British government helping Saudi torturers

This video from the USA says about itself:

Help Wanted: Saudi Arabia Is Looking For Executioners

19 May 2015

Saudi Arabia advertised vacancies for eight executioners Tuesday after beheading nearly as many people since the start of the year as it did in the whole of 2014.

The civil service ministry said that no qualifications were necessary and that applicants would be exempted from the usual entrance exams.

It said that as well as beheadings, the successful candidates would be expected to carry out amputations ordered by the courts under the kingdom’s strict version of Islamic sharia law.

Amputation of one or both hands is a routine penalty for theft. …

Most executions are carried out by beheading, but a few are carried out by firing squad, stoning or crucifixion.”

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Government slated over Saudi jails contract bid

Friday 18th September 2015

HUMAN RIGHTS campaigners attacked the government yesterday after it announced that it would proceed with a bid to provide support to the Saudi Arabian prisons system, which plans to crucify a prisoner convicted as a child.

Ministers had to correct the parliamentary record after wrongly claiming they could not drop the bid due to the risk of “financial penalties.”

The only reason now given for continuing with the bid is that “withdrawing at this late stage would be detrimental to (the British government’s) wider interests.”

It emerged this week that Saudi Arabia has dismissed the final appeal of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was arrested aged 17 and sentenced to “death by crucifixion” for alleged offences relating to anti-government protests in 2012.

Human rights charity Reprieve director Maya Foa said: “The UK should have nothing to do with a so-called justice system responsible for atrocities such as this.

“It is extremely worrying to see the British government abdicating its basic human rights values in the interests of cosying up to the Saudis.”

83-year-old refugee on death bed chained for deportation

This video from England says about itself:

‘The Secret World of Yarl’s Wood’- BBC News

27 August 2015

Two weeks ago the prisons watchdog described Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre as a “place of national concern”,

There are 12 centres like it in the UK – Yarl’s Wood is the one for women. We – as media – are not allowed in at all. A charity called ‘Yarl’s Wood Befrienders‘ are given rare access – they go in and meet the women facing deportation. These people have shed light on one of the most secretive places in the UK for a new play called ‘The Scar Test’ – Catrin Nye reports.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

83-year-old on death bed hauled to detention centre

Friday 11th September 2011

A 83-YEAR-OLD “on his death bed” was handcuffed and chained before being taken to an immigration removal centre (IRC), MP John McDonnell told the Commons yesterday.

The immigration system is ineffective, unjust and degrading, especially of those who have fled persecution and war, 25 MPs unanimously agreed during the debate.

In making the case for closing down IRCs, the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington added: “There’ll be more self-harming, more suicides, hunger strikes and the riots [in IRCs] will come back again.

“This is no way to treat our fellow human beings.”

More than 30,000 people were held indefinitely by the Home Office in 11 IRCs last year at a cost of £164 million — £36,000 per person, MPs were told.

But 50 per cent of prisoners ended up returning to the communities they were snatched away from.

Children became severely distressed after being put in foster care for an average of 170 days even when their parents’ detention “served no purpose,” said Hornsey and Wood Green Labour MP Catherine West.

MPs agreed that immediate and drastic change to immigration procedure was necessary instead of “piecemeal tinkering.”

They renewed demands for a 28-day immigration detention time limit and for assurance that it is used “sparingly” and as a last resort.

Safeguards should be put in place to protect vulnerable women in detention who were victims of rape and trafficking, they added.

In the first quarter of this year 3,483 people were detained. Two-thirds were held for more than 28 days, 488 for more than six months, 153 for over a year, 25 for two years and one for five years.

The Movement for Justice (MFJ), which demonstrated outside Parliament on Wednesday, told the Star that it wanted IRCs to be shut down completely.

“Unchecked powers of the Home Office” allow it to imprison people in worse conditions than those of serious criminals who had the right of a fair trial, the MFJ said.

Only profiteers like Serco, which runs Yarl’s Wood IRC, benefit as they “literally profit from this misery,” said Ealing Central and Acton Labour MP Rupa Huq.

Whistleblower Chelsea Manning getting solitary confinement for toothpaste?

This video is about the United States military killing Iraqi civilians, exposed by Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Toothpaste puts Manning at risk of solitary confinement

Saturday 15th August 2015

US MILITARY whistleblower Chelsea Manning could be placed in solitary confinement for having a magazine and toothpaste in her cell.

Lawyer Nancy Hollander says her client faces a hearing on Tuesday for allegedly having the edition of Vanity Fair featuring transgender sports star Caitlyn Jenner on the cover and a date-expired tube of toothpaste.

Charges include possession of prohibited property in the form of books and magazines while under administrative segregation, medicine misuse over the toothpaste, disorderly conduct for sweeping food onto the floor and disrespect.

The maximum penalty is indefinite solitary confinement.

Ms Manning, a trans woman formerly known as Bradley Manning, is serving a 35-year sentence after being convicted of espionage for passing classified documents on US war crimes in Iraq to WikiLeaks.

See also here.

Update: here.

Sandra Bland, after her death in Texas, USA

Sandra Bland

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Sandra Bland’s death in police custody puts spotlight on Texas jail standards

More than 4,200 people in Texas have died in custody in the past decade, and Waller County, where Bland died, has repeatedly been found non-compliant with state regulations that could have prevented her death

Tom Dart in Houston

Wednesday 29 July 2015 12.00 BST

If it makes no logical sense that a young and seemingly happy woman would kill herself days after being offered a new job, then the death of Sandra Bland is an anomaly on a statistical level as well.

The official, hotly disputed account is that the 28-year-old hanged herself in her cell on 13 July. If that is true she is the first African American woman to kill herself in a Texas county jail since the state’s standards agency started keeping death records.

Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, said that 140 inmates in Texas county jails have killed themselves since 2009, mostly white men. Suicide, usually by hanging, represents about one-third of the total deaths. Bland’s gender and race mark her out as unique.

Deaths in custody, though, are anything but rare. Officially, more than 4,200 people in Texas have died in custody in the past decade – a figure that includes those killed during attempted arrests or while restrained, as well as those who are incarcerated.

Half of them fell under the responsibility of the state prisons department, which typically holds inmates serving sentences of more than a year. Those in county jails are usually serving short sentences or are awaiting trial and have not yet been convicted, like Bland. At the end of 2013, according to federal statistics, Texas held 168,280 prisoners – more than any other state.

Across the country, 958 inmates died in local jails in 2012, according to an analysis last year by the Bureau of Justice Statistics – an increase of 8% from 2011. The average annual suicide rate for white inmates between 2000 and 2012 was at least three times higher than the rate for black or Hispanic prisoners.

In Houston alone there have been four deaths in the past eight days, one an apparent suicide of a man who had been screened for mental health issues about 12 hours earlier. “You have a constitutional right to be protected from harm in custody and that includes protection from harming yourself,” said Amin Alehashem, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project in Houston. The project plans to launch legal action against a Houston-area sheriff on Wednesday in a jail suicide case.

Alehashem said that as well as basic failings that vary from county to county, the length of pre-trial detention is a fundamental problem. The majority of inmates in Harris County’s jail, which encompasses Houston, are there because they cannot afford to make bond, he said.

Bland was seemingly unable to raise money for her bond immediately, meaning she was held over the weekend, alone in her cell. “Individuals that don’t have access to resources are confined and it has immediate consequences on mental health,” Alehashem said.

Bland was said to have asphyxiated herself using a plastic trash bag. Wood said that the use of trash bags is “not something that we are looking at prohibiting” because “she could just as easily have used her inmate clothing, her undergarments, her bedding, towels.”

But the Waller County jail, near Houston, has repeatedly been found non-compliant with state regulations in recent years, including after the 2012 suicide of a 29-year-old man.

An inspection in the wake of Bland’s death cited a failure to check on inmates in person at least once an hour and a lack of mental health training. The jail has 30 days to come up with a plan to rectify the problems. Wood’s agency has also spoken to officials about the failure to follow mental health assessment guidelines after she indicated on a screening questionnaire that she had previously attempted suicide and felt depressed.

That should have prompted jailers to contact a magistrate for a decision on whether to have her assessed by a mental health professional. But she was not even placed on suicide watch, which would have seen her checked more frequently and probably put in a cell covered by a camera.

Elton Mathis, the Waller County district attorney, released a toxicology report on Monday which indicated that Bland had marijuana in her system at the time of her death. Warren Diepraam, a county prosector, did not rule out the possibility that she had ingested the drug while in jail. Bland’s jail records and the dashcam video from the traffic stop that precipitated her arrest do not indicate that law enforcement officers suspected she was high on drugs at the time.

Michael McCabe, a toxicology expert with Robson Forensic in Philadelphia, reviewed the report for the Guardian and said that if the levels found in Bland’s blood had come from a living person they would indicate that she had smoked marijuana within a few hours of the sample collection. But, he said, given the faster rate at which the main chemical is released from body fat stores after death, it is not possible from the results to make a definitive conclusion that she was using marijuana or under the influence of marijuana at the time of her arrest or death.

Glenn Smith, the Waller County sheriff, said last week that he has asked a local attorney to form an independent panel to investigate his department’s procedures and performance. Mathis told reporters on Monday that he is forming a committee of outside attorneys to examine Bland’s case with a view to possible criminal charges that would be presented to a grand jury, probably next month.

Regardless of the autopsy results, for many in the local community and beyond, the jail’s errors, the mishandled traffic stop on the afternoon of 10 July that quickly escalated into confrontation and the context – a white trooper waiting in his car just outside the campus of a mainly black university who drives up behind Bland, prompting her to move across, then pulls her over for failing to signal a lane change – blame her death on institutional incompetence and bias.

“Waller County should be held accountable because she died in their care, custody and control,” said DeWayne Charleston, who became the county’s first black justice of the peace in 2003.

“Sandra Bland was entitled to proper medical care, entitled that everything about her care brought her safety and security,” he said, adding that he had previously spent time in the jail because of his activism. He speculated that anyone brought in on suspicion of assaulting an officer, like Bland, would not have received sympathetic treatment from staff.

He is not persuaded by Mathis’s announcement or his promises of a transparent and thorough investigation. “I don’t have any confidence in the fact that he has not made a commitment that he would bind himself to the recommendations,” he said. “I think he should just recuse himself. The trust is too far gone.”

Last week the sheriff’s office said in a statement: “All plastic trash liners have been removed from all cells in the Waller County Jail, pending further direction from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. The two deficiencies noted by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards … are being corrected and all inmates are monitored hourly for face-to-face observation.”

The full dashboard video of Sandra Bland’s arrest is nearly fifty minutes long, and can be viewed on YouTube. It has the quality of nightmare, because it starts off so routinely and goes so badly. Sandra Bland was a twenty-eight-year-old African-American woman who was driving from Chicago to East Texas, to take a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. At home in Illinois, she was active in her church and close to her family. She had taken a keen interest in the Black Lives Matter movement and in the problem of police abuse of authority. At first, the conversation between Bland and Encinia is relatively civil; Bland expresses her unhappiness at being stopped. But she sounds calm, like a reasonable person educated about her rights, and in a hurry to be on her way: here.

‘My Baby Did Not Take Herself Out’: Friends, Family Share Stories of Sandra Bland: here.

From Equality Texas:

In Sandra Bland’s Death, Echos of LGBT History

July 29, 2015

On March 8th, 1970, New York Police raided the Snake Pit Bar, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, arresting all 167 patrons and staff present.

Diego Vinales, a 23-year old undocumented Argentinian immigrant was one of those arrested. Depending on which account you believe Vinales either, fearing deportation, jumped from a 2nd story window in an attempt to escape and was impaled on the wrought iron fence below, or was pushed out of the window by police officers.

In a flyer protesting the police violence against Vinales the Gay Activist Alliance said “Any way you look at it, Diego Vinales was pushed. We are all being pushed… Anyone who calls himself a human being, who has the guts to stand up to this horror, join us.”

OHIO COP INDICTED FOR MURDER AFTER TRAFFIC STOP “A University of Cincinnati police officer who shot a motorist during a traffic stop over a missing front license plate was indicted Wednesday on a murder charge, with a prosecutor saying the officer ‘purposely killed him’ and ‘should never have been a police officer.'” Take a look at the latest graphic from The Washington Post regarding the number of people shot dead by the police this year, as well as The New York Times‘ compilation of videos that are “putting race and policing in sharp relief.” [AP]

Can This Software Prevent Acts of Police Brutality? Here.

Bahraini Jaw torture prison, by a medic ex-inmate

This video from the USA says about itself:

CNNBahrain security forces torture doctors, medics and patients

24 April 2011

A human rights group says Bahraini security forces intimidate and torture hospitalized opposition members.

Physicians for Human Rights on Friday joined the chorus of organizations that have charged Bahraini security officials with targeting doctors and patients.

The report details attacks on “physicians, medical staff, patients and unarmed civilians with the use of bird shot, physical beatings, rubber bullets, tear gas and unidentified chemical agents,” the group says.

This report echoes reports released earlier this month by Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders.

By Brian Dooley, Director, Human Rights First’s Human Rights Defenders Program:

Bahrain Medic Recounts Conditions in Jaw Prison

Posted: 06/10/2015 10:12 am EDT Updated: 06/10/2015 10:59 am EDT

Finally, after serving his three year sentence in a Bahrain prison, 47-year-old nurse Ebrahim Demastani has been released. Demastani is one of the dozens of Bahraini medics who were arrested and tortured in 2011 after they treated injured protestors during the country’s pro-democracy demonstrations in February and March of that year. He was the deputy head of the Bahraini Nurses Association, headed by Rula Al Saffar.

Demastani’s September 2011 conviction, when he was tried along with 20 other medics by a military court, triggered international outrage. Although he was temporarily released while his case was appealed, the following year, a civilian court confirmed his guilty verdict and he was rearrested with other medics and put back in jail. He shared a cell in Bahrain’s notorious Jaw Prison with pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ali Alekry until March of this year.

“I read a lot in prison, things I was too busy to read outside, and I spent lots of time reflecting on what happened and how we can better organize ourselves in future,” he told me.

He described poor conditions in the prison, with tensions building steadily as prisoners were refused proper medical treatment, sanitation, soap and changes of clothes. He estimates the number of prisoners at double the official capacity of less than 1,500. Eventually, on March 10 this year, a full scale riot broke out, sparked by a relatively minor dispute over the ID of a relative trying to visit a prisoner.

Riot police stormed Jaw and Demastani says he was tear gassed and beaten by police although “the other prisoners tried to protect me and the older ones.”

“We were kept outdoors from March 10 to March 15 without mattresses or blankets in the prison grounds — the younger prisoners especially were targeted for beatings. From 6:30 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. on March 12, the beatings were very intense because images of the prison had been leaked to the outside, film taken on a mobile phone by a prisoner. When the police realized there was a phone they tried to hunt for it.”

Demastani says the police were astonished to discover 60-70 phones in Jaw’s Building 1, where he had been held, and a staggering 600 more phones in Building 4, with about one phone for every two prisoners. He says it would be very difficult for family members to smuggle in phones during visits because of the thorough searches, but that guards are bribed to supply them to inmates at a cost of around $4,000 each, which would be paid to the guards outside by a prisoner’s family.

His allegations about corruption among the guards raise further serious questions about the management of Jaw. Last week, five prison officials were sentenced to jail after an inmate was beaten to death last November.

Demastani described similar methods of abuse and torture that were documented in the mistreatment of prisoners in 2011. He says some prisoners were singled out for particular abuse and taken to Building 10, and that he was beaten there on March 12, and forced to crawl on his abdomen.

“I was with human rights defender Naji Fateel, and we weren’t allowed to sleep for 24 hours. Clerics who are prisoners were forced to say shameful words, and others were humiliated by being forced to speak in animal noises. We had to sing the national anthem. The guards beat prisoners on the soles of their feet with black plastic hoses. My leg was badly injured and I was denied medical treatment for it.”

About half of the 245 prisoners from his building were reportedly returned to it after five days sleeping outside, but the others — including Dr. Alekry — are still forced to sleep outside to this day, in tents.

The Ombudsman’s Office, much vaunted by the Bahraini government as proof of its progress on human rights, interviewed Demastani about what happened. “People from that office took down what we said, but they’ve been doing that for years and nothing has changed for the prisoners. The Ombudsman’s office is useless,” he said.

Last week, the Office of the High Commission of Human Rights strongly condemned what was happening in Jaw Prison, saying “We remind the authorities in Bahrain there is an absolute prohibition of torture under international law. There are no exceptions whatsoever to that prohibition in any circumstances.”

Demastani was the second to last medic of those tried with him to be released, and he hopes to return to work soon. His cell mate Dr. Ali Alekry still has another two years left on his sentence, and Dr. Saeed Samahiji, originally convicted with Demastani, served his sentence but is now back in Jaw serving another year for insulting Bahrain’s king.

When asked if he regrets his part in treating protestors in 2011 and helping to organize other medics during the demonstrations he says, “I am so proud of what I did. I did it based on professional ethics and my oath to the nursing profession. I’m a first aide trainer and had a responsibility to the community.”