Remember when Jose Padilla was arrested at O'Hare airport in May 2002? A few weeks later, then Attorney General John Ashcroft made a big show of interrupting a trip to Moscow to hold a press conference:
I am pleased to announce today a significant step forward in the war on terrorism. We have captured a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or "dirty bomb," in the United States.
But the dirty bomb charge didn't stick. After being held without any charges for three years in military custody, Padilla, an American citizen, was transferred to civilian court in 2005 and formally charged with the much less heinous crime of conspiracy. The Feds just couldn't back up their contention that Padilla posed a grave threat to national security.
Deborah Sontag's must-read about the flimsy evidence the government intends to present at Padilla's criminal trial later this month - even for just the conspiracy charge - is chilling. They're relying largely on tapped conversations to prove their case, yet not all of them are of Padilla and in none of them does he discuss violent plots.
And the government has still gone ahead with charging a detainee at Guantanamo with conspiring to detonate a dirty bomb with Padilla, the same charge the government couldn't make stick earlier.
That Mr. Mohamed faced dirty bomb charges and Mr. Padilla does not speaks to the central difference between being a terrorism suspect in Guantánamo and a criminal defendant charged with terrorism offenses in the United States....
David Cole, a professor of law at Georgetown University and author of books on terrorism and civil liberties, sees the difference between the two systems more critically: "What this says clearly is that they feel that they can get away with using tainted evidence in the military commission system that they can’t use in the criminal court system."
We'll, of course, be watching the case - if it even goes forward. Padilla is undergoing evaluation this week as to whether he is mentally fit to stand trial. His lawyers contend that his long period of detainment and harsh interrogation have left him mentally damaged.
Tunisian blogger Sami Ben Gharbia has created this fascinating Google Maps mashup of the prisons where political dissidents have been locked up by the Tunisian government. When you click on a marker, legal details about the prisoners' cases pop up, along with video from the dissidents and their families.
Tunisia has a long history of human rights abuses and harsh conditions in its network of secret prisons, so publishing this much politically sensitive and hard-to-obtain information has earned Gharbia plaudits from human rights advocates... along with the inability to return home from his exile in The Hague. The Tunisian government maintains one of the strictest online censorship regimes in the world, so it's hard to know to what extent Gharbia's map is reaching Tunisians inside the country.
Hat tip: Boing Boing
Four years after Muktaran Mai (check out her blog) was gang-raped with the sanction of a tribal council (a punishment for her 13-year-old brother's alleged affair with another man's sister), Pakistan has just revised its "rape law." Unfortunately, the new law changes little. It does, however, reveal much about the state of Pakistan.
The bill has been seen as a barometer for Musharaf's commitment to a moderate Muslim state. But threats of a government walkout and nationwide protests by religious parties forced the government to walk back the original bill a good deal.
The old law (here's the actual legislation - frightening) requires four Muslim male witnesses to verify actual penetration for a conviction in a rape case. Without four witnesses, the victim could be prosecuted for adultery, which carries a death penalty by public stoning. The new law moves rape and adultery out of the Islamic courts and into civil ones. But the judge in civil court still has the discretion to block the case from going to trial.
Keep reading after the JUMP.
I think that such fairs are needed," said one communist deputy, Victor Ilyukhin, "so that we can put snipers around the outside and shoot all of the visitors like parasites. None of them have made their money honestly."
The Washington Post's Nora Boustany describes the changed atmosphere in Washington regarding the International Criminal Court.
Now, as the court prepares to begin public hearings on its first case, the debate among senior U.S. military officials seems to be shifting away from staunch opposition, and a fresh assessment of the court seems to be underway. The new attitude has been prompted in part by the court's record since it began operations three years ago; Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, an Argentine, has dismissed hundreds of petitions for cases against the United States.
Iraq and Afghanistan have provided the ICC a quick opportunity to dispel the Pentagon's worst fears, and the court has seized the chance to show that it's after janjaweed - not GIs. With American hostility muted, the court now needs to catch and try those it has indicted. Appearing harmless to the superpower was an important challenge; inspiring fear among its targets is the next one.
The Swedish Academy announced today that Edmund S. Phelps will receive the Nobel Prize for Economics. Phelps, a professor at Columbia University, is being lauded for his work on inflation and its effects on unemployment. Phelps becomes the sixth American this year to win a Nobel. Only two more Nobels for 2006 are left: literature and peace.
It almost certainly won't be an American sweep this year. We have no idea who will win for literature (one thing's for sure: it won't be Harold Pinter), but we do have some odds on who might get the big kahuna for peace. In this week's list, FP takes a look at some of the leading candidates, which include former Finnish president and current UN peace negotiator Martti Ahtisaari and Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, for their work on the Aceh peace accords.
We'll also admit that our top picks may be totally wrong. After all, the Nobel Committee has a history of picking surpise recipients. Remember when Jody Williams and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines won in 1997? No one saw that coming. The IHT has a good primer on how the prizewinners are chosen. In short, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is selected by a group of five Norwegian committee members, who are selected by Norway's parliament. They choose from a list of nominees (this year, there are 191, including 23 organizations), whose names are put forward by previous laureates, academics, and parliamentarians around the world. It's like Fight Club: what happens in the committee, stays in the committee (although nominators are free to talk to the press individually about who they recommended, which is why we know that people like Ahtisaari and Bono have been nominated in the past). Still, if we were betting folks, we'd put our money on the Finn.
Forgotten amid the chaos into which Iraq has descended during the past three years are some of the more brutal tactics Saddam Hussein employed. Of course, much of it seems somewhat irrelevant now. As awful as some of the strongman's crimes were, the potency of discussion about his regime often fades when compared to the dire situation on the ground today.
And then you read about something like this:
Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq wanted foreign cash to build thousands of concrete bunkers to bury dead Kurds, an Australian inquiry into abuses of the UN oil-for-food program heard Friday."
The Australian firm that stands accused of sending money to Saddam isn't looking so good in the final days of its sensational nine-month inquiry. Take a look at this excerpt of one of the company's internal e-mails, which was presented to the probe's panel:
The bunkers will have cement walls and floors so they are actually designed for burying the Kurds ... the mind boggles as to whether they are fumigating insects or any other pest that pisses them off.... On a serious note they will have cement flooring."
The inquiry is expected to hand down its decision on November 24. We'll keep an eye out for any more disturbing details.
The Serbian authorities are doing their damndest to convince international prosecutor Carla del Ponte that they're serious about catching indicted war criminal Ratko Mladic. To wit, Serbia just announced that they sacked five police officials for inadequate zeal in pursuing Mladic. The authorities have good reason to tout their seriousness: negotiations with the European Union hang in the balance.
Mladic is one of a handful of men on the lam for genocide and crimes against humanity. Many of them have benefited from the drift in international attention occasioned by the war on terrorism. The EU, to its credit, has kept steady pressure on Serbia, and my guess is that they'll cough up Mladic at some point soon.
Answer: Anyone. The Washington Post is reporting that over the weekend the White House and its House allies successfully watered down an earlier version of the military commissions bill to include a less restrictive description of how the government could designate civilians as "unlawful enemy combatants."
The [unlawful enemy combatant] definition applies to foreigners living inside or outside the United States and does not rule out the possibility of designating a U.S. citizen as an unlawful combatant.
That means that anyone the government decides "has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" [ital mine] or its military allies can be detained indefinitely. In other words, a U.S. citizen in the United States. And they've successfully defined the "battlefield" as anywhere and everywhere. Plus, if Congress writes and passes it, it's unlikely the Supreme Court would step in and declare the definition unconstitutional. I'm less enthused by this military commissions compromise by the minute.
Despite having the support of a majority of the Senate, the alternative plan for military commissions backed by Sens. McCain, Graham, and Warner might face a filibuster led by Sen. Bill Frist, who is seriously toeing the White House line on the treatment of detainees and warrantless wiretapping. But since the White House might ultimately get most of what its wants out of a possible compromise bill, why the threat of a filibuster? Could it be that Frist, who clearly harbors presidential aspirations, wants to steal McCain's spotlight?
In other news, the International Committee of the Red Cross will meet next week for the first time with the 14 high-level detainees now held at Gitmo who sparked off this current row in the first place.
Whom did Andrei Kozlov upset? Russia's central banker, who spearheaded efforts to clean up the banking sector and put an end to money laundering, was gunned down in a contract hit on Wednesday and died of his injuries yesterday.
At the central bank, Mr. Kozlov had been responsible for pushing the chaotic banking sector here through a transition from a fragmented and opaque industry serving wealthy businessmen to one able to accommodate retail customers from a middle class growing with the trickle-down impact of oil money.
Those reforms had largely stalled amid opposition from politically connected banks, known as the "pocket banks" of the oligarchs. Many are risky places for retail customers because much of their lending portfolio is tied up with a single business, that of their oligarch owner, the collapse of which would bring down the bank. Mr. Kozlov was responsible for closing banks deemed insolvent...
Kozlov closed dozens of Russian banks in the last few years and was well-respected in Western financial circles for his efforts to bring more transparency to the banking sector. The Kremlin has put together a large investigation team, but as political assassinations such as this are rarely solved in Russia, perhaps observers would do well to simply watch whether the Central Bank cools its enthusiasm for Kozlov's anti-corruption drive or whether a bank under threat of closure now escapes the radar.
Won't the midterms be dirty. Bush has thrown down the gauntlet. In his speech today, the president announced that he is immediately sending legislation to Congress that would allow the United States to establish military tribunals for enemy combatants - the same tribunals that the Supreme Court struck down in June (finding them unconstitutional because Congress hadn't approved them). This move is predictable. Ever since the Supreme Court decision came down, the administration has been planning to seek congressional approval. But the announcement today that more than a dozen high-value enemy combatants - including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the architects of the 9/11 attacks - have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay puts anyone wishing to debate the legality, fairness, and sensibility of these tribunals - during the fifth anniversary of 9/11 and the run-up to the midterms - in a very unenviable position. Hence the brilliant political timing.
So, it looks very likely that the administration will get to keep its closed tribunals - where those prosecuted and their counsel can be prohibited from even learning the evidence against them. I haven't yet seen the legislation in question, which could be vastly different from what ultimately emerges from Congress. But the tribunal the administration wanted initially looked a little something like this:
An intriguing study by Syracuse University researchers reveals that, amazingly, terror prosecutions in the U.S. have fallen off steeply to pre-9/11 levels. The Justice department now declines 9 out of every 10 terrorism cases that it receives from other government agencies like the FBI.
There are two possible interpretations of the study: 1) The Department of Justice is being overburdened with cases and isn't doing its job. 2) The sharp rise in terrorism prosecutions just after 9/11 was mostly paranoia - and the prosecution rate is simply returning to normal.
Considering all the hype and scrutiny that terror prosecutions are subjected to these day, I seriously doubt the former explanation. A look at this graphic showing the massive drop-off in average sentence length for those charged with terrorist offences suggests that, since 9/11, a lot of people have been tried without much evidence or for very minor crimes.
Some say that sentence lengths have fallen because the Department of Justice is trying to preemptively prosecute terrorist plots:
There are many flaws in the report," said Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra. "It is irresponsible to attempt to measure success in the war on terror without the necessary details about the government's strategy and tactics."
For instance, Sierra said, prison sentences are "not the proper measure of the success of the department's overall counterterrorism efforts. The primary goal ... is to detect, disrupt and deter terrorist activities."
Others say it reflects a post-9/11 world of paranoid prosecutions and racial profiling - and the recent-drop off in prosecutions shows that the DoJ is finally returning to its senses. You decide.
A few weeks ago, after reading Chicago Tribune reporter Paul Salopek's tour-de-force piece on the origins of the fuel at your local gas station, I linked to the piece here on Passport and praised Salopek's ingenuity in asking (and answering) a simple, but elegant question about the journey oil takes from the ground to refineries and on to your gas tank. I made a mental note to look out for Salopek's next story.
But now Salopek is sitting in a Sudanese jail, charged with being a spy after illegally entering the country's Darfur region from Chad while on assignment with National Geographic. The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner was captured three weeks ago by a militant group allied with the government, handed over to the Sudanese Army, and held without outside contact until about 10 days ago, when Khartoum infomed the local U.S. embassy of his arrest for espionage. He could face jail time. A Slovenian filmmaker was sentenced earlier this month to two years in prison on charges similar to those Salopek faces.
The Chicago Tribune and National Geographic are working to secure Salopek's release, but it's unclear if they'll have any sucess. Better still would be to get someone in the State Department to exert some serious pressure on Khartoum. With Salopek's trial coming in less than two weeks, time is running out.
What is more important: collective memory or private property? That's what is at issue in a heart-wrenching legal case in France that will conclude next moth. Last year, Michel Levi-Leleu attended a Holocaust exhibit in Paris. There, he saw a suitcase that had belonged to his father, who had been murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz. The luggage even had his father's name and address still on it.
Monsieur Levi-Leleu understandably requested that the curators hand his father's property over to him. But they refused. The suitcase had been loaned by the Auschwitz museum and they argued that these clearly personal objects are essential to the museum's work:
These items are of huge importance if the names of their owners can still be seen, as there are only a very small number of these. They are concrete proof that real people who can be identified and portrayed died in the camp."
This position strikes me as wrong-headed. As Daniel Finkelstein points out, the Auschwitz museum's view is "that their rights to the stolen property of a murdered man are greater than those of his son." That can't be right. Ultimately, where the suitcase can do most good should be irrelevant in legal terms. It is the property of the Levi-Leleu family and if they want it they have a clear and unambiguous right to it. Documentary evidence at places like Auschwitz is important. But considering the evil history of the place, it is imperative that it is freely given, not expropriated.
Reports from Pakistan suggest that much of the intelligence that led to the raids came from that country and that some of it may have been obtained in ways entirely unacceptable here. In particular Rashid Rauf, a British citizen said to be a prime source of information leading to last week's arrests, has been held without access to full consular or legal assistance. Disturbing reports in Pakistani papers that he had "broken" under interrogation have been echoed by local human rights bodies. The Guardian has quoted one, Asma Jehangir, of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, who has no doubt about the meaning of broken. "I don't deduce, I know - torture," she said. "There is simply no doubt about that, no doubt at all." If this is shown to be the case, the prospect of securing convictions in this country on his evidence will be complicated. In 2004 the Court of Appeal ruled - feebly - that evidence obtained using torture would be admissable as long as Britain had not "procured or connived" at it. The law lords rightly dismissed this in December last year, though they disagreed about whether the bar should be the simple "risk" or "probability" of torture."
As I've mentioned before, if the case collapses there would be the most almighty stink in Britain. It would introduce into British politics U.S. style judge-bashing. Calls for Britain to scrap the Human Rights Act would grow ever louder.
The 24 suspects arrested by the British authorities can be held for 28 days before they are charged. Their prosecution will create a politically charged debate about the trade-offs between security and liberty. Any defense lawyer worth his salt is going to challenge the evidence being used against them, claiming that suspects implicating them in the plot were likely tortured in Pakistan. (Information obtained in this manner is inadmissible in British courts.) Considering that Pakistan was instrumental in the arrest and the year long investigation into the 24, this could be a fertile furrow for the defense.
One can just imagine the row that would follow if the case against these men collapsed because key prosecution evidence was deemed inadmissible. In the past, members of the judiciary have shown themselves to be willfully blind to the dangers posed by terrorism, with Law Lords making glib statements about how the "real threat" comes not from terrorism, but from anti-terror laws. All of which makes one wonder if the combative Home Secretary John Reid was launching a pre-emptive strike when he lashed out on Wednesday at judges, among others, for failing to "understand the depth and magnitude" of the terrorist threat to Britain and bemoaned that we are "unable to adapt our institutions and legal orthodoxy as fast as we need to."
On Monday, for the first time ever, a U.S. federal court provided online access to nearly all the exhibits submitted in a recent criminal case. The case? United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui. Several of the exhibits are still classified and under seal (including one entitled "schizophrenia video" submitted by the defense), but there are nearly 1,200 other documents, videos, and photographs available - everything from Moussaoui's report cards from 1975, photographs of the inside of a flight simulator, and "1 box cutter". There's also the "substitution for testimony" from several terror detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks. I'm guessing that releasing all of the exhibits is kosher despite Moussaoui's pending appeal of his life sentence, but it just makes every armchair attorney out there able to now render an opinion on whether he should be able to withdraw his guilty plea.
Charles Taylor, now residing in a Hague jail cell, has some complaints. The food, it appears, is "Eurocentric." And Secretary-General Kofi Annan presumed to call him a criminal rather than a suspect. Could another ex-dictator soon be on a hunger strike? British prison authorities are no doubt watching the saga with interest: They've agreed to host Mr. Taylor should he be convicted.
The International Criminal Court may have a warrant out for his arrest, but that didn't stop Uganda from offering full amnesty to the rebel leader Joseph Kony, head of the infamous Lord's Resistance Army.
It's a strange move on the part of the Ugandan government, as their military - and the United Nations - have long been trying to capture Kony, considered responsible for the death and kidnapping of thousands of civilians, especially children, during the 19-year civil war. Perhaps the Ugandan government is hoping the offer could facilitate peace at talks that begin next week in Sudan. But Kony has already rejected the amnesty deal, calling it irrelevant since it has no effect on the ICC proceedings against him.
After years of silence, the rebel leader of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has finally emerged from wherever he was hiding. Joseph Kony spoke to the BBC yesterday, claiming that the LRA has committed no crimes. That's near-impossible, given the stories coming out of Uganda about how the LRA kidnaps children and forces the boys to become soldiers and the girls to become sex slaves. Check out the photo essay FP published this past spring showing these "night commuters," children numbering in the tens of thousands who must hike miles each night to town shelters in order to hide from Kony's LRA. Predictably, and rightfully, the Ugandan government has denounced Kony's comments as outrageous. But, as former UN official Olara Otunnu points out in the current issue of FP (and mentioned in today's Morning Brief), the Ugandan government isn't blameless either, and might be, in fact, complicit in the genocide.
The ocean: Bush creates the world's largest marine reserve northwest of Hawaii. Baby seals everywhere rejoice.
Maoists in Nepal: Parliament is dissolved and rebels are invited to join new government.
ICC: May issue indictments for Darfur war criminals soon. Someone has to take a stand.
Serbia & Montenegro: 6-0 loss to Argentina in today's World Cup match. Ouch.
Fake Show turkeys: The faux bird that accompanied Bush on his first surprise trip to Iraq in 2003 is left home alone. (Yes, the turkey was real. Thanks to everyone who wrote in about that. But no one ate it. It was a decoration.)
Guantanamo: You know things are bad when they kick the journalists out.
The ICC's chief prosecutor says his office has so far documented "a significant number of large scale massacres," each "with hundreds of victims," as well as hundreds of cases of alleged rapes in Darfur, according to a report to the UN released yesterday. The report goes on to state that Sudanese authorities have failed to investigate or prosecute cases currently under investigation, which means the ICC would have jurisdiction to proceed with prosecutions. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo says he expects to file charges, presumably in the next few months, but Sudanese officials said today that the ICC doesn't have authority and that Sudanese trials have simply been slowed by logistical factors.
The ICC moving forward on Darfur is good news not just for Darfur, but for the ICC. If the court can bring Darfur war criminals to justice, it may signal to the Bush administration that their cold-shoulder stance toward the court deserves a rethink.
As if you needed any more proof that Oprah Winfrey is among the world's most powerful women, she's also a one-woman crime-fighting machine. Or, at least, the FBI thinks so. It has devoted an entire Web page on its site to the sexual predators Oprah has profiled on her show. It's great that these criminals are getting as much publicity as possible, increasing the chances of their capture. But does the fact that the FBI is getting its tips from the Oprah Winfrey Show kind of terrify anyone else?
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said today of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, "I think arguably over the last several years, no single person on this planet has had the blood of more innocent men, women, and children on his hands than [he has]."
Forty years ago today, the Cultural Revolution began in China, yet the government in Beijing made sure that the anniversary passed without so much as a mention in the state-run press. Officials did manage to mark the day by sentencing a cyberdissident to 12 years in prison for posting an anti-government article online and shuttering a polling site that asked a question about Tiananmen compensation. Plus, the government re-indicted an NYT researcher; charges against Zhao Yan had been dropped shortly before Hu's visit to Washington as a token gesture to US officials.
Memories of the Revolution's chaotic decade are clearly still raw in the minds of many Chinese, as these eyewitness accounts attest. Officials may demand silence on the topic, but there are signs of cracks in the facade: An unoffical museum has opened in southern China, and
Xu Youyu, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who has pressed for an open assessment of the Cultural Revolution, revealed a few days ago that researchers held a secret meeting on the Cultural Revolution in Beijing in March.
Last week, Davide dug up some great numbers from the BBC on worldwide rates of imprisonment. I was curious to see if there is any correlation between countries' incarceration rates and levels of globalization. So I used our 2005 Globalization Index to map it out.
The United States is clearly an outlier, but some have questioned whether the numbers reported by certain countries can be trusted. How accurate, for example, are the reported numbers for China's prison system?
You've heard this before: what do China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United States have in common? They execute people.
But executions around the world are down: 3797 in 25 countries during 2004, as opposed to 2148 in 22 countries last year. Amnesty International singles out Iran as the only country to have executed juveniles in 2005 and suggests China (where you can be executed for tax fraud) may be responsible for as many as 8000 executions, though the published figure is about 1770.
Iran's total, 94, is slightly down from last year's 159. Saudi Arabia executed 86 people in 2005, including some by beheading. USA put 60 to death, about the same as 2004. Other big offenders: Jordan, Pakistan, and Vietnam.
Russia and China are apparently blocking attempts to impose individual sanctions against Sudanese officials accused of fostering violence in Darfur. "Let's wait, at least until the end of April, and then come back to the issue," pleaded Russia's UN ambassador. The Russian and Chinese stance is a helpful reminder that protecting rogue regimes (particularly those with whom they have important energy ties) has become a feature of their diplomacy. As the Iran crisis develops, it will be important to remember this context.
Observers skeptical of a tough approach to Tehran sometimes seem to assume that Security Council members favoring gentler tactics are operating out of high principle or deep wisdom. Don't believe it. There is strong evidence that the Russian and Chinese positions are about 1) protecting important energy sources; and 2) undermining the precedent that the international community can meddle in countries' internal affairs (however bloody or dangerous). There's nothing particularly high minded about either rationale. None of this means that coercing Tehran is necessarily the right approach, but let's at least be clearheaded about why certain states oppose that course.
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