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Notes 6-3-2010

June 3, 2010

Afghan Justice?

Gareth Porter, on Inter Press Service, writes that “Nearly two of every three male juveniles arrested in Afghanistan are physically abused,” based on a study by U.S. defense attorney Kimberly Motley for Terre des Hommes, an international children’s rights organization.
          Motley personally interviewed 40% of all prisoners then in the country’s juvenile justice system. She found, among other things, that most beatings of young prisoners were used to extract confessions – in some cases to force youths to sign blank pieces of paper that were later used to obtain convictions.
          “One juvenile charged with putting up signs around the city threatening terrorist acts told Motley that he signed a confession only after having been subjected to electric shocks and hung from the ceiling by the National Security Police. The torture continued for more than two months, according to the boy.”
          Some readers will note that the charges in this case sound pretty serious, but hopefully can keep in mind that they are charges only, and that the child’s confession – extracted through torture – is no proof of guilt.
          A substantial majority of Afghan judges surveyed indicated that if a child “remains silent in court when asked questions by a judge, he must be guilty.” An Afghan human rights activist is quoted as saying, “A majority of the people in Afghanistan are against the presumption of innocence.”
          You have to wonder whether any of the U.S. consultants advising our ally Hamid Kharzai are giving any thought to bringing Afghanistan’s juvenile justice system into the 21st century?

And Ours…

Nina Bernstein, reports in the New York Times  about mentally disabled immigrants currently being shipped to Texas detention centers where they are essentially railroaded out of the country without, in many cases, being able to understand what is happening to them.
            “The detainees, mostly apprehended in New York and other Northeastern cities, some right from mental hospitals, have often been moved to Texas without medication or medical records, far from relatives and mental health workers who know their histories. Their mental incompetence is routinely ignored by immigration judges and deportation officers, who are under pressure to handle rising caseloads and meet government quotas. These are among the findings of a yearlong examination  of the way the nation’s immigration detention system handles the mentally disabled in Texas, where 29 percent of all detainees are held while the government tries to deport them. The study, conducted by Texas Appleseed, a public interest law center, and Akin Gump, a corporate law firm, documents mistreatment at every stage of the process.”
            Bernstein’s article also reports on a recent government memorandum from James M. Chaparro, the Obama administration’s chief of detention and removal operations showing that “agents are under intense pressure to increase detentions and deportations…Despite the administration’s vow to focus resources on detaining and deporting the most dangerous criminals, the Feb. 22 memorandum, posted online…by The Washington Post, instructed agents to pick up the pace of deportations by detaining more noncitizens suspected only of unauthorized residence. Such illegal immigrants can typically be deported more quickly than legal immigrants with criminal convictions.”
            The article cites a case, described by one of the Study authors, attorney Maunica Sthanki, of “a delusional man who was deported four days earlier than planned, though his parents had arranged for his voluntary departure to Mexico, where his mother was to pick him up. Two years later, the man has not been found, but a body matching his description is in a morgue in Mexico.”

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