Human rights violations in Bahrain continue


This video is called Bahrain Activist Nabeel Rajab Arrested Over Tweets.

From the New York Times in the USA:

Open Letter from Nabeel Rajab to President Obama

Editor’s note: This letter was written in a Bahraini jail cell by Nabeel Rajab, a leading human rights campaigner in Bahrain who was arrested April 2 after tweeting about torture in the country’s central prison, Jaw. Here is his letter.

April 9, 2015

From: Nabeel Rajab
President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Isa Town Detention Center
Bahrain

Dear President Obama,

I write to you from a Bahraini jail cell, and this message was never meant to go beyond its walls. Even though I have never advocated for violence nor harmed another living soul, I have spent 28 of the last 36 months in a Bahraini prison for actions that can only be counted as crimes in a nation that stifles free expression and criminalizes open assembly. I have documented my government’s use of torture. I have reported on civilian casualties in Yemen. I have held a different opinion than that of a king. In retaliation, I may spend the next ten years of my life in jail.

While my government punishes me for demanding an end to its assault on civil and political rights, other GCC states, especially Saudi Arabia, subject human rights defenders to harsher abuse. Their repression can be seen in the flogging of free speech activist Raif Badawi and the death sentence against the religious scholar and human rights advocate Nimr al-Nimr. Saudi courts even sentenced Raif’s lawyer, Waleed abu al-Khair, to 15 years in prison. We as human rights defenders are targeted for giving voice to the marginalized, people seeking to take the reins of their own destiny; our governments do everything in their power to prevent us from acting upon the best ideals of our conscience.

The message you directed toward your Gulf allies last week laid the foundation for real change. Your words tacitly acknowledged what we in the region understand: only democracy can bring stability to the Middle East. And while democracy may take time to develop, the process cannot begin unless our right to free speech is protected. Right now, our governments divide us along religious lines, preventing us from collectively challenging extremism within our societies. As well, our rulers aggressively punish critics of the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. We simply ask, however, for greater democratic participation in our nation’s affairs, and the ability to freely express our contempt for violence and extremism.

I thank your administration for calling for my release, and the release of my fellow human rights defenders. I urge you to defend our right to free speech when you meet with the monarchs of the Gulf, and call for:

The immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners;
An end to the criminalization of free speech and expression, including any laws against criticism of government institutions or defamation of a king;
The cessation of all acts of torture and reprisal in GCC detention centers; and
The protection of free and open civil society space capable of fostering long-term stability and growth in the region.

The citizens of Bahrain and her neighbors have extraordinary potential. With unshackled voices, we can build stability and challenge extremism. What we need today is space for tolerance, plurality, and honest dialogue, the foundations of a democratic process that the reprisals against me and my colleagues seek to undermine.

Yours Sincerely,

Nabeel Rajab

Bahrain’s Prison Crisis Deepens: here.

This video says about itself:

Pinay OFW in Bahrain who Asked for Help was Finally Rescued

10 April 2015

Pinay OFW In Bahrain Asking For Help (Abby Luna)

From the South China Morning Post:

Filipino maid ‘beaten and raped‘ is rescued from Bahrain employer after Facebook appeal goes viral

Agence France-Presse in Bahrain

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 April, 2015, 8:05pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 April, 2015, 10:53am

The Philippines rescued a Filipino maid from her employer in Bahrain after she posted a desperate cry for help on her Facebook page.

Staff at the Philippine embassy were alerted to the plight of Abby Luna, who claims she was raped and beaten by her employer’s son, after she posted the video on her Facebook page. The video attracted about 78,000 shares and 19,000 likes.

“The rescue was prompted by the video message… She is now under the care of our embassy,” foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose said. Philippine embassy officials and staff from Luna’s employment agency picked her up from her employer’s house, Jose said, adding that police were investigating the incident.

Luna’s alleged assailant denied to he attacked her, Ricky Aragon, vice-consul at the Philippine embassy in Bahrain, said.

In the three-minute long video, which appears to have been made on a webcam, a sobbing Luna accused her employer’s “drug addict” son of raping her. She also posted a written appeal for viewers to contact the Philippine embassy on her behalf.

“Help me get out of here. I’m scared. Until now, my genitals hurt. My leg is bruised. He (attacker) punched my leg to immobilise me,” said the 28-year-old, who had been working in Bahrain for a year.

“After my employer’s son abused me, he threatened to kill me and bury me in the desert if I tell anyone about what happened.”

Luna said her employer did not believe her claims of being raped and beaten and insisted she finish the remaining two months of her contract before she could go home. Her employer also told her to have an abortion if she fell pregnant, she added.

Luna is among an estimated 10 million Filipinos working overseas to escape poverty and high levels of unemployment in the Philippines.

Many overseas Filipino workers, who account for a tenth of the country’s population of 100 million, work in menial jobs and endure dangerous working conditions.

Last year, a Filipino maid, Nargelene Mendez, was rescued from a house in Saudi Arabia after posting a video on her Facebook page claiming her employer had abused her.

In Hong Kong, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, an Indonesian domestic worker accused her employer of subjecting her to six months of physical abuse.

Erwiana, 23, underwent treatment at the Amal Sehat Islamic Hospital in Sragen, Indonesia, after boarding a flight from the SAR.

Photographs of Erwiana’s injuries quickly spread through social media and led to a demonstration of thousands of people through Hong Kong’s Central district. Police arrested her employer former beautician Law Wan-tung on January 20, 2014, as she tried to board a flight to Thailand. She was sentenced to six years in prison and fined HK$15,000 earlier this year.

Maids working in the Middle East frequently suffer abuse.

Human Rights Watch has called on the United Arab Emirates to reform a restrictive visa system and pass a labour law to stop domestic workers [from being] exploited.

OFW raped by employer’s son in Bahrain rescued by embassy: here.

Human rights and free speech lagging in Gulf monarchies. Post-Arab Spring oppression increasingly involves harsh penalties for dissent, including torture, stripping citizenship: here.

Walter Scott killed by South Carolina, USA, police


This video from the USA says about itself:

South Carolina Cop Shoots Unarmed Black Man, Walter Scott, In The Back *Unedited Footage*

7 April 2015

The following contains unedited, graphic footage of the April 4, 2015, shooting of Walter Scott by North Charleston Patrolman 1st Class Michael Thomas Slager taken by an anonymous bystander.

By Joseph Kishore in the USA:

Police murder in South Carolina

9 April 2015

Officials in South Carolina have charged North Charleston police officer Michael Slager with murder in Saturday’s killing of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old father of four. The decision came only after the release of a cell phone video of the killing, which was taken by a bystander and provided to the New York Times by a lawyer for Scott’s family.

The video shows an unambiguous act of murder and attempted cover-up. Scott and Slager are together in an empty lot. Scott, unarmed, begins to run from Slager, who then takes out his weapon and fires eight bullets into Scott’s back from about 20 feet away.

The police officer then walks calmly toward Scott, yelling at the motionless man to put his hands behind his back. With Scott unresponsive, Slager proceeds to cuff him. He then jogs back to the site of the original confrontation, picks up what appears to be a Taser stun gun, and drops it near the lifeless body. A second officer who has come onto the scene witnesses the attempted frame-up.

No attempts are made to provide CPR or otherwise administer aid to Scott, who is lying face down in the mud. He was later pronounced dead at the scene.

The killing of Scott exposes not only the savage violence carried out by police every day in American cities, but also the modus operandi used to justify these actions. In the three days between the shooting and the release of the video, police and local officials, together with the media, were giving out the standard rationalizations and lies.

The police officer “felt threatened last weekend when the driver he had stopped for a broken light tried to overpower him and take his Taser,” the local Charleston, South Carolina Post and Courier reported on Monday. The newspaper went on to say that Scott had a criminal record and the cop feared for his life. Officers performed CPR and administered aid, it reported, but nothing could be done.

It was a “tragic incident” all around, Slager’s lawyer was quoted as saying.

All lies, exposed only because of the video footage. Walter Scott Sr., the victim’s father, noted in an interview with NBC on Wednesday that without the video, “It would never, never come to light. They would have swept it under the rug, like they did with many others.” He added, “The way he was shooting that gun, it looked like he was trying to kill a deer.”

The murder of Scott is horrific, but it is not an aberration. According to killedbypolice.net, so far this year police officers across the country have killed 312 people, or more than three per day. At the present rate, the number of people killed by police this year will surpass last year’s total of 1,100.

Some of the more recent incidents include:

* Philip White, 32, in Vineland, New Jersey on March 31. A video shows the unarmed White, prostrate on the ground, being hit by police and bitten in the face by a police dog. One officer is seen attempting to confiscate the cell phone of the person recording the arrest. White later died in what Vineland Police Chief Timothy Codispoti called an “in-custody, non-shooting death.”

* Eric Harris, 44, in Tulsa, Oklahoma on April 2. A police officer claims he shot the unarmed Harris once while arresting him, “inadvertently” using his gun instead of his Taser.

* Justus Howell, 17, in Zion, Illinois on April 4. Howell died from two gunshot wounds in his back. Police claimed that he had attempted to steal a gun earlier, but there are no indications that he posed a threat to officers in any way. There is no video of the killing.

* An unidentified man in Phoenix, Arizona on April 4. Police say the man, evidently mentally disturbed, had been stabbing himself in the street. A local news report states that when officers arrived “the man reportedly lunged toward” the officers. They “felt threatened and fired their weapons.”

The same basic story is repeated over and over again. Police officers, armed to the teeth with military-grade weaponry, have been given a license to kill, which they use with shocking regularity and almost always with complete legal impunity.

Slager must be convicted for his actions and punished to the fullest extent of the law. All those who sought to cover up for the murder must also be arrested and prosecuted.

However, this is only the beginning of real accountability. The entire state is culpable in the development of what is, in fact, a paramilitary occupying force, composed of death squads operating under the cover of the law.

Today is exactly eight months since the August 9 murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which provoked popular outrage and demonstrations throughout the country. The political establishment responded by orchestrating the exoneration of police officer Darren Wilson, including the decision by the Obama administration last month not to bring civil rights charges. The wholesale transfer of military equipment to local police forces has continued unabated.

This has been interpreted by police as a green light to escalate their murderous rampage, resulting in at least 746 deaths since Brown’s killing.

The homicidal behavior evident in the actions of Slager and countless others reflects a mentality deliberately and systematically cultivated in the police. The population has no rights. Any act of disobedience can become a capital offense. The lives of workers and poor people are expendable.

Media commentary on the killing of Scott has centered on the fact that Scott is black and Slager white. However, police violence in America, and the determination of the state to defend this violence, cannot be explained simply or primarily by reference to racism, whatever role it might play in any particular incident. …

Police repression within the United States is the domestic expression of the same methods employed by the ruling class to defend its interests abroad, through endless wars and drone assassinations. Within the country, the corporate and financial aristocracy, which has amassed its wealth through fraud and criminality, stands atop a crisis-ridden system, with historically unprecedented levels of inequality threatening to trigger explosive social conflicts. It responds with violence and brutality.

In the murderous actions of the police, one sees the reality of class rule in America.

WITNESS OF SOUTH CAROLINA POLICE SHOOTING SPEAKS OUT “The bystander who recorded a South Carolina officer fatally shooting an unarmed black man eight times said the cop had control of the situation before he pulled out his gun, and that he had not heard the officer give a warning before he fired.” The video has reinvigorated the ongoing debate on police force, and here’s the news report you’d be reading if the video hadn’t been released. [Andy Campbell, HuffPost]

DASHCAM VIDEO OF WALTER SCOTT’S FINAL MOMENTS “A dashcam video released by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Agency on Thursday shows the moments before 50-year-old Walter Scott was fatally shot by Officer Michael Slager. The video shows Slager pulling over Scott’s car and asking a series of questions before Scott opens his car door and runs away.” Slager’s mother spoke to the press of her horror at the video of her son killing Scott. [Lilly Workneh, HuffPost]

A South Carolina police officer charged with murder after shooting an unarmed man in the back had a prior complaint made against him about using force. The police are re-investigating Michael Slager’s use of a stun gun on Mario Givens in 2013: here.

Michael Slager, the North Charleston, South Carolina police officer who murdered Walter Scott on April 4, had a history of police brutality: here.

Walter Scott shooting: Officer Michael Slager heard laughing about his ‘pumping’ adrenaline minutes after killing: here.

Hundreds of people attended a public funeral service for Walter Scott, the unarmed man who was killed April 4 by police officer Michael Slager in North Charleston, South Carolina. A video emerged last week showing Slager shooting Scott multiple times in the back as he was attempting to flee, and Slager was charged with murder on Tuesday. Roughly 450 people filled Word Ministries Christian Center in North Charleston to capacity during the funeral ceremony Sunday, and another two hundred people waited outside the church: here.

United States government spied on its citizens long before 9/11


This video from the USA says about itself:

The US/UK spy agencies’ phone-hacking scandal

21 February 2015

US and British spy agencies successfully hacked the world’s largest SIM card manufacturer. The hack allowed the spy agencies to potentially monitor the calls, texts, and emails of billions of mobile users around the world. They essentially stole the encryption keys used to protect the privacy of mobile communication, which essentially allowed the spy agencies to sidestep the need to for a warrant or a wiretap. Erin weighs in.

From Newsweek in the USA:

Feds Collected American Phone Records in Bulk Long Before 9/11

By Lauren Walker 4/8/15 at 6:01 PM

If John Oliver’s “Can they see my dick?” segment on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs finally cleared up government snooping for you, prepare to be confused all over again.

On Tuesday, USA Today reported that the U.S. government began collecting billions of Americans’ phone records nearly a decade before the terror attacks on 9/11—the event that gave birth to the legal framework authorizing the NSA to monitor the communications of U.S. citizens without a search warrant. In fact, this pre-9/11 program provided the blueprint for the NSA surveillance that followed.

Though the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) revealed the earlier program’s existence in January, the scope and operational details have not been reported until now. Without a court’s approval, from 1992 to 2013, the DEA and Department of Justice collected logs of almost all international telephone calls placed by Americans to roughly 116 countries linked to drug trafficking, regardless of whether those targeted were suspected of committing a crime.

Current and former U.S. officials told USA Today that the targeted countries shifted over time, but covered “most of the countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean, as well as others in western Africa, Europe and Asia. It included Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Italy, Mexico and Canada.” In some, but not all instances, the DEA notified foreign governments it was collecting data, sometimes even sharing information with those countries to aid in internal investigations.

The records were primarily used to better understand drug cartel networks, such as where drugs were being distributed and who was handling the money. Former DEA administrator Thomas Constantine told USA Today that it was “a treasure trove of very important information on trafficking.”

A 1998 letter from the Justice Department to Sprint asking the telecommunications giant to hand over its call logs echoed this sentiment. The letter, signed by then-head of the Justice Department’s narcotics and dangerous drugs unit, Mary Lee Warren, called the program “one of the most important and effective federal drug law enforcement initiatives.” It also revealed that the program had “been approved at the highest levels of Federal law enforcement authority.” At the time, those people included then-Attorney General Janet Reno and her then-deputy, Eric Holder.

The program was ultimately approved by top Justice Department officials in four presidential administrations and detailed in briefings to Congress. According to USA Today, this program, like the NSA’s current surveillance infrastructure, had little oversight.

The information collected was also used in non drug-related investigations. …

After Edward Snowden leaked classified information about the NSA surveillance apparatus in 2013, the Justice Department determined that it couldn’t justify both programs. Since the U.S. government had justified sweeping NSA surveillance by invoking “national security interests,” it reasoned that the DEA and Justice Department’s phone record program would be seen as “going above and beyond normal law enforcement.” The program came to a grinding halt but not before the database was purged.

Though the program has since been discontinued, a massive NSA surveillance system continues, one that a former Justice Department official whom USA Today did not name called “a mirror image of what we were doing.”

Now, the DEA sends telecoms daily subpoenas in order to obtain Americans’ international calling records. Sometimes, USA Today reports, there are “thousands or more” requests for phone number records each day. Another former DEA official told the newspaper that the program’s shutdown, “has had a major impact on investigations,” as having to send daily subpoenas slows down tracking.

As Oliver explained on April 5, a key section of the Patriot Act, the law that gives the NSA the legal authority to collect Americans’ phone records among other things, expires on June 1. In the aftermath of Snowden’s revelations, the White House proposed ending the NSA’s bulk collection of data. Instead, the Obama administration suggested that the agency should be subjected to similar oversight as the DEA, which can only compel companies to hand over American phone records and other personal information through a court order.

On Wednesday Human Rights Watch filed a lawsuit against the DEA in a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claiming the drug agency illegally obtained phone records of U.S. citizens through its now defunct program.

Comedy host John Oliver conducted an interview with National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden in Moscow recently that was broadcast Sunday on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” In the process, Oliver exposed his solidarity with the American state and its vast, illegal spying operations. He took the opportunity of the conversation to come out harshly against Snowden’s decision to leak large quantities of NSA documents: here.

WHEN A DEA AGENT WANTS OUT AFTER 27 YEARS “Confidential informants are the lifeblood of the DEA, and Toro is what agents would characterize as a ‘good asset.’ He has served the DEA for 27 years … Now 65, he has grown tired of facing down dangerous criminals. He is no longer in good health, too old to square off with would-be assassins or make quick getaways down darkened streets … The DEA, however, has a different idea. For the last five years, the agency has issued Toro a temporary immigration document that requires him to assist in active investigations. If he stops snitching, however, his immigration status will lapse.” [HuffPost]

‘War on terror’ causes more terror


This 16 November 2014 video from the USA says about itself:

Jon Stewart: Turkey’s Erdogan helps ISIS at Kobane.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

The terror threat in the Netherlands is still “substantial,” the National Coordinator against Terrorism (NCTV), Dick Schoof, writes in his latest report. The air attacks on targets of terrorist group IS in Syria and Iraq have not reduced the threat. On the contrary, the risk of attacks has increased because of that …

Jihadists are extra motivated by the air strikes to oppose the West, Schoof writes in the Terrorist Threat Assessment for the Netherlands. That applies not only to sympathizers of ISIS, but also for supporters of al-Nusra, the paramilitary group in Syria that is linked to al-Qaida.

The leader of al-Nusra warned in September 2014 that the air attacks could lead to attacks in the West. Until then, the group had never uttered a public threat against the West, the report says.