ModernityBlog

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Posts Tagged ‘ACLU

The Rich, The Powerful And Diplomatic Immunity.

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The Guardian has a good piece on the misuse of diplomatic immunity and the terrible treatment of domestic workers by diplomats and those in positions of power:

“Still, a recent case of domestic abuse in a diplomatic household set an encouraging precedent. Vishranthamma Swarna, a maid to former Kuwaiti UN diplomat Badar Al-Awadi, claimed to have suffered sustained mistreatment, including rape, when she was not cooking, cleaning and caring for the diplomat’s children in New York. Swarna was isolated: she spoke no English and was banned by her employer from leaving the house. She also inhabited a legal black hole: since her employer, who brought her in on a special visa, had diplomatic immunity, he could not be prosecuted in the United States for his actions.

With help from the ACLU, Swarna was able to take her case to the federal district court of New York, where the judge ruled that her work did not have a “direct … benefit to diplomatic functions” and that Al-Awadi could subsequently not be protected from prosecution under the Vienna conventions (pdf). The decision means that a diplomat can now be held liable for mistreating a domestic worker, but not for sexually abusing a secretary or intern, whose work is arguably vital to the embassy or consulate’s work. It remains to be seen whether victims like Swarna will begin speak up. But even then, their alleged abusers can conveniently relocate. Al-Awadi has since moved to Paris.

Women who work at international organisations also face sex discrimination and harassment, and the more highly ranked their harassers, the less likely they are to get justice.

In 2004, Ruud Lubbers, the high commissioner for human rights, reportedly grabbed Cynthia Brzak, an American employee, and pressed his groin against her buttocks in full view of other UNHCR staff. Brzak and many other female employees report that it is normal to be treated in such a way at the UN and other international organisations. But since filing a complaint is seen as a career-killer, most sexual harassment incidents go unreported. Victims have very little legal recourse, and must go through the UN’s complex internal justice system. Brzak pressed charges because she was tired of the permissive culture. “I just wanted a message sent that you cannot keep jumping on women at three in the afternoon,” she says today.” “

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Written by modernityblog

22/05/2011 at 14:44

Kuwait, A Quantico Brig And Now Fort Leavenworth.

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The captivity of Bradley Manning does no favours for America, his treatment has been harsh, petty and unnecessary.

I had not appreciated that Manning was held in Kuwait for two months before his move to the US, and it is fairly clear that the regime at Quantico was used to make him lose his marbles, Kim Zetter has more:

“Manning’s treatment during his detention has been the subject of intense criticism. The ACLU called his treatment “gratuitously harsh” in a letter sent last month to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. And former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was forced to resign after publicly calling Manning’s treatment by the military “counterproductive and stupid.” President Obama found himself defending Manning’s treatment at a press conference last month.

Johnson, however, said there were a number of other issues that led the Pentagon to re-evaluate Manning’s confinement location. These included the length of time he’s expected to be confined prior to undergoing a trial, and the services available to pre-trial prisoners.

Johnson said Quantico was designed for only short pre-trial stays of a few months, whereas Manning was already in his ninth month at Quantico and is not expected to go to trial for many more months. Leavenworth was also more suitable because it has better mental health support and is an Army facility. Manning is an Army soldier, and the case against him is being handled by the Army, not the Marine Corps.