Human rights report takes at U.S. terrorism prosecutions, criticizes FBI tactics

July 21, 2014

A new human rights report offers a blistering assessment of the Justice Department’s role in the fight against terrorism, taking aim at tactics used to identify and prosecute suspects.

In a lengthy examination of U.S. terrorism prosecutions, Human Rights Watch, working with Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, said the FBI and the Justice Department have created a climate of fear in some Muslim communities through the use of surveillance and informants.

The group accused the government of using sting operations, which some critics described as entrapment, to target people with mental or intellectual disabilities and said that such tactics have driven people away from mosques.

“The report clearly shows, in many respects, the American public is being sold a false bill of goods,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “To be sure, the threat of terrorism is real,” she said. “But in many of the cases we documented, there was no threat until the FBI showed up and helped turn people into terrorists.”

Marc Raimondi, a Justice Department spokesman, said: “The Department of Justice has been a steadfast ally of our nation’s civil rights groups for decades. The report itself acknowledges that the legal process used in the cases it highlighted is not only lawful but is also specifically approved by federal judges. . . . We do not and cannot target individuals solely for engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment, which includes free speech and religion.”

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 500 people, or about 40 cases a year, have been prosecuted in federal courts on terrorism charges. As of October, Human Rights Watch said, U.S. prisons held 475 people indicted in connection with or convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses.

Of those serving sentences, the report said, 49 people were held in high-security prisons, 137 in administrative facilities and 237 in medium- or low-security prisons. According to the report, 44 terrorists were serving time at a supermax prison in Florence, Colo.

Human Rights Watch said some prisoners were being held under harsh conditions that included prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on their communication with family members and others.

As an example of what it called abusive detention conditions, the group cited the case of Pakistani national Uzair Paracha. He was held in solitary confinement for nearly two years before he was convicted in New York in 2006 — on charges of providing material support for terrorism — and sentenced to 30 years.

Among the recommendations in the report, Human Rights Watch said the FBI should ensure that investigations are not opened on the basis of “religious behavior, political opinion, or other activity protected by the right to freedom of expression under international law.”

The group also asked that the Bureau of Prisons end prolonged solitary confinement.

US: Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion [PDF DOWNLOAD]

July 21, 2014

DOWNLOAD FULL PDF REPORT: Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions

Investigations, Trials of American Muslims Rife with Abuse

(Washington, DC) –The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,”examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.

“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”

The report is based on more than 215 interviews with people charged with or convicted of terrorism-related crimes, members of their families and their communities, criminal defense attorneys, judges, current and former federal prosecutors, government officials, academics, and other experts.

In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act. Multiple studies have found that nearly 50 percent of the federal counterterrorism convictions since September 11, 2001, resulted from informant-based cases. Almost 30 percent were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.

“The US government should stop treating American Muslims as terrorists-in-waiting,” Prasow said. “The bar on entrapment in US law is so high that it’s almost impossible for a terrorism suspect to prove. Add that to law enforcement preying on the particularly vulnerable, such as those with mental or intellectual disabilities, and the very poor, and you have a recipe for rampant human rights abuses.”

These abuses have had an adverse impact on American Muslim communities. The government’s tactics to seek out terrorism suspects, at times before the target has demonstrated any intention to use violence, has undercut parallel efforts to build relationships with American Muslim community leaders and groups that may be critical sources of information to prevent terrorist attacks.

In some communities, these practices have deterred interaction with law enforcement. Some Muslim community members said that fears of government surveillance and informant infiltration have meant they must watch what they say, to whom, and how often they attend services.

“Far from protecting Americans, including American Muslims, from the threat of terrorism, the policies documented in this report have diverted law enforcement from pursuing real threats,” Prasow said. “It is possible to protect people’s rights and also prosecute terrorists, which increases the chances of catching genuine criminals.”

British Muslims angry with Britain’s decision to “engage” with Narendra Modi’s government

Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat state has been boycotted by Western governments for 10 years over his involvement in the Gujarat massacre in 2002. According to the reports published by Human Rights Watch, Citizens for Justice and Peace and many other NGOs during the massacre more than 2,000 Muslims were killed, 150,000 displaced and over 800 women and girls were raped. Further, according to these reports Narendra Modi provoked the massacre and was complaisant with the killing of the Muslims.

 

The UK’s high commissioner in India has met Narendra Modi recently and ended the boycott. This angered the British Muslims who were ‘shocked’ and ‘dismayed’ with the decision of the Foreign Office. One of these groups was the Council of Indian Muslims (U.K.) who wrote an open letter to urge Foreign Secretary William Hague to review Britain’s decision to “engage” with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s government. The letter said:

 

“We are particularly disappointed because no consultation was done with British Indian Muslims in general and in particular the families whose members were butchered by Modi’s foot soldiers… We really find ourselves at a loss and have no words to express our utter disappointment, frustration and therefore very humbly request you to review your decision.”

New Report Accuses French Police of Discrimination

News Agencies – January 26, 2012

Human Rights Watch says police in France are singling out ethnic Arab and African youths for unwarranted and sometimes humiliating identity checks. The rights group says this apparent ethnic profiling is further exacerbating an already tense relationship between authorities and minority youths.

In a new report, the rights group says ethnic Africans and Arabs – some as young as 13 years old – are often targeted in police checks, even though they do not appear to be doing anything wrong. Another study, in 2009, found that French police were far more likely to stop blacks and Arabs than white people.

Human rights watch condemns possible French burqa ban

Human Rights Watch has condemned France’s possible burqa ban for violating rights of Muslim women, warning the move could stigmatize the whole Muslim minority in the country. “We are still very concerned that the restrictions will seriously interfere with the rights of Muslim women in France – the right to manifest their religion and the right to personal autonomy,” Judith Sunderland, senior researcher for Western Europe at Human Rights Watch, told the Inter Press Service.

The rights group accused politicians championing the ban of taking the wrong approach to the integration of Muslim women. The human rights group warned that the French ban would stigmatize the Muslim minority in the country.

Rights group attacks Dutch immigration policy

Human Rights Watch has stated that a Dutch policy of forcing would-be immigrants to pass a language and culture test before seeking a visa, is discriminatory. The rights group said that the tests target families from developing nations such as Turkey and Morocco, because citizens from Japan, the United States, and other developed nations are exempt. “The overseas integration test is discriminatory because it explicitly applies only to relatives from predominantly non-Western countries,” said Human Rights Watch’s European director Holly Cartner.

Terror expulsions policy lacks basic safeguards

Better Human Rights Protections Needed in National Security Removal Cases:The lack of safeguards in France’s policy of expelling foreign residents with alleged links to violent extremism undermines human rights and alienates communities whose cooperation is critical to the fight against terrorism, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

In France and other European Union countries, the forced removal of foreigners suspected of extremism is increasingly seen as a tool to counter violent radicalization and terrorist recruitment. Since September 2001, the French government has removed more than 70 individuals it describes as “Islamic fundamentalists,” including at least 15 who were Muslim clerics (or imams). However, the French policy lacks adequate safeguards against human rights violations, including torture. Appeals based on risk of torture or other human rights grounds do not automatically suspend removal.

On May 11, the United Nations Committee Against Torture condemned France for expelling a terrorism suspect, Adel Tebourski, to Tunisia despite credible evidence that he faced a risk of torture upon return. This is the second such finding against France by the UN body in the past four years.

“France is entitled to remove foreign nationals who threaten national security, provided it respects human rights in the process,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “But as the recent UN anti-torture committee decision makes clear, France’s safeguards in these cases aren’t up to scratch.” (HRW)