On Feb. 28, the US State Department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, covering 2004. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) finds that some of the findings have been shaped by "political considerations":
A resolution calling for troop withdrawal from Iraq was put before Vermont town meetings March 1 as a result of a statewide campaign by anti-war activists. By the following night, the resolution had been approved by 38 towns of the 50 in which it went to a vote.
A new Homeland Security Department pilot program is placing electronic ankle bracelets—similar to those placed on criminal offenders—on immigrants who are waiting for a resolution on their legal status. Homeland Security says the program is an alternative to internment in detention centers, and is designed to address the problem of undocumented immigrants failing to show up for their hearings. (FSRN, March 3)
On Feb. 28, the husband and mother of Chicago federal judge Joan Lefkow were murdered at their home, in a case likely linked to the wacko ultra-racists called the World Church of the Creator. Lefkow had been receiving threats since hearing a case brought by an Oregon group of the same name attempting to halt the white supremacists from using it.
The ACLU and Human Rights First filed suit in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's home state of Illinois on behalf of eight men who suffered psychological and physicial injuries while detained by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility" because he "personally signed off" on policies guiding prisoner treatment, said ACLU director Anthony Romero. Also named are Col. Thomas Pappas, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski and Lt.
Citing an anonymous "intelligence source," Newsday and assorted other media outlets claim that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most-wanted militant leader in Iraq, has been urged by Osama bin Laden's top aide to organize attacks in the US.
On Feb. 28, a federal judge in South Carolina ruled that the U.S. must charge or release accused "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla within 45 days. The Justice Department vows it will appeal. Padilla, a US citizen, has been held without traditional legal rights as an "enemy combatant" since June 2002. (Bloomberg, March 1)
The latest testimony in the Brooklyn federal trial of Yemeni Sheikh Mohamed al-Moayad is a Yahya Goba, 28, a member of the "Lackawanna Six," himself facing ten years imprisonment. His courtroom recount of a spring 2001 visit to an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, where he twice saw Osama bin Laden, wowed the media. Invoking Osama is a big strike against the Sheikh, even though he is not said to be linked to Goba.