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Anti-Militarism: News & Updates

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For Years activists in Atlanta have been in the fight opposing the project "Cop City" which aims to tear down a local forest, to build the biggest police training facility in the nation. The predominantly Black, underserved local residents oppose the project. They had hoped that the area--a canopy of trees that serve as a buffer against climate change--would be turned into a municipal park instead of a symbol of oppression.

A week ago, at the site of the protests, 26-year-old environmental activist Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (Tortuguita) was shot dead by an Georgia State Trooper inside his tent. Hearing about it from Panama City, Panama where she lives, Manuel's mother said: “they killed him … like they tear down trees in the forest – a forest Manuel loved with passion.”

Manuel Esteban Paez Terán ¡PRESENTE!

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Twenty-one years ago, on January 11, 2002 President Bush opened the torture facility Guantánamo. Since then approximately 779 individuals have passed through the prison and nine lives were lost, seven of  which were by suicide. Today the United States government still holds 35 men hostage, 20 of whom have already been cleared for release. Barely any of the 779 people have ever been charged with a crime let alone convicted. In 2022 the Biden administration has released one(!) person, 75 year-old "forever prisoner" Saifullah Paracha, who was detained in 2003. 

To protest this injustice, 35 activists in orange jumpsuits and black hoods gathered in front of the White House to remember its victims.  The protest was accompanied by a number of speeches. First was Herb Geraghty, organizer for Witness Against Torture and activist. In his opening remarks he defined Guantánamo as the representation of "the worst of this country’s xenophobia" and called on President Biden to keep his promise and shut down Guantánamo Bay Prison. Following Herb, Dr. Maha Hilal, an expert on institutionalized Islamophobia and co-director of Justice for Muslims Collective, held a powerful speech, stating that Guantánamo's existence “…has institutionalized Islamophobia...that in turn has been used to…demonize, criminalize and to justify state violence against Muslims." The third speech was by James Yee, a former U.S. Army prison chaplain to detainees at Guantánamo, who after speaking out against the crimes committed by the U.S. in the facility, was arrested and held in solitary confinement for 76 days while being falsely accused of aiding the “terrorist enemy.” He talked about his first hand insight into the prison's daily abuse and his own experience of being framed and criminalized as a terrorist. After a reading of the 35 names of the men still imprisoned in Guantánamo,  Imam Saffet A. Catovic offered a final prayer in which he called for justice to be done here in the U.S. and throughout the world while referring to Guantánamo. 

After the White House gathering, a small group of activists marched to the Washington Post headquarters to promote coverage on the ongoing injustice in Guantánamo. The group was met with security guards who denied them access to the building and asked the activists to step back on the sidewalk and off their private property. There was no interest by the editors to hear or be informed about the issue. Evidently, the publication’s masthead motto, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” has not been conveyed to the security and journalistic personnel. 

A summary of the entire three day action by Wittness Against Torture, will be up on the website soon.

News Article

Nina Lakhani covered in The Guardian the murder of Guapinol defenders Aly Domínguez and Jairo Bonilla.
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor condemned the murder and calls for an independent investigation.
ContraCorriente published an important investigation into the economic ties between Lenir Pérez and the State of Honduras. "Lenir Pérez, the businessman who owns the concessions in the Guapinol mine and the Palmerola airport, maintains his power intact despite the official discourse of President Xiomara Castro against these projects. Accused of benefiting from his relations with former president Juan Orlando Hernández to obtain irregular contracts and abuse the human rights of communities, Pérez could maintain privileged access to the new government through the legal work of Pamela Blanco Luque, partner and wife of Tomás Vaquero, Minister of Government, Justice and Decentralization."

News Article

"The state of emergency was implemented in Honduras under questioning and rejection by human rights defenders and other sectors of society, who asserted that the measure places the population in a situation of greater vulnerability. A recent report by the National Human Rights Commissioner (CONDAEH) states that approximately 60% of the police interventions reported as successful actions by the Security Secretariat took place in localities other than Tegucigalpa, Comayagüela and San Pedro Sula (...). The director of Conadeh's National Human Rights Observatory, Carlos Joaquín Méndez, in an interview with Criterio.hn stated that they have found that police interventions do not require the suspension of guarantees or a measure as restrictive as the one currently in place in Honduras. In Méndez's opinion, there is an urgent need to implement structural measures in the country, to adopt a comprehensive approach strategy that involves public policies and not a state of exception, "this is an exceptional measure for exceptional situations", he revealed."

News Article

January 11, 2023 marked a grim milestone; the 21st anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Nearly 800 predominately Muslim men and boys have been held in indefinite detention at Guantánamo for years without trial, some of whom were tortured in violation of international law. Only two have ever been convicted of a crime. Hundreds of lives have been destroyed and recent stories have emerged of the continued punishment faced by these men even after they are released.

Today, at a cost of $540 million per year, thirty-five men remain imprisoned at Guantánamo. Twenty-three of these men have never been charged with a crime, and twenty have already been recommended for transfer. You can see the names of those who have been transferred or still held in detention here

News Article

On February 9. 2002 the United States, without a verdict, sent the Yemenite Mansoor Adayfi to Guantánamo. Without a trial and the ability to defend himself, Mansoor was imprisoned for more than 14 years. During his time in Guantánamo, he took part in a number of hunger strikes.

Following his release in 2016, Mansoor found himself stranded in Serbia. Instead of returning him to his home-country of Yemen, the US dropped him off in a foreign country without language skills, access to healthcare, a job, or the ability to visit his family. In Serbia, Mansoor started another hunger strike, this time to protest his conditions and demand to be transferred to an Arab country. He was unsuccessfull. In his new "home" Serbia, where a tabloid ran a two-page spread calling him a terrorist, it's next to impossible to find friends or a job. 

The repression and stigmatization reached its peak 2017, when reporters interviewing Mansoor were stopped and questioned by Serbian police. The following day Serbian men forced their way into Mansoor's apartment and searched it. Later, he called a reporter to show him hidden cameras he found in his apartment. In the interview, Mansoor said he felt like he was still in prison.

 The United States government has a responsibility to uphold rehabilitation and reintegration after release from Guantánamo.

News Article

In the Tapachula area of southern Mexico, more and more arriving immigrants are left stranded as they strive for a safer life. In the area activists of the Colectivo de Observación y Monitoreo de Derechos Humanos en el Sureste Méxicano, monitoring migration movements, point out massive human rights violations and unfair treatment at the asylum application centers.

With many of the arriving migrants being Haitian or African, the lack of translators and general holdback of information leads to confusion, leaving immigrants stuck in the rain, no access to basic human needs like clean water, a roof over their heads or sanitary facilities. Furthermore, the activists reaffirm their denouncement of 

- the spread of misinformation on asylum and immigration regulations by the authorities

- authorities handing over personal documents in a discriminatory way and through corrupt processes

- authorities improvising measures putting people's health at risk

- the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) setting review appointments up to September 13, leaving immigrants stuck without the ability to work or take part in society. 

Until their process appointment,  the individuals are tied to a temporary security status (Multiple Migration Form, MMF) allowing them to stay in Chiapas state but denying permission to travel throughout the country. Immigrants caught outside of the Chiapas area are met with detention or even deportation. Especially vulnerable are migrants from Central and South America bringing many young children.

We demand a treatment with dignity and the upholding of human rights by the Mexican government for individuals fleeing war, violence, natural disasters and poverty.   

News Article

El Salvador: Widespread Abuses Under State of Emergency

After interviewing more than 1,100 victims (or their relatives) of the government’s State of Emergency, Cristosal and Human Rights Watch released in December 2022 an 89-page report, “‘We Can Arrest Anyone We Want’: Widespread Human Rights Violations Under El Salvador’s ‘State of Emergency’” , which documents mass arbitrary detention, torture and other forms of ill-treatment against detainees, enforced disappearances, deaths in custody, and abuse-ridden prosecutions. President Nayib Bukele’s swift dismantling of judicial independence since he took office in mid-2019 enabled the abuses. Human Rights Watch and Cristosal have not been able to identify any meaningful investigations into the hundreds of allegations of human rights violations committed during the State of Emergency.

Since the State of Emergency (aka State of Exception) was declared in El Salvador in March of 2022, the country has seen thousands of power abuse cases by the military and other security forces. Many arbitrary arrests appear to have been driven by a policy of “quotas” imposed by commanders in the National Civil Police, according to police officers. Between March and November 2022, security forces arrested more than 58,000 people:

-1,600 children

-hundreds of arrests without connections to gangs

-51,000 in pre-trail detention 

-a spike in the prison population from 39,000 in March 2022 to 95,000 in November 2022

-overcrowded cells with up to 125 prisoners in cells constructed for 30

-90 deaths in prison without investigation

-up to 500 sentenced in unjust mass judicial processes.

These circumstances are fueled by authorities requiring certain numbers of daily arrests, intimidating independent judges who are trying to investigate human rights violations, and stigmatizing independent journalists and civil society groups. This paired with the lack of access to lawyers makes for a system in which no one is safe from unjust arrests.

More and more voices are calling for alternative strategies to fight organized crime. Civil society groups and activists criticize the government’s failure to:

-invest in prevention and reintegration

-address illegal economies helping gangs

 

New strategies would include tackling root causes of gang membership, such as:  

-high levels of poverty

-social exclusion

-focus criminal persecution on high level gang leaders.

State violence and mass arrests are only two of the ways in which the Salvadoran government is crushing down on its population. Civil society groups are calling for international support for independent journalists and grassroots organizing groups that are under attack. Furthermore, the groups call on the international community to suspend existing loans involving the National Civil Police, armed forces, the Attorney General’s Office and the prison system.

Read the full report at https://www.hrw.org/report/2022/12/07/we-can-arrest-anyone-we-want/widespread-human-rights-violations-under-el

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News Article

After nine months, the Salvadoran Congress has once again voted for an extension of the ongoing State of Emergency (aka State of Exception) in the country. This marks the tenth extension and will be in effect from January 17 until February 15. The extension was passed with 67 votes in favor, an immense approval rate in a Congress with only 84 seats. President Bukele justifies this by claiming that 80% of the country is controlled by gangs, with Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 being the largest with an estimated membership of 70,000 members between both of them.

Earlier this month the Salvadoran government announced a drop of 56.8% in the country's murder rate. But the government's number of 496 registered homicides is questionable at best. Many deaths are never registered, and killings during clashes between gang members and security forces are not included. Civil rights groups have counted at least 600 killings in 2022. With the State of Emergency going into its 11th month, activists and rights groups keep articulating concerns about power abuses by security forces. 

The official detention numbers since March 2022 have risen to 61,000 detentions. In January, Human Rights Watch published a statement putting forward the fact that "hundreds of people with no connections to gangs have been detained." 

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