Thursday, October 27, 2011

Canadian Torture Victim

The conservatives have made new policies not to intervene internationally if Canadians get in trouble abroad. And not to request commutations of a death sentence when Canadians end up on death row in the US. The first 2 stories focus on torture in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.  The last story reflects on both the possibility of wrongful convictions which involve the death penalty and that Harper refuses to intervene on behalf of
Canadians who land on death row in the US!   
             sheryl jarvis, Oct, 2011

Canada finally makes contact with family in Saudi jail
Tuesday October 25 2011      By NOUMAN KHALIL

Canadian officials in Saudi Arabia finally established contact with a
Toronto man and his family, including two children, after they were
granted access to see them in a Jeddah prison, a foreign office
spokesperson told Focus.

"We have been granted access to see the family and we will continue to
engage with Saudi officials about this family's case," said John
Babcock, a spokesperson for the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
Diane Ablonczy.

Babcock, however, didn't say anything about the charges, the release
or health condition of the children.

It is pertinent to mention here that Uddin Ahmed, a Canadian citizen
of Indian origin, has been living in Saudi Arabia along with his
family for the last few years on a work permit.

On Sept 22, the family, including Uddin Ahmed's wife and two
daughters, aged 18 months and five years, was charged and thrown in
Jeddah's Dhaban Prison for 'unknown' reasons.

Following the incident, MP Jim Karygiannis and members of the family
in Toronto criticized the government and its foreign office for
failing to secure their release and finding out about the health of
the kids - one of them is sick and needs medical care.

In response to a very emotional appeal from Junaid Ahmed, brother of
Uddin Ahmed, Karygiannis said the Minister Diane Ablonczy is ignoring
the two children.

In the appeal to the MP, a copy of which was also received by Focus,
Ahmed said: "We feel helpless and it is saddening to see lack of
Canadian government's intervention for a Canadian family that has been
imprisoned for a month without any reason."

He said the Canadian consulate in Saudi Arabia and ministry of foreign
affairs in Ottawa are not helpful and complained that, instead of
listening, the staff (at least one time) hung up the phone on him.

However, Babcock said: "Canadian consular officials are providing the
detained Canadian and his family, and their relatives with consular
assistance as requested, both in Canada and in Saudi Arabia.

"We hope that he (Karygiannis) is not trying to politicize this issue
for partisan reasons at the expense of the family, that is both
unhelpful and dangerous for the family. As the member knows, Canada
cannot intervene in the judicial affairs of another country," said

MP Karygiannis said: "Once again, this Conservative government is
saying to Canadians, 'If you travel and get into difficulty, don't
call on us, you are on your own.'"

Canadian fears more torture from officials in Bahrain
 By Thandi Fletcher, Postmedia News October 26, 2011

Naser Al-Raas says he's fearfully awaiting the moment Bahrain police handcuff, blindfold and drag him back to a jail, where he contends, he'll ruthlessly be tortured for a crime he did not commit.
Al-Raas, a Kuwait-born Canadian citizen, was sentenced this week for breaking Bahrain's illegal-assembly laws. He and 12 others were sentenced for having links to antigovernment demonstrations.
Al-Raas, 28, is free pending an appeal, but could be arrested before the scheduled Nov. 22 court date. If so, he is certain he will be tortured again. Earlier this year, Al-Raas said he was kidnapped and beaten for a month in an underground prison.
"The main thing that was going through my head was 'How will I survive?' Al-Raas told Postmedia News on Wednesday, calling via Skype from Bahrain as he believes his phone lines likely are tapped. "I saw death many times."
On March 20, Al-Raas was leaving Bahrain after a three-week visit to check up on his five sisters and ensure they were safe amid the political unrest enveloping the tiny Persian Gulf country.
Pro-democracy protests that broke out in February amid the fervour of the Arab Spring were crushed by Bahraini security forces, backed by Saudi troops. The government says 24 people were killed, including four police officers, while the opposition puts the count at 31.
Al-Raas was returning to Kuwait where he worked as an IT specialist.
At Bahrain International Airport, four policemen in civilian clothes ambushed and forced him into a tiny office where he was beaten and held at gunpoint, Al-Raas recalled.
They blindfolded him, took him to an undisclosed location, and subjected him to a mock execution where bullets were repeatedly fired around him.
For a month, he was held hostage, taken to an underground prison cell where he endured the screams of others. He said he witnessed one man being tortured until he was dead.
When it was his turn, he said his torturers took him to a wooden room, blindfolded him, and tied him to a chair with ropes. They beat him with a rubber hose, kicked him with military boots, and electrocuted him. Sometimes they would spit into his mouth and force him to swallow, he said.
Other times, he would be forced to stand up for hours at a time without rest and was beaten when he tried to sleep, said Al-Raas.
"I could not sit, I could not sleep. Whenever I moved, I was beaten by many officers," said Al-Raas.
Often the blows were targeted at his chest, where he has scars from two open-heart surgeries.
Al-Raas has pulmonary hypertension, a heart and lung disease that requires careful medical attention and anti-clotting medication.
When he asked for his medicine, his requests were denied and the torture intensified, said Al-Raas.
A month after he was arrested, Al-Raas said he was forced to make an on-camera confession, threatened to not speak to the media and told not to tell anybody about the torture. Then finally, he was released.
Once free, Al-Raas pleaded to have his Canadian passport, which was seized during his arrest, returned. On June 7, when security officials told him he could come get his passport, he was arrested and beaten again, and charged with kidnapping a Bahraini police officer.
He denied the accusations and was taken to military court earlier this month, where he was acquitted of all charges.
But on Tuesday, he was found guilty in civilian court on other charges, for participating in protests and publicly inciting hatred and contempt against the regime.
Amnesty International is now urging Canada's federal government to pressure Bahraini authorities to drop the charges against Al-Raas, who they said is being held as a prisoner of conscience.
"In our view, there is absolutely no reasonable basis for the charges," said Alex Neve, secretary general for Amnesty International in Ottawa. "Now that the conviction has happened, it's vitally important that the Canadian government bring considerable pressure to bear on Bahraini authorities to drop the charges and for the verdict and sentence to be quashed."
On Wednesday, John Babcock, spokesman for Diane Ablonczy, the minister of state for foreign affairs, said Canadian consular officials in Ottawa and in Riyadh are providing consular assistance to Al-Raas and his family in Canada.
Al-Raas has lived on and off in Ottawa since 1996.
"Although the government of Canada cannot interfere in the judicial affairs of another country, we have made high level representations to Bahraini authorities to seek assurances that the individual is afforded due process and to ensure his well-being," Babcock said.
Babcock added the Canadian government is aware and concerned of reports that Al-Raas was mistreated while in detention in Bahrain, and has raised its concerns with the "appropriate authorities."
Although he has appealed the decision, Al-Raas said he has been advised to surrender himself to Bahraini authorities within 10 days.
For now, he is enjoying spending time with his fiancee Zainab, waiting in fear for the unpredictable moment Bahraini police may storm his home.
Since his arrest, Zainab has worked tirelessly to contact international human rights groups for help.
"Naser can't go there again," said Zainab, her voice thick with emotion. "(The police) are animals. They are not even human."    

Reflections in the wake of Troy Davis’ execution
    Human Rights . . . Here & There

Written by  Sonya Nigam Posted Date: October 10, 2011

On Sept. 21, 2011, the American state of Georgia executed Troy Davis.
Like many organizations that fought for a stay of his execution, the
International Association of Lawyers was deeply disappointed with this
final turn of events.

In its press release the association expressed its support for a
commutation of the sentence to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and
Paroles and the district prosecutor, Larry Chisolm. The association
raised the same issues cited by many others: the fragile nature of the
evidence that Troy Davis actually shot police officer Mark MacPhail,
the disappointing inability of the American legal system to re-examine
the evidence, and the perpetuation of errors that “tarnish the justice
system on the whole.” The press release states, “Apart from the fact
that it constitutes a form of legalized violence that trivialises and
even legitimizes violent behaviour among individuals, it also promotes
an atmosphere of vengeance and brutality that is incompatible with the
idea of justice and, above all, human rights.”

A huge number of people were mobilized to stop this execution. This
appeared to many to be a case of supreme injustice considering the
evidentiary problems with the case: several recantations by
eyewitnesses, admissions of guilt by the alternative suspect, Davis’
clear and continuous assertions of innocence, and no incriminating
physical evidence or a murder weapon.

The execution was scheduled for 7 p.m. For reasons that have not been
explained, the Supreme Court delayed the execution. According to press
reports, the mood of the crowd outside the prison brightened, only to
be dashed about four hours later. Davis’ execution was a very
emotional and deeply saddening event. In a recent Huffington Post
article, David Protess, president of the Chicago Innocence Project,
wrote that the result should have been expected. “Troy Davis never had
a chance,” he wrote. “From the day he was arrested, Troy Davis had
three strikes against him.”

Davis was black, and MacPhail was white. According to the Death
Penalty Information Center’s web site, where there is interracial
murder, the likelihood of execution is much higher if the accused is
black and the victim is white. Protess wrote, “In the past three
decades, 255 blacks have been executed for killing whites, while only
17 whites have been put to death for killing blacks.” Citing the U.S.
Bureau of Justice Statistics, he continued, “During the same period,
almost 80 per cent of executions involved inmates convicted of
murdering whites, even though half the murder victims in society were

“MacPhail was a police officer. Law enforcement, charged with
protecting all citizens equally, protects some more equally than
others. The murder of a police officer compels prosecutors to pull out
all the stops to get a conviction and death sentence. State law makes
the murder of an officer a capital offense. If MacPhail had been the
mayor of Savannah, his murderer would not have been eligible for the
death penalty.”

He continues: “The crime happened in the South. Three Southern states
(Texas, Virginia, and Florida) account for the majority of all
executions since 1976, according to a recent report by the NAACP Legal
Defense and Educational Fund. Georgia ranks seventh in the country in
total executions, and its death row is one of the nation’s largest.”

The recorded moments of Davis’ final hours are so human it is
difficult not to be moved. Associated Press reporter Greg Bluestein
was one of five reporters to witness the execution. He wrote: “Death
watch began at 7 a.m. on Sept. 20, a day he spent meeting with
visitors, watching TV, and talking to his attorneys. A nurse brought
him a fish oil pill and other unspecified medications around 9:20 p.m.
and he was asleep within half an hour.

“He awoke the next morning and refused his breakfast tray. He stayed
in bed until about 7:50 a.m. when he was strip-searched and escorted
to the shower. The prison warden met with him a few minutes after he
finished shaving, and the first of his 28 visitors came to see him at
that morning.

“He turned down his lunch at noon and, after the last visitor left
about six hours later, refused to eat an early dinner, requesting only
the grape drink on the tray. Guards spotted him praying around 6:45,
and 15 minutes later, when his execution was scheduled to begin, he
was napping. He awoke an hour later, called his attorney for an update
and asked the guards to bring in some food. He spent the next few
hours on and off the phone with his lawyer awaiting news on his fate,”
continues Bluestein.

“He probably heard that the Supreme Court denied his request for a
last-minute stay shortly before guards came into the room at 10:28. A
few minutes later, he was strapped to the gurney and execution
witnesses started filing in. It was over at 11:08, when authorities
pronounced him dead and cleared the death chamber.”

In Canada the last hangings took place in 1962. The death penalty was
officially removed from the Criminal Code in 1976 and replaced with a
mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole for 25 years for
first-degree murder. Finally for military personnel, the death penalty
was removed from the National Defence Act in relation to the most
serious military offences, including treason and mutiny, in 1998.

While the current government says it has no intention to re-open the
death penalty debate, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he
believes in the use of the death penalty in some cases. The current
Conservative government has modified Canadian policy and no longer
requests stays of execution for Canadians who find themselves on death
row in the United States.

Further, the government has decided, even in these very uncertain
economic times, to devote a significant amount of its budget to
expanding prison facilities. Through the new omnibus bill C-10, the
“safe streets and communities act,” it is signalling it wants to put
more Canadians in jail for crimes that did not necessarily receive
jail time in the past.

Are Canadians being co-opted to accept a black-and-white law-and-order
agenda as we hang on to the fiscal conservatism of the current
government as a life vest against the current tide of economic
uncertainty? Will we slowly start thinking differently, and at some
point accept that it is OK to kill in the name of justice, even when
we know that our justice system is a flawed human invention? Or, will
our knowledge of the cases like David Milgaard and Steven Truscott
safeguard us from this mistake?

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