Kuwait police disperse protesters

Police in Kuwait have used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse large numbers of people demonstrating against an electoral law.

(From BBC News)

Activists and medical sources said dozens of people had been injured.

There have been protests in Kuwait after the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, dissolved a parliament dominated by opposition groups.

The government called an election for 1 December with a new law that the opposition says will work against them.

Kuwait’s parliament has the most powers of any elected body in the Gulf and opposition members of parliament openly criticise the ruling Sabah family.

However, the Sabahs – who have ruled Kuwait for more than 250 years – retain full control over key government and executive posts.

The 83-year-old emir is referred to as “immune and inviolable” in the constitution.

On Sunday, police tried to prevent the protesters gathering at several sites in Kuwait City, the capital, and from marching towards the government headquarters.

Activists and observers said tens of thousands of people had turned out. The authorities did not give an estimate.

Human rights lawyer Mohammed al-Humaidi said as many as 100 people had been injured. Several policemen were reportedly wounded.

At least 15 people, including a former Islamist member of parliament, were arrested.

Kuwait’s stock market dropped by more than 3% on Sunday, the biggest loss on a single day since 2009.

In June, Kuwait’s top court declared elections for the 50-seat parliament in February invalid and reinstated a more government friendly assembly.

That vote saw significant gains for the Islamist-led opposition.

The government announced last week that it was calling elections for December and changing the electoral law in order to “preserve national unity”.

UN Torture Chief: Bradley Manning Treatment Was Cruel, Inhuman

Illustration: Simon Lutrin/Wired

The U.S. government’s treatment of WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning was cruel, inhuman and degrading, according to a report from the United Nations special rapporteur on torture.

The finding, from Juan Mendez, comes following a 14-month investigation into the treatment of Manning during his pre-trial incarceration.

“The special rapporteur concludes that imposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence,” Mendez writes in an addendum to the special rapporteur’s report (.pdf) to the UN general assembly on the protection of human rights.

Mendez did not speak with Manning directly, according to theGuardian. Mendez told the newspaper that the Defense Department allowed him access to Manning but warned him that the conversation would likely be monitored, which Mendez said was a violation of human rights procedures.

Separately, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sent a letter to the Defense Department on Monday urging the military to provide reporters covering the Manning trial with timely access to documents filed in the case. The letter, co-signed by 46 news media organizations, including Wired.com’s parent company, Advance Publications, noted that reporters have not even had access to a court docket that tracks document filings and provides a schedule of events around the case, such as hearings.

The RCFP letter notes that the Defense Department had provided better access to military commission trials of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay after reporters covering those proceedings had requested similar consideration.

Manning, 24, was arrested in May 2010 at the Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad, where he was working as an intelligence analyst, after allegedly confessing to former hacker Adrian Lamo that he had leaked thousands of government documents to WikiLeaks.

Manning was transferred to the Marine corps base at Quantico in Virginia in July 2010, where he was held for eight months under conditions that his attorney called “clearly punitive in nature,” and which he believed were designed to pressure Manning into providing evidence that would help the Justice Department bring a case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Iranian activist continues hunger strike

A jailed Iranian blogger has entered the 60th day of a hunger strike in protest against his imprisonment for criticising President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the government’s policies, his family and activists have said.

In the latest of several arrests in recent years, blogger and ophthalmologist Medhi Khazali, the son of a prominent cleric, was sentenced on January 9 to 14 years in prison, 10 years in exile, and 90 lashes by a court in Tehran.

His son Mohamed Saleh Khazali told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on February 29 that Khazali had suffered “stomach bleeding” and had been taken to the hospital.

“Last week, when my father’s condition deteriorated, they transferred him to the hospital. When we saw him in the hospital, we couldn’t believe it was him. His weight loss was unbelievable. He was so thin. We are afraid something bad might happen to my father,” he said.

Opposition activists say Khazali, who is a veteran of Iran’s war with Iraq, sent a letter to his wife last month, describing the difficult conditions in the prison.

“Many are incarcerated here only as a payback for disagreements with some high-ranking officials. They are under terrible physical and mental torture to make forced confessions of having connection with foreign intelligence agencies and embezzled money from state bodies,” the letter said.

In February, Amnesty International said Iran had “dramatically” escalated its crackdown on freedom of expression ahead of parliamentary polls on March 2.

In a report entitled “We are ordered to crush you: Expanding Repression of Dissent in Iran”, the rights group detailed repressive acts by the Iranian authorities since February 2011, including a recent wave of arrests.

The arrests, Amnesty said, have targeted lawyers, students, journalists, political activists and their relatives, as well as religious and ethnic minorities, film-makers and people with international connections, particularly to the media.

Mexico Adopts Alarming Surveillance Legislation


The Mexican legislature today adopted a surveillance legislation that will grant the police warrantless access to real time user location data. The bill was adopted almost unanimouslywith 315 votes in favor, 6 against, and 7 abstentions. It has been sent to the President for his approval.

There is significant potential for abuse of these new powers. The bill ignores the fact that most cellular phones today constantly transmit detailed location data about every individual to their carriers; as all this location data is housed in one place—with the telecommunications service provider—police will have access to more precise, more comprehensive and more pervasive data than would ever have been possible with the use of tracking devices. The Mexican government should be more sensitive to the fact that mobile companies are now recording detailed footprints of our daily lives.

In response to the law’s adoption, Mexican human rights lawyer Luis Fernando García told EFF, “Mexican policy makers must understand that the adoption of broad surveillance powers without adequate safeguards undermines the privacy and security of citizens, and is therefore incompatible with their human rights obligations.”

Sensitive data of this nature warrants stronger protection, not an all-access pass. Human rights advocates will evaluate all necessary legal options for challenging the legality of the measure. In the meantime, Mexican citizens should evaluate the possibility of requesting access to their own personal data retained by their mobile company according to the Mexican Data Protection Law.



Supreme Court Debates Rights Case Aimed at Corporations

By  Published: February 28, 2012

WASHINGTON — The question before the Supreme Court on Tuesday was whether lawsuits against corporations for some kinds of human rights violations are categorically forbidden.

Some of the justices were themselves in a categorical mood, announcing not only their answer to that question but also to a larger one not squarely before them. They did so by quoting approvingly or skeptically from the briefs in the case.

“For me, the case turns in large part on this,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said and then quoted a sentence from a brief filed by the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, which is accused of complicity in human rights violations in Nigeria: “International law does not recognize corporate responsibility for the alleged offenses here.”

Justice Kennedy went on to quote from a brief supporting the companies filed by theChevron Corporation: “No other nation in the world permits its court to exercise universal civil jurisdiction over alleged extraterritorial human rights abuses to which the nation has no connection.”

Later, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. read back most of a sentence in the plaintiffs’ brief to their lawyer, calling it “really striking.”

“This case was filed by 12 Nigerian plaintiffs who alleged that respondents aided and abetted the human rights violations committed against them by the Abacha dictatorship in Nigeria,” Justice Alito said, quoting.

Then he asked: “What business does a case like that have in the courts of the United States? There’s no connection to the United States whatsoever.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tried to return the discussion to the narrower question: not whether United States courts can hear human rights cases over events that took place abroad, but whether corporations may be sued in such cases. “I thought what we were talking about today,” she said, “was is it only individual defendants or are corporate defendants also liable?”

California prisoner dies during hunger strike

California prisoner dies during hunger strike

A 27-year-old inmate passed away while participating in a hunger strike in California this month and the details surrounding his death and the jail’s handling of it are just now surfacing.

Christian Alexander Gomez barely lasted one week while engaged in a fasting protest at the Corcoran State Prison in California. He’s believed to be one of 32 inmates that participated in the hunger strike, which was the most recent form of protest waged by prisoners.

After thousands of inmates have participated in hunger strike dating back to last summer, Gomez is the first man believed to have died during his protest.

Gomez’s sister tells Democracy Now that her brother braved inhumane conditions at Corcoran, and even feels that he was wrongly imprisoned there. Up until his death, however, the inmate was confident that eventual changes in the system would soon make him free.

“He was a genuine person that had not lost hope in the system. He knew that he would eventually get out,” says his sister, Y.L.

Despite his persistence, however, things did not get better for Gomez. “He told me things were a lot different at this prison,” sister.. She adds that Gomez had been incarcerated at a different facility for four years, High Desert State Prison, and has yearned for a return after being transferred to Corcoran

“He didn’t receive the same medical attention he received over at High Desert,” she says.

Throughout the state, inmates have repeatedly demonstrated against unjust conditions and treatment in facilities across the West Coast, but little has been done to remediate the issues so far. Last July, more than 6,000 inmates across California participated in a hunger strike that spanned more than a dozen different facilities across the state. In September, inmates launched a second strike.

“Despite claims to the contrary, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has yet to fully address what the prisoners feel are the most substantive changes outlined in their demands,” the advocacy group Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity addressed during last year’s series of strikes.

Protesters have said that the strikes were being waged to draw attention to torturous conditions at state-run prisons. Even with Gomez’s death, however, little changes have been accomplished nearly a year after protests first started.

Justice US-style: ‘Obama has already announced Manning is guilty’

Army Private Bradley Manning is escorted away from his Article 32 hearing February 23, 2012 in Fort Meade, Maryland (Mark Wilson / Getty Images / AFP)

(33.8Mb)embed video

TAGS: MilitaryScandalPoliticsHuman rights,LawInternetUSAKevin OwenWikiLeaks


US Army analyst Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking thousands of “classified” documents to WikiLeaks, has deferred his plea to the 22 charges, also postponing a decision on whether he wants a military judge or a jury to hear his case.

Kevin Zeese, attorney to the Bradley Manning support network, believes that a fair hearing in front of a military court and a jury of officers is “almost impossible” for Manning.

“President Obama has already announced that Bradley Manning is guilty,” he told RT. “President Obama is the commander-in-chief. The judge, the jurors, the prosecutor – everybody working in that court is under President Obama’s command. I can’t imagine anyone in that court thinking they’ll have much of a career if they find Bradley Manning not guilty.”

Zeese states that, so far, the preliminary hearing on Manning’s case has been a “kangaroo court”.

“They were denying information that Bradley Manning needs for his defense. It looks like it’s a railroad job – a kangaroo court trying to set an example and prevent anyone else from being a future Bradley Manning,” he said.

Zeese’s position was echoed by Iraq war veteran Michael Prysner from the ANSWER coalition, who said that the Manning trial is going to be “a show trial” arranged by “real criminals” – the government, the generals and those who make a profit from America’s military campaigns.

“The only person that these leaks actually hurt is the government, it’s the people that are making money off of the war,”he told RT. “I think that they will do the hardest to punish Bradley Manning… to make sure that it’s not a fair trial because they need to send a message that this can happen. And the real criminals are them – it’s the generals, it’s the politicians.”

Concerning the alleged dangers to America’s national security and the ethics of revealing of what is claimed to be “classified military data”, Kevin Zeese pointed out that US national security suffers least of all here.

“In this case there’s been no evidence of any harm to national security. In fact, former secretary of defense, Robert Gates, said as much,” Zeese explained. “There’ve been several internal reviews that the Manning defense teams are trying to get that the garbage refuse to provide them – I assume because it would help Bradley Manning.”

One of the key points in the defense, Kevin Zeese went on to explain, is that the classified documents pertaining to the case should not have been classified in the first place.

“That collateral murder video should not have been classified – it’s just covering war crimes. There’s been no indication that all these low level secrets even were properly classified,” he said. “There shouldn’t have been secrets to begin with, and Manning shouldn’t be accused of releasing classified documents that shouldn’t have been classified in the first place.”

Assad masses Syrian cyber army in online crackdown

Syria’s violence against civilians is being matched with online abuses as the government uses hacking and surveillance tools to track its people

COMPARED with the activists who led the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, anti-government protesters in Syria face a tough, tech-savvy foe. The Egyptian government notoriously shut down the country’s internet access for a time in January last year because activists were using social media to organise protests. By contrast, the regime of Bashar al-Assad has allowed Syrians to keep accessing Facebook and YouTube. It may sound munificent, but allows the regime to read dissidents’ messages and track their movements.

We should not be surprised at the regime’s methods, says Helmi Noman at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto, Canada. “The Syrian Computer Society was headed by al-Assad himself in the 1990s before he became president,” he says. He is referring to the body that registered the domain name of the pro-regime Syrian Electronic Army, the Arab world’s first openly active group of hackers. The group has defaced websites linked with the opposition, as well as sites belonging to media organisations and governments that appear sympathetic to the protesters.

The government also keeps a close eye on cyber dissidents, arresting 12 online activists last week. It has even shown some basic hacking skills of its own. Last May, Syrian activists noticed that the country’s telecommunications ministry was eavesdropping on Facebook traffic. The hack was crude and easily spotted, but probably succeeded in capturing many passwords and private messages. Soon after, a message with a link to what was billed as “fascinating video clip showing an attack on Syrian regime” began appearing on Syrians’ Twitter accounts. It linked to what looked like Facebook’s login page, but was really a phishing site.

The government’s focus on social media has led activists to take extra precautions. “When [the government] arrests activists, they ask them for their Facebook login information,” says one Syria-based activist who was detained for two months last year, and spoke to New Scientist on condition of anonymity. “But most activists have already created alternative personal pages to be used for such a situation.

Palestinian on Hunger Strike to Be Freed Without Court Ruling


JERUSALEM — A Palestinian who fasted for 66 days to protest his detention without charge ended his hunger strike on Tuesday after the Israeli authorities agreed to release him in mid-April, if no major new evidence is brought against him.

In making the deal, Israel averted the possibility of widespread unrest that many expected if the detainee, a 33-year-old member of Islamic Jihad, had died, as medical experts had determined was an imminent danger. More important, it forestalled an emergency hearing at the High Court of Justice that could have set off a broader review of Israeli military courts’ practice of administrative detention, which has been used against thousands of Palestinians over time.

Palestinian rights activists and other supporters of the detainee, Khader Adnan, insisted that the outcome remained a victory, though the case had failed to force any fundamental change in Israeli policy.

“In the end Khader’s life was saved and his message, raising awareness about administrative detention, got out to the world,” said Shawan Jabarin, director of Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization based in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Mr. Jabarin added that Mr. Adnan was “a hero, a champion,” and compared him to Bobby Sands, the Irish Republican Army member who died in 1981 after an equally long hunger strike.

Guantánamo Suicide Suit Disallowed

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the families of two detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who the government says hanged themselves cannot sue for damages in United States courts. The families of the detainees, Yasser Al-Zahrani and Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed Al-Salam, claimed that they died after being subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, violations of the Geneva Conventions and cruel and unusual punishment. But three judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that federal courts do not have authority over lawsuits related to treatment of Guantánamo detainees.