one, and that you cannot injure any member, without a sympathetic injury to all the members": Ralph Waldo Emerson. 1844

(The above quotes and more from Information Clearing House today - along with news you won't find on CNN)

The World Needs Spain's Universal Jurisdiction Law

Spanish Justices
(This photo symbolizes for me the Integrity of International Justice and thereby one of the most crucial contributions available to the world for peace in our time.)

SPAIN has become the latest battleground in the fight over the SOUL of International Justice.

Human Rights Watch
The world needs Spain’s universal jurisdiction law
by Reed Brody, Counsel and Spokesperson
May 27, 2009

Spain has become the latest battleground in the fight over the soul of international justice. On Tuesday, its lower house of Parliament called for a limit on its universal jurisdiction law over international crimes, irrespective of where they are committed, to cases in which there are Spanish victims or the alleged perpetrator is on Spanish soil. If this is translated into law, victims of international crimes will lose one of the most hospitable fora for redress.

Spain earned its reputation as a haven for victims in 1998 when Judge Baltasar Garzón issued an arrest warrant for Chilean General Augusto Pinochet, triggering his arrest in London and setting off a justice cascade in Chile and throughout Latin America. Since then, Spanish courts have advanced investigations of alleged crimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, issued warrants for top Rwandan leaders and convicted an Argentine official for “dirty war” killings.

But three recent cases involving powerful counties – over alleged crimes in Gaza, Tibet and Guantánamo – have put the law in jeopardy. Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos reportedly told Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that he would seek to have the law changed, China has publicly protested to Spain, and it is widely believed that the Obama administration has leaned on the Spanish government as well. While it is unlikely that these cases will lead to extraditions and trials in Spain, they can help justice to emerge. There is a hope among human rights activists, for instance, that, just as Spain’s arrest warrant against Pinochet eventually led Chile to start its own prosecutions against Pinochet, the Guantánamo cases in Spain will help persuade the Obama administration to establish a true accountability process in the United States.

While one can understand the quandary of the Spanish government, it would be a shame if it capitulated to diplomatic pressure, as Belgium did in 2003 after then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld threatened to move NATO headquarters if Belgium did not repeal its law after a suit against US officials. It would confirm a growing sentiment – fueled by the dismissal of cases in France and Germany against U.S. officials accused of crimes against detainees, and the International Criminal Court’s focus thus far on Africa - that international justice targets only the leaders of weak states while officials of powerful countries have the muscle to prevent accountability.

There is evidence that the Spanish public is proud of their country’s role in promoting justice. In the Pinochet case, the Spanish public and press stood up time and again to attempts by the then-center-right government to block Judge Garzón’s warrants. This time, both the Socialist government and the conservative opposition have highlighted the diplomatic costs to Spain. The next few weeks will tell whether Spanish pride prevails or whether power politics will once again allow impunity to regain a foothold.

© Copyright 2008, Human Rights Watch

SOURCE: Human Rights Watch - CLICK here

While there, send the article to someone else and look up the following related items:

Europe: Shrinking Safe Haven for War Criminals
And other material:
Published in JURIST Hotline

How to Help with Pakistan Humanitarian Crisis via DAWN

For Monetary Secure Donations:

For more information CONTACT DAWN: here


Amnesty calls Obama's anti-terror record 'mixed'

Amnesty calls Obama's anti-terror record 'mixed'

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US President Barack Obama's record on changing the counter-terror policies of his predecessor has been "mixed," said a report by international human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

"On counter-terrorism detention policies ... the record of the new administration has been mixed," the rights group said in its annual report to be released on Thursday.

Highlighting the "widespread expectation of change" brought by Obama's swearing-in in January following eight years of George W. Bush's presidency, Amnesty said "early promise and initial important steps to redress violations have been followed by limited action."

The rights group pointed to positives such as Obama's declaration in January that he would end policies called "enhanced interrogation" techniques by the Bush administration, which critics say amount to torture of detainees, as well as his pledge to close the prison camp on the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But Amnesty lamented the Obama administration's "limited action towards ensuring detentions are brought into line with the USA?s international obligations," and said that "a lack of accountability and remedy for past human rights violations remains entrenched."

Among the faults listed by Amnesty were the Obama's administration's decision in February to invoke the "'state secrets privilege' to seek dismissal of a lawsuit brought by victims of the CIA's rendition program, as the Bush administration had done previously," it said.

Amnesty also deplored a US federal judge ruling in April that said a trio of detainees held at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan could challenge the lawfulness of their detention in a US court, a decision which the administration has appealed.

In addition, the report noted that Canada has ordered one of its citizens repatriated from US custody in Guantanamo -- Omar Khadr who was 15 when he was arrested in Afghanistan for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a US soldier.

Amnesty however hailed Obama's declaration that he would close the "war-on-terror" prison in Guantanamo Bay within a year; end the CIA's use of secret detention and "enhanced" interrogation; and review detention, interrogation and detainee transfer policies.

It also noted that United States had joined the UN Human Rights Council, a body shunned by the previous US administration for harboring notorious rights violators.

More generally, Amnesty highlighted that the use of the death penalty "continues to be marked by discrimination, particularly in relation to the race of the murder victim. African Americans continue to be disproportionately represented on death row."

Of the 24 convicts put to death between January and May 1, 14 were killed in the state of Texas, which far surpasses other US states on a yearly basis in the number of executions.

Electroshock stun-guns known as "tasers" have also contributed to a rising number of deaths in the United States, Amnesty said, citing the deaths of a 17-year-old and 15-year-old boy.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

Cyclone strands millions in India and Bangladesh

By Sujoy Dhar Sujoy Dhar Fri May 29, 5:03 am ET

KOLKATA, India (Reuters) – Millions of people in India and Bangladesh remained marooned without food or water on Friday, four days after cyclone Aila hit them, and authorities said disease was becoming a serious problem.

The cyclone killed at least 275 people, but officials say the toll could mount due to epidemics in the aftermath.

Cyclone Aila hit parts of coastal Bangladesh and eastern India Monday, triggering tidal surges and floods and destroying hundreds of thousands of homes.

It caused extensive damage to rice and other crops but officials say they were still assessing the losses.

In the communist-ruled Indian state of West Bengal, at least 5.1 million people were displaced, with more than one million people stranded in Sundarban islands alone, most of them without any food or water, officials said.

At least 100 people have died in the eastern state.

"The situation is alarming and we need a lot of help to combat the outbreak of water-borne diseases," Kanti Ganguly, a senior West Bengal minister, told Reuters Friday.

Heavy rains triggered by the cyclone raised river levels and burst mud embankments in the Sundarbans delta, causing widespread flooding and triggering landslides.

The Indian Air force air-dropped supplies to remote islands in the Sundarabans Friday, and people scampered to grab packets of pre-cooked food, water and medicines, witnesses said.

"We are carrying out sorties every day and we have been able to cover some remote places today," Mahesh Upasani, a defense ministry spokesman, said in Kolkata, capital of West Bengal state.

In Bangladesh, more than three million people have been hit by the cyclone, and cases of diarrhea have broken out, due to an acute scarcity of drinking water.

The death toll from cyclone Aila in Bangladesh touched 175 after 15 bodies were found Thursday, mostly in southwestern Satkhira district, local officials and aid workers said on Friday.

Officials said hundreds of people were missing in the 15 affected districts, mostly on the coasts, where survivors desperately need food and drinking water.

The cyclone also killed a large number of cattle, adding to the woes of farmers still trying to get back on their feet after cyclone Sidr in November 2007 killed 3,500 people in coastal districts.

(Additional reporting by Ruma Paul; Writing by Bappa Majumdar; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

Copyright © 2009 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

JUST IN: Obama Orders Reviews of Government Secrecy/FBI & ACLU Discuss Concerns EVENT

May 28, 2009 – 12:33 p.m. ET
Obama Orders Reviews of Government Secrecy

President Obama has ordered two reviews of government secrecy, one examining whether too much information is classified and another examining whether the system for protecting other sensitive information needs to be streamlined.

The reviews would include recommendations on building a National Declassification Center, a proposal Obama made on the campaign trail. Obama’s memo, released Wednesday, said the reviews are a reflection of an administration that “is committed to operating with an unprecedented level of openness.”

He set a deadline of 90 days to complete the recommendations. National security adviser James L. Jones would lead the review of classified information, which would consider ideas such as establishing a center to conduct classification reviews and restoring the “presumption against classification” that was suspended by President George W. Bush .

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will lead the review of streamlining “controlled unclassified information,” a category that has proliferated in recent years and complicated efforts to share terrorism information between the federal government and state and local law enforcement. There are 107 such designations for information that is sensitive but not worthy of being fully classified.

Bush instituted a review last year of controlled unclassified information, but a new framework is not slated for completion until 2013.

Obama’s record on government openness thus far has drawn mixed reviews. Transparency advocates applauded him for adopting a presumption in favor of Freedom of Information Act requests, and most liberals commended Obama for releasing legal memos on Bush administration interrogation methods that the previous administration guarded closely.

Some of those same groups, however, have complained that Obama has relied heavily on the “state secrets” privilege to shield information from scrutiny by courts, and he recently reversed a decision to release photos of detainee interrogations.

CQ © 2007 All Rights Reserved | Congressional Quarterly Inc. 1255 22nd Street N.W. Washington, D.C. 20037 | 202-419-8500

ALSO JUST IN - a major event on RIGHTS

FBI and ACLU to Discuss "Civil Rights in the Era of Hope and Change" at ADC National Convention

Washington, DC | May 28, 2009 | | On Saturday June 14, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) will host a dynamic panel discussion entitled, "Civil Rights in the Era of Hope and Change" as part of this year's ADC Annual National Convention ( The discussion will feature John Miller; FBI Assistant Director, Preetmohan Singh; American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) National Board member, and Mike German; ACLU Policy Counsel and former FBI special agent, a sixteen-year veteran of the FBI.

This discussion comes at a critical time in the relationship between the FBI and the Arab and Muslim American communities as a result of FBI operations allegedly using agent provocateurs and the continued use of the controversial FBI Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines (DIOGs) which follow the revised Attorney General guidelines implemented by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey on December 1, 2008.

The panel discussion will follow the Annual Civil Rights Awards Lunch which will include keynote remarks by Deputy Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Jane Holl Lute ( Biography ) and special remarks by the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Congressman John Conyers (D-MI).

Special guests at this year's lunch will include Juliette N. Kayyem; DHS Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Programs. In January 2007 Kayyem became the first Arab-American to serve as a homeland security advisor at the state level when she was appointed as Massachusetts' first Undersecretary for Homeland Security by Gov. Deval L. Patrick. Kayyem served as keynote speaker during the 2007 ADC Annual Civil Rights Awards Lunch.

The honorees at this year's Civil Rights Awards Lunch include Yale Law School's Lowenstein Human Rights Clinic and National Litigation Project. Spearheaded by Professors Michael Wishnie, Hope Metcalf, Ramzi Kassem, Tina Monshipour Foster, and an outstanding team of Yale law students, the clinic continues to play a central and instrumental role in exposing targeted round-ups of Muslim immigrants during Operation Frontline in 2004 and 2005. Through the work of the clinic, a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit resulted in the release of key documentation on Operation Frontline which, when analyzed, demonstrated systematic discrimination in immigration raids targeting Muslim immigrants.

ADC will also present this year's Excellence in Advocacy Award to the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) for their outstanding work toward substantively and constructively addressing challenges facing the Arab and Muslim community post-9/11. The Award will be accepted by MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati who has successfully spearheaded MPAC's excellent advocacy efforts on multiple levels.



ADC has secured a special Convention hotel rate of only $149/night single or double occupancy. You can reserve a hotel room at our rate here or call the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill directly to 202-737-1234 to take advantage of this special ADC Convention price and be sure you mention code AAAA. This rate will soon expire and ADC cannot guarantee rooms once this rate has expired.

Other confirmed speakers during this year's ADC Annual National Convention include Surprise Special Guest ***, Congressman Keith Ellison, Congressman John Dingle, Congressman Brian Baird, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Congressman Jim Moran, Archbishop Cappucci of Jerusalem, Dean of the White House Press Corps Helen Thomas, Professor John Mearsheimer, J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami, Professor Jack Shaheen, Palestinian Member of the Kenesset Said Naffaa, Professor Saad Eddine Ibrahim, and AFL-CIO Middle East and North Africa Director Heba El-Shazli. For more information, please visit our Convention website: .

***This year's ADC convention will be very special. While we cannot yet formally announce why, let's just say you don't want to miss it and time is running out!

NOTE TO EDITORS: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non sectarian and non partisan, is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States and to promote the cultural heritage of the Arabs. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.

The ADC Research Institute (ADC-RI), which was founded in 1981, is a Section 501(c)(3) educational organization that sponsors a wide range of programs on behalf of Arab Americans and of importance to all Americans. ADC-RI programs include research studies, seminars, conferences and publications that document and analyze the discrimination faced by Arab Americans in the workplace, schools, media, and governmental agencies and institutions. ADC-RI also celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Arabs.
Contact: Yousef Munayyer

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee |
1732 Wisconsin Ave., NW | Washington, DC | 20007
Tel: 202-244-2990 | Fax: 202-244-7968 | E-mail:

2009 ADC National Convention Website


Do you believe in ADC's mission? Are you looking for ways to fight for civil rights, a just American foreign policy, and a stronger Arab American community?

You can support ADC's educational work by giving to ADC-Research Institute (ADCRI). ADCRI is a 501 ( C ) 3 affiliate of ADC charged with providing tools and resources to educate people about Arab and Muslim Americans and issues of importance to the Arab and Muslim World.

Donations to ADC-RI are 100% tax deductible (Donations to ADC are not) and can be made securely online here:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Open Letter to FRONTLINE: Where are Pakistan's Postives? Why is Shell your sponsor?

Children of poor, education and resource-deprived areas are easy targets for militants - especially when militants' popularity among the poor is high. Well-meaning officials are caught between a rock and a hard place and pressured/connected to sometimes ill-conceived and dangerous western support.
(blogger's comment)


CONCERN #1: Where is the mention of the strengths of Pakistan: the founding visionaries, the current leaders and visionaries with integrity?

CONCERN #2: SHELL as sponsor: "FRONTLINE/World is made possible by SHELL, supporting freedom of the press -- and the independent journalists - who tell the stories of our times." Find this statement easily at pbs dot org here

Is it not reasonable - given the information I'm including in this Open Letter to Frontline - and the post on Essential Action re. Shell in Nigeria (just below this post) - to raise the following question:

How, then can Frontline's jounalists be fully independent - given this association with SHELL?

SHELL's Influence in NIGERIA: Members of militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), with hostages. Many Nigerians are angry because of SHELL's destruction and poisoning of their land - leading to more and more public support for militant groups such as MEND.

My Open LETTER -To The Executives of Frontline (also posted at Frontline's site):

Your Frontline Program which aired last night on Pakistan (May 26th) was full of important close-up information left powerfully unedited for the most part on the terrific dilemma Pakistan faces on every hand. Yet I am frustrated and I have two concerns which I hope you will consider and address with significant changes.

The FIRST is the most important: how much more powerful this program would have been if there had been at least a glimpse of the strong, positive historical underpinnings in Pakistan - which would likely still be more obvious today were it not for the manipulations of many dynamics - including the arming, using and then trashing of groups such as the Taliban - which have been used by the US Pentagon to do their "dirty work".

Even today, I know there are many Pakistani scholars, writers, schools, cultural masterpieces and a large movement of legal professionals who have worked most courageously toward a return to the rule of law. (And still are doing this strong quiet work.)

And there are also the multitude of courageous poor who even without enough resources have refused education by the Taliban and who are receiving respect, support and designs for help in more substantial ways.

We the large network of a supportive global community - including journalists who work without borders - would help considerably to end the terrorism if we would merely support education of the poor - the making for schools that could be administered by the Pakistani educators without being attached to any vehicles of death such as drone planes.

ALL that was completely left out in your documentary. Thus, unintended, this focus entirely on the most hellish, negative aspects of the most current era in Pakistan gives a hopeless warped feeling to this program which I'm sure you didn't mean to communicate. Also I fear that many who watched it well throw up there hands at more positive peaceful solutions and want to support nothing but killing of the killers. And where will that really lead in terms of long-lasting effect?

Yet I must address a SECOND area about which I am more eligible to speak: that of human rights which I've been following for some time and about the devastation of large lands and water sources in a country where I once lived with my husband soon after we married: Nigeria. What interesting timing that your courageous report came out the night before many human rights folk received the following article on on one of your sponsors in our email box: SHELL!

I realize that to do something of the breadth and involving the danger which you produced is extremely difficult and can't be kept entirely "pure" in terms of financial support and ties.

However, my trust in your "independence" as reporters ended for me when the name of this Corporate sponsorship came up. Besides what I know about Shell, this surely brings up quickly the hugely troubling ties to the west -this blatant Human Rights Violator.

This corporation has poisoned the areas of the poorest of Nigerians - this leading the the death of many children and others and making whole areas completely inhabitable. What are the poor to do? And there is so much more harm Shell has caused - including the destruction of the fragile bridges which the best-intended of the west hope to maintain with Africa and other nations, including Pakistan.

There is such a parallel here with other parts of the world, including Pakstani people's resistance in pockets at least - to the detrimental affect of western influence and the eventual resigning to violence among militant groups as so few can bare to have their sustenance so cut off for so long, watching children die and still work with the long wait often required for nonviolent activism.

Here's just an excerpt from the recent report received by inbox from ONE WORLD - A major and timely article:

One World dot net READ: New Outbreak of Violence in the Niger Delta here

Please read this story in FULL to see parallels as to how cooperation and alignment with such Western supported corporations with such an otherwise helpful report as yours could reduce trust and therefore the ground that your best reporters may have wished to see from their most courageous work.

Bush's Condi Rice, for one example, used to work for them as big shot for Shell for starters & she still claims the US doesn't torture nor has she ever expressed regret as far as I can see for the kidnapping, bounty and prolonged detention of Pakistanis nor the US drones which kill so many poor and unwarned--for the ruthless pushing of the taliban into Pakistan's major cities! (would Westerners want this done in our nations?)

(Although western-originated and supported Corporations and Western governments must take a great deal of responsibility for the current problems in both Pakistan and Nigeria with militants) What history will remember most are people such as Saro-Wiwa - and I hope viewers will also remember future documentaries by Front-line as well - especially when not aligned with sponsors such as Shell:

"We remember Saro-Wiwa by keeping alive his nonviolent struggle," added Ben Amunwa of PLATFORM/Remember Saro-Wiwa.

The Nigerian activist was a leader in the movement to defend the rights of Nigeria's Ogoni people and bring an end to Shell's gas flaring in Ogoni regions. Detained, imprisoned, and tortured during the early 1990s, he was executed by the state alongside eight fellow Ogoni activists in 1995.

Shell to Stand Trial for Its Role in Nigeria

"Gas flaring in Nigeria, where Shell is by far the largest oil company, poisons Niger Delta communities and is a large, wasteful source of global warming pollution," said Elizabeth Bast of Friends of the Earth in a statement launching the Shell Guilty campaign in April. "It's time for Shell to put an end to its human rights abuses and climate crimes, including its gas flaring in Nigeria." The group has joined several other environmental and human rights groups in encouraging concerned people around the world to pressure Royal Dutch Shell to stop the practice.

The global drive to hold Shell accountable and compel it to stop gas flaring in Nigeria was re-ignited last month, when a U.S. judge ruled that Shell must stand trial for its alleged role in the torture and execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Nigerian activists.

"Ken Saro-Wiwa's hanging revealed the true price of oil," said Steve Kretzmann of Oil Change International.


Thanks for reading these concerns and I plead with you to attend and amend this matter if at all possible before your next broadcast.

With Sincerity and Deep Concern,

Connie L. Nash
Human Rights/Media
PO Box 1267
Brevard, NC 28712

BOYCOTT SHELL - and more Essential ACTION

Essential Action dot org ON SHELL


Shell in Nigeria: What are the issues?


1. What is Shell?
2. Why Boycott Shell?
The Problem
Environmental Degradation (Natural Gas Flaring, Oil Spills, Pipelines and Construction, Health Impacts)
The "Shell Police"
The trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8: The Struggle Continues
The Ogoni 20 and others...
Not just the Ogoni!
3. Why does the Nigerian government allow this to happen?
4. What are groups in Nigeria doing about stopping Shell?
MOSOP demands
5. What are the United States and other countries doing to stop Shell?
The Commonwealth
The United Nations
The US: words without action
6. Sources

Return to Info & Resources

1. What is Shell?
The "Royal Dutch/Shell Group," commonly know as Shell, is an amalgam of over 1,700 companies all over the world. 60% of the Group is owned by Royal Dutch of the Netherlands, and 40% is owned by the Shell Transport and Trading Group of Great Britain. These two companies have worked together since 1903. Shell includes companies like Shell Petroleum of the USA (which wholly owns Shell Oil of the USA and many subsidiaries), Shell Nigeria, Shell Argentina, Shell South Africa, etc.

Shell Nigeria is one of the largest oil producers in the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. 80% of the oil extraction in Nigeria is the the Niger Delta, the southeast region of the country. The Delta is home to many small minority ethnic groups, including the Ogoni, all of which suffer egregious exploitation by multinational oil companies, like Shell. Shell provides over 50% of the income keeping the Nigerian dictatorship in power.

Aside from letters, the only way to reach the powers of Shell Nigeria is through other Shell companies like Shell Oil of the USA. When Shell Oil feels the impact of a boycott and understands that our grievances lie with Shell Nigeria, it puts pressure on the Shell Group to influence change in Nigeria.
2. Why boycott Shell?
Since the Nigerian government hanged 9 environmental activists in 1995 for speaking out against exploitation by Royal Dutch/Shell and the Nigeria government, outrage has exploded worldwide. The tribunal which convicted the men was part of a joint effort by the government and Shell to suppress a growing movement among the Ogoni people: a movement for environmental justice, for recognition of their human rights and for economic justice. Shell has brought extreme, irreparable environmental devastation to Ogoniland. Please note that although the case of the Ogoni is the best known of communities in Shell's areas of operation, dozens of other groups suffer the same exploitation of resources and injustices.

The Problem

"The most conspicuous aspects of life in contemporary Ogoni are poverty, malnutrition, and disease."
-Ben Naanen, Oil and Socioeconomic Crisis in Nigeria, 1995, pg. 75-6

Although oil from Ogoniland has provided approximately $30 billion to the economy of Nigeria1, the people of Ogoni see little to nothing from their contribution to Shell's pocketbook. Emanuel Nnadozie, writing of the contributions of oil to the national economy of Nigeria, observed "Oil is a curse which means only poverty, hunger, disease and exploitation" for those living in oil producing areas2. Shell has done next to nothing to help Ogoni: by 1996, Shell employed only 88 Ogoni (0.0002% of the Ogoni population, and only 2% of Shell's employees in Nigeria)3. Ogoni villages have no clean water, little electricity, few telephones, abysmal health care, and no jobs for displaced farmers and fisher persons, and adding insult to injury, face the effects of unrestrained environmental molestation by Shell everyday.

Environmental Degradation

When crude oil touches the leaf of a yam or cassava, or whatever economic trees we have, it dries immediately, it's so dangerous and somebody who was coming from, say, Shell was arguing with me so I told him that you're an engineer, you have been trained, you went to the university, I did not go to the university, but I know that what you have been saying in the university sleeps with me here so you cannot be more qualified in crude oil than myself who sleeps with crude oil.
-Chief GNK Gininwa of Korokoro, "The Drilling Fields", Glenn Ellis (Director), 1994

Since Shell began drilling oil in Ogoniland in 1958, the people of Ogoniland have had pipelines built across their farmlands and in front of their homes, suffered endemic oil leaks from these very pipelines, been forced to live with the constant flaring of gas. This environmental assault has smothered land with oil, killed masses of fish and other aquatic life, and introduced devastating acid rain to the land of the Ogoni4. For the Ogoni, a people dependent upon farming and fishing, the poisoning of the land and water has had devastating economic and health consequences5. Shell claims to clean up its oil spills, but such "clean-ups" consist of techniques like burning the crude which results in a permanent layer of crusted oil meters thick and scooping oil into holes dug in surrounding earth (a temporary solution at best, with the oil flowing out of the hole during the Niger Delta's frequent bouts of rain) 6.

Natural Gas Flaring
Ken Saro-Wiwa called gas flaring "the most notorious action" of the Shell and Chevron oil companies7. In Ogoniland, 95% of extracted natural gas is flared8 (compared with 0.6% in the United States). It is estimated that the between the CO2 and methane released by gas flaring, Nigerian oil fields are responsible for more global warming effects than the combined oil fields of the rest of the world9.

Oil Spills
Although Shell drills oil in 28 countries, 40% of its oil spills worldwide have occurred in the Niger Delta10. In the Niger Delta, there were 2,976 oil spills between 1976 and 199111. In the 1970s spillage totaled more that four times that of the 1989 Exxon Valdez tragedy12. Ogoniland has had severe problems stemming from oil spillage, including water contamination and loss of many valuable animals and plants. A short-lived World Bank investigation found levels of hydrocarbon pollution in water in Ogoniland more than sixty times US limits13 and a 1997 Project Underground survey found petroleum hydrocarbons one Ogoni village's watersource to be 360 times the levels allowed in the European Community, where Shell originates14.

Pipelines and construction
The 12 by 14 mile area that comprises Ogoniland is some of the most densely occupied land in Africa. The extraction of oil has lead to construction of pipelines and facilities on precious farmland and through villages. Shell and its subcontractors compensate landowners with meager amounts unequal to the value of the scarce land, when they pay at all. The military defends Shell's actions with firearms and death: see the Shell Police section below.

Health impacts
The Nigerian Environmental Study Action Team observed increased "discomfort and misery" due to fumes, heat and combustion gases, as well as increased illnesses15. This destruction has not been alleviated by Shell or the government. Owens Wiwa, a physician, has observed higher rates of certain diseases like bronchial asthma, other respiratory diseases, gastro-enteritis and cancer among the people in the area as a result of the oil industry16.

The Shell Police and the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force

Both Shell and the government admit that Shell contributes to the funding of the military in the Delta region. Under the auspices of "protecting" Shell from peaceful demonstrators in the village of Umeuchem (10 miles from Ogoni), the police killed 80 people, destroyed houses and vital crops in 199017. Shell conceded it twice paid the military for going to specific villages. Although it disputes that the purpose of these excursions was to quiet dissent, each of the military missions paid for by Shell resulted in Ogoni fatalities18. The two incidents are a 1993 peaceful demonstration against the destruction of farmland to build pipelines and, later that year, a demonstration in the village of Korokoro19. Shell has also admitted purchasing weapons for the police force who guard its facilities, and there is growing suspicion that Shell funds a much greater portion of the military than previously admitted. In 1994, the military sent permanent security forces into Ogoniland, occupying the once peaceful land. This Rivers State Internal Security Task Force is suspected in the murders of 2000 people20. In a classified memo, its leader described his plans for "psychological tactics of displacement/wasting" and stated that "Shell operations are still impossible unless ruthless military operations are undertaken."21 Since the Task Force occupied Ogoniland in 1994, the Ogoni have lived under constant surveillance and threats of violence. The Nigerian military stepped up its presence in Ogoniland in January of 1997 and again in 1998 before the annual Ogoni Day celebrations.

The trial and execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8: The Struggle continues...

Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8 were leaders of MOSOP, the Movement for Survival of the Ogoni People. As outspoken environmental and human rights activists, they declared that Shell was not welcome in Ogoniland. On November 10, 1995, they were hanged after a trial by a special military tribunal (whose decisions cannot be appealed) in the murder of four other Ogoni activists. The defendants' lawyers were harassed and denied access to their clients. Although none of them were near the town where the murders occurred, they were convicted and sentenced to death in a trial that many heads of state (including US President Clinton) strongly condemned for a stunning lack of evidence, unmasked partiality towards the prosecution and the haste of the trial. The executions were carried out a mere eight days after the decision. Two witnesses against the MOSOP leaders admitted that Shell and the military bribed them to testify against Ken Saro-Wiwa with promises of money and jobs at Shell20. Ken's final words before his execution were: "The struggle continues!"

The Ogoni 20 and others...

On September 7, 1998, the Ogoni 20 were released on bail! The 20 had been imprisoned for the past four years under the same unsubstantiated charges as those used to execute Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8. It is unclear whether they will be tried. Sadly, another 25 people were arrested in January, 1998 for organizing the annual peaceful Ogoni Day celebration. There are unknown other Ogonis imprisoned because they appeared to support the Ogoni cause or for helping others remember Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Not just the Ogoni

The majority of Nigeria's oil comes from the Niger Delta in Southeast Nigeria. All across the Niger Delta, ethnic minority communities suffer the same environmental devastation and oppression under multinational oil companies and the Nigerian military. In 1990, Shell specifically requested that the military protect its facilities from nonviolent protesters in the village of Umeuchem. 80 villagers were killed in two days of violence. A later judiciary panel determined that the villagers posed no threat against Shell21. There have also been accusations of the military arming some communities to fight other communities and prevent the growth of cohesive groups like MOSOP, because wide-spread movements could lead to the end of the flagrant prosperity for Shell and the military. However, communities like the Ijaw, Ekwerre, Oyigba, Ogbia, and others in the Niger Delta have taken measures to reclaim their despoiled lands and human rights22. Since October 1998, Ijaw groups have been occupying oil industry platforms and pipeline transfer stations, at one point blocking a third of Nigeria's oil exports. As of early December, 1988, the groups were still shutting off flow and demanding environmental and economic justice.
3. Why does the Nigerian government allow this to happen?

In Nigeria, it is questionable whether it is multinational oil companies like Shell or the military which hold ultimate control. Oil companies have a frightening amount of influence upon the government: 80% of Nigerian government revenues come directly from oil, over half of which is from Shell. Countless sums disappear into the pockets of military strongmen in the form of bribes and theft. In 1991 alone, $12 billion in oil funds disappeared (and have yet to be located)23. Local governments admit that oil companies bribe influential local officials to suppress action against the companies. Hence the interests of the Nigerian military regime are clear: to maintain the status quo; to continue acting on Shell's requested attacks on villagers whose farms are destroyed by the oil company; to continue silencing, by any means necessary, those who expose Shell's complete disregard for people, for the environment, for life itself. Shell and the Nigerian military government are united in this continuing violent assault of indigenous peoples and the environment. And just as oil companies exploit numerous communities in the Niger Delta, the government's involvement in the above crimes is not limited to the Ogoni.

To allow the Ogoni to continue raising local and global awareness and pressure would be political suicide for an oppressive, violent military regime, whose only mandate is its own guns24. The Nigerian military government could not allow this movement of empowerment to spread into other impoverished communities of the Niger Delta. By harassing, wounding and killing Ogoni and others, the military ensures that it remains in power and that its pockets remain lined with the blood money of Delta oil.
4. What are groups in Nigeria doing to stop Shell?

The first highly visible action organized by the Movement for Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) occurred on January 4, 1993 with 300,000 Ogoni (3/5 of the population) participating in the peaceful "Ogoni Day" demonstration. The overwhelming turnout signals a solid consensus for change, for freedom from the oppressions of Shell and the military regime. MOSOP is an umbrella association of ten Ogoni groups encompassing over half of the Ogoni population. Today, MOSOP's leaders live in exile, but MOSOP remains a significant presence both in Nigeria and abroad. Since MOSOP became highly visible, other groups in oil producing regions have begun modeling their actions on MOSOP's tactics of intense yet peaceful demonstrations, pan-ethnic-group organizations, and charters based on the Ogoni Bill of Rights. The military and Shell have been careful to prevent any movements from gaining MOSOP's momentum. See The MOSOP Story by MOSOP Canada.

There are currently many groups in the Niger Delta working on researching and educating about the environmental and social impacts of the oil industry on the Niger Delta. A few of these are Environmental Rights Action (ERA) and Niger Delta Human and Environmental Rescue Organization (ND-HERO). Additionally, many ethnic groups other than the Ogoni are vocalizing and demonstrating against the environmental racism and human rights abuses of Shell, Chevron, Mobil, and many others.

MOSOP demands

In 1990, MOSOP created the Ogoni Bill of Rights, which outlines the major grievances of the Ogoni, and applies to the peoples of many other oil producing areas. The major points of the Ogoni Bill of Rights are:

* clean up of oil spills
* reduction of gas flaring
* fair compensation for lost land, income, resources, life
* a fair share of profits gained from oil drilled at their expense
* self-determination


An oft forgotten element of the Ogoni struggle are the thousands of people who have fled Ogoniland under threat of violence from the Shell Police and the Rivers State Task Force. Ogoni refugees are found in Benin, Togo, and Ghana and other countries25. A majority of these refugees are students. There are also many people living in exile in the US, Canada and Europe. In 1997, Diana Wiwa visited Ogoni refugees throughout the region.

5. The UN, the Commonwealth and the US

International condemnation of Nigeria is widespread, but there has been much more talk than action.

The UN

In a surprising and welcome move, the United Nations Special Rapporteur's report on Nigeria (released 4/15/98) accused Nigeria and Shell of abusing human rights and failing to protect the environment in oil producing regions, and called for an investigation into Shell. The report condemned Shell for a "well armed security force which is intermittently employed against protesters." The report was unusual both because of its frankness and its focus on Shell, instead of only on member countries. This was repeated in a November 1998 visit by the same official to Nigeria and the Delta region.

The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth is a group of 53 developed and developing nations around the world. Almost all members have had a past association with another Commonwealth country, as colonies or protectorates or trust territories. The Commonwealth believes in the promotion of international understanding and co-operation, through partnership. Nigeria's membership of the Commonwealth was suspended by Commonwealth Heads of Government on 11 November 1995. Despite repeated pleas from Nigerian human rights activists, the Commonwealth has failed to follow through on threats of expulsion.

The US: words without action

In word, the United States is a strong critic of the Nigerian government, both past and present. It has condemned the existence of the military regime, of election cancellations, and of the situation in Ogoniland. It has threatened to take action. Yet it never does. As the largest consumer of Nigerian oil, the US could be the strongest advocate for human rights and justice, yet it refuses to take on that role. The US government has even protected Nigeria from economic sanctions by states and cities within the US. In March 1998 an official from the Clinton administration warned the Maryland House and Senate that bills creating state-wide economic sanctions against Nigeria for human rights abuses are a violation of US commitments to international trade agreements and to membership in the World Trade Organization. The Clinton administration termed such bills a "threat to the national interest." Not surprisingly, multinational oil companies such as Shell, Mobil, and Chevron lobby heavily against aggressive US policy towards Nigeria, an approach which appears to be working.


1. Watts, Michael, "Black Gold, White Heat," in Geographies of Resistance, Steve Pile, Michael Keith,eds., London: Routledge, 1997.
2. Nnadozie, Emmanuel, Oil and Socioeconomic Crisis in Nigeria, Lewiston: Mellon University Press, 1995.
3. Watts, op.cit.
4. Nigeria Environmental Action Study Team (NEST), Nigeria's Threatened Environment, Ibadan, 1991.
5. Saro-Wiwa, Ken, Genocide in Nigeria, Port Harcourt: Saros International Publishers, 1989.
6. Ellis, Glenn (Director), "The Drilling Fields," 1994, text from film by Catma Films.
7. Saro-Wiwa, Ken, Genocide in Nigeria.
8. Shell, 1996.
9. Ake, Claude, "Shelling Nigeria Ablaze," Tell, 1/29/96, p. 34.
10. Cayford, Steven, "The Ogoni "Uprising: Oil, Human Rights and a Democratic Alternative in Nigeria," Africa Today, vol. 43, no. 2, Apr/June 1996, p. 183.
11. Ellis, op.cit.
12. Watts, op.cit.
13. Project Underground, The Flames of Shell: a fact sheet, Berkeley, 1996.
14. Project Underground and Rainforest Action Network, Human Rights and Environmental Operations Information on the Royal Dutch/ Shell Group of Companies: 1996-1997 Independent Annual Report, 1997.
15. NEST, op.cit.
16. Marrah, Kofi, "No Let-up in Ogoniland Struggle", African Agenda, Third World Network Features, June, 1998.
17. Ellis, op.cit.
18. Ellis, op.cit.
19. Nigerian News du Jour, "Environmental Action Group says military on Shell's payroll," 4/23/98.
20. Human Rights Watch, The Ogoni Crisis, report 7/5, New York: Human Rights Watch, 1995.
21. Robinson, Deborah, Ogoni: The Struggle Continues, Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1996.
22. Birnbaum, Michael, QC, "Nigeria: Fundamental Rights Denied," Article 19, Appendix 10.
23. Kudirat Institute for Nigerian Democracy, "Oil Economy," KIND Website
24. Watts, op.cit.
25. Wiwa, Diana, "The Role of Women in the Struggle for Environmental Justice in Ogoni," Delta website, , October 1997.

Find the LINKS to the above report and call to action at Essential Action dot org

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

PAKISTAN - Call from Human Rights Groups, Civilians: Let Citizens Out, Resources In!

U.S./Top News
Human Rights Watch said hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis trapped by an offensive against the Taliban in Swat face catastrophe and authorities should lift a curfew to enable them to get out and for help to get in, Reuters reports. The offensive in Swat has sparked an exodus of 2.3 million people, but about 200,000 people are believed to be still in the valley. Severe shortages of food, water and medicine were creating a major humanitarian crisis for the trapped civilians, HRW said.

Also see Human Rights Watch at hrw dot org

PAKISTANIS in Swat 'Face Catastrophe' - Clashes Spread (also see Common Dreams dot org)
Published on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 by Reuters by Robert Birsel - Also see military's apology at end of this article from Reuters. There does seem to be some special care being taken to lessen the number of civilians injured and killed. Let's hope that there will be enough of a let up that the curfew will be lifted if at all possible in order for humanitarian groups to get in. Be sure to see FRONTLINE tonight 9 PM ET. to pray and to do what you are willing to do. (Blogger)

EXCERPT: The offensive has sparked an exodus of 2.3 million people, according to provincial government figures, but about 200,000 people are believed to be still in the valley - Severe shortages of food, water and medicine are creating a major humanitarian crisis for the trapped civilians, the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch said. "People trapped in the Swat conflict zone face a humanitarian catastrophe unless the Pakistani military immediately lifts a curfew that has been in place continuously for the last week," Brad Adams, the group's Asia director, said in a statement.

[Internally displaced people, fleeing a military offensive in the Swat valley, reach for bread ration at the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) Jalozai camp, about 140 km (87 miles) north west of Pakistan's capital Islamabad May 26, 2009.

ISLAMABAD - Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis trapped by an offensive against Taliban in Swat face catastrophe and authorities should lift a curfew to enable them to get out and for help to get in, a rights group said. (REUTERS/Ali Imam)]Internally displaced people, fleeing a military offensive in the Swat valley, reach for bread ration at the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) Jalozai camp, about 140 km (87 miles) north west of Pakistan's capital Islamabad May 26, 2009. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis trapped by an offensive against Taliban in Swat face catastrophe and authorities should lift a curfew to enable them to get out and for help to get in, a rights group said. (REUTERS/Ali Imam)
The offensive in the Taliban bastion of Swat, about 120 km (80 miles) northwest of Islamabad, is the military's most concerted effort to roll back a spreading Taliban insurgency that has thrown the nuclear-armed country's future into question.

The offensive has sparked an exodus of 2.3 million people, according to provincial government figures, but about 200,000 people are believed to be still in the valley.

Severe shortages of food, water and medicine are creating a major humanitarian crisis for the trapped civilians, the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch said.

"People trapped in the Swat conflict zone face a humanitarian catastrophe unless the Pakistani military immediately lifts a curfew that has been in place continuously for the last week," Brad Adams, the group's Asia director, said in a statement.

The army launched the offensive this month after the militants, emboldened by a controversial peace deal in Swat, pushed out of the former tourist valley into neighboring districts, including one just 100 km (60 miles) from Islamabad.

The United States needs Pakistani action against militants in its northwest to defeat al Qaeda and disrupt support for the Taliban in Afghanistan. It had criticized the pact as tantamount to "abdicating" to the militants as thousands of extra U.S. troops are arriving in Afghanistan.

General David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, who arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in an interview he welcomed Pakistan's willingness to "very aggressively prosecute the campaign."

"It bodes much better for Pakistan," he said.

But the flight of so many civilians poses a major burden for an economy being kept afloat by a $7.6 billion International Monetary Fund loan and could undercut public backing for the military action.

Human Rights Watch said the government should take all possible measures including air drops to alleviate suffering and both sides should allow a humanitarian corridor through which civilians could escape and aid groups could help.

The United Nations was considering asking for a "humanitarian pause" to get aid in, a U.N. official said on Monday.

But military spokesmen Major-General Athar Abbas said that would not be possible, although he added that supplies were getting through to civilians as the army cleared more areas.

"Lifting the curfew would mean letting the operational situation slip out of hand," Abbas said, adding civilian casualties had been "minimal."

More than half of Swat's main town of Mingora had been cleared and trucks with provisions were arriving there, he said.


Twenty-nine militants had been killed in the previous 24 hours, Abbas told a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, while six soldiers had also been killed. Fierce fighting had been going on in some areas and the militants' morale was low.

"They're in disarray and finding ways to sneak out," he said.

In the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border, army helicopter gunships attacked Taliban positions, killing six militants, intelligence officials and residents said.

Speculation has been mounting that the army would soon turn its attention to South Waziristan, the headquarters of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and a major base area for his Afghan Taliban allies battling Western forces in Afghanistan.

South Waziristan has been a militant hub for years and the United States and Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government have long pressed Pakistan to root out militants from border strongholds.

Tension has been building since President Asif Ali Zardari told Britain's Sunday Times newspaper last week ago that the military would move into Waziristan after clearing Swat.

Although he was reported to have later denied that, military officials say an offensive in South Waziristan looks inevitable. With tension rising, about 10,000 people have fled from South Waziristan in recent days, a senior government official said.

The violence has worried stock market investors. The main index ended a marginal 0.05 percent up at 7,176.89 points.

But dealers said stocks should get a boost on Wednesday after the Supreme Court ruled after the close that popular former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his politician brother can contest elections, removing a cause of political uncertainty.

(Additional reporting by Alamgir Bitani, Zeeshan Haider, Augustine Anthony and Kamran Haider; Editing by Paul Tait)
© 2009 Reuters

Military apologizes for civilian casualties in Swat

here (Swatvalley dot org blog and Dawn dot com)

PAKISTAN ( India /Bangladesh) are in need of our heartfelt prayers, concerns and peaceful support

boy looks at sky in distribution line - says worlds as does this photo of girls waiting their turn for food. here


Just in from AP wires here with Video

Cyclone Hits Bangladesh/India

The humanitarian group Handicapped International might be one instrument for your donation to help meet the needs as they become more apparent of injured and trapped civilians.

AMERICANS MUST INSIST (that our political class come clean & perpetrators must be prosecuted)

If Americans insist, our leaders will prosecute

Tue, 2009-05-26 15:36. Criminal Prosecution and Accountability

By BENJAMIN G. DAVIS, Toledo Blade

Benjamin G. Davis is an associate professor in the University of Toledo college of law, a member of the Robert Jackson Steering Committee that organized the effort at specialprosecutor dot us here and a board member of the Society of American Law Teachers here .

AS THE debate intensifies in Congress over who knew what about torture and when, U.S. citizens should not sit on the sidelines. We should insist that the high-level civilians and generals who ordered, authorized, and put in place the torture in the past regime be prosecuted - just like the low-level uniformed soldiers who did their bidding in Iraq and Bagram who were court-martialed, served or are serving time, and were dishonorably discharged.

The only way that this prosecution will happen is if Americans insist that our political class come clean on their role in the torture and the organizers are prosecuted.

That is why the Society of American Law Teachers wrote to then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey in August, 2008, asking for such a criminal investigation and prosecution...



See this VIDEO for a strong rebuttal of Cheney's speech:
Torture costs us lives," Mr. Alexander said in an exclusive interview at Brave New Studios (Robert Greenwald's revealing project). "And the reason why is that our enemies use it, number one, as a recruiting tool...These same foreign fighters who came to Iraq to fight because of torture and abuse....literally cost us hundreds if not thousands of American lives."

Let's hope that most the time we can also add up front that the best reason NOT to use torture is that it hurts and destroys human lives and their family, it's wrong, we wouldn't want it done to ourselves or our loved ones (the golden rule) and it's against our laws which include the Accords against Torture. See the VIDEO here

Torture does not save lives.

Marjorie Cohn on Obama's Capitulation & Why it won't serve the US

Obama’s Guantánamo Appeasement Plan

Two days after his inauguration, President Obama pledged to close Guantánamo within one year. The Republicans, led by Senators John McCain, Mitch McConnell and Pat Roberts, immediately launched a concerted campaign to assail the new president. They claimed his plan would release dangerous terrorists into U.S. communities and allow released terrorists to resume fighting against our troops. Fox News agitator Sean Hannity and Bush team players like torture-memo lawyer John Yoo filled the airwaves and print media with paranoia...


See the following at Bill of Rights Defense Committee here and more or go to the home page and scroll down here

May 26, 2009, Editorial, Washington DC Examiner, President Obama following Bush lead on key terrorism issues

May 26, 2009, Carrie Johnson, Washington Post, Showdown Looming On 'State Secrets'

May 26, 2009, William Petroski, Des Moines (IA) Register, Intelligence centers' growth concerns civil libertarians

May 26, 2009, Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 'Mancow' knows: Waterboarding is torture

May 26, 2009, Edward Cody, Washington Post, Ex-Detainee Describes Struggle for Exoneration

May 24, 2009, Richard A. Oppel, Jr., New York Times, U.S. Captain Hears Pleas for Afghan Detainee

May 24, 2009, United Press International, Taliban detainee claims abusive treatment

May 24, 2009, Jim Mannion, Agence France-Presse, Military chiefs back Obama on Guantanamo

May 22, 2009, Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. judge warns Justice Dept.

May 22, 2009, ACLU, Intelligence Community Raises Its Standards for Information Collection

May 22, 2009, Jeremy R. Hammond, Foreign Policy Journal, What Obama Isn't Going to Change About Military Commissions

May 22, 2009, Robert Creamer, Huffington Post, Transferring Some Guantanamo Detainees to the U.S. Will Actually Make America Safer

May 22, 2009, Los Angeles Times, Obama vs. Cheney: Contrasting views on the war on terrorism

May 22, 2009, Stephen Lendman, Centre for Research on Globalization (Canada), Internet Threatened by Censorship, Secret Surveillance, and Cybersecurity Laws

May 22, 2009, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, Facts and myths about Obama's preventive detention proposal

You will find the following at Bill of Rights Defense Committee here and more or go to the home page and scroll down here

Binyam Mohamed, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi and what US has Covered Up

Let's hope that the current and recent well-followed (by a few diligent writers/foreign policy and human rights experts)items on Binyam Mohamed and Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi will soon come more fully to public light - because - surely suspicions will continue to be raised as to why US/British officials want to keep the lid closed so tightly on these two cases particularly right now and a few more nearly everyone US/British is ignoring such as that of Aafia Siddiqui. (But not Pakistan, our "ally".)

Surely when the truth is out, there is yet more top damning information to help close down not only GTMO but to be much more clear about any more such torture "black holes" and prolonged detention or any detention via bounty, kidnapping without charge nor prompt fair trial anywhere. See Human Rights Watch's Current Press Release on Jordan, for example.

And support Senator Feingold's probe on prolonged detention at a planned June Judiciary Committee. See Feingold's letter just below.

This following submission by Robert Naiman further confirms Andy's breaking story a week or so ago - I thought you'd appreciate seeing yet another. (there should have been - maybe still will be - many more such confirming pieces out in the media - mainstream and otherwise) By the way, Robert Naiman is doing some really good work with his Just Foreign Policy group and his free emailed reports are regular and well-researched.

Powell Denies Knowing He Used Tortured Evidence for UN Case

Tue, 2009-05-26 12:29.

The most damning credible allegation to emerge regarding the Bush Administration is arguably that Dick Cheney and other Bush Administration officials ordered the use of torture to produce false evidence of a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff at the State Department under Colin Powell, recently wrote,as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 - well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion - its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida

Wilkerson cited the case of detainee Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, whose tortured testimony was crucial for building the case for war, and was cited in Powell's speech to the UN. (Continued...)

For MORE of this story, SEE the item here

Also keep following Andy Worthington who is keeping up with depth reporting on many of the detainee cases probably better than any one writer: here Comments on his site (and sometimes on Huff Post) are also quite interesting to follow for additional information.

JORDAN should end administrative detention - Human Rights Watch Press Release

Blogger's note: if we are truly going to make a different world for our children, we must be consistent internationally. Therefore, no one group or country is exempt from the same standards - even countries once considered benign and ESPECIALLY countries which claim to have a strong bond with the US. The US blatant practices of disregard for the rule of law and human rights will NOT change unless there is consistent pressure both inside and out from other nations to refuse to practice the same.

Human Rights Watch Press release
May 26, 2009

(Amman) – Jordan should end administrative detention and abolish the Crime Prevention Law that authorizes the practice, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.

The 56-page report, “Guests of the Governor: Administrative Detention Undermines Rule of Law in Jordan,” details how governors and other officials routinely circumvent the criminal justice system when they detain people by administrative order and without judicial review. The practice is used against crime victims, personal enemies and people freed by the courts.

“Governors and other high officials shouldn’t be able to lock people up on vague suspicions of improper behavior,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This is an invitation to abuse.”

There are more than 10,000 new cases of administrative detention each year, and administrative detainees amount to one in five inmates in Jordanian prisons.

In 1989, Jordan ended martial law, but since then, governors, who answer to the Ministry of Interior, have revived use of the 1954 Crime Prevention Law. The law permits detention by a simple administrative act, without having to show, much less prove, that a crime has been committed. The Crime Prevention Law grants governors the authority to detain persons who are “a danger to the people,” an excessively vague term that opens the door to routine abuse.

Governors frequently issue such orders against prisoners whose sentences have expired, persons arrested on suspicion of a crime but to whom judges have granted bail, and persons who may have prior criminal convictions. Governors and the police frequently resort to administrative detention to avoid sending criminal suspects for prosecution and trial under the regular criminal justice system, which affords them rights administrative detainees do not have. These rights include a presumption of innocence, judicial review of pre-trial detention, and a fair trial based on the evidence against them.

“Governors should not be able to overrule the courts by jailing people who judges have said can safely remain free,” Stork said.

In a particularly perverse application of the law, governors have jailed victims of crimes instead of the perpetrators. Some women threatened with family violence have spent over ten years in administrative detention, allegedly for their own “protection.” Governors have similarly detained victims of threats of tribal revenge.

Another category of persons subject to arbitrary administrative detention are women suspected of “immoral behavior,” including women found alone in the presence of an unrelated man. Street vendors, usually men, are also susceptible to administrative detention. In several cases, governors or their assistants abused their powers of detention by arresting persons against whom they had a personal grudge.

The government has ignored calls over the past four years by Jordanian rights activists, including the National Center for Human Rights, to review the practice of administrative detention.

The length of administrative detention is not fixed. Administrative detainees commonly go on hunger strike to try to seek a review of their cases, because challenging their detention in court, even where feasible, is costly. Prison wardens often deny hunger strikers access to water, in violation of international prison standards, in order to shorten the duration of the strikes.

“The cries for release from administrative detainees on hunger strikes are the human face of the breakdown of independent judicial oversight over governors’ powers to detain persons almost at will,” said Stork.
HREA - or Click here

Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) is an international non-governmental organisation that supports human rights learning; the training of activists and professionals; the development of educational materials and programming; and community-building through on-line technologies.

ACTION: Prolonged Detention and the Rule of Law By Sen. RUSSELL FEINGOLD

NOTE: Senator Feingold plans to hold an important congressional committee meeting in JUNE on the following (concerns stated below in Sen. Feingold's letter to President Obama).

To Obama (end of Feingold's following Letter) "I intend to hold a hearing in the CONSTITUTION SUBCOMMITTEE of the SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE in JUNE and ask that you make a top official or officials from the Department of Justice available to testify". If any of this Judiciary Committee members are from your state - you may well consider getting the word out to all constitutional and anti-torture activists to make plenty of calls. Regardless of whether or not your legislator is on the committee, calling all these members as US citizens would still go a long way to offer support to Senator Russ Feingold.

Committee Members
Patrick J. Leahy
Chairman, D-Vermont

Jeff Sessions
Ranking Member, R-Alabama

Dianne Feinstein

Orrin G. Hatch

Russell D. Feingold

Charles E. Grassley

Charles E. Schumer
D-New York

Jon Kyl

Richard J. Durbin

Lindsey Graham
R-South Carolina

Benjamin L. Cardin

John Cornyn

Sheldon Whitehouse
D-Rhode Island

Tom Coburn

Ron Wyden

Amy Klobuchar

Edward E. Kaufman

Arlen Specter

Let's be sure to support this crucial effort!

May 25, 2009
A Letter to Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to convey my appreciation for your speech of May 21 on security and values, but also to express several concerns, particularly about your intention to design a system for what you called “prolonged detention.”

On many fronts, your speech confirmed your commitment to defending our country while reversing the previous administration’s numerous attacks on the rule of law. I was particularly pleased by your forceful rejection of torture, an issue on which you have backed up your campaign rhetoric with sustained action, beginning on your second day in office. I also welcome your acknowledgment that the state secrets privilege has been overused, as well as your commitment to reform. As you know, the Senate Judiciary Committee is currently considering legislation on this matter, which I hope your administration will now support. I also look forward to briefings on your administration’s use of the privilege thus far, in keeping with your commitment to “voluntarily report to Congress when we have invoked the privilege and why.”

In addition to these substantive matters, I was encouraged by your stated commitment to working with the judiciary and Congress as co-equal branches of government on issues of national security. This respect for our constitutional system stands in strong contrast to the approach of the previous administration. In light of the principles you have put forth, I look forward to full and open discussions between your administration and Congress on policy and legal matters. I also welcome your stated appreciation for congressional oversight and for the need for Congress to have full access to classified programs and information. As you know, the previous administration established numerous obstacles to effective oversight and I welcome your commitment to tearing down what remains of those obstacles.

In the spirit of an open, productive dialogue between your administration and Congress, I wish to lay out my concerns related to the disposition of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. I strongly supported the decision you made in January to close the detention facility at Guantanamo and continue to do so. The facility has been used as a recruiting tool by our enemies, and allowing it to remain open would pose an unacceptable threat to our national security. I look forward to considering your administration’s plan for closing the facility, and I welcome your decision to bring suspected terrorists, like Ahmed Gailani, to justice.

Among the issues Congress must consider carefully is any resumption of the use of military commissions. Like you, I voted against the Military Commissions Act of 2006. I agree with you with regard to that statute’s many flaws, but it is not clear to me that those flaws can be fixed, or that the other options in the current federal criminal justice and courts martial systems for bringing the detainees to justice are insufficient or unworkable. If Congress is to fully consider your proposal for military commissions, therefore, it will need access to the same information your administration is currently reviewing, including detailed, classified information on individual detainees and the extent to which other options are available.

My primary concern, however, relates to your reference to the possibility of indefinite detention without trial for certain detainees. While I appreciate your good faith desire to at least enact a statutory basis for such a regime, any system that permits the government to indefinitely detain individuals without charge or without a meaningful opportunity to have accusations against them adjudicated by an impartial arbiter violates basic American values and is likely unconstitutional. While I recognize that your administration inherited detainees who, because of torture, other forms of coercive interrogations, or other problems related to their detention or the evidence against them, pose considerable challenges to prosecution, holding them indefinitely without trial is inconsistent with the respect for the rule of law that the rest of your speech so eloquently invoked. Indeed, such detention is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world. It is hard to imagine that our country would regard as acceptable a system in another country where an individual other than a prisoner of war is held indefinitely without charge or trial.

You have discussed this possibility only in the context of the current detainees at Guantanamo Bay, yet we must be aware of the precedent that such a system would establish. While the handling of these detainees by the Bush Administration was particularly egregious, from a legal as well as human rights perspective, these are unlikely to be the last suspected terrorists captured by the United States. Once a system of indefinite detention without trial is established, the temptation to use it in the future would be powerful. And, while your administration may resist such a temptation, future administrations may not. There is a real risk, then, of establishing policies and legal precedents that rather than ridding our country of the burden of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, merely set the stage for future Guantanamos, whether on our shores or elsewhere, with disastrous consequences for our national security. Worse, those policies and legal precedents would be effectively enshrined as acceptable in our system of justice, having been established not by one, largely discredited administration, but by successive administrations of both parties with greatly contrasting positions on legal and constitutional issues.

I do not doubt your good faith efforts to wrestle with these complex issues, and I am confident that you would seek to use any new authorities carefully and judiciously. But, as I know you appreciate, fundamental changes to our constitutional system cannot be considered in the context of individual presidents or administrations. Whatever new regimes you and the Congress choose to enact will likely remain in place long after your administration has ended, to be used, or abused, by future presidents.

I appreciate your efforts to reach out to Congress on this important issue. In that spirit, I intend to hold a hearing in the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee in June and ask that you make a top official or officials from the Department of Justice available to testify. I recognize that your plans are not yet fully formed, but it is important to begin this discussion immediately, before you reach a final decision. I will be sending formal invitations in the coming weeks and look forward to hearing the testimony of your administration.

I thank you for this opportunity to convey my views and look forward to continued collaboration as we return our country to the rule of law while aggressively targeting al Qaeda and its affiliates.


Russell D. Feingold