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is the message Helen Clark should be giving to Chinese President Hu Jintao on his visit to New Zealand this weekend said Keith Locke on October 23.
“Last year China executed over 4,000 people – more than the total number of executions for every other country in the world combined. Thousands of its own citizens languish in prisons and forced labour camps, for no greater crime than holding religious or political views that differ from those of China’s government. ”
The Greens will be participating in the silent protests organised by the Friends of Tibet during President Hu Jintao’s visit to Auckland this weekend. Read
Political Prisoners – In Australia and in Guantanamo
– have been a major concern of the Australian Greens leading up to President-Select George W. Bush’s visit to Canberra on Thursday October 23.
On October 22 Senator Bob Brown said that the lock-out of Australian journalists during President Bush’s visit was arrogant and insulting to Australia [See Below – Australian Media Excluded During Bush Visit]. “John Howard must intercede”, said Bob. ”This is a test of leadership of our nation. The Bush brigade is closing down Canberra, closing down our air-space and now closing down our democratic right to question anyone on our soil – not least this President.”
In addition to the repression of Australian freedom of the press and freedom of citizen movement (including the right to protest freely) the Greens are particularly concerned at the loss of freedom and rights suffered by the two Australians detained in the internationally illegal American prison at Guantanamo Bay.
To send a message on this to the Howard government and to Bush, the Greens have invited the lawyer for detainee David Hicks, and two family members of the other Australian detainee, Mamdouh Habib, to be their official guests at the speech Bush gives to the Australian parliament. They hope to thereby to prick the government’s conscience over its continued failure to assist two citizens being held unlawfully without charge by a foreign power.
“The presence of these three people in the public gallery also pays silent witness to the brutality of the conditions under which the United States’ government is holding hundreds of men at its base in Cuba”, said Green MP Michael Organ.
Senator Kerry Nettle’s 16 October motion in the Senate calling on the Australian government to request Bush to retain the detainees to Australia for a fair trial when he visited Canberra was defeated, but a more wishy-washy version calling on the government to do everything in its power to secure the return of the detainees was passed.
Read more about all of this at
The Australian Greens’ website
and on Bob Brown and Kerry Nettle’s home pages (accessible from the above site). For just how bad things are in Guantanamo, and the USA, see the article in Analysis, below.
Australian Media Excluded During Bush Visit
. The refusal of the White House to accredit members of the Australian Parliamentary press gallery to cover the visit of US President George W Bush is a fundamental affront to free speech, Cunningham MP (Federal – NSW) Michael Organ said today.
“The White House has refused to allow members of the Australian media access to the grounds of our Prime Minister’s official Canberra residence, The Lodge, although American journalists have been granted that right. Australian journalists are also being denied a place in the Presidential motorcade press pool”, Mr. Organ said.
“This is not the action of a country with which we have a special relationship, it is the action of a country which has something to hide and it is an egregious affront to our nation.”
“This is not the much vaunted American democracy, this is the action of spin-doctors who want to control what you see and hear.”
“The Prime Minister, who wants us to show appropriate respect to President Bush, would be well advised to ask his ‘great and powerful friend’ to extend the same courtesy to the Australian people.”
“It is breath-taking hypocrisy for a nation which enshrines freedom of speech in its constitution to engineer a situation where the Australian people are solely reliant on US journalists for coverage of the Bush visit”, Mr. Organ added.
[Following Green, Labor, media and others calling for this to change, one Australian film crew and one photographer were, eventually, allowed into the ‘Barbecue’ – but that wasn’t the end of it – see the Sydney Morning Herald story ‘
A day in the life of our faltering democracy
Found Any Wmds Lately, Mr President?
was the question that Rod Donald thought Helen Clark should have asked G.W. Bush when she met him for 10 minutes on October 20.
“Instead of sucking-up to the most dangerous man in the world, Miss Clark should tell him of the abhorrence New Zealanders feel about the way in which he fabricated a threat from Iraq in order to control that country’s oil resources,” said Rod.
“The only thing left to talk with Bush about is when he’ll hand over interim administration of Iraq to the United Nations and start cleaning up his own weapons of mass destruction – the cluster bombs and depleted uranium shells that he has dumped on that poor country.” Read
Ahmed Zaoui Support Vigil, Auckland, 12 Noon Friday October 24 – 12 Noon Saturday October 25, Auckland Remand Prison, Normanby Rd, Mt Eden
. This 24 hour vigil is in support of Ahmed Zaoui and for repeal of the unjust laws that have allowed him to be detained without charge for 11 months.
Send a Postcard to Support Ahmed Zaoui
. The Anglican Social Justice Commission has printed postcards to be sent to the Prime Minister and Minister of Immigration which call on the government to give Mr Zaoui a fair go. The postcards are available free from the ASJC, and they would like your help to distribute them. Phone (04) 384 5458 and say how many you would like, and provide your name and address so they can be posted to you.
Hapless Prisoners in a Black Hole – The Disgrace That is Guantanamo
By Elaine Cassel, 14 October 2003
Elaine Cassel watches the Bush administration’s war on civil liberties and reports on it at
Civil Liberties Watch
. She practices law in Virginia and the District of Columbia and teaches law and psychology.
Here are excerpts from her take on what is happening at Guantanamo and why. The full article can be read on her website – URL above.
”I started to write about the disgraceful situation in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Friday morning. I had read about the International Red Cross’s condemnation of the Bush administration’s continued detention of 650 or more prisoners, some of them juveniles, captured in Afghanistan two years ago. They have been held in cages on the American military base there, without attorneys, with little access to family, and without any charges being placed against them.
Before the war in Iraq fell apart, we heard that Paul Wolfowitz was planning to be in charge of trying some of the men. Several prisoners were targeted to be the guinea pigs for prosecution and, of course, they were facing the death penalty. But it turned out that one or more of those were British subjects. Tony Blair stepped in and, with support for his wholesale commitment to Bush’s war waning, begged Bush not to execute any British citizens. That’s the last we heard from Guantanamo.
Until this week when we heard from the Red Cross. Men are trying to commit suicide repeatedly, physical and mental health is deteriorating. One wonders what the hell we are doing down there and the answer is probably nothing.
It’s just as well I did not get the article written Friday morning. For on Friday afternoon, driving home, I heard that Bush may now be planning our next war in Cuba. Whether that materializes or not, he was placing new restrictions on Americans visiting Cuba, threatening tourists with criminal prosecution on the grounds that taking money to Cuba was “money laundering for terrorists.” …
… Of course we know the reason why Bush needs desperately to win Florida in 2004. He’s counting on this invitation to Cubans in Cuba to win the votes of the Cubans already there. So it is all about politics. Politics as usual. And the Bush administration’s politics is, at the core, destructive of civil rights and human rights. In fact, that appears to be its one of its main agendas – destruction of human rights. It has already done a damn fine job of destroying civil rights.
At his press briefing yesterday, Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary who makes Ari Fleischer look like a genius, said that the President “rejects” the report of the Red Cross about the horrible treatment of people in Guantanamo. Rejects it. What the heck does that mean? We just don’t listen to it? We don’t care what the international community thinks of us? It’s irrelevant? We are not going to read it? Yes, to all of the above.
Then I heard an attorney on NPR Friday night boast that “we” had to treat the prisoners that way. After all, they caused the September 11 attacks. Honestly, that is what he said! What? You can be sure if they were even remotely connected to September 11 they would have been brought to trial, in public, and be awaiting death now. Sadly, the interviewer did not question him about his statement. How many listeners heard it and assumed it to be the truth? How many, like me, heard it and were incensed at the lie of it?
As for the prisoners of Guantanamo, their chaplain and at least two of their translators have been locked up in military prisons, at least one of them charged with treason. Their crimes so far have been enumerated as serving baklava to prisoners (on the banned food list, I guess), having on their computers emails intended for prisoners’ families, and having “maps” of their cells. If the government could, it would charge them with the crime of kindness to fellow human beings or treating prisoners humanely. It can’t do that, so it trumps up charges to make those who try to help them look like terrorists themselves. When the prisoners have not themselves been shown to be terrorists.
So, in an administration where irony is too subtle a term, we have George Bush opening up the shores of Florida to Cubans who will, as soon as they can, become citizens and vote for him and his brother. In the meantime, the Cuban lobby in Florida will see that Bush carries Florida. By hook or crook…
… At the same time, we have Bush presiding over the wholesale mistreatment, even torture, some say, of upwards of 700 men who have been shown to have done nothing wrong. Except to have been on the streets of Afghanistan when Bush wanted to act like a cowboy and get “somebody” for September 11.
In the meantime, the Supreme Court has been asked to review a federal appeals court ruling that forecloses federal courts from hearing the pleas of the Guantanamo prisoners. The lower courts agreed that the federal courts had no jurisdiction because the prisoners are not on American soil. How’s that for a catch-22? We arrested them, brought them to a U.S. military base, classified them as “enemy combatants” so as to try to exempt them (and us) from international law, the laws of war, and U.S. law, and now we have declared them outside of the law. I guess, in a sick and twisted way, that does make some sense.
For the hapless prisoners in the black hole of Guantanamo comes a voice from the past to file a friend of the court brief in their behalf. Fred Korematsu, a American citizen of Japanese descent, who refused to enter a Japanese internment camp in California 60 some years ago, and who was prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned for challenging the internment order.
The Supreme Court then said it was just fine that he was ordered to be locked up, and even finer that he was prosecuted for challenging the order.
In his brief he begs the court to respect the fundamental principle that those deprived of liberty have the right to a fair hearing. Doubtless, the Supreme Court will follow its leader and “refuse to accept” Mr. Korematsu’s plea. After all, what does fairness, justice, and decency have to do with anything anymore?”
Freedom of the Press Ranked
. Publishing its second world ranking of press freedom on 20 October Reports Without Borders noted that the US and Israel are special cases. They are ranked in 31st and 44th positions respectively as regards respect for freedom of expression on their own territory, but they fall to the 135th and 146th positions as regards behaviour beyond their borders.
RSF’s media release says ”The Israeli army’s repeated abuses against journalists in the occupied territories and the US army’s responsibility in the death of several reporters during the war in Iraq constitute unacceptable behaviour by two nations that never stop stressing their commitment to freedom of expression.”
The full report is available at
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