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Archive for the ‘Human Rights News.’ Category

NRA Joins Lawsuit Over Snowden Phone Data.


In a continuing effort to protect the privacy interests of gun owners, the National Rifle Association filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Friday in the National Security Agency spying case.

The brief  supports the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for reversal of a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that deemed lawful all of the domestic telephone data gathered by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

In December, U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III issued a 53-page decision that upheld that the NSA’s data collection program, which accumulates virtually all Americans’ phone records, did not violate the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unlawful search and seizure.

In its friend of the court brief, the NRA continued to argue that NSA data collection violates freedom of association protection guaranteed under the First Amendment.

“The mass surveillance program could allow identification of NRA members, supporters, potential members, and other persons with whom the NRA communicates, potentially chilling their willingness to communicate with the NRA,” the brief states.

In his original ruling, Pauley found that the claimed chilling effect of the NSA programs was too speculative to be deemed a substantial intrusion on First Amendment rights.

“There is no evidence that the Government has used any of the bulk [telephone] metadata it collected for any purpose other than investigating and disrupting terrorist attacks,” he wrote.

The NRA’s second point of contention centers on its belief that the data collection programs could undermine the privacy protection of gun owners. Current federal law prohibits the creation of a registry of firearms or firearm owners.

According to the NRA, the government maintains that its surveillance program collects only metadata, and the content of communications remains private.

The NRA counters that argument with a recent study in which two graduate students at Stanford University collected telephone metadata on volunteers over a few months and discovered exactly how much private information they were able to glean.

“We found that phone metadata is unambiguously sensitive, even in a small population and over a short time window,” Jonathan Mayer and Patrick Mutchler wrote in their study.  “We were able to infer medical conditions, firearm ownership, and more, using solely phone metadata.”

On the specific issue of firearm ownership, the authors of the study determined that one of the volunteers likely was interested in firearms and specifically in AR-15 pattern rifles. The volunteer later confirmed that information to be true.

“This type of information is particularly sensitive at a time when some government officials at both the state and federal levels are showing increasing hostility toward individual gun ownership, and when interest in a particular type of firearm may bring an individual under close governmental scrutiny because of that firearm’s disfavored status,” the NRA wrote in a statement.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Joe Battaglia

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Defiant Chinese Bishop Dies at 97 While under House Arrest.


A Shanghai bishop who was imprisoned for decades by Chinese authorities died Sunday evening at his home, a Catholic group said in a statement.

Bishop Fan Zhongliang, 97, was ordained by Pope John Paul II but not recognised by Chinese authorities.

China is home to between 8 and 12 million Catholics, divided between the state-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which appoints its own bishops, and an “underground” church that is loyal to the Vatican.

Fan spent more than 30 years in prisons and labor camps over the course of his life, starting in 1955, according to the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, which reports on the treatment of Catholics in China. He was under house arrest when he died.

Supporters held a mass at Fan’s apartment immediately after his death, the foundation said, but Shanghai government officials ordered the body to be transfered to a funeral home after the service.

The government denied Fan’s supporters’ request to hold his funeral at a large cathedral, instead designating a smaller courtyard at the funeral home, the statement said.

China and the Vatican broke off formal diplomatic relations shortly after the ruling Communist Party took power in 1949.

Both the Vatican and China agreed to ordain a bishop in Shanghai, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, in 2012, but government authorities arrested him after he stepped down from the Catholic Patriotic Association around the same time.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Facebook’s Zuckerberg Calls Obama to Vent About NSA Spying.


Image: Facebook's Zuckerberg Calls Obama to Vent About NSA Spying

By Jason Devaney

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg called President Barack Obama on the phone Wednesday night and vented his frustrations with reports the NSA is spying on Americans.

A report on The Intercept this week explained how the NSA is able to hack into people’s computers to steal data, sometimes disguising itself as a phony Facebook server. It also uses spam emails that contain software to peer into the lives of users, according to the report.

Urgent: Should the NSA Spy on Americans? Vote Here Now 

“The U.S. government should be the champion for the Internet, not a threat,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. “They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.

“I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.”

The Intercept report cited documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former government contractor now living in Russia on temporary asylum. He is wanted by the U.S. government for stealing classified material.

“To keep the Internet strong, we need to keep it secure,” Zuckerberg wrote. “That’s why at Facebook we spend a lot of our energy making our services and the whole Internet safer and more secure. We encrypt communications, we use secure protocols for traffic, we encourage people to use multiple factors for authentication and we go out of our way to help fix issues we find in other people’s services.

“The internet works because most people and companies do the same. We work together to create this secure environment and make our shared space even better for the world.”

It seemed to ruffle Zuckerberg’s feathers the most that Facebook, a secure platform on which users can socialize, is reportedly being used in a ruse to gather data from unsuspected Internet users.

The White House confirmed the phone conversation between Zuckerberg and Obama, CNN reported, but would not provide details. The administration denied reports that the NSA uses a Facebook-like server to steal data, referring to an NSA statement.

“Recent media reports that allege NSA has infected millions of computers around the world with malware, and that NSA is impersonating U.S. social media or other websites, are inaccurate,” the statement reads. “NSA uses its technical capabilities only to support lawful and appropriate foreign intelligence operations, all of which must be carried out in strict accordance with its authorities.

“NSA does not use its technical capabilities to impersonate U.S. company websites. Nor does NSA target any user of global Internet services without appropriate legal authority. Reports of indiscriminate computer exploitation operations are simply false.”

Zuckerberg said he is “confused and frustrated” with the allegations leveled on the nation’s domestic spy agency.

“When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government,” he wrote.

Urgent: Should the NSA Spy on Americans? Vote Here Now 

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Wikileaks’s Assange Says He’s Releasing More Secret Data.


Image: Wikileaks's Assange Says He's Releasing More Secret Data

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks by video link to an audience at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. (AP)

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks who has disclosed scores of classified data about U.S. military and diplomatic efforts, said the group would be releasing a new batch of secret information.

Assange, speaking through a video feed Saturday to a crowd of more than 3,000 people at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, said he wouldn’t share details about the timing or contents of the data because he doesn’t want to give the subjects a chance to prepare a response.

“I don’t think it’s right to give the perpetrator the heads up,” said Assange.

Assange is one of several speakers at the conference who is focused on Internet privacy and online security. After years of being an event for celebrating startups with new social- networking tools for posting personal information, South by Southwest this year is taking a more critical look at the privacy consequences of sharing that data. Edward Snowden, the government contractor who leaked documents disclosing spying by the National Security Agency, speaks on Monday through a video link.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 
Assange, 42, said the disclosures about NSA spying are causing people to reassess the role of government in a world where an increasing amount of personal information is stored online. He said the U.S. agency is losing the public-relations battle since the revelations from Snowden about gathering data from companies such as Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. The disclosures show a “military occupation” in the Internet’s “public space,” he said.

He said the release of classified information is critical to better understanding of the practices the government is doing in secret. He also said the NSA doesn’t face enough oversight from President Barack Obama’s administration.

“Who really wears the pants in the administration?” Assange said.

Wikileaks, which started in 2006, leaks classified documents under a philosophy of increasing government transparency. With help from people who have access to secret information, the nonprofit group has released materials including State Department communications about foreign governments and military efforts during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One U.S. soldier, private Bradley Manning, is serving as long as 35 years in prison for leaking classified information to Wikileaks.

Assange lives in the Ecuadorean embassy in London to avoid arrest in relation to a sexual assault investigation. He has denied the charges.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said earlier in the conference that there needs to be a balance between transparency and security because the government information being disclosed could put lives at risk. He also said the disclosures have made Assange and Snowden “celebrities” and may spawn copycat efforts, increasing the risk for harm if the disclosures aren’t done carefully.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 
© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

U.S. releases damning human rights report about Nigeria.


 

“The most serious human rights abuses during the year were those committed by Boko Haram.”
A new report by the United States has described Nigeria as a country where corruption, official impunity, and gross human rights violations occur at will.
The report described the human rights violations to include extra-judicial killings, rape, torture, mistreatment of detainees, destruction of property, violence against women, vigilante killings, child labour, forced and bonded labour, and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
This assessment of Nigeria is according to the 2013 Country Report on Human Rights. The report, which is now in its 38th year, is sanctioned by the U.S. Congress. It, amongst other things, helps inform the U.S. government policy and foreign assistance.
According to the report, the terrorist group, Boko Haram, and the Nigerian Government are the worst perpetrators of human rights abuses in the country.
“The most serious human rights abuses during the year were those committed by Boko Haram, which conducted killings, bombings, abduction and rape of women, and other attacks throughout the country, resulting in numerous deaths, injuries, and widespread destruction of property; those committed by security services, which perpetrated extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, beatings, arbitrary detention, mistreatment of detainees, and destruction of property; and widespread societal violence, including ethnic, regional, and religious violence,” the report said.
The report came hard on the Goodluck Jonathan administration for institutionalising impunity with the state pardon granted to serial money launderer and former governor of Bayelsa State, Dipreye Alamieyeseigha. It also said the Nigeria government has displayed no willingness to prosecute soldiers and police officers accused of gross human rights violations.
The report makes specific reference to the refusal of the government to prosecute members of the armed forces found to have perpetrated extrajudicial killing and torture in clear disregard of the recommendation of The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Committee against Torture.
“During the year joint task forces (JTFs), composed of elements of the military, police, and other security services, conducted raids on militant groups and criminal suspects in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Katsina, Jigawa, and Yobe. These raids resulted in numerous deaths of and injuries to alleged criminals, militants, and civilians. Local NGOs, international human rights groups, and political and traditional leaders in the affected states accused the security services of indiscriminate and extrajudicial killings.
“The national police, army, and other security forces committed extrajudicial killings and used lethal and excessive force to apprehend criminals and suspects as well as to disperse protesters. Authorities generally did not hold police accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody. The reports of state or federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths remained unpublished.”
Inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment
The report frowned at the technique of “parading” of suspects commonly used by the police. It observed that most of those paraded are subjected to public ridicule or abuse.
“Police commonly used a technique called “parading” of arrestees. Parading involved literally walking arrestees through public spaces, subjecting them to public ridicule and abuse.
“Bystanders often hurled taunts, food, and other objects. Police defended this practice with the argument that public humiliation helped deter crime,” it said.
It further observed that police flagrantly extort money from civilians and in blatant violation of the law. They use torture to extract confessions from suspects, which are later used to secure convictions in court.
The report indicts the police of rape and other sexual offences of women in their custody. In one example in Abraka in Delta State, in March 2013, a woman said four men raped her while she was in police custody. She said the police had put her in the same cell as the men. She accused the police of failing to help her. According to her, the investigating police office told her to keep quiet about the incident.
Over-crowded and disease-infested prisons
The report described a horrid condition of the country’s prison. It said the prisons are mostly over-crowded and in such deplorable states that they provide fertile breeding grounds for communicable disease. It said prisoners are poorly fed and their health neglected.
For instance, it observed that inmates with mental illness are kept among the general population. Prison warders are also accused of widespread torture, extortions, and sexual abuses such as rape of female inmates.
“Prison and detention center conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Prisoners, a majority of whom had not been tried, were subject to extrajudicial execution, torture, gross overcrowding, food and water shortages, inadequate medical treatment, deliberate and incidental exposure to heat and sun, and infrastructure deficiencies that led to wholly inadequate sanitary conditions and could result in death.”
“Reports indicated guards and prison officials extorted inmates or levied fees on them to pay for food, prison maintenance, and prisoner release. In some cases female inmates faced the threat of rape. Female prisoners pregnant at the time of incarceration gave birth to and raised their babies in prison,” it added.
“Overcrowding was a significant problem in some prisons. Although national capacity stood at 47,284, an imbalance in the use of prisons resulted in underutilization at some facilities, while others were at more than 800 percent of their designed capacity. For example, the Owerri Federal Prison had the capacity to hold 548 prisoners but held more than 1,784. Ogwuashi-Uku prison in Delta State, with a capacity to house 64 prisoners, housed 541, while Port Harcourt prison, with a capacity to hold 804, held 2,955. Ijebu-Ode prison in Lagos, with a capacity to hold 49 prisoners, held 309,” it continued.
“Although the law prohibits the imprisonment of children, minors–many of whom were born there–lived in the prisons. A 2006 report on the rights and welfare of children from the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs to the African Union found an estimated 6,000 children lived in prisons and detention centers. The Nigerian Prison Service reported, however, that as of March, 69 infants resided in prison with their mothers while 847 juvenile inmates were detained in juvenile detention centers.”
Freedom of Speech
The report observed that though the freedom of speech and a free press are guaranteed by the constitution, high-handed security and government officials still occasionally harass journalists.
The report made a case in point of the December 2012 raid of the homes and offices of the editor Musa Muhammad Awwal and reporter Aliyu Saleh of the Hausa-language weekly newspaper Al-Mizan, confiscating their phones and laptops as well as detaining the journalists and their wives.
“Politicians and political parties harassed and attacked journalists perceived as reporting on them or their interests in a negative manner. For example, on April 8, authorities in Abuja detained two reporters for Leadership Newspaper, Tony Amokeodo and Chibuzor Ukaibe, following the publication on April 3 of an article alleging that President Jonathan had ordered the disruption of operations of his political opponents. Authorities charged the two men with “vexatious publication.” All charges were later dropped.
“Journalists also were at risk of abduction. For example, in March assailants in Ondo State abducted a Nigeria Television Authority journalist, Olubunmi Oke, as she arrived home from work with her infant child and maid. The child and maid were later released. Media reports stated that the assailants had demanded an eight million naira ($50,240) ransom. Oke was freed after three days, following the payment of an undisclosed ransom.
Nicholas Ibekwe
(From Biafra Galaxy)

Venezuela Lets CNN Journalists Stay.


CNN’s journalists can remain in Venezuela after all, President Nicolas Maduro said, reversing a day-old move to revoke their credentials and begin expulsion.

Maduro threatened to kick out the network’s journalists if CNN did not “rectify’ its coverage of the country’s anti-government protests, the network reported Friday night.

But Maduro changed course later, and Maduro said CNN could stay.

Maduro had called out CNN along with Fox News and other media from the United States, saying they encouraged the opposition forces.

Story continues below video.

But the brunt of his anger went to CNN, saying its Spanish-language division did “not talk about anything except Venezuela. One hundred percent of the programming until today has been Venezuela. No other Latin American news but Venezuela.”

He also accused CNN of calling for “civil war and hatred” while lying to the world.

“This comes back to the owner of CNN. He is the one who sets the guidelines,” accused Maduro. “And they work with the State Department, and from there they use that network to foment a pretend war among Venezuelans and to say internationally there should be intervention in Venezuela.”

He demanded a “balance based on respect for Venezuelan laws. He who does not respect the laws will not be on Venezuelan airwaves.”

Maduro also, during the press conference, called on President Barack Obama to join him in talks to resolve problems between the United States and Venezuela, saying the meeting would “put the truth out on the table,” reports BBC News.

On Wednesday, Obama urged Venezuela Wednesday to release protesters detained in anti-government demonstrations that turned violent and address the “legitimate grievances” of its people.

During Friday’s state TV broadcast, CNN correspondents Rafael Romo and Karl Penhaul, along with CNN en Español’s Osmary Hernandez were often shown, and Penhaul asked the president about the status of an investigation into the armed theft of CNN’s television equipment during an anti-government protest.

Maduro said the theft was being investigated and that CNN will likely recover its equipment.

Last Sunday, Venezuela threw out three U.S. diplomats, accusing them of meeting with violent groups linked to the opposition, the BBC reports.

The clashes between security forces and protesters have gone on for days, resulting in at least eight deaths, and Maduro accused CNN on Thursday of showing “war propaganda” instead of people “building the homeland.”

The government hours later told seven CNN journalists that their accreditations had been revoked and they must book flights back home.

“CNN has reported both sides of the tense situation in Venezuela, even with very limited access to government officials,” CNN said in a statement, and that when its credentials were revoked, journalists were seeking an interview with the president.

Meanwhile, CNN’s troubles in Venezuela are not over. A top lawmaker and leader of the ruling party said the government is investigating allegations against the network and will “not tremble in acting against those who make an attempt against the motherland.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

North Korea’s Kim Warned he Might Face Charges over Atrocities.


North Korean security chiefs and possibly even Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un himself should face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and mass killings bordering on genocide, U.N. investigators said on Monday.

The investigators told Kim in a letter they were advising the United Nations to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC), to ensure any culprits “including possibly yourself” were held accountable.

North Korea said it “categorically and totally” rejected the investigators’ report, which it called “a product of politicization of human rights on the part of EU and Japan in alliance with the U.S. hostile policy”.

The unprecedented public warning and rebuke to a ruling head of state by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry is likely to complicate efforts to persuade the isolated country to rein in its nuclear weapons program and belligerent confrontations with South Korea and the West.

The U.N. investigators said they had also told Kim’s main ally China that it might be “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity” by sending migrants and defectors back to North Korea, where they faced torture and execution – a charge that Chinese officials had rebutted.

As referral to the ICC is seen as a dim hope, given China’s likely veto of any such move by Western powers in the U.N. Security Council, thoughts are also turning to setting up some form of special tribunal on North Korea, diplomatic and U.N. sources told Reuters.

“We’ve collected all the testimony and can’t just stop and wait 10 years. The idea is to sustain work,” said one.

 

“REMINISCENT OF NAZI ATROCITIES”

Michael Kirby, chairman of the independent Commission of Inquiry, told Reuters the crimes the team had catalogued in a 372-page report were reminiscent of those committed by Nazis during World War Two.

“Some of them are strikingly similar,” he said.

“Testimony was given … in relation to the political prison camps of large numbers of people who were malnourished, who were effectively starved to death and then had to be disposed of in pots burned and then buried … It was the duty of other prisoners in the camps to dispose of them,” he said.

The independent investigators’ report, the size of a telephone directory, listing atrocities including murder, torture, rape, abductions, enslavement, starvation and executions.

“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” it said.

The findings came out of a year-long investigation involving public testimony by defectors, including former prison camp guards, at hearings in South Korea, Japan, Britain and the United States.

Defectors included Shin Dong-hyuk, who gave harrowing accounts of his life and escape from a prison camp. As a 13-year-old, he informed a prison guard of a plot by his mother and brother to escape and both were executed, according to a book on his life called “Escape from Camp 14”.

North Korea’s diplomatic mission in Geneva dismissed the findings shortly before they were made public. “We will continue to strongly respond to the end to any attempt of regime-change and pressure under the pretext of ‘human rights protection’,” it said a statement sent to Reuters.

 

“DELIBERATE STARVATION”

The abuses were mainly perpetrated by officials in structures that ultimately reported to Kim – state security, the Ministry of People’s Security, the army, the judiciary and Workers’ Party of Korea, according to the investigators, led by Kirby, a retired Australian chief justice.

“It is open to inference that the officials are, in some instances, acting under your personal control,” Kirby wrote in the three-page letter to Kim published as part of the report.

The team recommended targeted U.N. sanctions against civil officials and military commanders suspected of the worst crimes. It did not reveal any names, but said that it had compiled a database of suspects from evidence and testimony.

Pyongyang has used food as “a means of control over the population” and “deliberate starvation” to punish political and ordinary prisoners, according to the team of 12 investigators.

Pervasive state surveillance quashed all dissent. Christians were persecuted and women faced blatant discrimination. People were sent to prison camps without hope of release.

The investigators were not able to confirm allegations of “gruesome medical testing of biological and chemical weapons” on disabled people and political prisoners, but said they wanted to investigate further.

North Korea’s extermination of political prisoners over the past five decades might amount to genocide, the report said, although the legal definition of genocide normally refers to the killing of large parts of a national, ethnic or religious group.

North Korean migrants and defectors returned by China regularly faced torture, detention, summary execution and forced abortion, said the report.

Kirby warned China’s charge d’affaires in Geneva Wu Haitao in a Dec 16 letter that the forced repatriations might amount to “the aiding and abetting (of) crimes against humanity”, it said.

Wu, in a reply also published in the report, said that the fact that some of the illegal North Korean migrants regularly managed to get back into China after their return showed that the allegations of torture were not true.

“The DPRK (North Korea) has been looked at by the Security Council solely as a nuclear proliferation issue,” Julie de Rivero of campaign group Human Rights Watch told Reuters.

“This (report) is putting human rights in the DPRK on the map, which it wasn’t before, and hopefully will put the spotlight on the U.N. and international community to respond to not just the security threat,” she added.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

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