Posts Tagged ‘POTUS’


President temporarily halts arms sales to Saudi Arabia

It’s only temporary, but it may be a start.  It is being cast as part of the normal review of sales which a new president undertakes upon taking office but let us hope that it becomes permanent.  The scale of destruction in Yemen continues apace so anything which acts to reduce it must be welcomed.

Sources: HRW; The Hill


The US rushed to execute 13 before Jo Biden became president

Shock was widely expressed following the execution of 13 people in the final days of the Trump presidency and just days before president elect Jo Biden takes office on 20th.  President Trump has been the most prolific executioner in more than a century.  There has been a gradual drift away from this use of the penalty in the USA – the only American nation still to have the penalty – and the executions are out of step with trends and attitudes among the US public.  These executions took place in federal prisons. It has been criticised as vindictive.

The Attorney General, William Barr said:

[…] We owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.  US Department of Justice statement when federal executions were resumed after two decades.  July 2019 [accessed 16 January 2021]

 

 


Lisa Montgomery was executed in the Federal prison of Terre Haute, Indiana today (Wednesday, 13 January 2021) after a long legal struggle to save her from this punishment. The case has caused a major debate in the US partly because Lisa was the first woman to be executed in nearly seven decades. She was executed in a federal prison, not a state one.

There is no doubt that her crime was horrific. But there seems little doubt also that her upbringing, which included being gang raped more than once, contributed to her lack of mental wellbeing and borderline personality disorder. It is unlikely she was aware of what was happening to her. She was the 11th person to be executed at Terre Haute since President Trump resumed federal executions.

The US is the only country in the Americas to retain the death penalty and not all states in the union practise it.

There is no evidence to support the maintenance of this penalty. It does not deter and it brutalises those involved in it. It can make securing convictions harder if juries are unwilling to agree a guilty verdict if there is a risk of execution. It is extremely expensive as we noted in a previous post and it has cost California for example, around $12bn to administer since 1978.  For poor people, unable to employ expensive lawyers, the system is stacked against them.  Mistakes – and there are many – cannot afterwards be rectified.  


This is an interview on CNN of Helen Prejean who is an active campaigner against the death penalty in the USA.  Helen is a Roman Catholic, born in Baton Rouge Louisiana, and was chair of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty up to 1995.  She is the author of a book, Dead Man Walking.

The interview was made because of President Trump’s programme of carrying out a string of Federal executions in the lame duck period before President elect Joe Biden takes over in January.  The number of these is unprecedented.

CNN interview


President-elect Joe Biden has declared that human rights will be an important part of his agenda when he becomes president in January.  Following a period when President Trump rowed back on a lot of US commitments in this area, this is clearly welcome.  So how is this likely to look?

Trump pulled the US out of the UN Human Rights Council in 2018 and this year designated the International Criminal Court a “security threat.”  It is expected that a Biden administration will reverse these decisions as well as re-staffing the depleted Human Rights Department of the US Department of Justice and returning to various arms control agreements.  It is also clear that Biden will take a multilateral approach to international issues, unlike his predecessor.

The US-based organisation Human Rights Watch have urged the new administration to reverse course:

On November 9, countries at the UN Human Rights Council reviewed the human rights record of the United States and offered recommendations on guaranteeing the right to health, including sexual and reproductive health, non-discrimination, voting rights, policing, and gender equality, among others.  The Biden administration should re-engage with the Human Rights Council, including by accepting Universal Periodic Review recommendations aligned with international human rights law, and realizing the human rights obligations identified by the council

They also urge the incoming regime also to repudiate the Department of State’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, which Trump set up to make a hierarchy of countries and abandon the universality of international human rights law.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty UK, has also urged the Biden administration to take a new approach to international law and has indicated 3 areas where the new administration needs to change its human rights policy internally – gun control, asylum seekers and police reform (AIUK, 9 November 2020).

In the run up to the election, Biden made a number of statements in defence of human rights, notably in the Middle East, which he may well struggle to carry out.  In the last week or two, Egypt and Turkey have both made a large number of arrests of dissidents (maybe hoping to do so before Trump leaves), and Saudi Arabia is sending feminist activists to a terrorism court.

As Kareem Fahim writes in the Washington Post (27 November 2020):

The moves in recent days, by a trio of authoritarian governments that are close allies or partners of the United States, have put human rights issues front and center weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, in a pre-emptive challenge to his pledge to vigorously defend such rights.

 


Lisa Montgomery execution to go ahead in the dying days of the Trump presidency

The execution by lethal injection of Lisa Montgomery is now scheduled to take place at Terre Haute Federal prison Indiana on January 12 just days before president-elect Joe Biden takes office.  She is the first woman to be executed in almost six decades.

Lisa’s crime was truly awful and involved murder of a woman and the removal of her unborn baby.  The argument has been about her mental state and her background.  She was the victim of gang rape, incest and sex trafficking.  Her defence (defense) has argued that the balance of her mind was disturbed at the time of the murder.

It is some kind of fitting end to the President’s term of office to rush through a number of Federal executions including this one.  No other lame duck president has carried out more than one execution since Grover Cleveland’s first presidency in 1888 – 89.

This has been an administration that’s been historically out of step. Not just out of step with the views of America in 2020, but out of step with federal practices by administrations, Democratic or Republican, for the course of [a] century, Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Robert Dunham told The Washington Post.

The USA is the only country in the Americas to retain the death penalty.

China executes more of its citizens than the rest of the world combined but details are a state secret.

See our latest monthly death penalty report.

Further details of other executions being rushed through on the Death Penalty Information Center

Sources: USA Today; Fort Worth Star-Telegram; Washington Post; Guardian; US Dept. of Justice


President Trump issues serious threat to the ICC, its staff and families

The international legal order established after the Second World War seems further away than ever.  The increasing number of despots in countries such as China, the Philippines, Turkey, Hungary and Russia pose a severe threat to the world order and human rights.  In addition to infringements in their own countries, their influence is increasing overseas with the Chinese in particular securing greater influence and a say in the UN’s activities.

In John Bolton’s memoir published this week, he alleges (among many other things) President Trump praised President Xi Jing-Ping for the imprisonment of the Uighurs, around a million of whom are incarcerated in re-education camps and suffer severe restrictions.

President Trump and his staff – including William Barr, the Attorney General of the USA – launched an unprecedented legal and economic attack on the ICC, its staff and family members.   He alleges it is a ‘kangaroo court’ and has alleged corruption of its members.

The USA – along with Russia, China and Israel – are not members of the organisation which came into being after the Rome Statute in 1998 and operates in the Hague.  For a long time, the court was criticised for focusing on crimes in Africa, but recently, they have begun to investigate Israel’s ever increasing seizure of Palestinian land and America’s activities in Afghanistan.   America sees itself as a beacon on international values and will not allow jurisdiction over its citizens by an overseas court.  It claims that any violations by its personnel or servicemen or women are investigated so there is no need for a court such as the ICC.

THE international response has been one of dismay.  The problem is not just this court but the attitude of POTUS to all outside or international organisations which are treated with contempt or hostility.  This is the flip side of ‘putting America first’ which what he promised at his election of course.  An Amnesty director said:

The Trump administration has a well-honed pattern of undermining and all-out assaults on multilateral institutions, rather than doing the sometimes difficult, but necessary work of joining them, sustaining them, and working to improve them.  Today’s announcement is yet another assault on vital institutions that help people look after one another and provide survivors of rights abuses with justice.

The vague and open-ended language in the executive order could leave open the possibility that NGO workers, activists, foreign government officials, and others working to advance international justice may find themselves implicated by these obstructive measures.

The ICC has investigated individuals responsible for some of the world’s most horrific crimes, including those in Myanmar, the Central African Republic, and Darfur, to name just a few.  The ICC is a court of last resort; it exists to provide justice in situations where states are unwilling or unable to do so.  It is a court for the people.  That the Trump Administration is so committed to targeting the court speaks volumes about its lack of commitment to delivering justice to individuals, families, and communities.  Daniel Balson, Advocacy Director for AI USA

Human Rights Watch say:

There is a need for clear, principled and forceful messages from the EU in support of the ICC and condemnation of US attacks on the court are necessary and urgently needed.

In a statement, the ICC itself said:

The International Criminal Court expresses profound regret at the announcement of further threats and coercive actions, including financial measures, against the Court and its officials, made earlier today by the Government of the United States.

The ICC stands firmly by its staff and officials and remains unwavering in its commitment to discharging, independently and impartially, the mandate bestowed upon it by the Rome Statute and the States that are party to it.

These are the latest in a series of unprecedented attacks on the ICC, an independent international judicial institution, as well as on the Rome Statute system of international criminal justice, which reflects the commitment and cooperation of the ICC’s 123 States Parties, representing all regions of the world. […]

It is deeply concerning that one of the founding nations of the UN and the UNHDR and for a long time regarded as the leader of the free world, should descend to these sort of tactics and behaviours.  The threats are little more than we could expect from some tin pot dictatorship, affronted by an international organisation looking into their illegal activities.  It is not what we should expect from a nation such as USA.

Sources: Aljazeera; Guardian; Human Rights Watch; Deutche Well; Amnesty; ICC

 

 


President Trump is due to leave the UK after a controversial visit in which all the normal diplomatic niceties seem to have been ignored.  Our concern naturally is with human rights and his tenure as president has shown a wilful disregard for the rights of women, minorities and immigrants.  Kate Allen, the Director of Amnesty, has written to the government arguing for a more vigorous line from them.  She said;

Trump has presided over two-and-a-half years of utterly shameful policies.  Locking up child migrants, imposing a discriminatory travel ban, decimating global funding for women’s rights and withdrawing from global human rights bodies – it’s been a roll call of shame under Donald Trump’s presidency.

We need to resist Trump’s trashing of human rights.  Within the Anglo-American relationship, we’d like to see the UK Government being far more vocal about human rights.  Our fear is that the Government’s desperate hunger for post-Brexit trade deals with the USA could mean we end up giving a free pass to the White House as this onslaught against human rights continues.

The full press release can be accessed from this link.


If you have come to this page seeking information about Paul Mason’s talk on 24th, details can be found here.


Congress votes to end military aid to Saudi

In our last post two days ago, we highlighted the Dispatches programme which described in graphic detail the role our weapons supplies were having in Yemen.  The Saudis, using jets supplied by us, were creating suffering on an almost unimaginable scale with tens of thousands of deaths, a cholera outbreak and starvation of its people.

Today, 4 April 2019, the US Congress has voted 247 to 155 to end military aid to Saudi Arabia.  Further votes are planned to stop weapons supplies as well.  It is expected that President Trump will veto the actions but nevertheless, it sends a strong message of what Americans think of this terrible regime and its countries continuing military support for it.

This puts the UK in a tricky position.  A chief ally stepping back leaves this country somewhat exposed.  We shall have to see over the coming days what feeble excuses are trotted out to justify our support and role in the killing.

Sources: The Nation, Washington Post, the Guardian