Archives For Racism

In June 2011 we reported on an excellent lecture by Michelle Alexander on how the so-called drugs war  has been used to create a racial caste system in the United States of America. Whilst other human rights organisations shy away from the issue, HRI calls for an end of the “war on drugs.” Continue reading

On March 28, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Troy Davis’ appeal. – Photo: AP

Troy Davis was convicted of killing a policeman but the chief witness seems to be in the frame, most of the other witnesses have recanted, 50 states have appealed for clemency and Amnesty International and the NAACP are campaigning for him.

He has always maintained his innocence but, perhaps partly as a consequence of an institutionally racist justice system , he is due to be executed in Georgia, USA on Wednesday 21st September.

In Michelle Alexander’s highly recommended book “The New Jim Crow,” (referenced by Brentin Mock) the author calls up the Georgia case McCleskey v Kemp. Like Davis, Warren McCleskey was a black man facing the death penalty after being convicted of killing a white police officer.

In his defense, McClesky teamed with law professor David Baldus to review 2,000 death penalty cases in Georgia. They found defendants charged with killing white people were given the death penalty 11 times more than those charged with killing black people; also, that Georgia prosecutors sought the death penalty in 70% of cases involving black defendants and white victims while seeking it in less than 20% of cases involving white defendants and black victims.

No problem, you might think, US President Barack Obama can surely stop this happening?

Well, so far he has remained silent on the issue.

The Atlanta Post explains the reasoning:

Unfortunately for supporters of Davis, Obama is in his second bid for president, which means that any call for justice for an African American would trigger a racial backlash from some voters, particularly those of the Fox-News, fear-mongering persuasion.

And given the tough and divisive first term he has had, the chances that President Obama will stick his neck out for a fellow minority is close to zero. Like it or not, this is a cold reminder of how little effect a Black man in the White House has had on ending or even addressing the very real applications of systemic racism and injustices, which is manifested on a daily basis in society at large.

So the hopes of Troy Davis lie with the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles. (UPDATE – CLEMENCY DENIED)

One of the many pleas made to the Board which was particularly persuasive was from America’s exonerated death row survivors.

Here is the text of their letter

HRI has added links to the individual stories of each of the survivor signatories below:

Chairman James E. Donald
Georgia State Board of Pardons & Paroles
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SE
Suite 458, Balcony Level, East Tower
Atlanta, GA 30334

Dear Chairperson Donald and Members of the Board:

We, the undersigned, are alive today because some individual or small group of individuals decided that our insistent and persistent proclamations of innocence warranted one more look before we were sent to our death by execution. We are among the 138 individuals who have been legally exonerated and released from death rows in the United States since 1973. We are alive because a few thoughtful persons – attorneys, journalists, judges, jurists, etc. – had lingering doubts about our cases that caused them to say “stop” at a critical moment and halt the march to the execution chamber. When our innocence was ultimately revealed, when our lives were saved, and when our freedom was won, we thanked God and those individuals of conscience who took actions that allowed the truth to eventually come to light.

We are America’s exonerated death row survivors. We are living proof that a system operated by human beings is capable of making an irreversible mistake. And while we have had our wrongful convictions overturned and have been freed from death row, we know that we are extremely fortunate to have been able to establish our innocence. We also know that many innocent people who have been executed or who face execution have not been so fortunate. Not all those with innocence claims have had access to the kinds of physical evidence, like DNA, that our courts accept as most reliable. However, we strongly believe that the examples of our cases are reason enough for those with power over life and death to choose life. We also believe that those in authority have a unique moral consideration when encountering individuals with cases where doubt still lingers about innocence or guilt.

One such case is the case of Troy Anthony Davis, whose 1991 conviction for killing Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail rested almost solely on witness testimony. We know that today, 20 years later, witness evidence is considered much less reliable than it was then. This has meant that, even though most of the witnesses who testified against him have now recanted, Troy Davis has been unable to convince the courts to overturn his conviction, or even his death sentence.

Troy Davis has been able to raise serious doubts about his guilt, however. Several witnesses testified at the evidentiary hearing last summer that they had been coerced by police into making false statements against Troy Davis. This courtroom testimony reinforced previous statements in sworn affidavits. Also at this hearing, one witness testified for the first time that he saw an alternative suspect, and not Troy Davis, commit the crime. We don’t know if Troy Davis is in fact innocent, but, as people who were wrongfully sentenced to death (and in some cases scheduled for execution), we believe it is vitally important that no execution go forward when there are doubts about guilt. It is absolutely essential to ensuring that the innocent are not executed.

When you issued a temporary stay for Troy Davis in 2007, you stated that the Board “will not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.” This standard is a welcome development, and we urge you to apply it again now. Doubts persist in the case of Troy Davis, and commuting his sentence will reassure the people of Georgia that you will never permit an innocent person to be put to death in their name.

Freddie Lee Pitts, an exonerated death row survivor who faced execution by the state of Florida for a crime he didn’t commit, once said, “You can release an innocent man from prison, but you can’t release him from the grave.”

Thank you for considering our request.

Respectfully,

Kirk Bloodsworth, Exonerated and freed from death row Maryland

Clarence Brandley, Exonerated and freed from death row in Texas

Dan Bright, Exonerated and freed from death row in Louisiana

Albert Burrell, Exonerated and freed from death row in Louisiana

Perry Cobb, Exonerated and freed from death row in Illinois

Gary Drinkard, Exonerated and freed from death row in Alabama

Nathson Fields, Exonerated and freed from death row in Illinois

Gary Gauger, Exonerated and freed from death row in Illinois

Michael Graham, Exonerated and freed from death row in Louisiana

Shujaa Graham, Exonerated and freed from death row in California

Paul House, Exonerated and freed from death row in Tennessee

Derrick Jamison, Exonerated and freed from death row in Ohio

Dale Johnston, Exonerated and freed from death row in Ohio

Ron Keine, Exonerated and freed from death row in New Mexico

Ron Kitchen, Exonerated and freed from death row in Illinois

Ray Krone, Exonerated and freed from death row in Arizona

Herman Lindsey, Exonerated and freed from death row in Florida

Juan Melendez, Exonerated and freed from death row in Florida

Randal Padgett, Exonerated and freed from death row in Alabama

Freddie Lee Pitts, Exonerated and freed from death row in Florida

Randy Steidl, Exonerated and freed from death row in Illinois

John Thompson, Exonerated and freed from death row in Louisiana

Delbert Tibbs, Exonerated and freed from death row in Florida

David Keaton, Exonerated and freed from death row in Florida

Greg Wilhoit, Exonerated and freed from death row in Oklahoma

Harold Wilson, Exonerated and freed from death row in Pennsylvania

There is a petition to sign at Change.org


Update: The Parole Board has denied clemency and he is scheduled for execution tomorrow. 21/09 7pm Eastern Time

Update 21/09 – At time of writing, nearly three hours after scheduled execution, Troy Davis is in the execution room waiting ….

Update: Troy Davis’ last appeal was rejected and the lethal injection began at 10.53 pm. He died at 11.08 pm.

The last words of Troy Davis were reported as:

I’d like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I’m not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent. The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun. All I can ask … is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth. I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight. For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls

It has been described as a moment Prime Minister David Cameron and President Nicolas Sarkozy “will savour for years,” “the ultimate photo opportunity” and “a moment which will shape French and British foreign policy.”

When Cameron and President Sarkozy went to Benghazi  yesterday to express their support for Libyan rebels, they went straight to the site at which the rebels publicly beheaded an alleged pro-Gaddafi “mercenary” only weeks before.

Continue Reading…

Mahmoud Jibril

The final chapter is now being written for Tawargha, as reported by Sam Dagher of the Wall Street Journal

Mahmoud Jibril, the NTC prime minister, rubber-stamped the wiping of the town off the map at the Misrata town hall:

“Regarding Tawergha, my own viewpoint is that nobody has the right to interfere in this matter except the people of Misrata.”

“This matter can’t be tackled through theories and textbook examples of national reconciliation like those in South Africa, Ireland and Eastern Europe,” he added as the crowd cheered with chants of “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is greatest.”

The WSJ goes on to report:

Now, rebels have been torching homes in the abandoned city 25 miles to the south. Since Thursday, The Wall Street Journal has witnessed the burning of more than a dozen homes in the city Col. Gadhafi once lavished with money and investment. On the gates of many vandalized homes in the country’s only coastal city dominated by dark-skinned people, light-skinned rebels scrawled the words “slaves” and “negroes.”

“We are setting it on fire to prevent anyone from living here again,” said one rebel fighter as flames engulfed several loyalist homes.

For the former residents this is still not the end of the story, as reported recently by human rights workers in Tripoli, male inhabitants of the town who fled are being tracked down and rounded up in Tripoli and sent to Misrata to face the tender mercies of the mob there.

Please click here for a comprehensive update on the Tawergha

As our regular readers will be aware, we have been reporting on the fate of the people of Tawergha since the local rebel commander Ibrahim al-Halbous, said he was going to wipe the town off the map. We reported the storming of the town, with NATO support, and the extremely worrying reports of prisoners in shipping crates and the people of the town being “handed over to the red cross,”  which they weren’t (see ‘Tawergha no longer exists, only Misrata’).

We relayed the reports from Diana Eltahawy of Amnesty International about the inhabitants who managed to flee being persecuted in Tripoli.

Andrew Gilligan, a reporter from The Sunday Telegraph, now reports from Tawergha:

This pro-Gaddafi settlement has been emptied of its people, vandalised and partly burned by rebel forces. The Sunday Telegraph was the first to visit the scene of what appears to be the first major reprisal against supporters of the former regime.

“We gave them thirty days to leave,” said Abdul el-Mutalib Fatateth, the officer in charge of the rebel garrison in Tawarga, as his soldiers played table-football outside one of the empty apartment blocks. “We said if they didn’t go, they would be conquered and imprisoned. Every single one of them has left, and we will never allow them to come back.”

Andrew Gillighan is a serious reporter and he even mentions the racial context:

And as so often in Libya, there is also a racist undercurrent. Many Tawargas, though neither immigrants nor Gaddafi’s much-ballyhooed African mercenaries, are descended from slaves, and are darker than most Libyans.

Along the road that leads into Tawargha, the Misurata Brigade has painted a slogan. It says, “the brigade for purging slaves [and] black skin.”

We have to say, the racist element is more than an undercurrent, but if more journalists had reported the truth rather than turning a blind eye, refusing to report or to investigate then perhaps lives could still be saved.

In this context we should just mention the “reporting” of so-called journalists such as Chris Stephen who has been in Misrata for weeks writing pro-war, pro-NATO propaganda for the benefit of the Guardian’s readership and failing miserably to report on the racist atrocities and ethnic cleansing.

Update (12 September) – The Washington Post reports Human Rights Watch Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert as confirming:

“It really is racist violence against all dark-skinned people, this situation for Africans in Tripoli is dire.”

Update (14th September) – The ethnic cleansing of Tawergha is now being made permanent with the seal of approval of Mahmoud Jibril.

Please click here for a comprehensive update on the Tawergha

A number of reports now, from a variety of organisations, show that black people are being rounded up, disappearing or being interned in atrocious conditions in Tripoli.

Hundreds of African workers are stuck in various locations including about 1,000 at the military port of Sidi Bilal six miles west of Tripoli, fearing for their lives, with little water and limited provisions. This situation has been going on for weeks, with the ICRC finally delivering some water on 5 September.

Macclatchy’ David Enders reports:

The rebels who ring the camp suddenly open fire. Then they race into the  camp, shouting “gabbour, gabbour” — Arabic for whore — and haul away young  women, residents say.

“You should be here in the evening, when they come in firing their guns and  taking people,” one woman from Nigeria said Wednesday as she recounted the  nightly raids on the camp. “They don’t use condoms, they use whatever they can  find,” she said, pointing to a discarded plastic bag in a pile of trash.          

As she spoke, other women standing nearby nodded in agreement.

One of the women describes the feelings of the inhabitants of the camp:

Stacey Alexandra, 26, who said she had spent the last three years in Libya  cleaning private homes and hotels and sending money back to family in Cameroon.  “Now everyone here wants to leave. This country is too racist.”

David Enders reports further:

There is no way to know how many women have been raped here, where hundreds  of Africans have settled in and around the boats of a marina. No one keeps  statistics in the camp, and foreign aid workers say they are prohibited from  discussing the allegations on the record. [Our emphasis] International Red Cross  representatives say only that they have spoken to rebel leaders about “security  concerns.”

The ICRC (who managed to get the reporters out of the Rixos) says “it is searching for a way to ensure the long-term security of the people in Sidi Bilal, for example by transferring them to a safer location.”

Charles De Gaulle French aircraft carrier - left refugees to die

Where are the European countries and NATO when black African civilians need help? Well, we got the answer to that earlier in this conflict when, as the Guardian reported, 72 African refugees were left to die in the Mediterranean by various military units including the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle:

A boat carrying 72 passengers, including several women, young children and political refugees, ran into trouble in late March after leaving Tripoli for the Italian island of Lampedusa. Despite alarms being raised with the Italian coastguard and the boat making contact with a military helicopter and a warship, no rescue effort was attempted.

All but 11 of those on board died from thirst and hunger after their vessel was left to drift in open waters for 16 days. “Every morning we would wake up and find more bodies, which we would leave for 24 hours and then throw overboard,” said Abu Kurke, one of only nine survivors. “By the final days, we didn’t know ourselves … everyone was either praying, or dying.”

Human Rights Investigations calls for European countries to take action to ensure the safe and speedy evacuation of all migrants in Libya who wish to leave.

Update 12 September – The Washington Post reports quotes Niklas Bergstrans, the communications officer for Doctors Without Borders in Tripoli who says of the African guest workers at Jansour that

“They need to be moved somewhere where they are safe,” . “It’s disappointing. We haven’t seen any concrete actions from the Transitional National Council and other international organizations.”

We have been following the fate of the people of Tawargha since one of the Misratan rebel commanders threatened to wipe Tawargha off the map. The same commander then turned up on camera with Orla Guerin of the BBC, as Tawargha was taken by the rebels with NATO support and the inhabitants fled. There can be no doubt that NATO commanders were fully complicit in this ethnic cleansing.

Al Jazeera reported that the inhabitants had been handed over ot the Red Cross but the ICRC were unable to confirm this and there have been rumours of a mass grave. The fate of the prisoners shown loaded into a shipping container is unknown.

Now Amnesty International’s Diana Elthaway reports that the 10,000s of Tawarghans who have fled to Tripoli (and other dark-skinned-Libyans) are facing continuing persecution from the Misratan rebels who have now caught up with them in the capital.

One lady from Tawargha describes how the townsfolk fled:

“When the thuwwar entered our town in mid-Ramadan [mid-August] and shelled it, we fled just carrying the clothes on our backs. I don’t know what happened to our homes and belongings. Now I am here in this camp, my son is ill and I am too afraid to go to the hospital in town. I don’t know what will happen to us now.”

The evidence suggests that Tawarghas are fearful of going outside, cannot return home and have been abused,  detained (even whilst in hospital) and gone missing:

Some Tawarghas who have been detained in Tripoli are said to have been made to kneel facing the wall, and then been beaten with sticks and whips. Others have simply vanished after being arrested at checkpoints and taken from hospitals by armed revolutionaries (thuwwar).

On 29 August, Amnesty International delegates saw a Tawargha patient at the Tripoli Central Hospital being taken by three men for “questioning in Misratah” and were told about at least two other Tawargha men had vanished after being taken for questioning from Tripoli hospitals. A 45-year-old flight dispatcher and his uncle were arrested by armed rebels while out shopping in the al-Firnaj area of Tripoli on 28 August.

Even in the refugee camps, the Tawarghas are not safe. Towards the end of last month, a group of armed men drove into the camp and arrested about 14 men – and their relatives do not know of their fate.

Amnesty also report that “in addition to Tawarghas, other black Libyans including from the central Sabha district as well as sub-Saharan Africans continue to be at particular risk of reprisals and arbitrary arrests, on account of their skin colour and widespread reports that al-Gaddafi forces used “African mercenaries” to repress supporters of the NTC.”

Sabha is a city in south-central Libya, formerly capital of Fezzan which was historically one of the three provinces of Libya and fully became part of the Kingdom of Libya in 1951 when the French left. In 2006, the population of Fezzan was 442,090 constituting 7.8% of the Libyan population.

Sabha is mainly inhabited by Libyans of mixed and black African descent and the population is temporarily safe from being massacred by the hostile rebels from Misrata or from the Western Mountains due to its geographical remoteness as the routes to Sabha  traverse large expanses of barren and desert landscape, although there is a metalled road which the rebels will no doubt be travelling down once they have dealt with the conundrum of Bani Walid.

As well as the native inhabitants, more than 1,200 African migrants are stranded in the towm according to the International  Organization for Migration.

In a statement, the IOM said “there is no longer any political infrastructure in Sabha” able to support the migrants until  evacuation plans are organised.

“With no electricity, fuel and little food and  water, the situation for the migrants and those in the town is becoming  increasingly difficult,”

Moreover, Sabha is not safe from NATO bombing, as this tweet from UK Military Spokesman Maj Gen Nick Pope indicates:

This long-range mission would have required logistical support from the US and the consent of “son-of-Africa,” Barack Obama.
Please click here for a comprehensive update on the Tawergha

Please click here for a comprehensive update on the Tawergha

Please click here for a comprehensive update on the Tawergha

Senator McCain at rebel HQ - still from video below

Senator McCain R-Arizona the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, was quickly off the mark to Benghazi in April to give political support to the rebels.

Here is the video of him visiting:

 

 

Here is the building which John McCain was visiting in a picture (courtesy of Al Jazeera creative commons license):

Benghazi rebel headquarters

And here is footage of the rebel lynching which took place before Senator McCain’s visit, at the same location. The video shows a man being strung up and beheaded.

WARNING VERY GRAPHIC VIDEO

 

 

In Benghazi, McCain attracted a crowd so enthusiastic that at one point he joked,

“I’ve got to bring you to Arizona.”

He called on President Obama to recognize the rebel government, provide more air support like AC130 anti-tank and A10 ground support aircraft, get anti-tank weapons into rebel hands, train rebels on target marking technology and give the them satellite phones to aid communication.

Today Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports on the arbitrary detention of black-skinned people in Tripoli.

HRW is one of the members of the “Responsibility to Protect coalition” and has been slow to condemn the racist atrocities of the Libyan rebellion and has little to say about the bombing of civilians by NATO in places like Zlitan.

HRW is not to be confused with Human Rights Investigations (HRI) which opposes the NATO bombing, supporting the African Union position on Libya and has worked to expose the racial element to the conflict

The HRW article contains evidence of black Libyans and sub-Saharan guest workers being abused in Tripoli, which have already been widely reported, as well as hopes for an  “embryonic legal system” in Tripoli.

VIDEO SHOWS DEAD BODIES:

HRW witnessed black men being taken into the Bab al-Bahr football club – but weren’t allowed by the commander to see what was happening inside. The commander claimed the detainees were all “foreign fighters” but their families were outside complaining and the four they were allowed to interview who were apparently being released were elderly Libyans.

HRW also found black people – a mixture of black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans – detained in other places around Tripoli including the Maftuah prison in the Fernaj neighborhood, (300 detainees on September 1 including wounded). In this prison HRW described the conditions for Libyan detainees as acceptable, but

“the sub-Saharan Africans were in overcrowded cells with a putrid stench; one cell had 26 people and six mattresses and the African men complained of inadequate water, poor sanitation and not being allowed to make phone calls to ask family members to bring their documents.”

At a school in the Intisar neighborhood, 76 detainees incuding 3 women were found on September 1. About half of the detainees appeared to be sub-Saharan Africans, the remaineder being Libyans accused of having fought for Gaddafi.  HRW saw the prisoners being prepared for transfer to the Mitiga air base.

One of the detainees, a 25 year old from Mali, was arrested at his house and complained that:

At about 10 p.m. a big group of Libyans came with the owner of the building. They tied us up, took all of our passports and possessions, and beat us. They brought us to a big mosque in the neighborhood, and then they went to other African houses and arrested them. In the end, they had more than 200 Africans in there. Then they put us on vehicles and took us around town shouting “Allahu Akhbar!” [“God is great”] and saying we were mercenaries they had captured.

HRW also visited Nigerian families at Girgarish, and one of the men, a carpenter, complained:

“I’m from Abu Salim, but our lives are not safe there because they say we’re mercenaries, they regard all black men as mercenaries.”

The HRW article contains new incendiary allegations of the use of “African mercenaries” (similar to the earlier allegations which Amnesty researchers found to be largely unfounded and which led to so many deaths).

According to the Article 47 of the  Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977 the definition of a mercenary is as follows:

2. A mercenary is any person who:
a) is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;
b) does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities;
c) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party;
d) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;
e) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and
f) has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.

To be clear – all the above have to apply for someone to be considered a mercenary. Others apply even more stringent conditions and the security guards employed by the Americans in Iraq, Gurkhas employed by the British etc are not described as mercenaries.

All human rights organisations should focus on protecting black people in Tripoli, rather than their own institutional interests. We agree with Sarah Leah Whitson,  Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch who states:

 “It’s a dangerous time to be dark-skinned in Tripoli,

“The NTC should stop arresting African migrants and black Libyans unless it has concrete evidence of criminal activity. It should also take immediate steps to protect them from violence and abuse.”

As Libyan rebels, who have been lynching black people in the north of Libya, prepare to attack the south and Sabha, inhabited by black libyans, we hope this message from Martin Luther King finds its way through to Barack Obama.

Continue Reading…