Tag Archives: accountability

Over 100 International Groups Call on US to Prosecute Torture

Friday June 26th will mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This day is an opportunity for the people of the world to “reaffirm the universal commitment to the total eradication of torture.”

In response to the holiday, over 100 civil and human rights organizations from around the world have sent a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council demanding an investigation into the United States for failing to hold officials accountable for allowing torture under the CIA’s controversial program. The letter also faults the U.S. for failing to provide justice to the victims of the torture program.

Since 1984, most of the world has signed the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In 1987 when President Ronald Reagan signed the treaty he said the following:

“The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called “universal jurisdiction.” Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.”

The United States officially ratified the treaty in 1994. The US government is also bound by federal laws against the use of torture. Despite this, the US has engaged in acts of torture including waterboarding, rectal feeding, sleep deprivation and more. Indeed, in December when the Senate released their report on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation it was revealed that the CIA continuously misled congressional and White House officials about the effectiveness and level of brutality of its methods.

On Wednesday, June 24, the secretary general of Amnesty International and the executive directors of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Human Rights Watch sent another letter and delivered petitions with 111,788 signatures of human rights supporters to the Department of Justice. The organizations are seeking to pressure the US government into holding officials accountable for the use of torture.

DOJ spokesman Marc Raimondi told The Miami Herald that the Attorney General already conducted a preliminary review and reviewed the Senate report on torture “and did not find any new information that they had not previously considered in reaching their determination. This inquiry was extraordinarily thorough and we stand by our previously announced decision not to initiate criminal charges.”

The new letter was submitted by the ACLU, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
Conectas Direitos Humanos, and Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Over 100 groups endorsed the call for accountability, including Center for Constitutional Rights, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School, National Lawyers Guild, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

The international groups are asking the US government to consider the consequences of not holding the U.S. government accountable.

“We know from the experiences of civil society groups and survivors of torture around the world that the struggle for accountability for human rights violations and the search for truth can be a long and difficult journey. Yet the United States has much to gain from rejecting impunity, returning to the rule of law, and providing adequate redress to the dozens and dozens of people it so brutally abused.”

DOJ Report: Philadelphia Police Shot 400 People in 7 Years

On Monday a new report was released by the US Department of Justice which condemned the Philadelphia Police Department for “poor training”, and for the shooting of approximately 400 civilians over the last 7 years. The report came at the request of Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

The Justice department found a lack of “guidelines, objectives, or lesson plans that detail PPD officer training on the department’s use of force policies.” The DOJ is calling on the PPD to create a specific unit that looks into every case where an officer uses deadly force. They also requested that an independent outside agency investigate shootings of unarmed individuals and hold a press conference within three days to reveal details.

The report found a lack of accountability when it comes to officer-involved shootings, or OIS.  “All PPD should be required to report any misconduct, including but not limited to excessive use of force.”  The report also concluded that “all across OIS  investigations, we found a general lack of consistency in quality.”

Philadelphia Mayor Nutter said the city must heed the warnings of the DOJ. “We will examine fully this report and work on a realistic approach for implementation of the recommendations as quickly as possible,” he stated.

Despite a lack of “official” statistics on the number of police officer shootings of civilians, independent estimates have found that over 1,000 individuals were killed by police in 2014.  The Washington Post drew the following comparison:

“In New York, for example, there were 30 police shootings in 2012 (16 of the people shot were killed, while the rest were injured) and 25 such shootings in 2013 (eight of those people were killed), according to the police. The Dallas Police Department, responsible for a city closer in size to Philadelphia, said it had 23 shootings in 2012 and 22 in 2013. Meanwhile, police in Philadelphia had 58 shootings in 2012 and 44 shootings in 2013.”

The DOJ report comes after another study done last month by the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP. The two groups found that the PPD illegally stops and frisks tens of thousands of individuals.

2 IL Veterans Force 102 Corrupt Officials to Resign, Place Entire Local Board Under Citizen’s Arrest

With four former governors having served time behind bars, Illinois’ government is widely-viewed as being riddled with corruption. However, according to a recent expose by Forbes, two military veterans in Edgar County have begun to fight back and, in just under two years, have drastically cleaned up corruption in their community.

In an effort to take back their government from self-serving politicians and bureaucrats, John Kraft and Kirk Allen established a group called the Edgar County Watchdogs. Through a combination of public pressure, Freedom of Information filings, lawsuits, and media exposure, they have created a system that deeply threatens Illinois’ corrupt, entrenched political establishment. They operate a blog called Illinois Leaks that exposes corruption at the state and local levels. Considering the fact that, according to Forbes, their home county’s government has racked up over $79 million in debt all on its own while serving only 18,000 residents, Kraft and Allen have their work cut out for them.

Despite an uphill battle, the anti-corruption twosome have been surprisingly successful. By doggedly pursuing justice for even the smallest infractions by bureaucrats and politicians, the Edgar County Watchdogs have driven 102 public officials to resign from their posts, including 33 officials in Edgar County alone. The pair busted the mayor of Redmond for attempting to hold office while living out of town. They represented themselves in court and beat Illinois Assistant Attorney General Emma Steimel in a lawsuit seeking access to state emails. Officials who have resigned due to the Watchdogs’ efforts include a property tax assessor, the Edgar County board chairman, an entire airport board and its manager, the attorney for Kansas Township’s fire department, Shiloh’s superintendent of schools, and Effingham’s health department administrator, among others. After they exposed corrupt, illegal, and self-serving spending habits by the Ford-Iroquois County health department, the entire bureaucracy was dissolved. In some cases, federal agents have even stepped in to investigate and issue subpoenas to local officials after receiving tips from Kraft and Allen.

In what was one of their most epic displays of political crime-fighting, seen in the above-embedded video, Allen and Kraft held the entire Clark County Park District Board under citizen’s arrest on May 13, 2014 for violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act, a Class C misdemeanor. According to NBC-5 Chicago, when Clark County Sheriff Jerry Parsley responded to the scene of the heated dispute in which local residents were not allowed to make public comments at a park district board public meeting, he chose to enforce Kraft and Allen’s citizen’s arrest. Sheriff Parsley explained his rationale behind enforcing the arrest to NBC Chicago, “The people need to have their voice. It’s not a dictatorship. It’s a democracy.”

Inspired by Dillon’s Rule, a 19th-century principle that municipal governments can only act on the basis of powers that have been lawfully granted to them, the duo force public officials to prove that they are spending public funds and using public resources in a lawful manner. Activities like these helped Kraft and Allen catch a school superintendent who spent $5,000 worth of school funds dining out at restaurants.

What began as an effort to clean up Edgar County has become a state-wide initiative to hold public officials accountable. In a short time, two concerned citizens who happen to be military veterans have dramatically shaken up Illinois’ infamously-corrupt political landscape.

Police Use Of Force Drops 60% When Officers Required To Wear Video Cameras

Rialto, CA- The Rialto Police Department, over the past year, has been experimenting with equipping body cameras to the 70 officers on its force. The initial results show a promising solution to the excessive use of force by officers.

The police chief in Rialto, Tony Farrar, is on record as stating, “ I think we’ve opened some eyes in the law enforcement world. We’ve shown the potential.”

This potential he speaks of is due to the scientific data that this experiment has yielded over the course of the last year. The body cameras were introduced on officers in February 2012, over the next twelve months total complaints filed against them dropped by a staggering 88%, with use of force by officers dropping by 60%.

With the cameras there has been an improvement in officer’s demeanor and tone towards those they serve. As Chief Farrar noted, “With a camera they are more conscious of how they speak and how they treat people.”

When those in a position of authority are watched they are less likely to abuse that authority. Chief Farrar says, “That’s just human nature. As an officer you act a bit more professional, follow the rules a bit better.” In addition it also helps protect officers from false accusations of excessive use of force.

Chief Farrar is providing a new paradigm for policing, taking a proactive approach rather than making excuses for his officers and toeing the line. To his credit he has a master’s degree from the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, from which stemmed the idea to utilize cameras.

By holding officers more accountable, expensive lawsuits and payouts can be avoided, making it fiscally, as well as socially responsible. Even the ACLU has come out in support of the move, saying that with proper oversight and accountability, even privacy concerns would be outweighed.

The scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that this program could be an effective and efficient model for nationwide police reform. If you would like to see a similar program implemented in your area, get in touch with your mayor/city council/county board and demand cameras on officers in your local jurisdiction.

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