US News briefs: torture and extrajudicial killings

March 15, 2015

US bars UN torture investigator from jails and Guantanamo

The United Nations special investigator on the use of torture criticised the US on March 11 for stalling for over two years in granting the international human rights body access to inmates at Guantanamo Bay and other federal US prisons.

Lawyer and human rights activist Juan Mendez has been trying for years to investigate the use of solitary confinement in US state and federal prisons, where “it is not rare” for prisoners to spend 25-30 years locked in a small room without human contact for up to 22-33 hours a day, says Mendez.

He has specifically asked for access to federal prisons in New York and Colorado and state prisons in New York, California, Pennsylvania and Louisiana, among others.

According to Mendez, more than two years later he has still not received a positive answer.

“It’s simply outrageous that it’s taking such a long time to provide access to American detention facilities,” said Jamil Dakwar, the American Civil Liberties Union’s head of human rights.

Mendez has also asked for access to the infamous military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

While the US did invite him to visit the camp in 2012, it was under “unacceptable” conditions, said Mendez. These conditions included not being able to hold unmonitored conversations with the detainees.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

Police kill unarmed teenager

Police fatally shot an apparently unarmed black teenager on March 6 in Madison, Wisconsin.

As news of the killing emerged, a crowd of protestors gathered at the site of the incident and chanted, “Black lives matter.”

Police did not release the name of the victim but he has been identified by friends and family as Tony Robinson.

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval told reporters that an officer responded to a call around 6.30pm and later forced his way into an apartment that the 19-year-old had entered.

According to Koval, there was a struggle between Robinson and the officer inside the apartment. The officer drew his weapon and fatally shot Robinson. Unconfirmed reports state that he was shot five times.

Koval also said no weapon was found at the scene.

The death of Robinson at the hands of police is the latest in a recent string of police killings of unarmed People of Colour, which have prompted widespread protests against police violence throughout the US.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Robinson's family are encouraging people to protest his killing by police. A video posted online shows his relatives confronting police near the scene of the shooting.

A law passed last year in Wisconsin requires an outside agency to investigate shootings involving police.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

Ferguson city manager resigns

Ferguson City Council voted unanimously on March 10 to accept the resignation of city manager John Shaw, effective immediately.

Shaw offered his resignation after a report by the US Department of Justice found the city administration guilty of systemic racially-biased practices. Shaw, who was one of several individuals heavily criticised in the report, is the fourth city official to go after the release of the report.

The city manager is the highest-ranking, non-elected municipal official and oversees several departments, including the police.

Shaw's resignation came after Ferguson Municipal Judge Ronald Brockmeyer, also criticised in the report, resigned on March 9. A Missouri state appeals court judge will take over all current and future cases assigned to Ferguson's municipal courts.

The Justice Department investigated events surrounding the police killing of unarmed, black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. Wilson was never charged.

Among the report's findings, was that the mostly white police force routinely targeted black people for arrests and ticketing, in part to raise revenue through fines.

The report also found a racially biased pattern of police using excessive force, illegally arresting people without cause, deploying attack dogs and tasers on unarmed people.

US Attorney General Eric Holder has publicly stated he is willing to dissolve the Ferguson police department if necessary.

The St Louis suburb of Ferguson was the site of massive protests against police brutality and the deaths of People of Colour at the hands of police across the US.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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