Although its Iran and this is expected, we must still bear witness to injustice and call it out. Women in Iran are harassed daily due to arcane forced hijab laws. These ridiculous laws are used to justify violence against women. Pro government morality thugs stop and threaten women on the streets simply because they chose to express themselves without wearing a hijab.
It has been documented that women who wear makeup or have even a few strands of hair showing from under a head scarf have been slapped, beaten and handcuffed by police. Iran’s authorities have imposed forced hijab prison sentence of 10 days and cash fines. Girls as young as seven are subject to arrest or fines. Those who have been bravely documenting this outrageous repression of the right of expression have been the targets themselves of a government crackdown.
More of a focus by all nations must be paid to this problem. The United States through diplomatic back channels can express an opinion rather than placing this on the back burner. Our allies can be asked to be more forceful and raise this issue with the Iranians every chance they get. These efforts may not stop or even slow this repression, but to do nothing after we know it exist is to justify its existence.
Inexplicitly Sudan sentenced nine women to a month’s imprisonment for protesting. Even though they were protesting the despotic President Omar al-Bashir who is obligated under the terms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to allow protests. Sudan became a signatory to the ICCPR on March 18, 1986 and it went into force as to Sudan on June 18, 1986.
In the ICCPR the right to liberty and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention are expressly set forth in Article 9. Specifically, Article 9 sections 9.3 and 9.4 impose procedural safeguards around arrest that require the government to give the reason for the arrest. Not the lie of public safety, but the real reason. In the case of Sudan under al-Bashir it’s a crime to legally engage in freedom of expression pursuant to ICCPR Article 19 particularly if you’re a woman.
There should be no doubt that these arrest and previous arrest targeting women are part of a misogynistic policy of suppressing human rights in Sudan. There is no legal reason for these detentions, but there is an explanation, Sudan’s President is a misogynistic despot who is clinging to power. The nine imprisoned women need to be released and immediately.
Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam fled his home in Sri Lanka to escape torture and likely death. His reward for relying on the asylum process in the United States was a rejection not based on any reasonable review of his circumstances by either DHS or an immigration judge. In effect Thuraissigiam had a right to be free to pursue his asylum claim pursuant to the right of habeas corpus. Instead he was fast tracked for deportation without due process.
The federal appeals court for the 9th Circuit Court has held that immigrants are entitled to seek judicial review of their “expedited removal” orders in federal court. In the case of Thuraissigiam, judicial review was inadequate due to the fact that the immigration judge checked a box on a form stating that the immigration officer’s decision was“ Affirmed.” Thuraissigiam absolutely had a constitutional right to access the courts for a review of his case yet he was limited to an inadequate procedural review.
Thuraissigiam was in “expedited removal” he became the victim of a 1996 system, created as a short cut to the normal deportation system. In his case the system failed miserably by not providing adequate procedural due process resulting in his ability to go through the regular system as an asylum seeker. This violated his Article One, Section 9, clause 2, right of habeas corpus. The only reason that Thuraissigiam would legally not have receive this was if habeas corpus had been suspended which it was not.
Habeas Corpus is only suspended pursuant to Article One, Section 9, clause 2 if “The privilege of the writ shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”. In this case it was suspended just for him illegally by a lack of due process allowing legal access to the asylum system.
Thankfully after a court battle a federal appeals court held that “expedited removal” orders like the one that trapped Thuraissigiam were subject to judicial review which was denied in his case. This case is illustrative of the lack of understanding by border agents and the lax attitude of some immigration judges that sacrifice a clean docket at the expense of the rights of asylum seekers. It is wrong and it must stop.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) are important in the defense of human rights and in particular women’s rights. These organizations in some cases are the last one’s standing when the rights of NGO’s are repressed by despot regimens. Without them the truth and the protections of the truth would be lost.
First, the IACHR monitors human rights conditions in countries, documents complaints and educates governments on abuses. Second, since 1928 the CIM has been protecting women’s rights. These are useful, productive non patrician organizations that are needed. So, the question is why is there a movement among nine U.S. Senators to kill funding to these programs? One word, politics.
There is a misconceived idea that both these organizations have violated the Siljander Amendment. That Amendment provides that no funds included in Foreign Operations Appropriations “may be used to lobby for or against abortion.”. There is also misinformation citing these organizations for lobbying activities that violate the Lobbying Disclosure Act. All of these allegations are false and a dangerous misuse of public power by these Senators.
The Lobbying Disclosure Act defines “lobbying activities” as “lobbying contacts and efforts in support of such contacts.” The Act then defines “lobbying contacts” to mean any communication “to a covered executive branch official or legislative branch official that is made on behalf of a client” in regard to federal law, regulation, policy or administration.
These organizations are engaged in field work that is dangerous and unrelated to politics. They are documenting human rights abuses and not communicating with politicians unless it involves human and women’s rights. And only then in an educational capacity focused on stopping documented abuses.
Without any proof these false allegations have been put forward by nine U.S. Senators to advance their political agenda and strengthen their anti-choice credentials. There is no regard for the truth in these allegations and the attempts to get the State Department to pull funding for these valuable organizations is a betrayal of the public trust by these Senators as well as an abuse of power. Therefore, unless there is proof of violations of the Siljander Amendment and or the Lobbying Disclosure Act, the funding for IACHR and CIM must continue.
In April of 2016 Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was illegally arrested by Iranian authorities at Tehran airport, she is still in prison. Finally, the British government is taking a step that they could have three years ago and provide diplomatic protection to Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Under international law, diplomatic protection allows Britain to seek damages for injury to one of their nationals. It is based on the premise that a state acted wrongfully and thus owes damages to the injured national.
Because it can be a powerful tool, it is baffling why why more nations do not use it against Iran. There is little doubt that Iran systematically targets foreign nationals for harassment and arrest and because of their well-documented history of such acts and flawed judicial process’s, diplomatic protection should be used in every case by every nation that has a national wrongfully detained in Iran.
The human rights of Zaghari-Ratcliffe have been grossly violated and even though Iran says the move by Britain to use diplomatic protection is unlawful under international law it is not. It is authorized under the Articles On Diplomatic Protection as codified by the International Law Commission and recognized by the UN. It pertains to the property of foreign nationals as well as their personal well being.
Regardless of whether the Iranians object to Britain’s move on behalf of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, they would be wrong given that there is an exception that even applies to the use of diplomatic protection to protect a nationals property. (see Ahmadou Sadio Diallo (Republic of Guinea) v. Democratic Republic of the Congo (2007, p. 582, paras. 39, 91-94). In this case the subject is the personal well being of a human not property. Her human rights have been violated and Britain has a right to protect her.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen lied again during her testimony yesterday before the House Committee on Homeland Security. Nielsen refused to answer questions pertaining to the health impacts on children held in detention under the Trump administration’s family separation policy. This is not the only act of obstruction she committed, but it was the most egregious given the topic.
As an Article One branch of government, congress has oversight powers of the Article Two branch. It also has power to compel testimony. One of these powers is the contempt citation. But in the case of Nielsen a garden variety contempt citation was not sufficient. In this situation the House of Representatives should have invoked its inherent contempt powers. Why this is unusual is that the person cited is arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House and is then brought to the floor of the chamber and held to answer charges by the presiding officer.
The last time this was used was in 1934 when the former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics was tried and sentenced to 10 days in prison. His crimes were related to the destruction of evidence during a committee investigation. This is far less than child abuse, endangerment and kidnapping which is exactly what Nielsen has ordered under the Trump administration’s family separation policy.
Those who would say that this would create a serious constitutional crisis should realize that if there was a time to create such a crisis it would be now in the face of what is happening to these detained children. The United States is engaged in serious human rights abuses based on the Trump administration’s family separation policy.
If the use of the inherent contempt power is not warranted to stop this abuse by the Article Two branch now, when would it be warranted? It was and is warranted, should not be taken off the table and the administration officials who testify should be warned that it will and can be used.
H.R. 1 also known by its full name, For the People Act of 2019, must do more than just hold hearings on voter suppression on Tribal lands, it should eliminate it. As H.R. 1 is currently constructed, it only addresses congressional action that should be taken to deal with voter suppression on Tribal lands. The text of section 5 is as follows:
(5) Congress must conduct investigatory and evidentiary hearings to determine the necessary legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act and combat continuous efforts that suppress the voter franchise within Tribal lands, to include, but not to be limited to, the Native American Voting Rights Act (NAVRA) and the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA).
The potential to move into one or more election cycles with the voter suppression on tribal lands continuing while congress deliberates the obvious is abhorrent. A good example of voter suppression on tribal lands and a lack of any action even by the courts to stop it occurred in 2018 when North Dakota refused to allow persons living on tribal lands to use their P.O. Box as a legal address for voting purposes. The Supreme Court allowed this to continue by not taking up a challenge to this practice.
Although H.R. 1 addresses multiple actions to suppress Native American votes in Subtitle B, it is a list and not an express prohibition of specifics. H.R. 1 is going to get challenged in the courts if it becomes law and it must be inoculated against such challenges by express and specific prohibitions on actions to suppress Native American votes. Among these suppression tactics, Subtitle B lists the following:
• A lack of accessible and proximate registration and polling sites,
• Not accepting nontraditional addresses for residents on Indian reservations,
• Inadequate language assistance for Tribal 24 members,
• Voter identification laws that discriminate against Native Americans.
These are the types of voter suppression acts on tribal lands that H.R. 1 should be rewritten to address now not after more investigations of the obvious. It is clearly a great thing what H.R. 1 is attempting to do, but time is of the essence and the more time marches on the more native American votes are suppressed on tribal lands. Each trick employed to suppress votes is tried and true and known to the Congress, they should all be addressed and prohibited in the final version of H.R. 1.
New Mexico’s House Judiciary Committee has passed HB 407 which lowers the number of signatures for independent candidates to obtain ballot access. The change effects all independent candidates because it takes the current 3% of the last gubernatorial vote threshold and lowers it to 2%.
As for independent presidential petitioning candidates, the number of required signatures will now be identical to qualified minor party presidential candidates. Where this is odd is that as it now stands qualified minor parties in New Mexico don’t need signatures for their presidential nominee. So, the question is will this now change and place a burden on qualified minor parties to now collect signatures? The answer is vague which brings us to the 5th Amendment.
Any changes to ballot access that lowers barriers is good for democracy. However, when there is vagueness in the legislation it raises the potential for violations of the 5th Amendments prohibition on vagueness. Such a violation would make any law void and unenforceable triggering a court battle. Independents could join qualified minor parties in an effort to remove the vagueness from the bill if it becomes law.
The question would be what set of rules will these elections be held under as to ballot access for qualified minor parties and independents if their access is based on the rules that pertain to qualified minor parties? Hopefully the final legislation clarifies these issues, but the intent to lower barriers to ballot access are always welcome.
Vitriol used by leaders of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) against LGBTQ people and immigrants is appalling. The party’s chairman Mart Helme once referred to Pride celebrations as “some kind of a parade of perverts”. Not surprising coming from a party that opposed the civil partnership law on registered partnership for same-sex couples in 2014 and has tried to push increasing the birth rate as a means to keep Estonia as homogeneous as possible.
The obstacle to the EKRE are the good people of Estonia who Sunday elected the Reform Party to lead the government. To the credit of the voters and the Reform party, an issue in this election was keeping EKRE out of a ruling coalition. The reality is that only 18 percent of the population supports EKRE, but like in other countries including the United Stated, a vocal minority of bigots can be dangerous.
If there is any doubt that the EKRE is intent on violating human rights, you need not look further than comments of Mart Helme’s son who when asked about the EU migration policy stated “Our immigration policy should have one simple rule: if you’re black, go back. As simple as that”.
EKRE if allowed to flourish will gain political power in Estonia which will result in the deprivation of human rights. Understanding them, highlighting their hateful statements and speaking out against them is the way to stop them and their hate. The voters of Estonia have spoken, and it was not in favor of EKRE.
Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation or SLAPP suits are brought to silence dissent. The most troubling ones are brought by corporations and politicians. A common tactic is to sue a blogger or journalist in an attempt to silence the person. SLAPP suits raise multiple questions as to the First Amendment right to free speech that relies on judicial awareness of the intent of the plaintiff.
There are legitimate defamation actions brought against outright disparaging comments or reports, most notably the Newtown Connecticut parents sued Info wars and its owner Alex Jones over claims that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax. However, there are also others to cover up facts that are important to public safety or embarrassing to politicians. The latter are the ones that fall into the SLAPP category.
Energy Transfer LP recently filed a ridiculous $900 million lawsuit against environmental activist in an attempt to stop their public statements regarding the safety of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This SLAPP suit was recently dismissed on First Amendment grounds. Its important not to fear activism because of a threat to sue over truthful statements in the publics interest. The truth is a defense that destroys the arguments in the SLAPP suit.
SLAPP suits are a tool to prevent the truth from surfacing not to protect the reputation of the plaintiff. They are an abuse of the judicial process and should be held to strict scrutiny of courts that includes a streamlined process for defendants particularly unrepresented ones to defend themselves. Until something is done to increase the financial and professional risk to the lawyers brining these suits and those who finance them, they will continue.