Acting Locally, Acting Globally: Why We Need International Human Rights Monitors Here at Home

When you think "human rights monitors" you probably think of teams of experts overseeing elections and investigating war crimes in far-off corners of the world. Well, we could use some of those monitors right here.

In fact, a team from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is doing just that this week as they visit immigration detention centers in Arizona and Texas. The IACHR is the human rights body of the Organization of American States, the regional organization of which the U.S. is a member.

You may have read our recent posts on the many issues of concern with our broken immigration detention system. If so, you know that every day around the country, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holds over 30,000 immigrants in "civil detention" in any of over 400 local, state and private jails and denies many of them basic rights such as medical care and lawyers. In Massachusetts, about 800 immigrants fill our local county jails every day as they wait for a decision on their deportation.

This week, we sent a report to the IACHR monitors on an issue that affects Massachusetts residents who get caught in the web of immigration detention: they are often transferred to remote detention facilities as far away as Texas and New Mexico. Far away from their families, lawyers and communities, detained immigrants have few resources to fight their legal cases, and often give up and agree to be deported.

Our recent report on detention conditions revealed that detained immigrants are sometimes transferred in retaliation for speaking up about abuses or problematic conditions at these jails.

Immigration law is complicated, and courts have been so reluctant to limit the federal government's power over immigration that it has been almost impossible to challenge this practice in court.

Yet the rights involved are so fundamental that they are recognized universally: the right to a lawyer; the right to medical care if you are sick and in detention; the right not to be abused by guards and to be able to complain about it if you are, without fearing retribution.

Human rights monitors in the United States can prompt us to ensure those rights — but they also remind us that we are not alone in the world. This is not just a Massachusetts problem or a U.S. problem. When we deny noncitizens in our custody basic rights, it doesn't just violate our Constitution and our American sense of fairness. It also goes against everything we stand for internationally, and the way we would want Americans abroad to be treated in similar circumstances.

The Obama administration was open enough to invite the human rights monitors into our country — under IACHR rules, they cannot come in uninvited. We hope that the administration will also be open enough to hear the Commission's report when it concludes its visit, and that it will make the necessary changes to ensure that immigrants don't lose their human rights when they are in detention.

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Vic Livingston

Yes, we do need to recognize human rights abuses -- and torture -- here at home. Here's a bulletin: The issue is NOT limited to immigrants and resident aliens. For your consideration:

* Anti-'Stalking' Journo Seeks Lawyer to Fight 'Stalking' Charge *

• journalist Vic Livingston accuses Falls Township, Bucks County, PA cops of assault, false arrest and imprisonment; considers civil rights lawsuit.

• But first he must find a conscientious defense attorney who won't charge him 10K to clear his good name against what he says are trumped up charges

Falls Township, Bucks County, PA authorities charged me with a crime. By mail. First-degree criminal "stalking." The crime that's been perpetrated against me by the covert, GPS-activated extrajudicial targeting and punishment "matrix" described in my article, "GESTAPO USA."

The crime that has ruined my life for the past five years.

Pennsylvania law says that for a criminal misdemeanor stalking charge to be applicable, there must be a demonstrated "course of conduct" or "repeatedly" committed acts or communications, with the "intent to place (another) person" in "reasonable fear" of "bodily injury" or "substantial emotional distress." That's a condensed summary by a non-lawyer; the full statute, and relevant case law, can be found here:

I did not commit criminal stalking on evening of June 22, 2009.

That's when I was pulled over while driving my car (which was confiscated and towed); assaulted by a police officer who flung me face-down on the trunk of my car; falsely accused me of "resisting arrest;" handcuffed me so tightly that my wrists ached for a week; did not read me my Miranda rights; kept me confined in a stress position in a parked squad car; threw me into a locked cell for about a half hour; denied me the right to call an attorney or my wife; took fingerprints and mug shots and had me sign three forms; then released me, saying I would be charged by mail with "stalking" (which I was, several days later).

But the "stalking" definition fits what has been done systematically to me for five years, wherever I travel, even out of state.

I am being charged with the very "organized" crime that my articles have exposed. I believe this is an abuse of process, unlawful imprisonment, police misconduct, and quite possibly, entrapment.

All of my telecommunications are subject to not just surveillance, but malicious tampering and interception, including phone calls. Some of my calls seeking assistance have been returned by persons that sound to this veteran journalist like impostors. My important emails typically do not generate a response.

A defense attorney recommended to me by a neighbor who is an attorney wants $2,000 plus costs to represent me at the preliminary hearing, and at least another $7,500 if the case goes to trial, regardless of how much time is spent preparing the case.

So I am still seeking representation -- and I want to pursue a police misconduct case. I have requested a police misconduct investigation in a phone conversation with a deputy district attorney. I have received no response. The local ACLU has said they can't help me; I have found that organization sadly lacking.

My hearing is scheduled for Aug. 18th in Bucks County Magisterial District Court 07-1-10 in Fallsington, PA (subject to postponement if my eventual counsel requires more time).

To my media colleagues: coverage invited. I repeat the request despite the mainstream media's lack of coverage of the nationwide extrajudicial targeting network that, I believe, has purged mainstream journalism of some of its best.

I also take note of the dearth of media coverage about the proliferation of silent, injury- and illness-inducing microwave and laser radiation "directed energy weapons" that have been widely deployed...

... the weaponization of the electromagnetic spectrum, a development every bit as significant as the invention of gunpowder.

Skilled, ethical defense/civil rights attorneys who can play both defense and offense: please get in touch ASAP.

As for mainstream media coverage of extrajudicial targeting and punishment:

Why are mainstream media journalists AWOL? Our profession, democracy, and the rule of law are in the cross-hairs of a federally-enabled police state.

Prior to this incident, I had never been arrested. Now I'm asked for fork over 10 grand to defend myself against what I consider to be false charges. When I am the victim.

Is this justice?


Victims of “group stalking” are not being taken seriously by the ACLU and other groups, to the great peril of many. These stalking operations/programs are a fact across this still great country of ours and, yet, because they are so unbelievable (and many of the victims do not appear to be credible), these programs continue unabated. Those involved act with impunity.

Someone needs to do something to help stop these stalking groups, or we are all in great danger, I fear.

Wasting Time

Vic-- What were you REALLY doing? Sounds like you were harassing someone for a length of time, while you call it journalism, it is harassment when they/you don't go away. what story was so important for you to let the world know? You sound like a bitter, angry, elite journalist harrassing the daylights out of someone. Give us the details, not your sob story. ACLU doesn't look at the details, just the sob's kidding. get over it & don't take yourself so seriously.

I have to be an...

cry me a river. NO ONE ever said jail would be easy and since criminals seem to continue on with their life of crime when released I say find a way to reform them and make their lives miserable.

Gary Schummer

I'm concerned about the violation of the rights of people who are incarcerated who have a definable mental illness. The emphasis of our system of "justice" is on punitive treatment rather than rehabilitation. As a person who pays a lot of money in taxes, I resent how the government is wasting precious dollars keeping people locked up for no good reason who need treatment. It’s an inane waste of precious resources that if used properly could go to fund treatment and education programs. How many studies have to be done before key decision makers understand that you don’t inspire people to change by punishment? We used to believe corporal punishment was a good way to discipline children. This has been replaced by more enlightened and more effective methods that respect the fact that people shouldn’t be subjected to physical pain. I’d love to know the amount of money spent on this war on drugs – talk about a waste of money! Imagine fighting a war against no real enemy that we’re setup to loose – they can’t even keep drugs out of prisons!

There are many inmates who have never hurt anyone but who are caught up in a system that cannot stop abusing them. Once released on parole a person with a history of substance abuse is expected to not use anything, ever. How realistic is that? In California prisoners aren’t released from prison, they all go on parole. The expectation is set so high that many end up repeating the cycle of imprisonment followed by parole incessantly and end up spending more of their adult life in prison than outside of prison. The law may be black and white, but people who have disabilities or mental problems cannot be expected to match the threshold of behavior those without mental disorders are capable. The 504 law put in place by the Federal Government dictates that special accommodations be put in place in the educational system for those with disabilities. Why no such mandate for those in prison? We’re more intelligent than to think that if someone is depressed or have schizophrenia that they should be incarcerated. We FIRST think treatment for the majority of the mentally ill, why do we think incarceration is the answer to chemical dependency issues?

In many cases the criminal justice system perpetuates abuse that people with mental illness feel they deserve. Society as represented in “The People of California verses John Doe” becomes the perpetrators. The law allows judges, parole officers, etc. very little discretion and precious little funding to identify and properly treat the mentally ill under their care. This is clearly a violation of human rights and I resent anyone acting in my name perpetuating this unfair system. Apparently the only way to get this abuse to stop is to cease giving them money, which is in the works. Of course the “experts” who run the prison system will likely react in immature ways. They will try to show those judges how wrong they were to order this and arbitrarily release people from jail TO parole – which will likely start the whole cycle again. What a sick system we have; the emphasis is on punitive demeaning of one’s personhood, not rehabilitation or making people better. What might be nice is to have politicians and key decision makers’ start listening to experts who articulate solutions to problems.


What I would like to know, is why are these immigrants locked up in the first place? Were they doing anything illegal to be picked up by our police forces? Were they holding a legitimate green card? Were they applying for citizenship? Were they learning English and learning about our country? Did they come here illegally? Are they trying to obtain rights that should only be for American Citizens, such as social security, food stamps, welfare of any kind. Are they paying taxes into the system, just as American citizens are - so they can receive these benefits? If not, then what is the problem. Instead of detaining them, send them home to their country of origin and let them change their country instead of messing up ours.

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