Saturday, December 6, 2014

7 ways Saudi Arabia is silencing people online

Raif Badawi was arrested on 17 June 2012 and has been detained since then in a prison in Saudi Arabia.

6 December 2014 -- Amnesty International

Raif Badawi is serving a 10-year prison sentence in Saudi Arabia, mainly for setting up a website. We talk to another local blogger – who has to remain anonymous for their own safety – about different tactics the authorities use to silence people online.

1. Gagging anyone with an independent opinion

“Overall, the situation in Saudi Arabia is very bad, particularly from the point of view of people with independent opinions who go against the grain. Recently, there have been investigations, arrests and short-term detentions of journalists, athletes, poets, bloggers, activists and tweeters.”

2. Blaming everything on terrorism

“The authorities are fragile. They seek to gag and stifle dissent using various means, including the shameful Terrorism Law that has become a sword waved in the faces of people with opinions. Courts issue prison sentences of 10 years or more as a result of a single tweet. Atheists and people who contact human rights organizations are attacked as ‘terrorists’.”

3. Personal attacks on bloggers

“I have been harassed in many ways. The authorities approached the internet providers hosting my personal website and asked them to block it and delete all the content. They also dispatched security officers to tell me to stop what I was doing in my own and my family’s best interests. I was later officially banned from blogging and threatened with arrest if I continued. I succumbed and stopped in order to protect my family.”

4. Bans, false accusations and being fired from your job

“There are many cases of bloggers being restricted or banned. Some of them – whom I know – are still being investigated about blogs they wrote in 2008, even though they aren’t involved in blogging anymore. Saudi bloggers can also be fired from their jobs and prevented from making a living. Many face false allegations that they are ‘atheists’or ‘demented’. Restrictions are imposed on almost every aspect of the blogger’s life.”

5. Far-reaching online surveillance and censorship

“Censorship is at its maximum, especially after passing the Terrorism Law. A poet was arrested as a result of a single tweet which indirectly criticized King Abdullah using symbolic language. With millions of web users in Saudi Arabia, this means the authorities are keeping an eye on everything that’s being written. We have also received reports through international newspapers that Saudi Arabia uses surveillance to hack and monitor activists’ accounts.”

6. Deploying an electronic army

“The authorities have powerful cyber armies which give a false impression of the situation in Saudi Arabia to deceive people overseas. They launch websites, YouTube channels and blogs to target activists and opponents, and depict them as atheists, infidels and agents who promote disobedience of the Ruler. By contrast, these websites, channels and blogs often praise the state and its efforts. I have personally been the victim of such state orchestrated campaigns that harmed my reputation.”

7. Brutal punishments

“Raif Badawi’s case further demonstrates the brutality of a state that still rules through punishments from the Middle Ages, like flogging, hefty fines and exaggerated prison terms. The Saudi government needs to know that it doesn’t own the world and that it can’t silence the world’s voice with its money.”

Friday, December 5, 2014

Over 230,000 Ontario adults seriously considered suicide in 2013, CAMH survey shows

TORONTO, Dec. 4, 2014 – Results from an ongoing survey conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) show that 2.2 per cent -- over 230,000 Ontario adults -- seriously contemplated suicide in the last year. The 2013 edition of the CAMH Monitor, released today, included questions about suicidal ideation for the first time in the survey’s history.

“Suicide is a major public health issue, and these data confirm that large numbers of Ontario adults report having suicidal thoughts,” said Dr. Hayley Hamilton, CAMH scientist and co-principal investigator of the study. “While we’ve asked about mental health in past editions of the survey, we felt it was important to include a specific question about suicide so that we can better understand the scope of the issue.”

The 2013 report is based on responses from 3,021 adults age 18 and older from across Ontario. First introduced in 1977, the CAMH Monitor is the longest ongoing representative survey of adult mental health and substance use trends in Canada. 

Results also revealed a significant overall increase in self-rated poor mental health, from 4.7 per cent in 2003 to 7.1 per cent in 2013 – this translates to an estimated 716,000 Ontario adults in 2013. This increase was especially evident during the past five years among those aged 18 to 29, rising from approximately 3 per cent in 2009 to 12 per cent in 2013. 

“We are noticing higher rates of self-reported poor mental health among young adults,” said Dr. Hamilton. “This is a troubling trend and is generally consistent with what we’re seeing in the research we conduct among Ontario adolescents. This could be an indication that young adults and youth transitioning to adulthood need more support from family, friends, and health professionals when it comes to their mental health and overall wellbeing.” 

Rates of cannabis use up significantly 

Increasing rates of cannabis use are also cause for concern, with past year cannabis use climbing from 8.7 per cent of Ontario adults in 1996 to 14 per cent in 2013. While 40 per cent of past year users report using cannabis less than once per month, the percentage reporting daily use is 19 per cent. Among cannabis users, rates of self-reported cannabis use problems jumped from 38.5 per cent in 2012 to 55.4 per cent in 2013. 

“The fact that we are seeing a steady increase in cannabis use and that more than half of those who use cannabis regularly are saying it’s problematic underscores the need for a public health approach to cannabis control,” said Dr. Robert Mann, CAMH senior scientist and co-principal investigator of the CAMH Monitor. 

Non-medical prescription opioid use declining 

The proportion of Ontario adults who reported non-medical use of prescription opioids in the past year dropped significantly from 7.7 per cent in 2010 to 2.8 per cent in 2013. However, use among 18-29 year olds remained stable at approximately 7 per cent in this same time period, and as many as 295,000 Ontario adults – 3 per cent— reported non-medical use of prescription opioids in 2013. 

“It is encouraging to see that the number of adults who report using prescription opioids for non-medical reasons has dropped, and these declines may be reflecting efforts on the part of government and others to address this problem. However, there is still a significant number of people who report using these drugs inappropriately, and it is concerning that rates of non-medical use have not changed among younger adults,” said Dr. Mann. 

Daily alcohol use increasing

Rates of alcohol consumption were also high, with nearly one in four drinkers reporting that they exceed Canada’s low-risk drinking guidelines. Increases were also found in daily drinking among those who have consumed alcohol in the past year, from 5 per cent in 2002 to 8.5 per cent in 2013 who report having at least one drink per day. The results also showed that women are drinking at higher rates.

“We continue to see that more women are drinking more frequently,” said Dr. Mann. Rates of daily drinking among women increased from 2.6 per cent in 2001 to 5.6 per cent in 2013. “This increase is worrying because heavy alcohol use is associated with a number of health risks, including cancer.” 

While rates of consumption are increasing, a positive finding is that drinking and driving continues to decrease. From 1996 to 2013, driving after drinking declined by more than half, from 13 per cent to 5 per cent, respectively. 

Fewer Ontario adults smoke tobacco 

Another positive finding in the survey was that the majority of Ontario adults, 83 per cent, do not smoke cigarettes and current cigarette smoking has significantly declined since 1996 from 27 per cent in 1996 to 17 per cent in 2013. Daily smoking showed the same pattern, declining from 23 per cent in 1996 to 13 per cent in 2013. 

- 30 –

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital and a world leading research centre in this field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental illness and addiction. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please

The CAMH Monitor, first conducted in 1977, is the longest ongoing addiction and mental health survey of adults in Canada. The survey is designed to serve as the primary vehicle for monitoring substance use and mental health problems among Ontario adults. The CAMH Monitor provides epidemiological trends in alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, problem use, and mental health among Ontarians. The survey is conducted on behalf of CAMH by the Institute for Social Research at York University. About 3,000 Ontario adults are interviewed each year using random digit dialing. The sample is considered representative of most Ontarians aged 18 years and older (about 10 million Ontarians).

Media Contact:
Kate Richards
Media Relations Specialist
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
416 535-8501 ext. 36015

December 6 marks the endorsement of violence against sex workers

DECEMBER 5, 2014

In an act of "sick and twistedirony, Canada's new prostitution law takes effect on December 6, the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre and a day now set aside to mourn violence against women. Sadly, the law will lead to violence against sex workers, most of whom are women.

Sex workers commemorate December 6 too -- to mourn their colleagues brutally cut down by serial killers, or assaulted and raped by police, or beaten by predators posing as clients. This happens not because prostitution itself is "inherently violent" (it's not), but because criminal laws kill women.

Laws against sex work stigmatize sex workers, push them away from safe areas and support services, make them afraid of the police (who are often the worst perpetrators of violence), and put them in danger. This is the case regardless if the workers themselves are supposedly "decriminalized" such as in Sweden, where sex workers are still targeted and punished under procuring and immigration laws, and effectively denied social services unless they "exit" prostitution.

As Swedish sex worker and activist Pye Jacobson points out, the Swedish state facilitates and endorses violence against sex workers on the premise that it will motivate them to quit. Sweden's 2010 evaluation of its law prohibiting the purchase (but not the sale) of sex lacks credible evidence of any positive effect of the ban, except for one: the "intensified social stigma of selling sex" and other "negative effects of the ban that [sex workers] describe must be viewed as positive from the perspective that the purpose of the law is indeed to combat prostitution" (Section 4.6.4). It appears that the Swedish government doesn't care that" whore stigma" kills sex workers.

Things are shaping up similarly here in Canada, except our new law has several additional restrictions compared to Sweden that could make things even worse. Sex workers are still criminalized because they can be arrested for communicating in any public place near a school, playground, or daycare. A new ban on advertising supposedly exempts sex workers who advertise their own services, but actually criminalizes anyone who helps them or publishes their ads, meaning that sex workers can't really advertise at all unless they also have their own publishing company. (They might even need to chop down a tree to make their own paper, as one sex worker quipped at a recent Q&A session on the new law that I attended.) The new law is supposed to allow sex workers to hire some beneficial third parties to help them, but these people still risk being prosecuted because the new law's allowable exceptions are vague and up to police discretion.

To their shame, radical feminists who oppose sex work have joined forces with right-wing groups and the federal Conservative government to pass this law. The latter are both motivated by animosity towards women's rights and autonomy and non-traditional sexual expression, which strongly implies that radical "feminists" have some problems with those things too. I believe they do, at least when it comes to rights for sex workers.

Radical feminists falsely believe that only a small number of "privileged" or "unrepresentative" sex workers actually choose to do sex work, while the majority are exploited. When confronted by the reality that most sex workers around the world are in fact demanding that their work be decriminalized and treated as real work, radical feminists imagine they are suffering from "false consciousness" and have been brainwashed by the patriarchy into believing it was a free choice. Sweden's 2010 evaluation of its law helpfully explains why active sex workers insist they chose sex work and are not victims: "…the people selling their bodies are always being exploited; however no one wants to see it that way as long as they are still being exploited."

So, like their Swedish counterparts, radical feminists in Canada show no respect for sex workers who refuse to be victims and refuse to quit. By caring only about the minority who actually have been exploited in the sex work industry, radical feminists are sacrificing most sex workers in order to rescue a few.

I attended a press conference in Vancouver last month at which seven masked sex workers spoke. When I asked them their opinion of radical feminists, they had some harsh words:

"I just never could understand why it would be ok for a feminist … to compromise the safety of one group of women to save another. And in fact, that's illegal under the International Charter of Human Rights … you cannot use the Charter to subvert the rights of one group in order to favour another. And so when they say to me, I should choose not to do sex work for the betterment of all women, I believe it's because they want me to be their maid. I think they need low-paid women to clean their toilets and make their fast-food hamburgers. And they would sooner see me doing that, because in the back of their minds, they think I'm having sex with their husband. It's just all the myths rolled into one." -- Jordan Doe

"Radical feminists feel that sex work is demeaning to women. I don't believe that sex work is demeaning to women. Sex is a natural act that people do. The fact that somebody gets paid for it makes no difference." -- Jillian Doe

"My opinion of them is that they just don't understand. I feel that people who are radical anything are people who have yet to experience what it is they are so against. They don't have that circle, that network of people, that can say, hey actually it's like this, or it's like this, it's not what you're saying, it's not what you think. And I feel that sometimes they get sort 'bandwagoney,' they just jump on and say, oh this sounds really good, we're doing really good. But they don't actually do the research behind it, and they don't take the time themselves to sort it out. So I don't respect them. I think they should read a book, other than headlines." -- Jasmine Doe

"I really can't even wrap my head around it. What reality do they live in? Really? You're going to abolish prostitution? How about abolishing poverty? How about abolishing homelessness? How about abolishing these other things and maybe that might fit in, you know, when people are exploited or have no choice because of a need. But for them to even think along these lines, it's impossible. I don't know who they think they are, how they think they can accomplish that. To me, it's crazy-making at its best. It's insanity." -- Sheri Kiselbach (former sex worker)

"Radical feminism is eerily similar to fundamentalist Christianity in that: 'Do what you want with your body as long as I think it's best for you.' and I hope for the day that all people under feminism can respect my right to believe and act differently." -- Jenna Doe

There's a common theme in these comments by sex workers -- that radical feminists are really behaving more like fanatics -- i.e., people with dogmatic, absolutist, ignorant views; people who can't tolerate others who live outside the strict moral boundaries that the fanatics want to impose on them. Jenna Doe's comparison of radical feminism to fundamentalist Christianity is particularly apt, since that religion (and others) operate on a patriarchal basis with a special focus on repressing sexuality. We can see that at work in radical feminism, with its "End Demand" strategy that naïvely seeks to repress male sexuality and encourage male monogamy. On the surface, radical feminists express concern about women being damaged or destroyed by having lots of casual sex with strangers for money. They do seem to genuinely believe that (even though it's sexist and prudish to say that all women are harmed by paid sex), but is it possible they also have a punitive streak that secretly despises female sex workers? For starters, it would help explain why they have zero interest in male and transgender sex workers.

Several theories on the cultural suppression of female sexuality were evaluated in a fascinating 2002 paper by psychologists Roy Baumeister and Jean Twenge. They found that the evidence most favours the theory that "women have worked to stifle each other's sexuality because sex is a limited resource that women use to negotiate with men, and scarcity gives women an advantage." Applied to radical feminists, this theory suggests that they see sex workers as competitors who ruin things for other women by being too sexually available. Which would mean that radical feminists are supporting the patriarchy, not fighting it. As feminist writer Amanda Marcotte explains: "In a patriarchy, women are usually tasked with the job of monitoring female sexuality and enforcing norms of modesty." So perhaps radical feminists want sex workers to join their purity movement and stop corrupting men. Although they like to demonize men for thinking they're "entitled" to sex, don't they really mean everybody?

With Canada's new prostitution law, the Conservative government and radical feminists are using the criminal law to restrict the consensual sexual activity of adults. This is a serious violation of human rights, reinforces stigma and discrimination against sex workers, and increases the risk of violence against them. It makes this December 6 one of the saddest commemorations of the Montreal Massacre since the shootings occurred 25 years ago.

Joyce Arthur is a founding member of FIRST, a national feminist sex worker advocacy organization based in Vancouver that lobbies for the decriminalization of prostitution in Canada. She works as a technical writer and pro-choice activist.

Maryam Al-Khawaja: Why I am boycotting my date with Bahraini justice

The leading human rights defender explains her reasons for boycotting the court hearing that on Monday saw her sentenced to one year in prison

By Maryam Al-Khawaja / 5 December, 2014

As a human rights defender, I, Maryam Al-Khawaja, Director of Advocacy at the Gulf Center for Human Rights, have decided to boycott my court hearing on the 1 December 2014. During this hearing I am due to be sentenced on trumped up charges of assaulting two policewomen at the Bahrain International Airport. (Update: Al-Khawaja was sentenced to one year imprisonment on 1 December)

The decision to boycott the court was reached based on several grounds:

The lack of independence and due process in the Bahrain judiciary system:

It has become evidently clear that it is not possible to have a fair and independent trial in Bahraini courts as they stand. The judicial system in Bahrain is highly flawed, and is overrun with egregious human rights violations which usually start during the arrest, and continue throughout what is supposed to be a legal process. I was personally subjected to numerous human rights violations since the moment of arriving in Bahrain and until I was able to leave the country as can be read in my testimony here.

There are medical reports about the injuries I sustained during the assault I was subjected to, for which I continue to need physiotherapy. My case was sped up, and quickly turned for sentencing with complete disregard to legal procedures.

The lack of independency and neutrality of the judge himself:

The presiding judge, Mohammed Ali Alkhalifa, in the case brought against me is a member of the ruling family, and has been himself, as well as members of his family, identified previously during my advocacy campaigns as implicated in human rights violations. This makes his presiding over the case a clear case of conflict of interest given the personal grievances he may have against me. This judge in particular, it is important to note, has been involved in the sentencing of numerous human rights defenders including Nabeel Rajab and Naji Fateel in unfair trials.
The cooperation of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) with the Ministry of Interior:

During my imprisonment I met with the SIU, headed by Nawaf Hamza, to submit a complaint against the three policewomen and the first lieutenant who assaulted me at the airport. The prosecutor, Mohammed Al-Hazaa, rewrote my statement in his own words, attempting to implicate me in violations, and refused to correct what he had misquoted. This resulted in my refusal to sign the papers and filing of a complaint against the prosecutor. One day before the sentencing, namely on the 30th of November 2014, and due to almost daily follow up by my lawyer, the public prosecution notified him that the complaint case had been revoked. Despite my complaint about the assault since the beginning of my arrest, it was only one day before the sentencing that my lawyer was finally able to get a statement from the public prosecution that my complaint case had been revoked, at a time when the trumped up assault charges against myself were speedily processed and turned for sentencing.

The violation of my rights by the public prosecution:

During the interrogation I was subjected to, I was refused access to my lawyer by the prosecutor dealing with my case. During my imprisonment my lawyer was not given any visits, nor was the Danish embassy. The way that the public prosecution deals with politically motivated cases is it uses all aspects of the government to provide impunity for the perpetrators of violations.

Based on the reasons stated above, I find any and all cooperation with the court or attendance of the hearings by myself as a problematic legitimisation of an unfair and biased court. Therefore I have decided to boycott the hearings, and have asked my lawyer to do the same.

It is important to note here, if I, as a human rights defender, whose case receives international media and diplomatic attention is handled in this way; it is gravely concerning how cases not receiving attention are handled by the authorities in Bahrain.

Maryam Al-Khawaja
Director of Advocacy
Gulf Center for Human Rights
30th November 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Christian Terrorist Movement No One Wants To Talk About


Thornhill Baptist Church in Hudson, Michigan, where Hutaree Christian militia member Joshua Stone and his father David Brian Stone were members.

Last Friday, Larry McQuilliams was shot and killed by police after unleashing a campaign of violence in Austin, Texas, firing more than 100 rounds in the downtown area before making a failed attempt to burn down the Mexican Consulate. The only casualty was McQuilliams himself, who was felled by officers when he entered police headquarters, but the death toll could have been far greater: McQuilliams, who was called a “terrorist” by Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, had several weapons, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and a map pinpointing 34 other buildings as possible targets — including several churches.

While the impetus for McQuilliams’ onslaught remains unclear, local authorities recently announced that he may have been motivated by religion — but not the one you might think. According to the Associated Press, police officers who searched McQuilliams’ van found a copy of “Vigilantes of Christendom,” a book connected with the Phineas Priesthood, an American white supremacist movement that claims Christian inspiration and opposes interracial intercourse, racial integration, homosexuality, and abortion. Phineas priests take their name from the biblical figure Phinehas in the book of Numbers, who is described as brutally murdering an Israelite man for having sex with a foreign woman, who he also kills. Members of the Phineas Priesthood — which people “join” simply by adopting the views of the movement — are notoriously violent, and some adherents have been convicted of bank robberies, bombing abortion clinics, and planning to blow up government buildings. Although McQuilliams didn’t leave a letter explaining the reason for his attack, a handwritten note inside the book described him as a “priest in the fight against anti-God people.”

McQuilliams’ possible ties to the Phineas Priesthood may sound strange, but it’s actually unsettlingly common. In fact, his association with the hateful religious group highlights a very real — but often under-reported — issue: terrorism enacted in the name of Christ.

To be sure, violent extremism carried out by people claiming to be Muslim has garnered heaps of media attention in recent years, with conservative pundits such as Greta Van Susteren of Fox News often insisting that Muslim leaders publicly condemn any acts of violence perpetrated in the name of Islam (even though many already have).

But there is a long history of terrorist attacks resembling McQuilliams’ rampage across Austin — where violence is carried out in the name of Christianity — in the United States and abroad. In America, the Ku Klux Klan is well-known for over a century of gruesome crimes against African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and others — all while ascribing to what they say is a Christian theology. But recent decades have also given rise to several “Christian Identity” groups, loose organizations united by a hateful understanding of faith whose members spout scripture while engaging in horrifying acts of violence. For example, various members of The Order, a militant group of largely professed Mormons whose motto was a verse from the book of Jeremiah, were convicted for murdering Jewish talk show host Alan Berg in 1984; the “Army of God”, which justifies their actions using the Bible, is responsible for bombings at several abortion clinics, attacks on gay and lesbian nightclubs, and the explosion at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia; and Scott Roeder cited the Christian faith as his motivation for killing George Tiller — a doctor who performed late-term abortions — in 2009, shooting the physician in the head at point-blank range while he was ushering at church.

These incidents have been bolstered by a more general spike in homegrown American extremism over the past decade and a half. Between 2000 and 2008, the number of hate groups in America rose 54 percent according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, and white-supremacist groups — including many with Christian roots — saw an “explosion” in recruitment after Barack Obama was elected a the country’s first African-American president in 2008. In fact, the growth of this and other homegrown terrorist threats has become so great that it spurred then-Attorney General Eric Holder to revive the Domestic Terror Task Force in June of this year.

Christian extremism has ravaged other parts of the world as well. Northern Ireland and Northern India both have rich histories of Christian-on-Christian violence, as does Western Africa, where the Lord’s Resistance Army claims a Christian message while forcibly recruiting child soldiers to terrorize local villages. Even Europe, a supposed bastion of secularism, has endured attacks from people who say they follow the teachings of Jesus. In 2011, Anders Behring Breivik launched a horrific assault on innocent people in and around Oslo, Norway, using guns and bombs to kill 77 — many of them teenagers — and wound hundreds more. Breivik said his actions were an attempt to combat Islam and preserve “Christian Europe,” and while he rejected a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” he nonetheless championed Christianity as a “cultural, social, identity and moral platform” and claimed the faith as the forming framework for his personal identity.

Chillingly, experts warn that something like Breivik’s attack could easily happen in the United States. Daryl Johnson, a former Department of Homeland Security analyst, said in a 2010 interview that the Hutaree, an extremist militia group in Michigan that touts Christian inspiration, possessed a cache of weapons larger than all the Muslims charged with terrorism the United States since the September 11 attacks combined.

Yet unlike the accusatory responses to domestic jihadist incidents such as the Fort Hood massacre, news of McQuilliams’ possible ties to the Christian Identity movement has yet to produce a reaction among prominent conservative Christians. Greta Van Susteren, for instance, has not asked Christian leaders such as Pope Francis, Rick Warren, or Billy Graham onto her show to speak out against violence committed in name of Christ. Rather, the religious affiliation of McQuilliams, like the faith of many right-wing extremists, has largely flown under the radar, as he and others like him are far more likely to be dismissed as mentally unstable “lone wolfs” than products of extremist theologies.

Granted, right-wing extremism — like Muslim extremism — is a complex religious space. Some participants follow religions they see as more purely “white” — such as Odinism — and others act more out of a hatred for government than religious conviction. Nevertheless, McQuilliams’ attack is a stark reminder that radical theologies exist on the fringes of most religions, and that while Muslim extremism tends to make headlines, religious terrorism is by no means unique to Islam.

Hundreds of police killings go unreported in the US

By our reporter 

4 December 2014

According to a Wall Street Journal report, national statistics provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation do not report 25 percent or more of police killings in the US.

The newspaper analyzed data from 105 of the largest police agencies in the country and compared the figures to the official statistics of the FBI. More than 550 killings between 2007 and 2012 were not part of the FBI totals.

Specifically, in these jurisdictions the Journal tallied at least 1,800 police killings, compared to only 1,242 reported to the FBI.

One of the major causes of the discrepancy is the failure of many local police agencies to report homicides that are considered justifiable. As the Fairfax County, Virginia Police Department said, such killings are not an “actual offense,” and they are not reported to the FBI.

The Journal gave the example of 24-year-old Albert Jermaine Payton in Washington, DC, who was shot and killed in 2012. His mother, who witnessed the killing, said the police were well acquainted with her son, who apparently suffered from mental illness. As he approached the cops that day holding a small utility knife, they fired dozens of times, and he died soon after.

This homicide was not reported to the FBI. The officers involved are back on the job, and there was no further investigation.

The consequences of the underreporting include the obvious underestimation of the reign of violence that exists in poor working class communities around the country. It is one more avenue through which the police, and the authorities to whom they are ultimately responsible, attempt to minimize the anger and political fallout that has been visible on the streets of Ferguson, Staten Island and elsewhere in recent months.

Only some of the most egregious cases of police violence become widely known. The reality is even worse than indicated in the latest grand jury exonerations of the police in Missouri and New York.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

One man's terrorist is another man's weapons case

Nowhere in any of the media coverage of Glen Gieschen's gun-toting, bomb-making plan were the words "terror" or "terrorist" ever used.

Scott Taylor, Wednesday, 12/03/2014 | Embassy - Canada's Foreign Policy Newspaper

Last week, there was a small news item out of Calgary about a judge lifting a publication ban on accused suspect Glen Gieschen. The CBC described Gieschen's alleged crime as "an attack plot on a downtown building," while the Calgary Herald referred to it as a "weapons case."

Gieschen is a 45-year-old former member of the Canadian Armed Forces who had been battling with Veterans Affairs Canada for more than a year regarding health care compensation claims.

Frustrated by the delays, Gieschen assembled a small arsenal of weapons and bomb-making equipment and formulated a detailed plan to destroy the Veterans Affairs office on the seventh floor of the Bantrel tower in the centre of Calgary.

In his possession at the time of his arrest, Gieschen had a semi-automatic hand gun, a .308 caliber rifle, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, a sniper scope, laser sight, night vision goggles, a gas mask, helmet, and two suitcases full of toxic chemicals.

According to detailed plans found on his laptop, Gieschen had conducted a thorough reconnaissance of the Veterans Affairs office to ascertain its security measures, office layouts, and emergency exits. During his attack, Gieshen first intended to disable the security guards using one of his multiple firearms before donning a gas mask and helmet, sealing off all access points, and planting explosive devices at predetermined points throughout the building.

But that's not all. Gieschen's thorough plans for destruction also included disabling the lighting system, pouring a mixture of bleach, ammonia, and bear repellent down the stairways, and then tossing smoke grenades to create a toxic barrier. Once isolated inside the Veterans Affairs office, he planned to destroy all computers and personal files.

Following that spree of death and destruction, he would then head to a rail yard in southeast Calgary, where he would use his rifle to puncture tanker cars loaded with dangerous chemicals. Also on his to-do list that day was to take out a gas pumping station and a gas line. The grand finale was to commit suicide on his parents' rural property.

What thwarted this diabolical plot was the fact that upon finding his suicide note, Gieschen's wife promptly notified the authorities. The RCMP found him sleeping in a utility trailer, where they proceeded to arrest him under the Mental Health Act.

What is astounding is that nowhere in any of the media coverage of this case were the words "terror" or "terrorist" ever used.

Gieschen planned to kill security guards, blow up a government office in the centre of a major city, create a chemical catastrophe, and produce massive fireballs to destroy vital infrastructure.

More importantly, unlike many of the other domestic terror plotters who were foiled before their plans could be actualized, Gieschen had the means and the necessary experience to successfully complete his intended mission.

Like the retired military man that he his, Gieschen had also conducted a thorough reconnaissance of his objective.

The Mississauga 18 had all sorts of wild ideas about cutting off Prime Minister Harper's head during a live broadcast of Peter Mansbridge's newscast on CBC, blowing up the CN Tower, and storming Parliament Hill, but they never had the wherewithal or expertise to even begin making a detailed plan.

Yet they were arrested, tried, and convicted as homegrown terrorists.

On Oct. 21, Martin Couture-Rouleau deliberately drove his car into two Canadian military personnel, killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and severely wounding the other soldier. Following a high-speed chase, which caused the perpetrator to flip his car, Quebec police shot Couture-Rouleau to death. 

Since authorities knew Couture-Rouleau to be a radicalized Muslim, his targeting of Canadian soldiers was deemed an act of terror. Under different circumstances, this might have been reported as a mentally ill individual initiating a hit-and-run vehicular homicide, followed by a death-by-cop suicide.

Two days later, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo, attempted to drive his car onto Parliament Hill, was thwarted by the barriers, proceeded to car-jack a second vehicle, and then forced his way on foot into Centre Block.

With only eight bullets in his Winchester rifle, even in his deranged mental state, Bibeau would have known that his lone charge into one of the most secure sites in Canada would result in his own death. Although he was a career criminal and drug addict, Bibeau was also a radicalized Muslim, and hence his lone gunman rampage and death-by-cop suicide were also termed an act of terrorism.

Neither Couture-Rouleau nor Bibeau had military training, or a sophisticated arsenal, yet their actions constituted terrorism.

Gieschen on the other hand, a disgruntled former soldier, was simply involved in a "weapons case."

One can only imagine what the headlines would have been had Gieschen been a convert to Islam. 

Scott Taylor is editor and publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine.

Will Bahrain Get Away with It Again?

by Simran Sachdev, MS on December 3, 2014

As the Bahraini authorities continue to violate human rights and target rights defenders, the United States should leverage the re-admission of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski to Bahrain as an opportunity to ask the Bahraini government to fulfill their international human rights obligations.

Earlier this week, human rights advocate, Maryam al-Khawaja, was tried in absentia and sentenced to one year in prison. The government’s targeting of al-Khawaja appears to have started in response to her participation in pro-democracy protests in 2011. This past August, she was arrested at the airport – on charges of insulting the king and assaulting a police officer – while trying to enter Bahrain to visit her ailing father in prison. During the prosecutor’s interrogation, she was not allowed to speak to her lawyer.

Al-Khawaja’s sentencing is just one example of many, demonstrating how the Bahraini government targets and continues to violate the rights of activists and other individuals.

There is a long list of human rights defenders under attack by the government – many of whom participated in pro-democracy protests that began in 2011, during which the Bahraini government violently suppressed demonstrations, indiscriminately used tear gas as a weapon, and injured (and even killed) protesters. Maryam’s own sister, Zainab, has been detained numerous times, and was only just released in mid-November; she is due to be sentenced this week for “insulting Bahrain’s king by tearing up his picture.” Their father, Abdulhadi, is serving a life sentence on terrorism charges related to the same 2011 protests. Nabeel Rajab, founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was jailed in 2012 for two years and is again on trial for “tweets posted on his Twitter account that denigrated government institutions.”

And the list goes on. Even medical professionals have not been spared. Doctors who were fulfilling their professional and ethical duties of providing unbiased care to protesters during pro-democracy demonstrations were persecuted and punished. This is in direct contradiction to the principle of medical neutrality – an international standard that requires governments to not interfere with the functioning of health services during times of conflict or unrest.

Unfortunately, the Bahraini government remains unmoved, indifferent to the outcry of its own citizens, and under little to no pressure from the international community to end these ongoing violations. The United States, for example, has a long history of giving Bahrain a free pass on human rights violations, since the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet operates – and wants to maintain – a base in the country’s capital of Manama. Apart from releasing a sugar-coated statement and suspending some arms sales and assistance after Secretary Malinowski was expelled from Bahrain in July 2014, the U.S. government has not taken enough concrete steps to stop the abuse of protesters, the targeting of medical professionals treating demonstrators, or the persecution and detention of top human rights defenders.

Perhaps this is not surprising, with the recent police response to the Ferguson protests in the United States itself. However, if the U.S. government wants its citizens and the international community to take seriously the U.S. commitment to so-called American values of freedom and liberty, it cannot continually turn a blind eye to oppression at home or abroad – especially in countries considered close allies.

With Secretary Malinowski having regained access to Bahrain, the U.S. government should take the opportunity to promote human rights by asking its ally to: respect freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the rights of protesters and human rights defenders; safeguard the ethical and professional responsibilities of medical professionals to provide unbiased care; ensure that medical facilities are not militarized and that all patients receive appropriate treatment regardless of political affiliation; and to have independent investigations when any of these rights are violated and ensure that perpetrators are held to account.

Will U.S. representatives seize this opportunity? We sure hope so.

Anwar Ibrahim Reflects on the Aftermath of the Arab Spring

On November 18, 2014, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, founder and board member, IIIT; leader of the Malaysian opposition; and former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, shared his “Reflections on the Aftermath of the Arab Spring” with the general public at the IIIT headquarters in Herndon, VA.

Citing “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those in authority from among you” (Q. 4:59), Anwar attributed the Arab Spring uprising to the ruling elite’s view that the masses cannot protest whatever policies they decide to follow because they are, at least in their own minds, legitimate rulers. Opposing this concept, he asserted that the rulers must govern according to the maqasid in order to achieve the public good – something that they clearly are not doing. Thus the reforms must be systemic, for the entire system is riddled with corruption, abuse, violence, and self-aggrandizement. For the last decade IIIT has been active in this area and has produced many publications in an ongoing attempt to inform Muslims of what the maqasid are and how they can be implemented in contemporary societies.

Citing the lack of ethics in governance, Anwar stated: “The context of the atrocities inflicted upon by the masses was shocking.” Moreover, many “experts” who never saw the upheaval coming asserted that it would not spread beyond Tunisia, thereby showing their inability to understand or even sense the pervasive nature of Arab demands and expectations that finally erupted.

Initial hopes that Arab Spring would succeed in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya turned out to be a mirage in the case of the last two. Those countries that managed to oust their leaders were basically bankrupt, and the Islamists assumed power with simplistic and unrealistic ideas about what they could accomplish and how soon they could accomplish it. With little financial and other support from the Muslim world and the West, the early advances made began to be rolled back as more and more promises went unfulfilled.

On the whole, Anwar considers the Arab Spring a catastrophe, for now it is not the colonial powers destroying the countries but the countries destroying themselves. The West’s failure to formulate a firm policy toward Syria and ISIS (i.e., a “policy of ambivalence”), when added to an incoherent and inconsistent policy of “supporting democracy” in the region, has left the Arabs confused and cynical.

Muslims have quite a lot to learn from this whole experience, among them the following:

 - They must become inclusive by forming coalitions and alliances to achieve common goals. The time of combative rhetoric is over, for it only alienates others and turns them into unnecessary enemies. As the world saw in Egypt, Islamists must become more flexible, adapt to existing governing realities, get the military back into the barracks, be patient and practice restraint, be humble enough to admit that they need help, and show more compassion and understanding for others.

- They should study what has transpired in non-Arab Muslim countries: Pakistan (under Muhammad Ali Jinnah), Indonesia’s peaceful transition to democracy, and Turkey’s successful campaign to end the army’s influence in the political arena.

- They should take the concerns of non-Muslim communities seriously and make a good-faith effort to address them. After all, these citizens are also part of the nation.

During the Question and Answer Session, he made several more points in response to the audience’s many questions:

 - The regional upheaval will continue because the underlying causes remain unaddressed.

- The new leaders were unqualified to rule because living in a dictatorship deprived them of any chance to learn how to govern. All they had were theories, which turned out to be not very helpful when implemented.

- It is time for “constructive intervention” so that ASEAN member countries can seriously address long-term problems affecting Muslim minorities in Burma/Myanmar, southern Thailand, the southern Philippines, and Aceh. The leaders of these countries must understand that more killing cannot resolve the underlying problems of underdevelopment and marginalization; what is needed is social justice.

- The ulema have to understand that the many personal and other freedoms enjoyed in the West are necessary for the Muslim world to become full of new – and real – democracies.

Egypt: Judge Issues Mass Death Sentences

Court Condemns 188 Defendants for Police Station Attack

DECEMBER 3, 2014

(New York) – An Egyptian criminal court handed down provisional death sentences against 188 defendants on December 2, 2014, the third such mass sentencing this year.

Judge Nagi Shehata imposed the sentences after he convicted all the defendants of participating in an August 2013 attack on a police station in the governorate of Giza, which came to be known as the “Kerdasa massacre” after the neighborhood where it took place. Eleven police officers and two civilians died in the attack, which occurred shortly after the military coup that ousted Mohamed Morsy, Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

“Mass death sentences are fast losing Egypt’s judiciary whatever reputation for independence it once had,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “Instead of weighing the evidence against each person, judges are convicting defendants en masse without regard for fair trial standards.”

The court imposed provisional death sentences, meaning that they will be sent to the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s highest religious authority, for his legally required evaluation and advice on whether they should stand. Of the 188 defendants, 135 were present in custody; 53 others were tried and sentenced in absentia. Shehata set a January 24 court date to finalize the sentences.

Prior to this case, a judge in the governorate of Minya imposed 1,212 death sentences in March and April after two trials arising from other attacks on police stations in 2013 that left at least two police officers dead. After receiving the Grand Mufti’s opinion, the judge approved 220 of those death sentences. The judge sentenced 495 other defendants to life in prison.

These mass trials have principally targeted members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition movement, which the government designated a terrorist group in 2013 after Morsy’s overthrow. Among those sentenced to death in Minya was the Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie.

The Kerdasa trial also highlights the role of what some legal analysts have labeled Egypt’s new “special circuits”: judges assigned to handle cases that involve terrorism or organized violence or which are deemed sensitive to national security. In December 2013, the Cairo Court of Appeals appointed six judges from the Cairo and Giza governorates to special circuits. These judges convene for two weeks each month in Cairo’s Police Academy to hear such cases, according to the state-run al-Ahramnewspaper.

Shehata presided over the Kerdasa trial in his capacity as a special circuit judge, hearing the case in the Police Academy. He has presided over a number of other high-profile proceedings. In June, he sentenced three Al Jazeera English journalists to between 7 and 10 years in prison after a trial that was conspicuously unfair. He is also presiding over the trial of 270 protesters accused of attacking the cabinet offices during a protest in December 2011, among them prominent activist and hunger striker Ahmed Douma, whom Shehata has not allowed to be moved to a hospital. Shehata has also ordered prosecutors to investigate at least five defense lawyers in that case, including prominent human rights defender Ragia Omran and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali. On November 22, Egypt’s Lawyers Syndicate issued a statement criticizing Shehata for “terrorizing” the defense team and said it supported their decision to withdraw from the case in protest.

A police officer who witnessed the Kerdasa attack told the Associated Press that a mob stormed the police station with rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons, and Molotov cocktails. Graphic video aired by Egyptian media showed slain police officers slumped against one another in a soot-stained room. Local residents, however, told a reporter from El Badil newspaper that police had killed 12 young protesters from Kerdasa and nearby villages between the July 2013 coup and the violent dispersal of pro-Morsy sit-ins that August. When residents protested outside the police station demanding that security forces withdraw, they told the reporter, police opened fire on the crowd. The residents claimed that an armed group from outside the village launched the deadly attack but admitted some in Kerdasa provided assistance.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Egypt is a party, limits the circumstances in which a state can impose the death sentence. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that interprets the ICCPR, has said that “in cases of trials leading to the imposition of the death penalty, scrupulous respect of the guarantees of fair trial is particularly important.” Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently cruel and inhumane punishment.

“Clearly, serious crimes were committed during the Kerdasa attack and those responsible should be given a fair trial,” Whitson said. “But it isn’t right or fair to try everyone in mass proceedings. And no trial that’s so blatantly unjust should send someone to the gallows.”

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Greater income inequality linked to more deaths for black Americans

By Sarah Yang, Media Relations | December 1, 2014

BERKELEY — Greater income inequality is linked to more deaths among African Americans, but the effect is reversed among white Americans, who experienced fewer deaths, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

“There have been a number of studies that have established the association between greater income inequality and poorer health on a population level, but ours is one of the few studies to explicitly factor in race,” said study lead author Amani Nuru-Jeter, associate professor of community health and human development and of epidemiology at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. “What is really important is the finding that income inequality matters for everyone, but it matters differently for different groups of people.”The study, published in the fall 2014 issue of the International Journal of Health Services, highlights stark racial differences in the effects of the widening wage gap. The United States has one of the largest gaps between rich and poor among developed nations. According to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, income grew by 275 percent for the top 1 percent of households between 1979 and 2007. In comparison, income for households in lower brackets grew only 40-65 percent in that same time period. The bottom 20 percent of households saw their incomes grow by only 18 percent.

The researchers analyzed census data from 107 U.S. metropolitan areas with populations that numbered 100,000 people or more and that were at least 10 percent African American. They used three different measures to assess income inequality, and then matched the results to National Center for Health Statistics mortality data from the same period.

The researchers found that with each unit increase in income inequality, there were an additional 27 to 37 deaths among African Americans. For white Americans, however, each unit increase in income inequality resulted in 417 to 480 fewer deaths.

“Other studies have found poorer health outcomes when income inequality increases, so the results for blacks were not surprising,” said Nuru-Jeter. “What I didn’t expect to see were the results for whites, and our study doesn’t explain this inverse relationship between income inequality and death for this group. However, this is a finding that warrants further exploration. We do know that the proportion of high-income people compared to low-income people is higher for whites than for African Americans. It’s possible that the protective effects we are seeing represent the net effect of income inequality for high-income whites.”

“What we’re finding is that at the population level, income inequality may be a proxy for racial segregation, particularly for black people,” said Nuru-Jeter. “Racial segregation and concentrated poverty can’t be completely disentangled from income inequality. In our study, racial segregation completely explained the effect of income inequality on mortality among blacks.”Notably, for both races, the researchers found racial segregation to be a confounding factor that weakened the association between income inequality and mortality to varying degrees.

However, only a small portion of the association between income inequality and mortality was explained by racial segregation among white population in the study.

“This tells us that racial segregation has a significant impact on both income inequality and health inequality among blacks, but not among whites,” said Nuru-Jeter. “For blacks, addressing the negative impact of racial segregation will be important for improving overall population health.”

Nuru-Jeter noted that with the growth of the black middle class between 1940 and 1990, income segregation grew as middle-class blacks moved out to more suburban areas. That demographic shift resulted in the concentration of poverty among lower-income black populations, she noted, linking income inequality to income segregation in racially segregated black areas.

The study authors pointed out that households are affected not just by their own income, but by the income of their neighbors.

“Place matters. That’s not news,” said Nuru-Jeter. “What is news, however, is that place matters differently for different groups of people. The idea is that the sense of being left behind, of not making it, of living in an area where there is more crime, more pollution, fewer jobs, lower-quality schools, less access to parks and green space, all comes with stressors that impact health. These are considered psychosocial pathways, and it’s a growing area of research into how those pathways influence the health effects of income inequality.”

Nuru-Jeter said the study suggests that efforts are needed to reduce the high levels of racial segregation experienced among African Americans.

“Although more research is needed, we can still act on what we know about racially segregated areas,” said Nuru-Jeter. “These are structural issues that require investment from policy leaders so that everyone, regardless of zip code, has equal opportunities for health and well-being.”

The Agency for Health Research and Quality helped support this research.


Eroding civil rights for political gain


Published December 1, 2014

One of the fundamental principles of democracy is that of open courts, where citizens have the right to face their accusers and all the evidence against them. Now, that principle is under threat from legislation being steamrolled through Parliament.

In anti-terrorism legislation and a bill on victims’ rights, courts will be able to take secret testimony and evidence from anonymous accusers and sources. In some cases, the accused won’t know who’s accusing him. There could be national-security cases when even the judge won’t know all the details.

So how are people to defend themselves if they don’t know who is accusing them? How are citizens to enjoy the most basic civil right of freedom from unjust prosecution, if they don’t know fully the state’s case against them?

In Bill C-32, the proposed new law on victims’ rights, a judge can decide to accept testimony from anonymous witnesses. In some cases, the witness can ask to conceal his or her identity.

A judge “may, on application of the prosecutor in respect of a witness, or on application of a witness, make an order directing that any information that could identify the witness not be disclosed.”

A hearing can be held on such an application, “and the hearing may be in private.”

Ottawa lawyer Michael Spratt, a prominent expert on criminal law, warns that this undermines the citizen’s right to a fair trial.

“Think about it, a private hearing that could result in anonymous witnesses and secret evidence,” he wrote on his blog. “So much for the ability of an accused to respond to serious allegations.”

Secret evidence and anonymous witnesses could deprive accused persons of crucial information needed for their defence. Spratt points out that non-disclosure of critical evidence “has been a central feature in almost every wrongful conviction.”

Now, common sense suggests that it would be a rare judge indeed who would allow such evidence to be introduced in a trial. But this isn’t common sense; it’s politics.

The federal Conservatives define themselves as the tough-on-crime party; that’s why they’re building more prisons and establishing mandatory minimum sentences. Now they’re eroding the basic right to a fair trial.

The victims’ rights bill isn’t the only new law that will undermine that right. Bill C-44, which affirms the powers of the national security apparatus, contains similar provisions for secret witnesses and secret evidence.

In fact, C-44 goes so far as to create a “class privilege” for all human sources developed by the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency. In other words, a CSIS source is a secret source, unless otherwise ordered.

“No person shall, in a proceeding before a court ... disclose the identity of a human source or any information from which the identity of a human source could be inferred,” the bill reads. Even the judge could be kept in the dark.

A judge might rule that disclosure of information about a source is required for a fair trial. And there could be disclosure if the “human source” asks for it, or if the director of CSIS does. But the new legislation stacks the deck in favour of the prosecution.

Legal experts doubt whether such laws are even constitutional, although Public Security Minister Steven Blaney made the extraordinary claim that C-44 is “the most constitutional piece of legislation that we have ever brought in.”

That makes a person wonder about their other bills. But in some ways, constitutionality doesn’t matter. This is politics in an election year, with a governing party unworried about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

And it will soon become law, apparently with little further fuss. On both bills, the Conservatives limited debate, refused to hear critical witnesses and rushed ahead with the approval process.

In democratic, constitutional and legal terms, this is bad law, which might well be struck down when challenged in court. But it might work politically, and that’s all that really matters.

About the Author

Dan Leger is a freelance journalist in Halifax.

Twitter: @dantheeditor

Monday, December 1, 2014

UN blasts the American justice system in torture report

WRITTEN BY Hanna Kozlowska @hannakozlowska

December 1, 2014

In its first review of the U.S. justice system since 2006, a United Nations committee has cited a long list of transgressions against international standards of human rights, from the use of water-boarding on terrorist suspects to shackling pregnant inmates in prisons, and the racially-charged police brutality on American streets.

The 16-page report, listing the concerns and recommendations of the U.N Committee against Torture, was released Friday after two days of hearings in Geneva earlier in November. The panel monitors member-states’ compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Torture. In the case of the US, “there are numerous areas where there are things that should be changed to be fully compliant,” according to one of its members, Alessio Bruni.

Specifically, a whopping 30 areas.

The findings were announced on Black Friday, when many Americans were shaking off their food comas to grab their shopping carts, while others were boycotting the big shopping day, remembering Mike Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, earlier this year.

The document makes no specific mention of the events in Ferguson, but it details reports of police brutality in Chicago. The committee writes that it “is concerned about numerous reports of police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, in particular against persons belonging to certain racial and ethnic groups, immigrants and LGBTI individuals.”

The 10 independent experts on the panel worry about racial profiling and the increasing police militarization in the country.

Jared Keller writes at Mic that in the eyes of the UN, an organization that determines and monitors “the standard for human dignity and decency,” police brutality in the US “is cruel and unusual punishment, the equivalent of torture.”

The brunt of the report focuses on torture in the traditional sense of the word, or “enhanced interrogation techniques” of the Bush era. The panel is “deeply concerned” with keeping multiple detainees in the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison without pressing charges.

The document’s tone is one of reprimand, especially in reference to reports of the CIA’s extraordinary-rendition program, where the committee reminds the U.S. of the “absolute prohibition of torture” in the U.N. convention.

Not shying away from some of the most pressing and overwhelming issues plaguing the U.S. criminal-justice system, the committee condemns the treatment of juveniles, with particular attention to rules that enable sentencing a minor to life without parole. It calls for these laws to be abolished, “irrespective of the crime committed.” The U.S. is one of three countries in the world, along with Somalia and South Sudan, that have not ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child which stipulates that parties should have a minimum age for criminal prosecution.

Other issues raised in the report include prison conditions, the death penalty, and the migration crisis on the southern border of the U.S. The panel commends the U.S. for some improvements, among others President Obama’s commitment to ban torture.

But the positive developments get lost among the concern, mentioned 54 times throughout the document.