Report on racism in the British criminal justice system finds surge in Muslim prison population

Labour MP David Lammy authored a report which found a surge in the Muslim prison population and found lack of data on why this population has surged. The report was commissioned by David Cameron in 2016. There has been a 50% rise in the share of prisoners who are Muslim in only ten years. Muslims are only 5% of the overall British population but 15% of the prison population.

Lammy notes that the trend is difficult to trace back to its origins because data is not collected on the religious identities of defendants while still in trial. So, it is unclear if the disparity arises in arrests or in sentencing.

Equality and Human Rights Commission chairman David Isaac stressed that the lack of explanation should signal that “we need more transparent data published.”

Dr Zubaida Haque, a researcher for the think tank The Runnymede Trust, said terror convictions cannot account for the size of the rise. Dr Haque also raised concern about Islamophobia within the prison system and in the criminal justice system more broadly.

Tariq Ramadan: Stigmatising Muslims is a counterproductive response to terror attacks

Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Muslim thinker and a professor at the University of Oxford, first argues that “it is important for us to be consistent in our condemnation of these criminal acts, and to maintain our support for all the victims, whoever they are, wherever they live.”

He argues for bringing all people together against senseless violence in the UK and globally. He warns that “to portray criminal acts as part of an ideological battle between extremist, anti-western Muslims and western people and values” alienates Muslims and ignores Muslim victims.

In his opinion, the demonisation of Islam contributes to radicalisation. More security is not the answer to the problem of terrorism. Rather, domestic policy needs to be meaningfully pluralistic and foreign policy should be based in economic and social justice. This includes recognising the British role in promoting  oppression abroad, including the effects of the Balfour Declaration on Palestinians and the effects of the invasion of Iraq on both Iraqis and Syrians.

2 charged with lying to help friend linked to Islamic State

Two northern Virginia men have been indicted after authorities charged them with lying to the FBI to protect a friend under investigation for his support of the Islamic State group.  According to an FBI affidavit, the two were questioned about their friend Haris Qamar last year. The affidavit alleges the two knew Qamar had tried to join the Islamic State in 2014, but denied it to protect him.

The federal grand jury in Alexandria indicted 28-year-old Michael Queen of Woodbridge and 32-year-old Soufian Amri of Falls Church Tuesday on charges including obstruction of justice and making false statements involving international terrorism.

 

German courts seek to move beyond counter-terrorism measures in path-breaking trials of fighters from the Syrian battlefields

From organisational to substantive criteria

Over the past few months, German prosecutors have cautiously embarked on new paths to bring to justice crimes committed in the Syrian Civil War. Like most of their European counterparts, German investigators had so far remained focused on offences against counter-terrorism provisions (codified in Germany under §§129a and b of the country’s criminal code).(( https://dejure.org/gesetze/StGB/129a.html ))

Consequently, until now verdicts were based on charges of terrorist conspiracy (Bildung einer terroristischen Vereinigung) and thus on purely formalistic criteria: what was penalised was only the formation or support of a terrorist association, not the substantive rights violations that perpetrators had committed in the Syrian war zone.

However, amidst the increasing rates of the return of German foreign fighters – of the more than 750 that have made their way to Syria, more than 250 returned ((https://www.icct.nl/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/ICCT-Report_Foreign-Fighters-Phenomenon-in-the-EU_1-April-2016_including-AnnexesLinks.pdf , pp. 25 f.))– and against the backdrop of the growing number of Syrian refugees in the country, prosecutors are apparently seeking to enable more ambitious judicial proceedings taking the commission of international crimes – violations of fundamental human rights and of international humanitarian law – into account.

The case of Aria L.

In July 2016, the German national Aria L. was sentenced to two years imprisonment for war crimes by the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt. Having travelled to Syria in spring 2014, L. had not directly participated as a fighter in the Civil War – at least not to the court’s knowledge. However, pictures of L. posing next to the severed heads of two Syrian government soldiers made their way on to Facebook. ((https://olg-frankfurt-justiz.hessen.de/irj/OLG_Frankfurt_am_Main_Internet?rid=HMdJ_15/OLG_Frankfurt_am_Main_Internet/nav/d44/d4471596-ad85-e21d-0648-71e2389e4818,3ed60b46-2d1d-d551-d064-8712ae8bad54,,,11111111-2222-3333-4444-100000005004%26_ic_uCon_zentral=3ed60b46-2d1d-d551-d064-8712ae8bad54%26overview=true.htm&uid=d4471596-ad85-e21d-0648-71e2389e4818 ))

The Court viewed L.’s actions as fulfilling the criteria for war crimes set out in §8.1.9 of the Code of Crimes against International Law (Völkerstrafgesetzbuch), the code translating the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court into domestic German law: L. was condemned for having treated a person protected under international humanitarian law – a category which includes enemy forces that are hors de combat – in a gravely degrading manner. ((https://olg-frankfurt-justiz.hessen.de/irj/OLG_Frankfurt_am_Main_Internet?rid=HMdJ_15/OLG_Frankfurt_am_Main_Internet/nav/d44/d4471596-ad85-e21d-0648-71e2389e4818,3ed60b46-2d1d-d551-d064-8712ae8bad54,,,11111111-2222-3333-4444-100000005004%26_ic_uCon_zentral=3ed60b46-2d1d-d551-d064-8712ae8bad54%26overview=true.htm&uid=d4471596-ad85-e21d-0648-71e2389e4818 ))

From foreign fighters to Syrian nationals

Significantly, the Völkerstrafgesetzbuch also contains provisions of universal jurisdiction; i.e. provisions allowing German courts to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes even if they are committed by foreign citizens abroad. Normally, national courts do not have the authority to adjudicate on acts that have no connection either with the national territory (territorial principle) or with national citizens (principle of nationality). ((http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/vstgb/__1.html ))

Consequently, the code offers the possibility to bring to justice not just ‘foreign fighters’ (German nationals or residents that have travelled to the Middle Eastern theatres of battle) but also Syrian nationals that have sought refuge as asylum-seekers in Germany after having committed international crimes. In fact, at least one trial against a Syrian national is ongoing in front of a German court, and another in preparation. The offences involved include attacks on protected persons, torture, and pillaging. ((http://www.ejiltalk.org/justice-for-syria-opportunities-and-limitations-of-universal-jurisdiction-trials-in-germany/ ))

Information from within a divided Syrian community

Syrian refugees are by now systematically asked whether they have witnessed crimes against humanity or other offences justiciable under the German code, or whether they can even name perpetrators of such offences. Asylum authorities have sent 25 to 30 tips to prosecutors per day, amounting to over 2000 indications of international crimes over the course of 2015. ((http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-01/refugee-influx-spurs-germany-to-tackle-syrian-war-crimes/7374152 , http://www.ejiltalk.org/justice-for-syria-opportunities-and-limitations-of-universal-jurisdiction-trials-in-germany/ ))

At the same time, some of these tip-offs is either not verifiable, based only on rumour, or reflective of the distrust and recriminations prevailing between different groups fleeing the ravages of the Syrian war. Investigators noted that informants sometimes accused members of other ethnic or religious groups of having perpetrated war crimes without being able to furnish concrete evidence for these claims. ((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/kriegsverbrechen-101.html ))

Challenges of evidence collection

This highlights the challenges involved in the collection and evaluation of testimonies and evidence. These challenges only grow in importance due to the fact that investigators have of course no access to the sites of crimes in Syria. Often, evidence is insufficient for the opening of legal proceedings but substantial enough that suspicions remain, leaving a bitter aftertaste among prosecutors as well as among Syrian human rights groups striving to bring perpetrators of international crimes to justice. ((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/kriegsverbrechen-101.html ))

A related concern is that prosecutions under the provisions of the Völkerstrafgesetzbuch only target a small sub-section of war criminals from the Syrian battlefields. First of all, those responsible for the large-scale orchestration of fundamental rights violations have not left Syria and asked for asylum in Germany – meaning that German prosecutors must confine themselves to go after the small fry only. ((http://www.ejiltalk.org/justice-for-syria-opportunities-and-limitations-of-universal-jurisdiction-trials-in-germany/ ))

Moreover, there is a concern that the henchmen of Bashar al-Asad will by and large escape judgement under these provisions, since comparatively few of them have asked for asylum in Europe. ((http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-01/refugee-influx-spurs-germany-to-tackle-syrian-war-crimes/7374152 )) This does not obviate the need to bring to justice fighters and commanders of other factions, above all of the more brutal Islamist and jihadist groups. Yet given the fact that it is still above all the Asad forces that have “shredded the laws of warfare”,(( https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/06/24/syrian-refugees-help-nab-suspected-war-criminals-europe )) a failure to prosecute government personnel means a heavily lopsided judicial treatment of the Syrian quagmire.

Thus, while the activation of the substantive provisions of the Völkerstrafgesetzbuch constitutes a step forward compared with the prosecution under the blanket terms of counter-terrorism legislation that punishes a formal status rather than actual offences committed, bringing justice to bear on the perpetrators of international crimes in Syria remains fraught with difficulties.

Farrakhan Plans Rally for Million Man March 20th Anniversary

WASHINGTON — Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan said Wednesday he plans to hold a Millions for Justice march in the nation’s capital this fall, 20 years after the Million Man March.
During a speech at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Washington, Farrakhan said he intends to hold the rally Oct. 10 on the National Mall, scene of the 1995 march.
“This is the time our people must see our unity,” Farrakhan said. “Let’s make 10/10/15 a meeting place for those who want justice, for those who know what justice is.”

Dutch academics contemplate what to do with IS Returnees

An ISIS fighter in Iraq. The Netherlands joins the rest of Europe pondering the question: what to do with returning fighters? (Photo: AP)
An ISIS fighter in Iraq. The Netherlands joins the rest of Europe pondering the question: what to do with returning fighters? (Photo: Reuters)

Manuele Kalsky and Wim van Vlastuin about the question: ‘what to do with returnees from Syria?’ According to Kalsky it is ‘not done’ to question WHY youth from the Netherlands leave for Syria; condemning them is all you seem allowed to do. To her this a moral failure from society. The possible solutions that are being mentioned are harsh: punish them and maybe take their nationality. But: a violence response only leads to more violence. Kalsky says that a violence response is a sign of weakness that has characterized the society since 9/11.

She further says that we forget our tradition of openness, tolerance and hospitality – formed by Humanism the Enlightment and Christianity. Is ‘loving your enemies’ a sign of weakness or wisdom? – she questions.

Referring to both returnees from Syria and the Bible she mentions the story of the ‘lost son’, wherein the father celebrate his return, even though other family members don’t comprehend. This is the attitude society should have when someone returns from Syria: don’t outcast such a person, try to understand them.

Everyone deserves a second chance, although everyone is also responsible for his own deeds. If you deserve punishment, you should be punished. But a punishment that changes behavior is most desirable, for example directed at de-radicalization.
According to Wim van Vlastuin forgiveness only makes sense when someone shows repentance. Mercy and forgiveness should be part of a basic attitude towards returnees, but those should not be misunderstood: people might deserve legal punishment for the cruelties they might have committed. A trajectory could end with a ‘statement of repentance’ and someone who truly repents, shall carry his punishment.

Van Vlastuin thinks that a primary reaction towards returnees indeed would be a harsh one, but the problem is a lot more complex. And mercy and justice go ‘hand in hand’. Forgiveness is a central concept in Christianity: it opens the possibility for taking a new stance or position. Without forgiveness and repentance, a negative attitude is all you are left with.

Processes of identification among second generation ‘climbers’ in the Netherlands [PDF Download]

Why do so called second generation ‘social climbers’, identify with their ethnicity? When do these adult children of immigrants, who reached high educated

A new study illuminates the processes of identity development amongst second generation Dutch Muslims.
A new study illuminates the processes of identity development amongst second generation Dutch Muslims.

levels, identify in ethnic terms and why? How do their identifications develop over time?

Many in the Netherlands wonder why children of immigrants, especially when they are higher educated, ‘still’ identify with their ethnicity, and why some of them ‘still’ have friends with the same ethnic background. Such co-ethnic orientation is often interpreted as an expression of segregation and as unwillingness to ‘integrate’. Does his view do justice to the experiences of these individuals?

In her research, Marieke Slootman focuses on this theme of ethnic identification. Furthermore, she considers the analytical use of the terms identity and ethnicity, and explores the possibilities of Mixed Methods research. She recently finished her dissertation, titled: Soulmates. Reinvention of ethnic identification among higher educated second generation Moroccan and Turkish Dutch. (English and Dutch summary can be downloaded below).

[Download Survey Here]

In Spain, “The radical ideas are being transmitted in the virtual world.”

Riay Tatary, president of the Union of Islamic Communities (UCIDE) of Spain defended yesterday that Islam “is peace and therefore can not be used as a synonym for violence or terrorism.”

He also insisted that the Muslim Spanish community is well integrated and that “ radical ideas are being transmitted over the Internet, in the virtual world. It occurs in homes, in closed rooms. “ He also pointed out that the youth receives a weak islamic educaction through the web and this creates a need among the community to strenghten universal values such as such as coexistence, tolerance, justice, equality, freedom.

Court rejects Islam-influenced post-marital agreement

I have long argued that American courts should deal with Islam-related religious issues by simply applying existing American law, without any special rules either favoring or disfavoring Islam or Muslims. Sometimes that means Muslim claimants might win, for instance when they claim reasonable religious exemptions under existing American religious exemption rules (which are available to people of all religions), or when they enforce valid contracts or wills inspired by Islamic legal principles. Sometimes they should lose, for instance when their religious exemption claims are treated as unreasonable under existing American law, or when their contracts violate established American legal principles.

The court held that the contract was unenforceable — not because there’s something improper about working religious principles, or Islamic principles, into a contract, but because it violated established religious-neutral principles of family law:

As I’ve argued before, this is exactly the right approach for courts to take. Muslims are entitled to enter into contracts or leave wills that reflect Islamic religious principles — such as wills that leave more property to sons than daughters, or union contracts that provide for days off on Islamic holidays, or arbitration agreements that call for Islamic arbitration — just as Christians or Jews may enter into contracts or leave wills that reflect Christian or Jewish religious principles. But Muslims are bound by the same limits on contractual freedom as Christians, Jews, and others are. We can debate what those limits should be, especially in the complicated area of family relationships, but they shouldn’t be Muslim-specific limits.