New York’s Rikers Island prisoners die from beatings


This video from the USA is called Questioning solitary confinement for teens at Rikers Island.

By Philip Guelpa in the USA:

New reports of inmate deaths from beatings at New York’s Rikers Island prison

1 September 2014

Two recently revealed incidents at the Rikers Island prison in New York City confirm that the horrific conditions, already documented in a number of previous reports, at the city’s largest prison are the result of systematic, institutionalized brutality, not isolated aberrations.

In one incident, documents obtained by the Associated Press reveal that inmate Angel Ramirez, 50 years old, was beaten to death by prison guards using night sticks (police batons) in July of 2011. Ramirez was reportedly suffering hallucinations during withdrawal from alcohol and heroin, and had earlier been denied his prescribed medication. In this impaired state, he attempted to hit an officer, but missed. Several officers then took him out of view of surveillance cameras and inflicted a severe beating, resulting in Ramirez’s death.

The news account states, based on information provided by the family’s lawyer, that Ramirez “died of numerous blunt-impact injuries that included a ruptured spleen, shattered ribs and a stomach filled with blood.” This contradicts the statements of the officers, who were interviewed eight months later, that the inmate was struck only once, and only in self-defense.

So far, three inmate deaths due to beatings by guards are reported to have taken place over the last five years, without a single conviction of the officers involved. Given the difficulty in obtaining information on these cases, the actual number of such incidents is likely to be much higher. And that does not include other forms of abuse, in some cases leading to death, which have also come to light in recent years.

One recent case of death by neglect that has come to light is that of 19-year old Andy Henriquez. He died at Rikers in April 2013 after being locked in solitary confinement for days without necessary medical assistance. Henriquez died of a ruptured aorta after complaining of chest pains and breathing difficulties over a prolonged period. His mother is suing the city for “wrongful death.”

Last August another inmate, Carlos Mercado, 46, was allowed to go into diabetic coma and eventually died from lack of treatment while incarcerated at Rikers. He was denied assistance despite pleas from him and fellow inmates as his condition worsened. Again, the city is being sued for wrongful death.

In yet another case, Jerome Murdough was found dead in a 100-degree cell on Feb. 15. The family plans to sue the city for $25 million,

Corizon Health, the private company hired by the city to provide medical services to inmates at Rikers, has been sued over two dozen times since 2002 for incidents at the prison. Corizon had revenue of $1.2 billion last year. This profit-making business takes in tens of millions of dollars annually from the city while health care for inmates remains criminally inadequate.

The pervasive use of violence and abuse against inmates by authorities, without any significant consequences for the perpetrators, was further documented by a federal study of the juvenile section of the prison that was issued earlier this month (see: Federal report exposes “culture of violence” in New York City’s Rikers Island prison). It found that adolescent inmates are subjected to a “systematic culture of violence.” Many of the inmates are placed in solitary confinement for up to 60 days. The study demonstrated that extremely loose supervision, systematic falsification of incident reports, and long drawn out investigations have created an environment in which such behavior can be carried out with impunity. This is only the latest in a long series of investigations and news accounts documenting conditions at Rikers, stretching back at least a decade.

This city is in full damage control mode. The new Department of Correction Commissioner, Joe Ponte, appointed earlier this year by Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio, has made a series of statements intended to give the impression that abuses will be addressed. However, only cosmetic changes have been implemented. Last week, the de Blasio administration enacted new legislation intended to increase reporting of the use of solitary confinement, a practice that is documented to increase the rate of suicide and self-abuse by inmates. The law does nothing to actually curtail the practice or any of the associated brutality perpetrated by staff.

In a sign of growing crisis, the chief investigator at Rikers, Deputy Commissioner Florence Finkle, resigned her position last week as the revelations of inmate abuse and neglect mounted. Ms. Finkle is likely playing the role of a “sacrificial lamb” whose departure is an attempt to defuse the growing scandal.

Only last May, de Blasio’s Corrections Commissioner Ponte promoted two senior Rikers administrators to higher positions in the department.

The regime of abuse and brutality at Rikers, a virtual concentration camp on an island in the East River, as well as elsewhere in the prison system, is not the result of a few “bad apples,” as claimed by the city, but part of a system-wide, institutionalized policy which creates inhuman conditions for both inmates and staff, and is protected and condoned at the highest levels.

The horrific treatment of inmates at Rikers is made even more egregious by the fact that it is technically a jail, since it primarily holds individuals awaiting trial, rather than convicted prisoners. Legally, therefore, these inmates should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Instead, those incarcerated are subjected to unrestrained brutality and some are, in effect, sentenced to death before they are even tried.

In the few cases in which legal prosecution of inmate deaths is pursued, the city has pursued the practice of making a monetary settlement to the family of the deceased, sometimes for millions of dollars, thus effectively burying the crime and allowing the perpetrator to go free. In all three known cases of inmate deaths due to beatings by guards at Rikers over the last five years, the lack of convictions came despite the fact that the city’s medical examiner had ruled the deaths to be homicides. These settlements represent what amounts to the “cost of doing business” for the city, allowing it to carry on with systematic brutality and legally condoned murder. Those few guards who have been convicted in non-lethal cases of abuse received little more than a slap on the wrist.

The use of extreme force by police agencies against the working class, whether in cities such as Ferguson, Missouri or in the prison system, expresses the deep-seated fear of the ruling class of growing social unrest, which leads it to respond with ever-increasing violence.

Lawsuit exposes conditions at New Mexico immigrant detention center: here.

Arizona police kill mentally ill woman


This video from the USA says about itself:

2014-08-16: United In Red Rally in Solidarity with Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri at Phoenix City Hall, Phoenix, Arizona. Cloves Campbell, Jr. talks about the police shooting death of Michelle Cusseaux on Thursday, August 14th.

By Diana Green in the USA:

Phoenix police shoot 50-year-old woman during mental health call

29 August 2014

Police in Phoenix, Arizona shot and killed Michelle Cusseaux, a 50-year-old mentally ill woman, on August 13 as they were attempting take her in to a psychiatric facility following a court order. Officers claimed she threatened them with a hammer.

Hours after Cusseaux’s funeral on August 23, Phoenix Police Chief Daniel V. Garcia called a press conference to announce that he would have the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) investigate the shooting. Days before he had refused the request by her family for an investigation by an outside agency.

Standing with Mayor Greg Stanton and City Manager Ed Zuercher, Garcia spoke of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri in response to the police killing of an unarmed young man, and stated, “The decision I made to have an independent department do this investigation will benefit our city, but it is bigger than the city of Phoenix.” Stanton added, “What matters most is that the public has complete trust.”

The day before Cusseaux’s funeral, her family and supporters marched her casket from Phoenix City Hall to the US attorney’s office to protest her shooting and the absence of an independent investigation.

Michelle’s mother Francis Garret was the one who called mental health services to get her ailing daughter into an inpatient mental health facility. She said her daughter suffered from depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“This was the result,” said Garret. “I didn’t phone them and ask for my daughter to be killed. I did not ask for Michelle to be another statistic here, another homicide. I did not call them for that reason.”

Alicia Thompson, Cusseaux’s friend, told a local newspaper, “What happened was unnecessary, but now that it happened, we need to have a conversation of what police are equipped to do in situations like this. A bullet should have been the very last thing to have been used on Michelle.”

Michelle Cusseaux lived in the Maryvale area of West Phoenix. In the 1980s the police began to focus on this neighborhood for its drug and gang activities. The area is blighted by urban decay as suburban growth has moved west and south. What was once the main shopping center, the Maryvale Mall, now houses schools and a police station.

According to police shooting statistics for 2011, Arizona was one of the 10 most deadly states and Phoenix was one of the 10 most deadly cities. Arizona had 45 police shootings with 27 deaths. Phoenix had 15 shootings with 10 deaths. These are absolute numbers, not taking into account the fact that Arizona has a relatively low population, being the 16th most populous state according to the 2010 census.

There have been 31 cases of police shootings so far this year in Phoenix. The usual response to a law enforcement shooting in Maricopa County appears to be the same whether or not the person shot represented an immediate threat to an officer. The media accepts the prepackaged police version and predictable Maricopa County attorney’s findings without question.

Retired Mesa police officer Bill Richardson wrote in the Arizona Republic, “I recently reviewed the January 2013 Phoenix police homicide investigation of Quintine Barksdale, an unarmed black man shot to death by an off-duty white police officer with a history of integrity and misconduct issues. Shortly after the shooting the officer was fired for unrelated serious misconduct.

“Even though determining justification is the duty of the county attorney, Phoenix police concluded early on the shooting was a ‘justifiable homicide.’ Predictably, the county attorney quietly rubber-stamped the Police Department’s misguided conclusion.”

Even if the DPS conducts an “outside” investigation into Michelle Cusseaux’s shooting death, there is little doubt that they will draw the same conclusion that an internal city police investigation would and that the county attorney will rubber-stamp it as a “justifiable homicide”.

Minnesota, USA: ‘The problem is I’m black': video of Christopher Lollie arrested and Tasered ‘in front of his children’ sparks outrage: here.

On August 23rd, police shot and killed Joseph Jennings, an unarmed teenager, in Ottawa, Kansas. Jennings’ death comes amid a wave of police killings, including that of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which triggered protests against police violence this month: here.

Jailed Bahraini human rights activist in coma


Maryam and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. Photo: Maryam al-Khawaja/Polfoto

From The Local in Denmark:

Jailed Danish activist in coma in Bahrain

29 Aug 2014 08:23 GMT+02:00

Less than a week into his new hunger strike, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has reportedly fallen into a coma. The family plans to appeal to Denmark for help.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the jailed Danish-Bahraini activist who began a new hunger strike on Monday, is in a coma according to a report from Politiken.

An activist with Al-Khawaja’s Bahrain Center for Human Rights said that the dual Danish and Bahraini citizen fell ill on Thursday and was taken to the prison hospital, where he was reported to be in a coma.

Al-Khawaja’s family announced on Monday that he would begin a new hunger strike, refusing all food and drink with the exception of water. An earlier hunger strike by the activist lasted 110 days and led to a massive, but unsuccessful, diplomatic effort by Denmark to get him either released or transferred.

Al-Khawaja, a dual citizen of Denmark and Bahrain, has been imprisoned in Bahrain prison since 2011, serving a life sentence for demonstrating against the government and organising protests during the Arab Spring. Along with eight others, he was convicted on charges of terrorism and attempting to overthrow the government. While jailed in Bahrain, al-Khawaja has been subjected to torture, violence and sexual abuse. In January 2013, al-Khawaja lost the final legal appeal against his life sentence.

Al-Khawaja’s daughter Maryam wrote on Twitter that the activist’s other daughter Zainab was detained by Bahraini police on Thursday when she tried to visit their father in prison. Zainab is seven months pregnant. Both of Al-Khawaja’s daughters are also Danish citizens.

According to Politiken, the family will appeal to the Danish Foreign Ministry for help. A doctor has told the family that al-Khawaja’s hunger strike may have already damaged his internal organs.

Message From Human Rights Defender Maryam al-Khawaja: here.

Co-Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and prominent human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja was detained at Bahrain International Airport this morning. On her arrival at approximately 1:00am Bahrain time, Maryam was met by security officials who informed her that she was not welcome in Bahrain. They also informed Maryam that her Bahraini nationality had been revoked: here.

Bahrain must immediately and unconditionally release leading human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja, who was arrested earlier today in connection with her work to promote human rights and accountability in the country. See more here.

Bahrain: 600 Detainees On Hunger Strike To Stop Torture In Prison: here.

Ill-treatment at Guantanamo torture camp continuing


This music video is called PJ Harvey – Shaker Aamer.

About this song:

3 August 2013

PJ Harvey has released a song to highlight the ongoing detention of the last British resident held inside the US prison at Guantánamo Bay.

The track, called Shaker Aamer was recorded by the Mercury prizewinning songwriter to help maintain pressure to have the 46-year-old, whose family live in south London, released back to Britain.

Aamer has been detained in Guantánamo for more than 11 years, despite being cleared for release in 2007, and remains imprisoned without charge or trial. He has a British wife and his four children — the youngest of whom he has never met — were all born in Britain. They live in Tooting, south London.

The British government has stated repeatedly that it wants him back in the UK and last week, under escalating international pressure, the US announced it is to restart transfers from the prison. Concerns remain, however, that Aamer might be forcibly sent to Saudi Arabia and imprisoned there instead of being reunited with his family in the UK.

Shaker Aamer

No water for three days.
I cannot sleep, or stay awake.

Four months hunger strike.
Am I dead, or am I alive?

With metal tubes we are force fed.
I honestly wish I was dead.

Strapped in the restraining chair.
Shaker Aamer, your friend.

In camp 5, eleven years.
Never Charged. Six years cleared.

They took awat my one note pad,
and they refused to give it back.

I can’t think straight, I write, then stop.
Your friend, Shaker Aamer. Lost.

The guards just do what they’re told,
the doctors just do what they’re told.

Like an old car I’m rusting away.
Your friend, Shaker, Guantanamo Bay.

Don’t forget.

© 2013 Hothead Music Ltd.

By Will Stone in Britain:

Shaker Aamer ‘beaten at Guantanamo

Thursday 28th August 2014

SHAKER AAMER has reportedly been brutally beaten at Guantanamo Bay in a savage new crackdown by US troops on inmates protesting against their incarceration without charge.

Legal action charity Reprieve said yesterday that prisoners had revealed a shocking new “standard procedure.”

Emad Hassan, a Yemeni man detained without charge since 2002, wrote that a “forcible cell extraction team has been brought in to beat the detainees.”

On Sunday Mr Aamer, the last British resident locked up in the US prison, was “beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood,” Mr Hassan said.

Guards also severely beat another detainee in an ordeal lasting nearly two hours, he added.

In a forcible cell extraction armed guards burst into a prisoner’s room and savagely drag him out — often to take hunger-strikers to be force-fed, which the UN says is a form of torture.

At one point Mr Aamer, who has been locked up without trial or charge for 12-and-a-half years, was said to have been beaten by troops eight times a day.

Reprieve strategic director Cori Crider, who is one of Mr Aamer’s lawyers, said: “Just weeks ago, the UK government dismissed our concerns about Shaker Aamer’s wellbeing, relying on US assurances about a so-called Guantanamo ‘welfare package.’

“Now we hear that Shaker, already a seriously ill man, has been beaten.

Foreign Secretary “Phillip Hammond should seek answers from the US without delay about why, instead of simply releasing Shaker, it prefers to detain and abuse him.”

Mr Aamer remains locked up in the torture camp despite being cleared for release by both the Bush and Obama administrations, spending long periods of that time shut away in solitary confinement.

An independent medical examination conducted earlier this year showed that Mr Aamer was in extremely poor health, with severe post-traumatic stress and in dire need of psychiatric care and to return to his family.

In June, former foreign secretary William Hague told Reprieve that officials were confident Mr Aamer had access to a “detainee welfare package” and that his health “remained stable.”

In a letter sent this week, Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith urged Mr Hague’s successor Mr Hammond to interrogate the US about the latest reports of beatings.

See also here.

Fukushima young people have thyroid cancer


This March 2014 video is called The Thyroid Cancer Hotspot Devastating Fukushima’s Child Survivors.

From the Asahi Shimbun in Japan:

Thyroid cancer diagnosed in 104 young people in Fukushima

August 24, 2014

By YURI OIWA/ Staff Writer

The number of young people in Fukushima Prefecture who have been diagnosed with definitive or suspected thyroid gland cancer, a disease often caused by radiation exposure, now totals 104, according to prefectural officials.

The 104 are among 300,000 young people who were aged 18 or under at the time of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and whose results of thyroid gland tests have been made available as of June 30. They were eligible for the tests administered by the prefectural government.

Of these 104, including 68 women, the number of definitive cases is 57, and one has been diagnosed with a benign tumor. The size of the tumors varies from 5 to 41 millimeters and averages 14 mm.

The average age of those diagnosed was 14.8 when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

However, government officials in Fukushima say they do not believe the cases of thyroid gland cancer diagnosed or suspected in the 104 young people are linked to the 2011 nuclear accident.

The figure can be extrapolated for comparison purposes to an average of more than 30 people per population of 100,000 having definitive or suspected thyroid gland cancer.

The figure is much higher than, for example, the development rate of thyroid cancer of 1.7 people per 100,000 among late teens based on the cancer patients’ registration in Miyagi Prefecture.

But experts say the figures cannot be compared because the test in Fukushima Prefecture covers a large number of people who have no symptoms.

Experts are divided over whether the cases of thyroid gland cancer diagnosed or suspected in the 104 young people should be linked to the 2011 nuclear accident.

In connection with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the number of young people diagnosed with thyroid cancer rose only after four years. The cancer is also known to develop slowly.

But some researchers say that the occurrence of thyroid gland cancer is likely to be increased by the Fukushima nuclear accident.

“Many people are being diagnosed with cancer at this time, thanks to the high-precision tests,” said Yoshio Hosoi, professor of radiation biology at Tohoku University. “We must continue closely examining the people’s health in order to determine the impact of radiation exposure on causing thyroid tumors.”

By regions, 27.7 people per 100,000 people have been diagnosed with definitive or suspected thyroid cancer in the Aizu region, located 80 kilometers or farther from the crippled nuclear plant. The number could increase after thorough examinations are completed for people in the region

Around 35 people per 100,000 have been diagnosed with definitive or suspected cancer in the Nakadori region, which includes Fukushima city and several municipalities designated as mandatory evacuation zones, and the coastal Hamadori region.

Hokuto Hoshi, who chairs a panel that discusses matters related to the prefectural survey on the health impact from radiation on Fukushima’s residents, said the panel’s subcommittee will soon analyze the test results to determine the impact of the accident on the thyroid tumor rate.

“In order to scientifically compare the results of the development rates of each region, we must take into account age and other characteristics (of the 104 people),” he said.

The prefecture also plans to continue medical checkups on residents in the prefecture and use the test results as a basis for comparison in the future, prefectural officials said.

Bahraini political prisoner Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja on hunger strike


Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and his family, before he was imprisoned

From the Bahrain Centre for Human rights:

Bahrain: Prominent Human Rights Defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja to Start a New Hunger Strike

Sunday 24 August 2014, Bahrain – Prominent human rights defender and founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, has declared an open hunger strike “in protest against the continuation of arbitrary arrest and detention.” In a statement made to members of his immediate family during a visit today, Mr. AlKhawaja declared that he would refuse all food and liquids with the exception of water. He also informed his family that due to the drugging, force feeding and the forced ending of his last hunger strike, he will also refuse to be taken to any hospital, the prison clinic or to receive any IV treatment during his strike.

Mr. Al-Khawaja was arbitrary arrested on 9 April 2011 and sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court in a grossly unfair trial for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activism. He was subjected to torture during both his arrest and detention. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) found that this torture included severe beatings, sodomy, and psychological abuse resulting in a broken jaw which required immediate surgery. He was also sexually abused at the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital. His case (Number 8) is among the 60 cases of torture and/or ill treatment included in the annex of its report.

In October 2011, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found the detention of Mr. Al-Khawaja to be arbitrary in contravention of articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 9, paragraph 3, and 14, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and called for his immediate release as an adequate remedy. They also raised doubts over the charges leveled against Mr. Al-Khawaja and found that the Government of Bahrain violated international norms to the right to a fair trial.

In April 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and association, and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers called for the immediate release of Mr. Al-Khawaja.

Archived photo from the 2012 hunger strikeArchived photo from the 2012 hunger strike

Mr. Al-Khawaja started a hunger strike in 2012 that lasted 110 days to protest his arbitrary detention. During his strike, Mr. Al-Khawaja was drugged through an IV injection, restrained to the hospital bed and then force fed by a painful procedure using a tube through the nose at the Bahrain Defense Hospital. He now suffers from a number of medical conditions as a result of his treatment in detention. This has included cramps in his facial muscles, and acute pain in his coccyx as a direct result of torture. In 2014, Mr. Al-Khawaja was also informed that his medical files have “gone missing”. He has not received the adequate medical treatment necessary to treat his medical conditions nor any rehabilitation for the torture suffered during detention in direct breach of Bahrain’s obligations under Article 14 of the Convention Against Torture. Mistreatment during imprisonment has continued, mainly through the systematic refusal of access to adequate medical treatment.

We reiterate demands made for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Al-Khawaja and all other prisoners of conscience in Bahrain from detention and the repeal of all their sentences. We remain concerned over continuing allegations of mistreatment in detention and remind authorities of their obligations under the Convention Against Torture, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We also call for impartial investigations over allegations of systematic torture and the prosecution of all those involved in committing, overseeing and/or enabling torture and/or ill-treatment to take place. In addition, all torture survivors must be provided with rehabilitation and reprieve by the authorities.

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)

Bahrain should provide victims of torture with physical and psychological rehabilitation, Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups said today, based on a letter they sent to King Hamad. In particular, authorities should address the health needs of 13-high profile detainees, some of whom are suffering from the effects of torture by Bahraini interrogators in 2011: here.

Canadian Tortured in Bahrain: Bring Him Home: here.

Calls on #Bahrain courts to overturn photographer Ahmed Humaidan’s “baseless conviction”: here.

Today, CPJ joined 10 local and international organizations in sending an open letter calling on King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and the Bahraini government to release photojournalist Ahmed Humaidan and dismiss all charges against him. The letter calls on the government to fulfill Bahrain’s obligations under international law and its commitments under the 2012 Universal Periodic Review by the U.N. Human Rights Council: here.

NGO’s Send Letter to Bahrain King Regarding Torture Victims: here.