Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Human Rights

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Human Rights

Article excerpt

Coalition to Protect People's Rights Holds Chicago Meeting on Torture

Concerned Americans gathered May 23 at Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Chicago for a community meeting focusing on torture. The event was sponsored by the Coalition to Protect People's Rights, a new group working to eliminate torture as a form of coercion and to protect the civil rights of U.S. citizens. Participants included lawyers, relief workers, and community group members, who discussed the use of torture condoned by the U.S. government at home and abroad.

Amnesty International representative Dori Dinsmore and Mary D. Powers of Citizen's Alert described cases involving the unconstitutional use of force. Dinsmore discussed different incidents involving extreme torture used on suspects, specifically during America's war on terrorism. Torture has been typically used to force confessions from suspects, Dinsmore said. She also addressed what is known as extraordinary rendition, the practice by which the government moves suspects from the United States to countries that use torture, such as Egypt or Uzbekistan, in order to coerce a confession.

One of the current cases discussed at the meeting was introduced by Michael Deutsch, the lawyer for Muhammad Salah, the Chicago-area resident who was accused of terrorist activity first by the Israeli government in 1993, and then again by the U.S. government in 2004.

In 1993, while Salah was on a humanitarian trip to Palestine, he was arrested by Israeli police and accused of distributing money to activists from the Palestinian resistance group, Hamas. Salah was interrogated and tortured by being held in isolation, deprived of sleep, threatened, surrounded by foul smells, and even stripped nude and tied to a slanted chair. After 75 days of torture, Salah signed a confession. Deutsch explained that Salah's confession was made only as a result of the extreme conditions to which he was subjected.

In March 2006, a hearing was held in Chicago on whether or not to allow Salah's forced confession into evidence. Israeli interrogators were put on the stand and asked about Salah's torture in the Israeli prison. Their only response was to say that the information was classified.

After the May 23 gathering, the judge hearing Muhammad Salah's case ruled that his torture-induced confession would be allowed as evidence. This, of course, is a huge blow to Muhammad Salah and his supporters, as well as his defense team. His trial is expected to start in October.

The panel meeting concluded with a group discussion of possible solutions to ending the U.S. sanctioned torture on American citizens. The Coalition to Protect People's Rights is planning a conference in Chicago this upcoming fall, most likely in October. For more information contact .

-Leen Jaber

"All I Have": UNRWA's World Refugee Day 2006

To commemorate World Refugee Day, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) organized an event in Jerusalem on June 20, 2006. Entitled "All I Have," it focused on refugee children and included a photo exhibit, film screenings, and speeches and discussion. Approximately 200 people, including diplomats, social workers, human rights activists, and journalists, attended the event.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Karin Koning AbuZayd related the desperate situation facing Gaza's refugee population (see p. 12), while other speakers from the World Food Program and the World Health Organization alerted the audience to the malnutrition crisis in Gaza. Of the children under 5 years of age, 22 percent suffer from vitamin A defficiency, 50 percent have anemia, and many are at risk for permanent physical and mental damage. …

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