SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

November 30, 2014

U.N. hits U.S. criminal justice

Abe, FDR – what do we do now?

 UNITED NATIONS

Panel hits U.S. over criminal justice

By Michael Muskal LOS ANGELES TIMES

A U.N. panel has sharply criticized how the United States handles a variety of criminal justice-related issues, such as the police shooting of unarmed African-Americans, the imprisonment of terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and the application of the death penalty.

In a 16-page report released yesterday, its first such review since 2006, the U.N. Committee Against Torture condemned U.S. policies in handling how police dealt with issues of brutality against blacks and Latinos. It did not specifically mention events in Ferguson, Mo., but the parents of Michael Brown, fatally shot by a white police officer, spoke to the commission before the findings were released.

“There are numerous areas in which certain things should be changed for the United States to comply fully with the convention,” Alessio Bruni of Italy, one of the panel’s chief investigators, said at a news conference in Geneva. He was referring to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which took effect in 1987 and the United States ratified in 1994.  The committee’s 10 independent experts review the records of U.N. members and issue recommendations, which are non-binding.

Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown on Aug. 9, touching off weeks of often violent protests. A St. Louis County grand jury decided this week not to indict Wilson, and information was released that portrayed Brown as the aggressor in the incident.

The announcement of the grand jury’s decision was met with looting, arson and arrests in Ferguson and with more peaceful demonstrations across the nation.   In all, hundreds of arrests have been made from New York to Los Angeles and throughout the St. Louis region, though the level of protest has decreased in recent days.

Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., met with the committee in Geneva this month and argued that their son was a victim of police brutality and that his death and other forms of police brutality were a violation of the U.N. treaty.

The panel was told by the U.S. delegation that 20 investigations had been opened by the U.S. Justice Department since 2009 into systematic police abuses against minorities and that more than 330 police officers had been prosecuted for brutality.

  • The Justice Department is conducting a similar probe in Ferguson. It also is investigating whether to charge Wilson with violating federal civil-rights law.

In comments after the grand-jury decision was announced on Monday, President Barack Obama acknowledged that there were problems in the relations between police and minority communities.   “The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color,” Obama said.    “Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic, because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates.”

The next day in Chicago, Obama said he had asked outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder to “identify specific steps we can take together to set up a series of regional meetings focused on building trust in our communities.”    “And next week, we’ll bring together state and local officials, and law enforcement, and community leaders and faith leaders to start identifying very specific steps that we can take to make sure that law enforcement is fair and is being applied equally to every person in this country.”

The U.N. report also criticized the U.S. record on military interrogations, maximum security prisons, solitary confinement and migrants residing in the country.”    The report also called for tougher federal laws to define and outlaw torture, including how detainees are treated in Guantanamo Bay.

About 148 inmates are held at the base in Cuba, where the U.S. practices a form of incarceration the report described as “a draconian system of secrecy surrounding high-value detainees that keeps their torture claims out of the public domain.”
Nine inmates have died, including seven by suicide, since 2006, the report added.

Obama has called for closing the Guantanamo Bay facility and bringing the inmates to face trial in the United States, moves that have been opposed by Congress. Since the first detainees arrived in 2002, there have been reports that inmates have been tortured during interrogation.  Officials have been force-feeding inmates who have been on a hunger strike since last year to protest their imprisonment.

  • The U.N. committee also criticized a series of executions in the United States in which it took a long time for inmates to die, and they appeared to be suffering because of the quality of drugs used and how they were administered.

(My comment:    

Our earliest forefathers who migrated to these shores came with little more than a few hopeful dreams; but over the next decades, these adventurous,  daring souls founded the beginnings of our nation and under the most perilous conditions  imaginable.    For several hundred years, our earliest struggles grew into a marvelously functioning government which somehow always managed to foster those early desires of freedom and a better life.    Sure there were disagreements along the line.  Differing views and ways to achieve their goals.  But somehow, it always worked to serve the needs of the people.  For that’s what government is supposed to do.  

Now, there is so much wrong, corrupt, immoral and unAmerican — we hardly seem like the same country.  Our voices aren’t heard and our needs aren’t being met, with all the talk of equal justice for all.  Medicine is growing more unaffordable everyday;  criminal justice for the majority is fixed and cruel. . .only working for those who can afford the most expensive representation.  Laws are no-longer formed from constituent input and demand, but instead from biased politically-connected corporate boardrooms;  SCOTUS, well there is no possible way to imagine what mysterious books they are using to arrive at the conclusions which are beyond justifying – – their logic seems to be coming from another planet altogether.  

This is all really painful.  Americans are a proud lot.  We grew from a few rag-o-muffins to the greatest, strongest and most powerful country in the world.  We are known for our courage, smarts and caring. . .our hearts are deep and loving.  And everyone who is not a native American (Indian) came here from somewhere else — all colors, shapes, religions, etc., in other words a giant melting pot of all mixtures of people.  Somehow, we managed to co-exist.  Nevertheless, there has always been resistance from some, those with hatred to spread around or really small, limited-capacity minds. The out-moded Klu Klux Klan live amongst us carrying on their views of racism (many in some police departments, sadly).   This is not only cruel, but illegal and something has to be done about it!

So it smarts to realize that the world is looking at us and not seeing the good that we had and have been, for now we torture, discriminate, wantonly kill !  The helping hand we always had for our needy and helpless has now turned to an inconvenience we choose to ignore rather than fix what has been broken.  We’ve witnessed “assistance cutbacks,” many draconian slashes to our educational systems and other civic services.  The new jobs which are spoken of are meager in the remuneration department requiring far too many to work multiple jobs trying to survive.  It’s not that businesses can’t do better – pay more,  indeed!  Their profits have never been higher. . .and we, the people – have never been poorer (well, the great depression was a doozy also).  And Washington is talking of getting more tax breaks for business?   All the biggest ones pay few or no taxes now!  

The U.N. (United Nations) have concluded that we are breaking this treaty which we signed and then ratified in 1994.  It’s true, the mind can justify ‘anything’. . and usually does.  We should take a long, hard look in the mirror and try to figure out whom we have become.   Jan) 

 

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