Double Injustice: Media Racism

Back in 2003 Imogen Bunting, whose birthday it would have been today, wrote this on the film INJUSTICE by Tariq and Ken. To date the film still has not been shown on UK television, despite all the awards and media acclaim and THE RELEVANCE OF IT STILL TODAY.

Originally posted 2006

MEDIA RACISM

This piece was written by Imogen for a possible book on the film Injustice. We approached 19 publishers for the book, but while screenings do occur now, because the film was banned/threatened for so long by the court injunctions of the Police Federation, no publisher seemed able to risk a publication. As you can see from below, the failure of the publishers (some respected left wing houses) was not because of the quality of the writing – here as ever Imogen was on the case.

Media Racism:
Reporting black deaths in the British press: Injustice and the right to reply.

‘Black deaths do not have a good press, especially when they occur in the custody of our custodians…the media leads the public to believe that our guardians can do no wrong. Racism leads them to believe that blacks can do no right. The silence of the custodial system is compounded by the silences of racism’ (Sivanandan).

It is from within these silences that Injustice speaks. As Sivanadan’s resolute remark suggests, the film was, in part, a necessary response to the media’s selective and often dubiously scarce reportage. Why is it that the one thousand deaths in custody that have occurred since 1969 can largely have slipped through the pages of our national press whilst at the same time the deaths of Stephen Lawrence, Victoria Climbe and Damilola Taylor have, for instance, frequently made the front covers of both broadsheets and tabloids? When the key suspects in the murder of Stephen Lawrence were charged with committing a racist attack on an off duty black police officer the Daily Mirror’s front page announced ‘GOTCHA! Two down, three to go, as justice finally catches up with racist Lawrence thugs’. And yet, in the post-Macpherson world it is all too easy perhaps to be seduced by such jubilance. After all, justice for the death of Stephen Lawrence never did catch up with his killers. The justice just delivered was for a racial attack on a police officer. And, if we are to be cynical, it mostly provided a perfect space for the press to celebrate an apparently reformed Metropolitan police.

The same week however, on page eight of the Guardian we are told that when Christopher Alder died face down in a police station in Hull in 1998, he was surrounded by police making monkey noises. In a letter to his sister, the CPS reported that ‘it is not possible to infer that there was a racist motivation here’. This, less impressive judicial decision is far from the front page – ‘black deaths do not have a good press’. Injustice was a way of exposing the long and continuing history of (black) deaths in custody where a politically correct rather than a politically [engaged?] press had not been adequate. Exploring the press’ handling of the cases featured in the Injustice provides a way of understanding the sticky politics of reporting deaths in custody and may open up a space in which to re-view the cases.

Whilst it is probably a truism for those involved in the campaigns for justice of people who have died in police custody, it is worth noting at the outset a point all too often forgotten when Britain celebrates the freedom of its press and the quality of its news, that is:

‘The media do not simply and transparently report events which are ‘naturally’ newsworthy in themselves. ‘News’ is the end product of a complex process which begins with a systematic sorting of events and topics according to a socially constructed set of categories’ (Hall et al 1978:53).

Deaths in custody are reported within a wider media context of black deaths, which more often than not, are associated with crime, gangs and drugs. The furore over guns from the ghettos at the concerts of the So Solid Crew was synchronous with the trial of the killers of schoolboy Damilola Taylor. And, whilst providing stark contrast to one another, together portrayed a kind of black underworld where, as the Guardian noted, ‘Gun crime in London is at an all-time high, and black violence against black people of particular concern, with 21 deaths last year’. A few months later, rising crime rates were the front cover of all the national press, and the shadow home secretary announced that ‘everyone on the estates in our inner cities knows…it is gangs and drug dealers rather than the forces of law and order that are in charge’ (Guardian 12/7/2002).

When gangs and drug dealers have been repeatedly inferred as being black, the violence of the police force towards to black people, or the disproportionate figures of black deaths in custody can be seen not as racism but rather as the inevitable result of black criminality. This might be one of the ‘socially constructed set of categories’ within which black deaths in police custody are reported, or not. And what it effectively creates is the idea that the force of the police is ‘reasonable’. However, when the controversial stop and search laws make it five times more likely to be stopped if you are black, then already there is a disproportionate chance that in being stopped, the police feel that a certain degree of force is reasonable. Indeed race and crime are so closely associated by the media that the Guardian chose to quote the Voice editor calling for more stop and search in the face of rising street crime and gun related offences,

‘Most people would prefer not to be stopped and searched, but increasing crime is warranting that and the majority of people who have nothing to hide won’t mind very much’ (Guardian 5/3/2002).
So, Mike Best, portrayed as a spokesperson for black people, has reiterated the most cunning of media tricks, creating the functional equivalent of the deserving and undeserving poor. The emphasis is shifted from the fact that stop and search, undertaken by a self confessed ‘institutionally racist’ police force is a dubious and dangerous tactic. And again, it obfuscates the fact that people stopped and searched, such as Brian Douglas, or arrested on suspicion of robbery such as Wayne Douglas, are dead. It is not even that the people who ‘have nothing to hide’ always get off lightly. Moreover, following the theme of the deserving and undeserving, a great deal of post-Macpherson media spin has played on the idea that the police are now too afraid of being accused of being racist that they won’t stop black people. The delight with which the nation mimicked Ali G’s ‘Is it cos I is black?’ was a serious indicator of how little the term ‘institutionally racist’ had been taken seriously and, like Mike Best, black M.P Paul Boateng was showcased demanding that:
‘The power [of stop and search] cannot be removed – it is a vital tool in the armoury of the police. We must never lose sight in our response to the Lawrence report what brought it about – a gang of thugs on the street obsessed by knives. The police must have the power to stop and search for knives’ (Observer 28/2/1999).

In fact this ‘gang of thugs’ were a white racist fraternity and yet stop and search renders black people five times more likely to be stopped. Indeed this kind of neutralisation of the police in the press is common. A crucial aspect of deaths in custody is that, by their very nature they might provoke terror and anger in the public eye as we are forced to ask who can protect us from those who are there to protect us? And yet, deaths in custody have repeatedly been portrayed as almost an inevitability, or the just deserves of a minority of people on the wrong side of the law. An example might be a report of the death of Shiji Lapite that appeared in the Sunday Telegraph which ran:

‘Mr Lapite was arrested outside a nightclub in Stoke Newington, north-east London. During a struggle he was pinned down and his larynx partially crushed. He died of asphyxia and cocaine intoxication.’

In the same way, the Times made sure to note that Brian Douglas was, at the time of his arrest, thought to be ‘under the influence of either drugs or drink’. Whilst the Sunday Telegraph described how, when Joy Gardner’s mouth was gagged with 13 feet of surgical tape, the police had arrived at her home,

‘with an arrest warrant, restraining equipment…and the information that she tried to evade deportation before and had a record of violence’.

This is perhaps the most telling account in that it shows how a criminalised history or an inference of involvement with drugs is a resource that can be used by the police in the same way as an arrest warrant might be. Similarly, both Joy Gardner and Shiji Lapite were described first and foremost as asylum seekers. Read within the context of a media who infamously echoed Enoch Powell’s speech of Britain being ‘flooded’ by immigrants, it is easy to see how these deaths might have been construed.

A demand for information, accountability, and justice that might arise through reporting a death in custody is augmented by an inference of criminality. In these instances, police action no longer, it seems, is under such scrutiny. Middle England, reading the paper over their breakfast can rest assured that it won’t be them on the floor of Stoke Newington police station. Whilst, bombarded with spectacular reports of rising crime, drugs and guns, the police must be justified in their actions.

Looking at the press reports of all of the cases featured in the film exposes a pattern in the press’ handling of both deaths in police custody, and the relationship between black people and (usually violent) crime. When these issues converge, deaths in custody, rather than being an outrageous – and in this sense – morbidly newsworthy issue, become part of publicising the police in favour of ‘mentally unstable’ (Press release from Stoke Newington police the night of Colin Roach’s death in the foyer of the police station) ‘immensely strong’ (Daily Telegraph quoting P.C Wright’s description of Ibrahim Sey 26/1/1996) ‘violent’ (Sunday Telegraph quoting P.C Brian Adam’s description of Joy Gardner 30/11/1997) victims. Such dramatic adjectives are an example of how

‘media forms produce the urban (ghetto) as lawless, anarchic and violent…[and] from pop videos, Hollywood cinema, American police series and surveillance videos, the black male body has been an object of scrutiny’(Sharma and Sharma 2000:109).

Victims who have died in custody are somehow posed as Goliaths to the Metropolitan’s Davids whose political and technological strength is creatively overlooked. The figure of the big, black dangerous criminal becomes mythical and the police can be posed as heroes, risking their own safety to keep the streets safe.

An example of this use, by the police, of the media might be found in a report such as that in the Daily Telgraph whose headline was ‘Met officers to be given body armour and C.S gas’. Here, the death of Brian Douglas, following his arrest is noted within the context of police deaths. The article reads:

‘all members of the metropolitan police are to be issued with body armour in the wake of gun attacks that have left seven officers dead in the past five years’.

The implosion of Brian’s death with the death of police officers seems to suggest three key themes. Firstly that death is inevitable within police work. Secondly, that the death of a police officer on duty might be equivalent to the death of a citizen who is, for any reason, stopped by the police. And, thirdly, that the death of an officer is enough to warrant the introduction of more repressive measures [technologies?]. It is the press who have juxtaposed the stories of Brian Douglas death and the police death and, in doing so, have occluded the seriousness of both the frequency and similarity in the death in custody cases. The 1000 deaths since 1969 are not of course, juxtaposed with the 7 police deaths in 5 years, a statistic that might put the police death rate into some kind of perspective.

Breaking up the continuity of black deaths in police custody through intermittent reporting distracts the public from the chilling similarities in the cases. Beyond that however, for those families, friends and allies involved in campaigning for justice, the press’ spectacularisation of particular cases is extremely damaging. It sets up a dis-jointed politics where alliance must be traded for sympathy. Whilst the Guardian headline of a report into the death of Roger Sylvester was ‘Another death in custody, another family mourns’ (24/1/1999), what the article actually stressed was to not see the death as another of the same. Yet again, another family mourns, and yet ‘they are wary…of Roger Sylvester’s death becoming another Stephen Lawrence or Michael Menson case’. The fact is that in many respects, the death is already another Stephen Lawrence or Michael Menson case. The depoliticising of yet ‘another death in custody’ happens through the emotiveness of a family, in obvious disbelief, who, it was reported, in response to questions over a demonstration held outside the High Court said, ‘it had nothing to do with us’.

Along similar divisive lines, a large part of a BBC Newsnight report after the death of Michael Menson in Stoke Newington police station in 1983 was given over to P.C Paul Pacey, who demanded that:

‘you go out and talk to those people on the streets, just in the normal course of your duty and they’ll…talk to you about the police and about what happens to you back at Stoke Newington station…and they’ll say, “things happen to you back there” and you’ll say “well what?”, “well, I’ve heard stories…”, “Well, who off?”, “Well, people”, “ Has it happened to you?” “Well, no…” And its very hard to find. In fact I can’t find these people its happening to’.

Death in custody becomes the urban myth of a paranoid black community rather than a serious and discrediting narrative in the history of Stoke Newington police station. Injustice found the families and friends of ‘these people its happening to’ and in calibrating the deaths that have occurred over the last thirty years fill in the gaps left by the media.

These gaps are, it seems, so easily maintained because the usual model of reporting is impossible. When death occurs in the ‘custody of our custodians’ what ‘actually happened’ is only known by the police involved. The ‘news’ of a death in custody is framed by information given by a whole brigade of officials from the police, to the police coroners, to the Crown Prosecution Service, to the Police Complaints Authority into the nature of the death. Stuart Hall (et al) has noted that,

‘what is most striking about crime news is that it very rarely involves a first-hand account of the crime itself…Crime stories are almost wholly produced from the definitions and perspectives of the institutional primary definers’ (1978:68).

Within this are assumptions about the relationship between race and crime, crime and violence and violence and state-protection. So, from a pre-established context, it is really only the police who have a voice on a particular case. This process may be highlighted by the extent to which the press uses direct quotes from the police officers involved in the deaths. Cloaked in the officialdom of their speaking position, deeply subjective descriptions are used:

‘P.C Wright : “He [Shiji Lapite] was immensely strong. I was in fear for my life and P.C Macullum’s life”…P.C Wright believed the suspect’s “tremendous strength” might have been the effect of crack cocaine’ (Daily Telegraph 26/1/1996).

‘“She [Joy Gardner] was the most violent woman I have ever encountered”, said P.C Brian Adam’ (Sunday Telegraph 30/11/1997).

There is no space for counter comment – for an opposing claim. Both the ‘facts’ of the death and opinion or comment are given by the state. Disentangling this tightly woven knot of (mis) information becomes the private struggle of each family rather than a public and publicised campaign. The silencing of Injustice is another thread in this cloth, where each time a screening was due to take place, the cinema was threatened by the Metropolitan police lawyers. In privileging the voice of the state over and above the voice of those harmed by the state, the media reaffirms the position of an institutionally racist police.

‘we are now at the very heart of the inter-relationships between the control culture and the ‘signification culture’…In this moment, the media – albeit unwittingly, and through their own ‘autonomous’ routes – have become effectively an apparatus of the control process itself – an ‘ideological state apparatus’(Hall et al 1978:76).

Indeed there is a curious levelling mechanism that needs to go on with cases of death in custody. The Metropolitan police, especially after the Stephen Lawrence case, has worked incredibly hard on its image. It is almost as if the sympathy of the press is needed in direct proportion with the violence of the police. As Cohen has noted,

‘The more resources allocated to increasing the efficiency of repressive policing, the more manpower has to be poured [in]…to restabilize the public image of the force’ (quoted in Jefferson 1991:171).

A thousand deaths in police custody since 1969 is not a statistic that might enhance the image of the police. The double movement of repression and promotion is mediated by the press who, for example, in reporting the death of Joy Gardner at the hands of police and immigration officers explain how ‘sticky tape was wrapped around her head to stop her biting more officers’ (Sunday Telegraph 30/11/1997). The police restraining technologies are laconically justified despite the fact that they were fatal for Joy Gardner. The press have maintained the police framing of the event to such an extent that the possibility of alternative opinions, transgressive questions and redressive actions are edited out. ‘In this lost world of politics without conflict, division or debate, the spin doctors are always right’ (Gilroy 1999:12) and the only sniff of disagreement reported surrounds the suitability of particular technologies in particular cases. The fundamental questions of race, class and institutionalised violence are obscured by the histrionics of endless police reviews.

Relying on a benevolent media however, also has its dangers and limitations, precluding the politics and economics of why there are deaths in custody and of why black people are five times more likely to die in custody. A sympathetic press may have its own agenda within the status quo. In a global and historical level, the story of Stephen Biko, the anti-apartheid activist killed in police custody in South Africa in 1977 is best known perhaps by the film Cry Freedom, which, instead of telling the story of Biko, actually tells the story of Donald Woods, a sympathetic white journalist who tried to expose the killing of Biko in police custody. We can see that the story becomes one of a sympathetic white media rather than of the political economy of black death within the apartheid regime. The connections between the media as an apparatus of the state are eroded in portraying a laudable exception to the rule. Similarly, the problem of the media’s treatment of death in custody can not possibly be solved by having more black journalists, just as the police won’t stop being racist if there are more black officers. As Hall has pointed out,

‘The media do not only possess a near monopoly over ‘social knowledge’, as the primary source of information about what is happening; they also command the passage between those who are ‘in the know’ and the structured ignorance of the general public’ (1978:64).

Alternative media such as Injustice, made in collaboration with the families of those killed and screened in cinemas, social centres, political meetings and festivals reconstitute the desiccated narratives of deaths in custody. Marxists are not imagining things when they note that the ideological state apparatus of the mainstream media will always voice the opinions of the ruling classes. Hoping for a sympathetic report is, it seems, both naïve and insubstantial. However, it is crucial that the press are interrogated, challenged and disturbed by other voices, voices normally excluded from the debates. For deaths in police custody, the problem will always be that the victim is criminalized, and, ‘the criminal by his actions, is assumed to have forfeited, along with other citizenship rights, his ‘right of reply’ (Hall 1978:69). Restoring this right of reply has been, in a sense the project of Injustice. As it traces the struggles of the families of those who died, it recreates the space of comment – it re-collects the testimonies, it redefines the parameters of the debate.

Imogen Bunting

The Sobraj Challenge

Well, I know, this is not such an appropriate headline and a bit cheeky to add it, but I find this article predictable and mind-boggling at the same time. Charles Sobraj escaped from this place, so now you can try too. Though the last line comparison with a similar program in, of all places, Telangana jail has a nice little earner attached.

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Illustrating the growing trend for dark tourism, Delhi’s Tihar Jail is opening cells for tourists to give them a first-hand taste of life behind bars in an Indian prison. Emily Eastman reports

For about £20, the “Feel Like Jail” initiative will invite tourists to sample life in Asia’s largest prison – living in a locked cell, eating prison food, sleeping on the floor, wearing a uniform and grinding wheat at 5am.

The prison, which sprawls across 400 acres and houses more than 16,000 inmates, has constructed special tourist cells that are separated from the main prison by high walls.

There’s also the possibility of meeting real inmates, although not the notorious criminals currently imprisoned there. Instead, only selected inmates will be allowed to live in the complex with tourists.

Speaking to India Today, a source said: “These prisoners will be shortlisted based on their behaviour while they are lodged in jail. It is important for visitors to share the same premises with these inmates so that they can interact with them, listen to their stories.”

A source within Tihar Jail said that the complex was reviewed in June. “The feedback by superintendent-rank officers emphasised that visitors could be kept with inmates of semi-open and open prisons.

“Also, the proper uniform of the jail must be provided to the visitors and she/he should be kept away from mobile phones and other special facilities,” they said.

Although cells have toilets, tourists will still have to sleep on the floor like a real inmate and phones will be removed for security reasons. Activities during the stay will include dawn exercises and daily activities such as painting and meditation.

There are rumours that the attraction could be a Delhi Tourism initiative, which is not so hard to believe when you consider that the prison already sells a wide-range of “TJ’s” branded goods – from textiles to furniture – made by prisoners.

It’s not the first time that so-called “prison tourism” has been used to attract visitors and generate more tourism receipts.

In the 1990s, English inmate Thomas Mcfadden started offering tours of San Pedro Prison in La Paz, Bolivia, where he was imprisoned after being convicted of drug smuggling.

Mcfadden’s tours were borne of a need for income – San Pedro operated as a mini city, with inmates required to pay for everything, including their cells – but modern prison tours seem to be built on demand from a niche segment of travellers.

Perhaps the first in India was the “Feel the Jail” programme at Sangareddy Prison, in India’s Telangana state. Similar to the Tihar offering, visitors were given a prison uniform, basic cutlery and toiletries while being stripped of their phones – and freedom – for 24 hours.

The prison’s superintendent Santosh Kumar Rai said in 2018: “30 per cent of the prisoners leave out of abrupt sheer fear and for those who do this, we levy an extra charge of Rs 500 [US$7]. But those who complete full 24 hours walk out with a new sense of freedom.”’

 

Really, that last bit just seems to ice the story as fully baked cake in contemporary India. A levy on fear and the feeling of freedom. Also, you can pay to get out – probably the most authentic part of the deal.

 

Frantz Fanon on Care, and more.

‘To care for someone is not only to give him or her the possibility not to die, it is above all to give him or her the possibility to live’ (1954 Bilda clinic journal – in Alienation and Freedom, p321).

And from his letter of resignation:

A society that forces its members into desperate solutions is a non-viable society, a society that needs replacing. The citizen’s duty is to say so. No professional morality, no class solidarity, no desire to refrain from washing the dirty laundry in public, can have a prior claim. No pseudo-national mystification finds grace when up against the demand to think (Fanon, Letter to the Resident Minister, 1956)

 

And then I read some more – the whole volume is great and basically 800 pages in two days later, I feel like I’ve learned something and now have to go back and read The Wretched of the Earth again. So many reasons to be a fan of Fanon. For example, around the time of Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason, when we know from De Beauvoir that Sartre was eating amphetamines by the handful, Fanon spends three days non-stop talking with Sartre. This is before Sarre rattles off the intro to Wretched.

Then on his library – at the end of the book there is one of those ‘what was in his library’ things. Fanon has some Plekhanov, a bit of Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, not much Marx, (the 18th Brumaire of course, the Critique, Anti-Duhring and something else), but lots and lots of Mao. I guess pamphlets he may have picked up in China. Also, Merleau-Ponty, Bachelard and a few other French thinkers of the 50s.

And Freud. It seems Fanon annotated his copy of Interpretation of dreams with quite hostile marginalia. For every time Freud uses the word ‘primitive’, as in ‘in primitive cases the sex drive is…’, Fanon would write the word ‘Bastard’ in the margin, with an angry exclamation mark. Choice. He was similarly unimpressed with Jung’s primitivism, though I have not found out what he thought of Mandalas and all that. Of course Fanon did start off heavily committed to electric shock treatments (to ‘clear’ a patient before rebuilding their personality) so criticism of Freud is worth a bag of salt, but he also went on to develop institutional therapy, and indirectly – through a follower – his Tunis clinic influences Guattari the the Bordo, and he was a huge practitioner of open psychiatry, that I now find out was started pretty much in Nottingham in the 19th century or so with the Mapperley clinic, eventually ransacked by Care in the Community, and now a National Health Trust facility that has been in deep trouble for various irregularities with funds and because the orderlies were writing the facebook comments on behalf of patients ‘who could not write for themselves’ or something like that (some TV expose).

All of this comes after reading Alienation and Freedom. How great to have a new Fanon collection of previously obscure and unpublished work, including all his psych essays and his dissertation. Alienation and Freedom basically doubles the amount of Fanon text in the public domain. And the critique of colonialism is a sharply relevant now as it was when France was the brutal colonial power it still tries to be under the armed wings of NATO.

Boy Scout

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“‘There is no document of civilization that is not simultaneously a document of barbarism‘” (Walter Benjamin Illuminations)

 

William Burroughs’ annotated Boys Scout’s manual has been reissued, and I am waiting for it to arrive so I can have another go a trying to reconcile the whole boy scout thing. Militarism in the blood by dint of generations of just doing what kids do when their fathers did it before them. The dodgy old hyphenated, Colin Baden-Powell had invented the concentration camp in Mafeking during the Boer War too. Can’t say a Boy Scout history is a reason to be proud. I first heard of the Burroughs manual from Mick T, so I rifled through an old travel diary into which a news clipping was folded. It included a photograph of five young Americans in combat gear beside a ‘Homeland Security’ bus. From the front page of the New York Times I collected it on May 13 2009 when last visiting Mick in New York. The image caught my eye and I recall this was the same day when newly discovered atrocity photos from CIA ‘facilities’ in Afghanistan and Iraq were to be published but were censored so as to avoid undermining the war effort and the troops at the front.[i] Anxious excuses were conjured for spin and impression management… Instead, we got the unbelievable shot of Explorer scouts tooled up for the kill.

The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s long-time missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and fire-fighters. Rereading the text ten years on is bracing, and Burroughs does not help the dark forebodings of the text.

“This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl,” said A. J. Lowenthal, a sheriff’s deputy here in Imperial County, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explorers events he helps run. “It fits right in with the honor and bravery of the Boy Scouts.” (New York Times, 13 May 2009)

Blocking the atrocity images, then president Obama said he would fight any release of the new set of detention images,[ii] backpeddling from an earlier ‘release them all’ position after a word from Pentagon chiefs. This old strategy or submerging truth is reported on the same front page as the scouting story). But the bus picture contains a curious quirky little detail. Look at the line of action-figure scouts in the shot. The very last one doesn’t seem to think the situation is all that real. A big grin on his face, forgetting the seriousness of the security role-play; has he tapped his colleague on the shoulder to say he likes his combat trousers? ‘Dude, I got these on special at ‘Old Navy” says his colleague. ‘Awesome’. I wonder if there is perhaps-possibly-maybe a little chink of critique, on the part of the New York Times’ photographer or picture editor in this edge-of-the-image smile? Such good terror-fighting teeth too. I would ‘hope’ we read this scene against the grain. ‘Yes we can’.

The article offers a great many other howlers – including strange juxtapositions: one such follows on from the news that neophyte Explorer Cathy is ‘attracted by the guns’ and says: “I like shooting them … I like the sound they make. It gets me excited.” We then get the observation that the police who supervise this ‘training’ have been exploring in their own perversions: “There have been numerous cases over the last three decades in which police officers supervising Explorers have been charged, in civil and criminal cases, with sexually abusing them”.

It seems though we are safe. This is after all only a role-playing game, with Arab dress-ups and other harmless pantomime fun. We are assured that ‘the training … is not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting’. OK.

Meanwhile, collected from the same paper, another photograph of another line of troops had caught my eye – commemorating the body of a soldier being returned to the US. RIP Michael P Yates, killed by one of his own in the counselling tent.[iii] The televised reporting of the return of troop bodies was of course suppressed by the previous President, Bush W, but the correspondence between the line of Explorer scouts and the solemn line of the troops in the second picture is poignant. (The death toll of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan topped 5000 soon after). This picture too appears a few pages before a full page ad taken out by a right wing group, suitably named the ‘Torture Truth Project’ that condemns those who would embarrass the US internationally by mentioning the ‘only three’ detainees that endured the notorious torture technique known as water boarding. The text of the ad takes on its own special rhetoric when it tortures the truth by warning that ‘we are losing the goodwill of people across the world’. Welcome to the USA today, in the New York Times.

The Scouts, as spawn of Sir Colin Baden-Powell, cannot be disassociated from the logic that developed the detention camp at Mafeking. Be Prepared. I remember this slogan and the implication of youthful disciplining, as is surely true for anyone who was a scout (sure, it was mostly fun of course, smoking behind the troop hall). My grandfather in the UK and father in the Ukraine were also enthusiastic adventurers. William Burroughs might have been a safer bet as father figure.

[i] New York Times, 13 May 2009

[ii] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/us/politics/14photos.html?scp=6&sq=obama&st=cse accessed 13 May 2009

[iii] curiously, the image is not reproduced in the online version of the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/us/14victims.html accessed October 20 2009.

Prison Photography Reframed: Object and Method

Prison Photography Reframed: Object and Method

11 May 2018, Nottingham Contemporary, UK

This one-day workshop brings together photographers, historians, criminologists and anyone interested in questions around the ethics of representation within the context of incarceration and detention. We will also be considering photography at sites of defunct prisons whether preserved as ruins or restored as museum or gallery.

Free to Attend. Booking required.

Visit: http://www.nottinghamcontemporary.org/event/prison-photography-reframed for the programme and to book a place.

Organised with generous support from a British Academy/Leverhulme small grant and in association with the Global Heritage: Science, Management and Development seminar series at Nottingham Trent University.

Dr Sophie Fuggle
Senior Lecturer in French
AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellow (2018-2019)

Nottingham Trent University
School of Arts and Humanities
Room 328 MAE
Clifton Lane
Nottingham NG11 8NS
United Kingdom

http://postcardsfrominside.com
http://cartespostalesdubagne.com
@fuggbug

Turkey.

Gah. Still. No. Change.

>Subject: Call for solidarity for the academics for peace on trial

Dear colleagues,

Our colleagues in Turkey are facing incredible repression under a populist leader. This is part of a wider, global trend where academic and speech freedoms have increasingly been stifled due to neoliberalism and authoritarianism. I hope you can spread this call below widely and show your solidarity by following and publicizing peace academics’ court hearings that are scheduled to begin soon. Kind regards.
Call for solidarity for the academics for peace on trial

Violations of academic freedom and freedom of speech in Turkey have reached a dire situation.  The intimidations from Turkish government and its affiliates toward academics have escalated to legal action, whereby peace signatory academics face 7.5 years’ imprisonment if convicted for “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.”

In January 2016, 1128 academics signed the Peace Petition, titled ‘We Will Not Be A Party To This Crime’ in order to draw the public’s attention to the brutal acts of violence perpetrated by the state in the Kurdish regions of Turkey.  Immediately after the release of the petition, many signatories were prosecuted, dismissed from their posts, and their citizenship rights were seized. A large number of academics including Nobel Prize laureates and members of major science academies around the world initiated a support campaign nationally and internationally. People from different professions, such as journalists, artists, screen actors and actresses, and writers voiced their support for the persecuted academics. More people signed the petition, yet the suppression on the signatory academics got fiercer; hundreds of more academics were dismissed with statutory decrees, their passports were confiscated, they were banned from public sector employment, and criminal investigations were launched. Many of those academics had to leave the country and are now facing extreme difficulties in resettling their lives and professions. One of the signatory academics –Mehmet Fatih Traş– could not stand this injustice and committed suicide. The declaration of state of emergency in July 2016 after a military coup attempt further blurred the distinction between criminal investigations and political punishment, and opened an arduous and painful avenue for not only the academics but also for journalists, writers, teachers, artists and others who demand freedom of speech in Turkey.

The signatory academics abroad have recently initiated a targeted boycott towards the Turkish higher education system, and its complicit universities. The aim of the academic boycott is to ensure that all dismissals are revoked and the persecution of academics, exacerbated under the state of emergency regime, is ended. To this boycott, and continuous struggle of Academics for Peace, the government recently responded by a harsher strategy: signatory academics are sued on an individual basis based on the accusation of terror propaganda according to the Law on Struggle against Terrorism, Article 7/2. The public prosecutor proposes imprisonment extending to 7.5 years. The number of academics with indictments is increasing day by day, and their trials start on December 5, 2017.

Since the petition, one of the most important acts of support for the academics who demanded peace has been the solidarity from colleagues who are not content with Turkey’s oppressive regime and its fatal actions on freedom of speech. In this new turn, we are well aware that we will need a stronger voice of resistance and call for justice! This solidarity can be through standing by us in the court hearings starting December 5, 2017, sending monitoring teams, observers, and news-makers; spreading the word and raising the awareness for what is happening now in Turkey regarding the academics.

In order to stand in solidarity with the persecuted academics, we, the peace academics from North America, call on you to:

1. Share and spread this call for solidarity; show your solidarity by following the trials,
commenting on them in your blogs, social media and/or writing a news article. For more
info on the latest attacks on academics in Turkey, please visit <https://barisicinakademisyenler.net/English>
https://barisicinakademisyenler.net/<https://barisicinakademisyenler.net/English> or http://mesana.org/pdf/Turkey20171017.pdf
2. Contact bakuluslararasi@gmail.com<mailto:bakuluslararasi@gmail.com> if you want to attend the trials as an observer, or
write to a human rights organization to send a delegate;
3. Sign the petition https://academicboycottofturkey.wordpress.com/petition/ to support the
targeted boycott on complicit universities in Turkey;
4. Inform your professional organizations and university senate to take action against
complicit institutions, such as The Scientific and Technological Research Council of
Turkey (TUBITAK; www.tubitak.gov.tr/en<http://www.tubitak.gov.tr/en>);
5. Support dismissed scholars financially by donating to the education union that supports
them https://www.youcaring.com/academicsforpeaceinturkey-763983

This call can also be accessed via this link for posting on social media: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ktAwJ6tS5xVZa6uKqXu1rH843u7NDj5aj0OwGvPv7bo/edit?usp=sharing

 

 

Mr Ram Nath Kovind, President of India, There are many in your jails, but some I have invited for talks at University of London several times. This requires your immediate action sir. Thank-you.

LETTER FROM PROF G N SAIBABA FROM INDIAN PRISON


Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and beard

Letter from Sai written on 17th October received on 25th October 2017
Dear Vasantha
I am frightened to think of coming winter. Already I am shivering with continuous fever. I do not have a blanket. I do not have a sweater/jacket. As temperature goes down excruciating pain continuously in my legs and left hand increases. It is impossible for me to survive here during the winter that starts from November. I am living here like an animal taking its last breaths. Somehow 8 months I managed to survive. But I am not going to survive in the coming winter. I am sure. It is of no use to write about my health any longer.
In any case, please finalize the senior counsel by or before the end of this month. Then inform Mr. Gadling to file my bail application in the first week of November or last week of October itself. You remember if this is not done in th

is way, my situation will be out of hands. I am not responsible. I am making clear to you. Hereafter I am not going to write about it any longer.


You should talk to Mrs Rebeccaji and Nandita Narain. You also talk to Prof. Haragopal and others. Explain the entire situation. You need to hurry up

. I am feeling so depressed for requesting you all so many times like a beggar, a destitute. But none of you are moving an inch, no one understand my present condition. No one understands 90% disabled person is behind bars struggling with one hand in condition and suffering with multiple ailments. And no one cares for my life. This is simply criminal negligence, a callous attitude.
Please take care of your health. Your health is my health and entire family’s health. There is no one else to take care of your health for now. Till I am in your presence, you have to take care of your health without any negligence.

Lots of love
Yours
Sai

“First Strike”

First Strike: Educational Enclosures in Black Los Angeles

Damien M. Sojoyner

First Strike

Challenging perceptions of schooling and prison through the lens of America’s most populous state

Taking an insider’s perspective, First Strike examines the root causes of California’s ever-expansive prison system and disastrous educational policy. Recentering analysis of Black masculinity beyond public rhetoric, it critiques the trope of the “school-to-prison pipeline,” exploring the realm of public school as a form of “enclosure” that has influenced the schooling (and denial of schooling) and imprisonment of Black people in California.

Damien M. Sojoyner fills a significant gap in literature by problematizing the school-to-prison pipeline, offering a more nuanced analytical frame than the one represented in most contemporary popular discourse. First Strike helps us understand what is happening to young people in under-resourced schools and the ways that their experience reflects an eroding commitment to education in favor of punishment.

—Beth E. Richie, University of Illinois at Chicago

GRIL – Stoler “Duress”

A glitch in child sleeping patterns, and unemployment, means I’ve had a lot more time to think (and rethink) and of late get to read. So much so, that I now buy books and there is a chance I’ll get to them, and the ones on my device get read too. Mostly. here is one I am deffo gonna read (it) later:

  • Preface  ix

    Appreciations  xi

    Part I. Concept Work: Fragilities and Filiations

    1. Critical Incisions: On Concept Work and Colonial Recursions  3

    2. Raw Cuts: Palestine, Israel, and (Post)Colonial Studies  37

    3. A Deadly Embrace: Of Colony and Camp  68

    4. Colonial Aphasia: Disabled histories and Race in France  122

    Part II. Recursions in a Colonial Mode

    5. On Degrees of Imperial Sovereignty  173

    6. Reason Aside: Enlightenment Precepts and Empire’s Security Regimes  205

    7. Racial Regimes of Truth  237

    Part III. “The Rot Remains”

    8. Racist Visions and the Common Sense of France’s “Extreme” Right  269

    9. Bodily Exposures: Beyond Sex?  305

    10. Imperial Debris and Ruination  336

    Bibliography  381

    Index

  • Description

    How do colonial histories matter to the urgencies and conditions of our current world? How have those histories so often been rendered as leftovers, as “legacies” of a dead past rather than as active and violating forces in the world today? With precision and clarity, Ann Laura Stoler argues that recognizing “colonial presence” may have as much to do with how the connections between colonial histories and the present are expected to look as it does with how they are expected to be. In Duress, Stoler considers what methodological renovations might serve to write histories that yield neither to smooth continuities nor to abrupt epochal breaks. Capturing the uneven, recursive qualities of the visions and practices that imperial formations have animated, Stoler works through a set of conceptual and concrete reconsiderations that locate the political effects and practices that imperial projects produce: occluded histories, gradated sovereignties, affective security regimes, “new” racisms, bodily exposures, active debris, and carceral archipelagos of colony and camp that carve out the distribution of inequities and deep fault lines of duress today.

    About The Author(s)

    Ann Laura Stoler is Willy Brandt Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies at The New School for Social Research and the author and editor of many books, including Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination and Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexualityand the Colonial Order of Things, both also published by Duke University Press.

Postcards from inside #24. White Terror

Reposted from Limit Experience.

Jing-Mei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park, Taipei, December 2015

Co-written with John Hutnyk

Although this will no doubt change in years to come, Jing-Mei currently seems to occupy a tricky position as both memorial site, prison museum and cultural park. It is missing from the current edition of the Taiwan Lonely Planet whose maps of Taipei narrowly crop it off. Both the 2-28 Memorial Park and Museum and the Chiayi Prison museum are given decent attention.

Visiting Jing-Mai on New Year’s Eve (31 December 2015), it was almost completely deserted bar a woman exercising her border collie. Although it was a damp, grey afternoon which over-emphasized the new brutalism of some of the sites architecture, it was still difficult to imagine the appeal of the space as a cultural park in better weather given the proliferation of creative and cultural parks throughout Taipei and Taiwan. The logic of defining the space in relation to other restoration and repurposing also seems problematic given many of these parks such as Huashan 1914 Creative Park (a former winery turned into a series of design-concept stores, cafes, galleries and an arthouse cinema) celebrate culture as consumerism first and foremost.

So who exactly is Jing-Mei aimed at?

The history of the site is documented in the park brochure. Its military education, military prison and military court uses are the stuff of the exhibitions, but especially the ongoing court functions (until 2007) also fold into the emerging story the museum. As with the first displays at Abashiri prison museum in Hokkaido, a portion of the work of the brochure is to document the efforts made to preserve artefacts and buildings for the prison museum – a narrative about itself, which is revealing in its frankly told tale of political manoeuvres. In 2001 the vice president of Taiwan, Annette Lu Hsui-Lin visited and learning that the Ministry of Defence proposed to reconstruct the site, she recommended preservation, and in July 2002 the Human Rights Advisory Panel under the Office of the President tasked the Council of Cultural Affairs to preserve the site as a park. Relocating the Ministry of Defence court functions was largely completed by 2007, and this very valuable and large urban area was renamed, from the ‘Memorial Park of Court Martial During the Communist rebellion’ to, on Human Rights Day, 10th December 2007, as ‘Taiwan Human Rights Jing-mei Park’. Change of Government in Taiwan in 2008 meant another change of name ‘after much deliberation’, with ‘opposition from various human rights groups’ and a public hearing in April 2009 so that in 2010 the park and the facility at Green Island in the south were made a part of the newly announced ‘Taiwan Human Rights Museum’. The brochure ends with a flourish: ‘The objectives of the museum were to preserve the two historic sites and to promote human rights education by fully utilizing the four major functions of museum: to preform studies and research, to handle collections and preservation work, to organise exhibitions and publications, and to educate the public and promote knowledge’ (Brochure of preparatory Office of the National Human Rights Museum, middle pages).

Having visited Jing-Mei a few days after Chiayi prison museum, it was difficult not to draw direct comparisons between the two sites and to reflect on the ways in which different forms of prison museum underpinned by apparently very different ideologies and political objectives re: audience and narrative might nevertheless be complicit in reproducing dominant discourses on incarceration. The Chiayi inmates were absent but in Jing-Mei they are very much present as dissidents, readers, mistaken identities, unjustly jailed or otherwise put upon victims. They are referred to throughout as ‘victims’ by the English language audio-guide. The narrative of their everyday experience structures the layout of the displays in the buildings, from courtroom and lawyer consultation room (though lawyers are de-emphasized as court appointed) through health and shopping, living quarters (bugs), eating, reading, washing and relaxing. Guards are absent in this case.

There is a strange tension at work where the careful reconstruction of the various living spaces of the prison facilities ‘humanizes’ the experience of those detained there and, as such, does more perhaps to affirm a well-regulated carceral state which includes a prison library, provisions store and visitor room than spaces (such as Chiayi prison museum) now devoid of such markers or in which such referents have been repositioned within glass cabinets.

There is an attempt to ‘reconstruct’ objects within the space in which they were used, arrangements on a doctor’s desk, packets and tins on shelves which despite being ‘under glass’ are focused less on the authenticity of the objects (many are replicas or ‘imagined’ as representative of the time and space) and more on creating scenes of snapshots of how life was for those incarcerated under the White Terror than a celebration of relics and fragments taken out of context.

The yard outside the cellblocks which it is possible to walk around was where the inmates were allowed to exercise for 15 minutes, 3 times a week. Although the yard is compact in line with the small size of the prison itself, it is difficult not to draw comparison with the cages where those kept in solitary confinement in today’s U.S. supermaxes (but elsewhere too) get their exercise. In this respect, the role of memorials such as Jing-Mei but also places like Robben Island and Camp des Milles should not simply be about collective memory of human rights violations associated with now defunct political regimes. Calling to mind the notion of ‘human rights’ in this way seems to echo Slavoj Žižek’s now dated but no less relevant ‘Against Human Rights’ paper in New Left Review. In it he claims that human rights are evoked to designate those who have lost all possibility of their ‘humanity’, stripped of personal, national, religious and cultural identity. Human rights only come into play when there is nothing left of what makes us more than biologically human. Might not the same be true of human rights memorials if they only work to ‘remember’. If once again ‘human rights’ only come into play after a moment is past? Instead, we might look at how such spaces permit a questioning of the ongoing techniques of exclusion, punishment (torture) and surveillance which rely on extra-judicial acts regardless of whether those subject to such techniques have been sentences via judicial or non-judicial procedures and, in turn, consider the ways in which the domestic criminal ‘other’ is constructed and framed within contemporary sites of detention according to the same or comparable discourses of fear associated with notions of global terror.

Coming out into the yard from the cells was itself something like a role-play. It was, I think, inevitable to look up and imagine what life within the courtyard, with only a rectangle of sky, despite being in the middle of a large city, would be like. Immediately sound became more important, and the sight was of either walls and security towers, or the distant but small sky. Isolation cell – an experience often depicted in cinema and literature, but here for the first time in my experience enacted thought the sequence of leaving the oppressive close cells and moving into the yard. And these cells were nowhere near as small or as claustrophobia inducing as the ones at Chiayi.

This too was perhaps set up through the earlier role-play with the telephone. We have long been aware that the issue of prisoner or detainee presence in the narrative is an important marker, perhaps something taught by the critique of older histories by the subalterns school and other modes of counter-privilege discourse, that of course then fetishise and celebrate resistance narratives in a kind of mirror exoticism way, but in this case the prisoner experience foregrounding the narrative is seductive. It sets up experiences of albeit remote but empathetic connection. The phone connects the ‘victims’ to the visitors. But the central place for victim narratives just also be considered with its filters. No prisoner, convict or detainee narrative is not recorded under duress. Even where such records are admitted as interrogation transcripts, the intervening screen of perspex and perspective sits between the visitor and the inmates. Role-play with the telephone does not invoke this dilemma, but rather pretends towards accessing unmediated experience – what is it like to talk with my son on an old black telephone through a mediating glass, with security camera by the ceiling corner looking down at us recording? The screen does not convey the duress that was always, to some degree is always, the undertone of prisoner testimony.

Do such sites via both role-playing and their status as ‘exceptional’ sites allow a persistent ‘bracketing’ out which encourages complicity and passivity on the part of those who visit and attempt to engage at whatever level, from whatever background? Or do they demonstrate the difficulty of calling into question the carceral within contemporary society?

SF/JH

*

Afterword.

As an aside, I also wanted to include a reference within this post to a slightly bizarre  collection of laminated posters stuck to the toilet doors in the female restrooms. The stock images of famous, primarily European monuments with short maxims printed below in English and Mandarin seem both at odds with the site’s curated narratives and exhibits but also lacking in an obvious objective as either affirmation or critique of the official curation. I have no idea who posted these here, why or how long they had been there for. Nevertheless, there was clearly some intentionality behind them even if this was simply to provide some amusement to those based at the site.

Without trying to read anything into their existence or the choice of images (celebrated monuments from elsewhere), they did make me think about the potential to disrupt or subvert curated historical narratives evoking in some sense (despite the intentionality) Barthes’ idea of the punctum. Although the punctum is, precisely, not something we can actively seek out, it does strike me that there will always be something, an object, a reaction, an act, occurring within the space of the prison museum that doesn’t fit the intended narrative, curation or guided visit. In future I’m going to pay more attention to these. SF

Time Served: Discipline & Punish 40 Years On. CFP

Hey, you might want to go to this, even give a paper at this… get in touch with Sophie here.

11-12 September 2015, The Galleries of Justice, Nottingham, UK

Call for papers
40 years after it was first published in French, the impact of Michel Foucault’s seminal text Discipline and Punish on theories of incarceration, discipline and power remains largely unchallenged. The aim of this conference is to revisit the text in light of the past four decades of penal developments, public debate and social consciousness on incarceration as it continues to constitute society’s mode of punishment par excellence.
In addition to thinking through the legacy of Discipline and Punish and its continued relevance today, specific focus will be given to the text itself, its position within Foucault’s wider critical project and its important relationship with his activism most notably the work of the GIP [Groupe d’Information sur les prisons] during the early 1970s. For example, the publication in 2013 of his 1973 lectures at theCollège de France on La Société Punitive, calls for a return to this period and a new engagement with Foucault’s work on prisons, not least in its pursuit of a more openly Marxist critique of the relationship between incarceration and bourgeois capital accumulation.
Here, attention should also be paid to Foucault’s methodology in researching and writing the text. Discipline and Punish marks his movement from an archeological to a genealogical approach towards what he terms the ‘history of the present.’ What is at stake in this shift and how effective is his genealogical method for thinking through the material and discursive structures of incarceration operating within our own society and moment? How does the juxtaposition set up between the torture and killing of Damiens and the prison timetable of the book’s opening raise important questions not simply about punishment but the role of representation – images and narratives of incarceration – in framing public consciousness about the space of the prison?
It is hoped that the conference will bring together a range of participants: scholars working in the fields of philosophy, sociology, criminology, urban geography, architecture, history, literature, media studies as well as artists, writers and activists involved in projects based in and about prisons and their conditions.
If you would like to offer a paper or other form of intervention, please send us a 250 word abstract along with your name, e-mail and (if relevant) institutional affiliation. If you would like to organize a panel of 3 or 4 presenters, please also send a panel title along with the abstracts and contact details.
Deadline for abstracts: 1 March 2015
The conference is organized by Nottingham Trent University and will be held at the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham.

RELEASE JONATHAN BOARD – [Maoist] political prisoner in Kerala

Jonathan

India: Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners : An Appeal to International Community on behalf of Jonathan (Bold) Board

The Arrest of the Swiss citizen Jonathan Board who came to Kerala on tourist visa, by Kerala police on flimsy grounds, is highly discriminative and with ulterior motive.

After the arrest in order to justify the same Kerala police is fabricating canards, that Jonathan has link with Maoists and he has come to attend the memorial meeting organized by Maoists to show the respect towards the Maoist Guerilla fighter Sinoj who became martyr in an accidental explosion took place on june 16th of 2014.

The police also alleged that Jonathan addressed the meeting hence violated Foreigners Act.

The police has taken a case against him and incarcerated in the dungeon hole named Iringalakkuda Sub Jail,Thrissur District,Kerala.

I was the Chairperson of the Sinoj Memorial Committee that organized the meeting and was a main Speaker.

As the Chairperson I wish to state that Jonathan was neither an invitee to the meeting nor a speaker.

And he did not addressed the meeting as the police was trying to depict with a sinster view.

According to Jonathan, he came to the meeting only out of curiosity as he is a left lenient person.

He got the information of the meeting from an English Daily News Paper.

He listen to the speeches delivered in the meeting up to the end.

In the meantime he also purchased some English handbooks.

As the meeting was formerly over Jonathan himself approached the organizers and expressed his wish to introduce himself to the audience who was started disbursing.

Out of the same curiosity as the Chairperson I agreed to his longing.

He introduced himself and expressed that he also share our sorrow caused by Sinoj’s martyrdom. It was only a casual talk,any humanitarian from any corner of the World can express.

The police and the state which is a culprit in granting V.I.P treatment to the Italian marines who had violated the international water laws as well as Indian laws and shot two fishermen to death is now taking a different approach to meet their narrow political ends.

It is deplorable.

And I/We regret for the unfortunate faith met out with Jonathan, though created by state , and request to the progressive and democratic forces and personalities of International Community to intervene in Jonathan’s affair and put pressure on the India/Kerala governments and see that his release from the Jail unconditionally.

M.N Ravunni Vice President, Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners
Kerala, India

Trinkets in Camps

Doc Richard Iveson is a harvester of obscure snippets and curios, none escape his ability to comb through the detritus of philosophy for gems to hold up to the gloaming (apols to Benjamin and Kracauer):

Hi John. I’m in the middle of writing a paper on Catherine Malabou and along
the way I came across an unusual use of the word “trinket” which (if
you don’t already know) I thought you might find interesting –
according to Wolfgang Sofsky (in ‘The Order of Terror’), in the Nazi
concentration camp at Ravensbruck (a women’s camp), the prisoners who
were beyond any possibility of surviving (i.e. the ‘Muselmanner’) were
known as ‘trinkets’. Odd, but provocative, don’t you think?

Protest 5.10.2012

Friends of Al-Aqsa

EMERGENCY PROTEST in support of Babar and Talha

Babar Ahmad

This is the last stand. Join us tomorrow.

When: Friday 5th, 10am -12pm   Where: Strand, London, WC2A 2LL, Map

Tube: Holborn Underground Station – Temple Underground Station

We Are Babar Ahmad, Stop The War, Muslim Council of Britain, London Transport Region – RMT, Enough Coalition, IHRC, Cage Prisoners, British Muslim Initiative, Muslim Association of Britain, Friends of Al Aqsa, Islamic Forum Europe, FOSIS, Muslim Safety Forum, iEngage and MDUK.

 

  Friends of Al-Aqsa Donate to Friends of Al-Aqsa Friends of Al-Aqsa Facebook Friends of Al-Aqsa Twitter

Details from We are Baba Ahmad campaign:

PRESS RELEASE

Emergency Protest in support of Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan on Thursday 4th and Friday 5th October 2012

Thursday 4th October 2012

The ‘We Are Babar Ahmad Campaign’ along with partner organisations, is holding a protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday 4th and Friday 5th October from 10am asking for an immediate stay of extradition for Syed Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad.

As the Judges decide on representations from the lawyers of both men, it is important to note that their cases are very different from the others. Both are British Citizens accused of wrongdoing in Britain who have been held collectivey in maximum security prisons for 14 years without trial nor with any evidence being presented to them. The Home Affairs Select Committe which reviewed their cases has expressed grave concern. Boris Johnson, The Mayor of London has backed their right to be tried in Britain.

Dr Ismail Jalisi, speaking on behalf of ‘We Are Babar Ahmad’, said, “The extradition of these men to the United States must be stopped by the Home Secretary. The incarceration of these two men without trial and then carting them off to a country that does not need to provide any prima facie evidence even when it agrees that the allegations are based on actions that occurred here in Britain is quite frankly farcical.”

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) declared in July 2004 and December 2006, as did the UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith in September 2006, that there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to charge Babar Ahmad with any criminal offence in the UK. Since then in 2011 the CPS revealed for the first time that evidence had been sent to the US without ever having been reviewed by them. The Director of Public Prosecution has refused to prosecute the men despite being able to call on the Metropolitan Police to show them evidence that it deliberately witheld and sent straight to the United States.

As the Judges determine whether a stay of extradition should be granted to Babar and Talha the Shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan MP has backed the campaign saying “If there is evidence against them they should be tried in the UK”.

Partners for the protest include: Stop The War, Muslim Council of Britain, London Transport Region – RMT, Enough Coalition, IHRC, Cage Prisoners, British Muslim Initiative, Muslim Association of Britain, Friends of Al Aqsa, Islamic Forum Europe, Muslim Safety Forum, iEngage and MDUK.

ENDS

Details from the Free Tahla Ahsan Campaign site [now slightly dated, since extradition is immanent, see above]:

Talha Ahsan is a British-born poet and writer with Asperger syndrome facing extradition to America.

If convicted he will spend 70 years in “supermax” solitary confinement in ADX Florence.

Read on and help stop this injustice.

Who is Talha Ahsan?

Talha Ahsan is a British citizen born in London in 1979. He was educated at Dulwich College before receiving first class honours in Arabic from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). In the week of his arrest he had job interviews to train as a librarian. His mother describes him as “a serious, bookish young man… a very gentle, softly spoken and thoughtful boy.”

Talha has Asperger Syndrome (a form of autism). In a medico legal report of June 2009, a consultant psychiatrist described him as “an extremely vulnerable individual who from a psychiatric perspective would be more appropriately placed in a specialist service for adults with autistic disorders.”

He is also a keen poet and has received acclaim from novelist A.L. Kennedy amongst others.


Why is he in prison?

Talha Ahsan was arrested at his home on 19 July 2006 in response to a request from the USA under the Extradition Act 2003 which does not require the presentation of any prima facie evidence. He is accused in the US of terrorism-related offences arising out of an alleged involvement over the period of 1997-2004 with the Azzam series of websites, one of which happened to be located on a server in America.

He has never been arrested or questioned by British police, despite a number of men being so from his local area in December 2003 for similar allegations. All of them were released without charge.

One of them, Babar Ahmad, was later compensated £60,000 by the Metropolitan police after a civil case in March 2009 for the violent physical abuse during his arrest. It was evidence from this incident which formed the basis of Talha’s arrest two and a half years later.

Talha is currently making a final appeal to the European Courts of Human Rights (ECHR). He has now served the equivalent of a 12 year sentence at high security prisons without trial. He has never visited America. He denies all charges.

What is ‘Supermax’?

Imagine being confined in a 75.5sq feet cell with only a concrete slab and a thin mattress for a bed for 23 to 24 hours a day for every day of your life – the only window three inches wide looking out to a concrete pit…

This is the prospect Talha faces if extradited and convicted in the US – life without parole  in solitary confinement at ADX Florence, Colorado.

Virtually all of an ADX prisoner’s daily activities occur within the confines of his single cell. Food is delivered through a slot in the door, and he eats his meals alone. He receives educational and religious programming – and some medical care – through a black and white television in his cell. When an inmate is moved outside his cell, he is shackled behind the back, and subject to a strip search.

His cell window looks out onto the concrete pit that serves as an outdoor recreation area. The sun is never visible. Prisoners at ADX  rarely have contact with any other living thing, except the gloved hands of the correctional officers. Prisoners never touch soil, see plant life or view the surrounding mountains.

Prisoners in ADX receive one 15 minute social telephone call per month. Any call that is “accepted” (even by an answering machine) is considered “completed” regardless of the duration. Visits with family members are separated by a glass screen with only a telephone to speak through. The inmate is shackled throughout the visit.

In 2006, the U.N. Committee Against Torture expressed concern about “prolonged isolation periods” and “the extremely harsh regime” in US Supermax prisons.  It is little wonder that the former warden of ADX Florence described the prison as a ‘clean version of hell.’

What do his supporters want?

Talha deserves freedom or a fair trial in the UK. He has received a wide coalition of support. They include his local MP and shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan; novelist, A L Kennedy; former Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg, and the civil rights organisation, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC).

The Government accepts the possibility for the case to be resolved by a domestic prosecution as the ECtHR highlights in their admissibility judgement of July 2010. In November 2011, his co-defendant, Babar Ahmad, initiated a parliamentary debate with over 149,000 signatures in an e-petition for a UK trial demonstrating the will of the British public for these cases. There are many legal precedents to try these charges in the UK.

One case is R v. Sheppard and Whittle (January 2010), in which the appellants were charged with possession, publication and distribution of racially inflammatory material on websites hosted in California. Lord Justice Scott Baker ruled the UK was the appropriate forum for prosecution as the substantial measure of activities constituting the crime, such as the writing and maintenance of the websites, took place in the UK.

The Home Secretary should also give special consideration to his medical condition. In the USA 97% of defendants plead guilty under pressure from prosecutors. A decision to try Talha in the US will only ensure his trial is as unfair as prosecutors can make it.
How does this affect me?


The Extradition Act 2003 devalues the sovereignty of British citizenship. It was fast-tracked into UK legislation without proper scrutiny. Under the current provisions, British judges have no opportunity to decide which country is more suitable for prosecution and nor can they assess the quality of evidence from the requesting state.

In June 2011 the cross-party Joint Committee on Human Rights called for the implementation of a ‘most appropriate forum’ safeguard. This would allow a British judge to refuse extradition where the alleged offence took place wholly or largely in the UK.

The committee of MPs and peers also recommended that the Government ‘urgently’ renegotiate the US-UK extradition treaty to exclude granting requests in cases where the UK prosecution authorities have already decided not to investigate the individual on the same evidence adduced by the US authorities. These calls were reinforced by a cross-party consensus after parliamentary debates in November and December 2011, as well as the Home Affairs Committee report on extradition in March 2012.

A country that has demonstrated such a flagrant disregard for human rights in recent years is not the proper forum for justice. David Blunkett, the home secretary who was responsible for the act, now expresses regret at its consequences. Any concerned British citizen must work against such a law.

 

Gah – Look out – Boy Scouts in the area

‘Scouts sent into riot hotspots by ministers: Hundreds of teams to help the disadvantaged’ Jill Sherman The Times August 25 2012 (sorry, no electronic version I can easily find)
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‘The traditionally middle-class, white youth clubs often found in leafy suburbs and shire counties but not in inner cities’ will be deployed in 400 new sites to ‘provide 10,000 more places for disadvantaged youths, including offenders, disruptive schoolchildren, children in care and the unemployed .. the cash for “uniformed” groups suggest ministers prefer more disciplined associations over less-established local services’
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That’d be a great Big Society paedo-initiative, statues to be erected for the scourge of Mafeking, inventor of the concentration camp, Lord Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden Powell of Gillwell!

Three events for CCS – Write Now – Deleuze – No Borders.

Three near overlapping events in thee next 10 days for Centre for Cultural Studies people at Goldsmiths:

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Write Now! BER-CPH-LON PhD Symposium (Feb 9-11 2012)

You have to, you want to, you need to Write Now!

But how do you publish? 

In an atmosphere of loneliness, alienation, rejection, competition, anxiety, hierarchy, nepotism and jealousy, how does the “early career scholar” (re)negotiate the imperative to produce? Given the increases demands of the academic publishing industry, how can we avoid labouring under illusions, false promises and unrealistic expectations?  

And yet the pleasures of the text, new platforms and opportunities for publishing and sharing, are there before us. 

Open to Goldsmiths PhD candidates of all departments. 

Practical aspects of working towards a book publication will be a core part of the symposium.

Bring your ideas, texts, criticism. 

no charge (supported by the Goldsmiths Annual Fund).

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Deleuze, Philosophy, Transdisciplinarity 


Goldsmiths, 10th-12th February
http://deleuzetransdiscipline.wordpress.com/
Plenary Speakers: Jean-Claude Dumoncel, Eric Alliez, John Mullarkey, Laura Cull, Anne Sauvagnargues

Invited Speakers: Giuseppe Bianco, Andrew Goffey, Marjorie Gracieuse, Tatsuya Higaki, Christian Kerslake, Iain MacKenzie, Stamatia Portanova, Nathan Widder

Organised by the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths University of London (Masa Kosugi) and the Faculty of Humanities and School of European culture and Languages, the University of Kent (Guillaume Collett)

We are now entering a new phase of Deleuze studies which seeks to understand the specificity of Deleuze’s mode of philosophising. This is necessary, firstly in order to establish an account of his work’s developments and ruptures which is neither reductive nor partisan and secondly, to be able to better situate Deleuze within the context of contemporary thought. While the concept of immanence has recently been seized upon as the way of measuring Deleuze’s philosophical development (Kerslake, 2009; Beistegui, 2010), this conference would like to shift the focus to another yet closely interrelated problematic, which is the concept of philosophy and its essential relation to transdisciplinarity.
What precisely does Deleuze understand by the term ‘philosophy’? In The Logic of Sense, Deleuze states that ‘Philosophy merges with ontology, but ontology merges with the univocity of Being’ (p. 205, Continuum, 2004). Does philosophy have privileged access to a univocal Being that is itself non-philosophical, and which subsumes not only philosophy but also philosophy’s preconditions – what The Logic of Sense refers to as the ‘sciences’ of logic, phenomenology, and psychoanalysis, as well as art? Does Deleuze and Guattari’s re-formulation of this problematic in What is Philosophy? contradict the earlier Deleuze when it appears to posit a more extrinsic relation – or interference – between philosophy, science, and art, all three of which open up to Chaos, which they claim is equally distinct from the preconditions of philosophy, science and art (nonphilosophy, nonscience, nonart)? Are we to understand Deleuze’s concept of philosophy as essentially and inherently transdisciplinary, and if so, how? What is at stake here is the possibility of establishing a ‘common ethico-aesthetic discipline’ (Guattari, Continuum, 2000) and the role of philosophy in such a project.

We aim to have a wide range of papers converging on the concept of philosophy found in Deleuze’s work and dialoguing with the problems we have alluded to. Suggested paper topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
– Deleuze and the history of philosophy: his methodology, his conception of the history of philosophy, his readings of specific philosophers and thinkers
– The place of science and logic in Deleuze’s philosophy
– The place of art in Deleuze’s philosophy
– Deleuze and non-philosophy, and the role of the pre/post-philosophical in his philosophy
– Shifts in Deleuze’s readings of particular philosophers, and more generally in Deleuze’s own concept of philosophy, throughout his career
– The critical assessment of Guattari’s influence on Deleuze’s philosophy

Registration is free but please contact us (masakosugi@gmail.com, guillaume.collett@hotmail.co.uk) early if you would like to attend the conference.
**The event is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the School of European Culture and Languages and Faculty of Humanities, the University of Kent, the Centre for Cultural Studies Goldsmiths, and the Graduate School, Goldsmiths, University of London **

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and the No Borders Convergence – click on the poster or seek out: http://london.noborders.org.uk/convergence2012/poster

Born Free – MIA’s Poetry After Guantanamo

A piece written before this week’s release of Bad Girls, coming out soon in Social Identities.

Abstract: The recent work of the Sri-Lankan-British musician and sonic ‘curator’ known as M.I.A. (real name: Mathangi Arulpragasam) is considered as a commentary on atrocity and read alongside the well known essay ‘The Storyteller’ by Walter Benjamin and comments on Auschwitz by Theodor Adorno. The storytelling here is updated for a contemporary context where global war impacts us all, more or less visibly, more, or less, acknowledged. It is argued that the controversy over M.I.A.’s Romain Gavras video Born Free is exemplary of the predicament of art in the face of violence, crisis and terror – with this track, and video, M.I.A.’s work faced a storm of criticism which I want to critique in turn, in an attempt, at least, to learn to make or discern more analytic distinctions amongst concurrent determinations of art A careful reading of Adorno can in the end teach us to see Born Free anew.

 

Keywords: Benjamin, Adorno, Gavras, M.I.A, music, terror, racism, orientalism.

PDF Here Poetry After GuantanamoFinalDraftSocialIdentities.

NEW YEARS EVE NOISE DEMONSTRATION – SOLIDARITY WITH IMPRISONED PROTESTERS

Saturday, 31 December 2011 – 4pm-6pm outside HMP Holloway Prison, Parkhurst Road, N7 0NU, closest tube station Holloway Rd.

Since student protests last year, when thousands took to the streets to demand an education accessible for all, and the large scale riots this summer in response to the police murder of Mark Duggan, hundreds of our youth have been targeted and many were given long custodial sentences.

This means many will be spending new year’s eve and the festive period in prisons up and down the country, away from their families, because they stood up to injustice.

Come along to this demonstration on New Year’s Eve outside Holloway women’s prison to show solidarity to some of those in prison. We are going to make lots of noise to make sure they hear us and know that we do not forget them. So bring instrument, pots and pans, banners or just yourself!

*poetry, spoken word, hip hop and music from different artists on the day coming to show their support*

visit defendtherighttoprotest.org and ldmg.org.uk for more info
supported by Defend the Right to Protest and Legal Defence Monitoring Group

meanwhile, in Cairo…

 

“Activists are under the threat wherever they go, Dina (17 yrs old) and Israa (19) Abdallah Abo El-Azm, two sisters detained by the army three days ago for distributing flyers are now to be sentenced in front of a military court. In reality they were only walking down the street in Cairo at midday. They were kidnapped by the army and falsely accused. Not just the activists themselves are in danger, anyone who looks like what came to be stereotyped as a Tahrir Square protester, risks detention or beating”.

I do not know more about who has written this, but that the Military mates of Mubarak remain in place was always a concern – though not for the BBC who of course went on to other stories quick smart. Someone on Al-Jezeera did anticipate something like this, but I didn’t note who said it. More than one person for sure. Anyone got more on detentions in particular?

The entire article is here.

When the army hits the fan!

Posted by Leil-Zahra on 3/16/11 •

The Egyptian people have always loved the army, especially that they haven´t seen much of them since 1973 apart from a controversial participation in the Desert Storm war on the side of the United States. The army was always the romantic figure of glorious times under Nasser who stood in the face of Israel and pumped Arab nationalism and pride in Egypt and beyond. Movies, TV series, documentaries, songs, popular tales of heroics and braveries, novels, and school books all glorify the participation of the army up to 1973.

The popular memory froze in time in 1973, maybe because the Egyptian people didn´t have much to celebrate or take pride in under the rulers that came afterwards. Both Sadat and Mubarak destroyed the spirit of the people in every way possible and on every level imaginable (though this doesn´t mean that Nasser was the best thing that happened to this country). It became once again the tale of Pharaohs in the center-stage, the slaves building the Pyramids forgotten and marganilized.

Egypt is the country of romanticism par excellence. For decades while tens of millions of Egyptians were famished for collective self-esteem, reminiscing and nostalgia were the only survival tool available. The Pharaohs and the army were at the core of it all, equally present in the memory of the people and equally ancient history in the tangible reality. It was all memories of glorious days that lived in the reality of the people. Even some of those who found it emotionally hard to oust Mubarak did so because they respected him as a leading military figure from the war of 1973.

Full article continues: here.

 

Bradley Manning

SUNDAY March 20th. 2pm *U.S. Embassy/London- Join Us to Demand they “Stop Torturing Bradley Manning!

WHY?

To demand the end of the torture pf Bradley Manning in Quantico U.S. Marine Base, Virginia USA. Although 23 year old Bradley Manning is a U.S. Army intelligence officer he is being held without explanation in the largest U.S. Marine Base in the world! Bradley is being held, in effect, in isolation and sensory deprivation, his conditions are tortureous. Techniques finetuned at Abu Ghraib and Guatanamo have been unleashed on what U.S. authoriteis see as a nonviolent dissident within the U.S. war machine.

U.S. anti-war and human rights activists, lawyers, military veterans and the former commander of Quantico are heading down to Quantico this Sunday March 20 to demand justice for Bradley Manning. Others of us around the world will go on Sunday March 20 to U.S. embassies and sites of siginifiance in the U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan and do like wise. Consider joing us or initiating your own activity for Bradley Manning on Sunday March 20.
Youtube – Previous Jan. 17 demonstration for Bradley at Quantico
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4eNzokgRIw

Bradley has been accused of leaking, to WikiLeaks, footage of a U.S. helicopter gunship massacre in Iraq of 2 Reuters journalists, 9 Iraqi civilians and wounding the children in a vehicle that detoured from the “school run” to tend to the wounded and the dead. Those who carried out this massacre hve not been brought to account, the U.S. government wished to “shoot the messenger”.
http://www.collateralmurder.com/

We refuse to accept this. We hope you to do too? Show viisible solidarity with Bradley Manning this Sunday March 20. If not with us at the U.S. embassy at 2pm – in your own community, speak out at church, stand in your city centre demand Justice for Bradley Manning!
http://www.bradleymanning.org

LONDON EVENT
TIME? – Sunday March 20th. 2 pm

WHERE? – outside the U.S. Embassy, Gorsvenor Square.
Closest tube: Bond St.

SPEAKERS?
HIgh School Kidz from Brad’s Welsh Village
http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2011/03/15…5324/

Bruce Kent – Long time British Peace Activist and Organiser.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Kent

Ben Griffin
SAS Iraq Combat Veteran, Reusenik when he refused a 2nd tour deouncing the war, gagged from speaking of his experiences by the M.O.D./ High Court.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Griffin_%28British_Arm…er%29

and others… more here

Internal Security

Meanwhile, in some countries, they even have a debate about Detention and the Internal Security Act (which has been mentioned before on this blog, here, and in the Weekly Worker, here).

SUARA RAKYAT MALAYSIA

www.suaram.net

Press Statement by SUARAM: 7th March 2011

Mission Report on Malaysia by Working Group on Arbitrary Detention:

Implement Recommendations Now!

The findings and recommendations of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) from its visit to Malaysia from 7 to 18 June 2010 have added to the long list of recommendations and concerns pertaining to the Malaysian government’s legislations, policies and practices of arbitrary detention. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) has despatched Ms Temme Lee, SUARAM Secretariat member to make interventions at the UN Human Rights Council after the mission report presented by the WGAD[1].  SUARAM supports the recommendations made by the working group to the Malaysian government.

“Classic Cases of Arbitrary Detention” under the ISA, EO, DDA, RRA

In their mission report, the WGAD states that it is “seriously concerned” about the existence and enforcement of laws which provide for detention without trial in Malaysia, namely the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance (EO), the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act (DDA), and the Restricted Residence Act.

“(These laws) impede the detainee’s right to a fair trial, consecrated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by international human rights customary law. They also severely restrict detainees’ access to legal counsel.”

The working group has also stated its concern on the periodic review by the Advisory Board. The working group considers that an appearance before an Advisory Board does not fulfill minimal fair trial guarantees. Although detainees may appeal every six months to the Advisory Board on the preventive laws, the detainees are not notified of its recommendations, its recommendations are not binding and they are not made public. On the other, the defence lawyers may appear on behalf of the detainee, attend the hearing without access to all the documentation, including evidence, and have no right to call witnesses.

During the press conference held by the WGAD on 18 June 2010, its Chairperson-Rapporteur El Hadji Malick Sow stated that detentions under the ISA, the EO, and the DDA are “classic cases of arbitrary detention”. The WGAD also noted with concern that “thousands of people” are being detained under the EO and the DDA.

“Systematic” Detention of Refugees

Also of concern to the WGAD is the detention of refugees and asylum seekers. The WGAD’s Chairperson-Rapporteur has described the detention of refugees as “systematic”, noting that even refugees who are in possession of identity cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are not exempt from arrests and detentions.

Malaysia’s non-ratification of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and non-recognition of the status of refugees and asylum seekers have resulted in the detention of many refugees under immigration laws in Malaysia for their alleged “illegal presence” in Malaysian territory. The WGAD notes that detainees who have served prison sentences under Immigration laws are often held in immigration detention centres for an indefinite period while awaiting deportation to their countries of origin.

Police Force: Excessive Power leads to human rights violations

The working group has also expressed concern over the excessive power given to the police force in Malaysia particularly under the preventive laws. The working group is of the view that the excessive power given to the police has led to their eluding the normal penal procedure for common crimes and offences. This has given an opportunity to the police and the Home Minister to detain persons without the need to sustain evidence or to probe penal responsibility. The Working group also concludes that the police often fail to inform the detainees about their rights to contact family members and to consult a lawyer of their choice.

The working group also raises serious concern about the deaths that occur during the police detention and while in police custody; the ill treatment and torture in police stations and detention centres in order to obtain confessions and incriminatory evidence.

Repeal All Detention-without-Trial Laws

On detention-without-trial laws, the WGAD unambiguously recommends that the ISA, the EO, the DDA, and the RRA be repealed. In the interim period, while the laws are in force, the working group has urged that the decisions by the non-judicial Appeals Advisory Board should be binding on the Home Minister, and decisions with regard to the Act should be subject to judicial review.

SUARAM thus calls upon the government to re-think the proposed amendments to all the detention-without-trial laws in the light of the latest WGAD’s recommendations. The ISA, the EO, the DDA, and the RRA must be repealed forthwith; the government should immediately end all arrests under the detention-without-trial laws, and release all those currently detained under these laws or charge them in a fair and open court.

End Detention of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Other Vulnerable Migrants

On the detention of immigrants, the WGAD states that:

“Detention of immigrants should be decided upon by a court of law, on a case by case basis, and pursuant to clearly and exhaustively defined criteria in legislation, under which detention may be resorted to.”

The WGAD stresses that immigrants should have an effective remedy to challenge the necessity and legality of their detention at any time; that immigration detention should not be applied to refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable groups of migrants, including unaccompanied minors, families with minor children, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, elderly persons, persons with disabilities, or people with serious and/or chronic physical or mental health problems.

The WGAD has also urged the Malaysian government to ratify the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, a recommendation which has been made on numerous occasions by SUHAKAM as well as UN member states during the Universal Periodic Review of Malaysia in February 2009.

SUARAM strongly urges the government to immediately implement these recommendations and to   stop arresting refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups of migrants. The government should provide a concrete timeframe for the ratification of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees.

Invite UN Experts in Other Areas Too

While Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the UN Human Rights Council can only visit a country with the host government’s invitation, SUARAM would like to point out that the WGAD had in fact made a request for a country visit to Malaysia way back in 2008. It was only in early 2010 that the Malaysian government officially and publicly confirmed its acceptance of the WGAD’s request to visit Malaysia.

To date, the Malaysian government has still not responded to eight pending requests by other Special Procedures Mandate Holders, namely the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders (request made in 2002); the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples (2005); the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion (2006); the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants (2006); the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism (2005); the Independent Expert on Minority Issues (2007 and 2009); the Special Rapporteur on Racism (2008); and Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (2009).

SUARAM therefore strongly calls upon the Malaysian government to extend standing invitations to all Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the UN Human Rights Council which have made requests for country visits to Malaysia as soon as possible.

Implement WGAD’s Recommendations Now!

Today, WGAD’s final report is being submitted to the UN Human Rights Council. The recommendations of the Working Group are clear enough for the government to make immediate human rights reforms.  The working group has also urged the Malaysian government to become a party to the main international instruments on human rights, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, (CERD), the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the Protocol there to, the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Similar recommendations have already been made by other bodies such as the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), the Royal Commission on the Police, and UN member states. As such, there is no justification for the government to delay implementing these recommendations immediately, especially when Malaysia currently has a seat in the Human Rights Council.

The Malaysian government’s attitude toward these recommendations of the WGAD will be an indication of either its commitment to human rights or otherwise, its sheer hypocrisy while sitting in UN Human Rights Council.

Released by, Nalini.E, SUARAM Coordinator

Buzz Coupland

coulandDouglas ‘Buzz’ Coupland’s new novel, ‘Generation A’, takes as its premise the disappearance of bees, much discussed in the press in the wake of hive collapse. The tale is told in an unfolding multi-part personal/police statement/autobiography mode. It works mostly well until the storytelling parts in the second half, which are really OK in themselves, but a great chance for some structuralist play was missed I feel. The links are there, but I am not sure Buzz knows how to join up the sides of his hexagon as well as he might have. A few weeks more work could have been good. Nevertheless, this book is as readable as the other DC highlights (eg ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’, and the magnificent ‘All Families are Psychotic’). The distraction of the cover art gimmick (design your own colours for the jacket – I chose yellow!) and the lame title, dissuades the reader, and perhaps the author, from engagement with the covert security forces aspect of the scenario as written. War on terror meets eco-catastrophe is the topical theme of our times, yet this is not yet the novel that breaches the impasse of mere commentary. Terrible thing to say about literature, but I wanted it to do more – and instead, well, a meditation on celebrity is the danger here: I almost yawned at those parts. Although the boy’s own adventure espionage aspects are well rendered, they do not approach the necessary allegorical harshness required to compete with texts like Paglin and Thompson’s Torture Taxi. We live in dangerous times, and need a dangerous literature to engage. More cross pollination would not have hurt this text, I can’t help but feel there’s something a little flat about the landscape. All those rendition flights, and the stereotyped mad scientists, and the detention regimes, are treated with lightness and humour, and – fuck me with the tourette’s character’s PDA – I’m still not laughing over the war. I’m not over it, sorry. And getting all misty for the bees isn’t enough, no matter how much the Calvino inspired narrative game appeals (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller… echoes strongly here). I like Coupland in a Canadian way, its good, it should be read, but there could be more than a lame colouring-in participatory aspect to the reading.

Do you like the yellow cover I’ve designed? – no creativity there then. We are doomed. Buzz buzz buzz.

And do you remember the opening credits of of the 1985’s Luc Besson film ‘Subway’?

“To do is to be” — Descartes
“To be is to do” — Sartre
“Doo, bee, doo, bee, doo” — Sinatra

That’d be name dropping then, Cristopher Lambert – even if Jean-Hugues Anglade was in it, Lambert was good here. But speaking of Anglade, couldn’t his co-star from ‘Betty Blue’, Beatrice Dalle, play ‘Diana’ in the movie of Coupland’s book? Shahrukh Khan as ‘Harj’ (though not Sri Lankan, still… but drop the ridiculous Apu routine). Kurt Cobain as ‘Zack’ of course… Am I dreaming up an impossible cast? There are five roles. I probably need to get all hexagrammatical here too:

Ever wonder why bees use hexagons to make beehives? Two reasons. First, bees want to enclose the largest possible space with the least amount of wax. With this in mind, a circle would be best. So why don’t they use circular combs? Because hexagons are the shape with the most sides that “tesselate”. In other words, if you put a bunch of hexagons next to each other there will be no spaces between them. No shape with more than six sides will do this.

Scouting Shame NYT.

14explorers_span

“‘There is no document of civilization that is not simultaneously a document of barbarism‘” (Benjamin p. vii)

A photograph of five young Americans in combat gear beside a ‘Homeland Security’ bus graces the front page of the New York Times on May 13 2009. This image catches my eye on a day when newly discovered atrocity photos from CIA ‘facilities’ in Afghanistan and Iraq should be published, but are not so as to avoid undermining the war effort and the troops at the front. Anxious excuses are conjured for spin and impression management… we get this unbelievable shot of Explorer scouts tooled up for the kill.

The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.

“This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl,” said A. J. Lowenthal, a sheriff’s deputy here in Imperial County, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explorers events he helps run. “It fits right in with the honor and bravery of the Boy Scouts.”

I am taken by the photograph because it appears on the day the Obama administration plays the ‘don’t look’ card on terror (after a word from Pentagon chiefs, Obama backtracked and announced he would fight any release of the new set of detention images – this is reported on the same front page). But I am also curious about a quirky little detail in the bus picture. Look at the line of tooled-up scouts in the shot. The very last one doesn’t seem to think the situation is all that serious. A big grin on his face, forgetting the seriousness of the security role-play, has he tapped his colleague on the shoulder to say he likes his combat trousers? ‘Dude, I got these on special at ‘Old Navy” says his colleague. ‘Awesome’. I wonder if there is perhaps-possibly-maybe a little chink of critique, on the part of the NYTs photographer, in this edge-of-the-image smile? Such good terror-fighting teeth too. I would ‘hope’ we read this scene against the grain. Yes we can.

The article offers a great many other howlers – including strange juxtapositions: one such follows on from the news that neophyte Explorer Cathy is ‘attracted by the guns’ and says: “I like shooting them … I like the sound they make. It gets me excited.” We then get the observation that the police who supervise this ‘training’ have been exploring in their own perversions: “There have been numerous cases over the last three decades in which police officers supervising Explorers have been charged, in civil and criminal cases, with sexually abusing them”.

It seems though we are safe. This is after all only a role-playing game (with Arab dress-ups and other harmless panto fun). We are assured that ‘the training … is not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting’. OK.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the same paper, another photograph of another line of troops catches my eye – a dead soldier is being returned to the US. RIP Michael P Yates, killed by one of his own in the counselling tent (image not online, but article here). The televisual reporting of the return of troop bodies was suppressed by a former President, but the correspondence between the line of Explorer scouts and the solemn line of the troops in the second picture is poignant. (Troops dead so far in Iraq and Afghanistan nearing 5000). This picture too appears a few pages before a full page ad taken out by a right wing group, suitably named the ‘Torture Truth Project’ that condemns those who would embarrass the US internationally by mentioning the ‘only three’ detainees that endured water boarding. The text of which is a special rhetoric all on its own when it tortures the truth by warning that ‘we are losing the goodwill of people across the world’. Welcome to the USA Today, in the NYTimes.

The Scouts, you may recall, are the spawn of Sir Colin Baden-Powell, also famous for having developed the detention camp at Mafeking over a century ago. Be Prepared. I remember this slogan from my own youthful disciplining as a scout (was mostly fun of course, smoking behind the troop hall) and I know my grandfather in the UK and father in Ukraine were also enthusiastic adventurers. Energy and curiosity turned into memoir.

Theatre-Border

bordertoySlowly the form of our meeting in Berlin has been taking shape, via disparate (and desperate?) emails, haphazardly. That will no doubt continue, but I think it good to gather it together here (in dialogic form):

John: I’ve no idea yet as to just what the Berlin workshop should be in April (week of 20th) – I just think we might want something on how the whole performance of Borders, or the Border Crossing, might make possible new thinking around immigration politics, border controls, divisions and divides etc.

What I am keen to do is extend from the discussions we had in the November meeting that raised issues around how people rethink the border when it comes to sound and through musicking, collaborative work, festivals and solidarity. And how the character of sound crosses the border differently perhaps – the metaphor of the sonic which moves us away from a visual and geographic conception of the Border. Is there something in the theatrical that tampers with border protocols that we can develop? Is the ‘live’ of theatre of use for thinking border as event? Is there something about the performance of the guard, the applicant, the visa, the passage. And that the border is performed everywhere, all the time, in the street, in the gaps we act out between each other? In the courthouse? In the detention centre? Or maybe either more esoteric, or more material – is the border a stage, or ‘in the round’? Are there actors, directors, a troupe – is it a puppet show? Is the border equipped with a back stage, house lights, curtains, inner circle and  ‘the gods’ – what is its architecture? Is it opera, Brecht, or vaudeville? Is a rose by any other name a border control? or… Something like this/anyone?

Rustom: Many thanks for your very insightful comments relating to the border.  Flogged to death as it is in a great deal of performance studies and cultural theory, it still continues to provoke and challenge.  Following the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, I guess it is the porosity of borders that is called into question, raising uncomfortable questions relating to surveillance.  India seems to be caught in a double bind:  on the one hand, it’s obvious that our existing mechanisms of surveillance are woefully weak and overly bureacuratized; on the other hand, in strenghening them, what are the implications for minorities and those migrants without papers who can be easily targeted?

Markus: As you know, here in Berlin we have a long tradition of thinking about crossing borders in terms of performativity and the “framing” of cultural and aesthetic borders. There sure are quite a number of theoretical approaches that deal with the problem of border-crossing within the arts and humanities and it seems to me that the
next step would be to reimplement these ideas back into cultural and political theory.

Why not give each day a different topic, held together by the overall theme of body, theatricality and performativity in regards to bordercrossing or the blurring of borders? In this case it could very well focus especially on bodily borders, right? The political, social and phenomenological integrity and dignity of borders (or boundaries) between bodies perhaps? Combined with the old psychoanalytical question if there is such a thing as a coherent body with distinct borders in the first place, there should be many interesting opportunities for thinking about surveillance and counter surveillance for example. Or the notion of “staging violence” in the media. Just my quick two cents.

John: You had asked what the Clandestino people are doing. Their project for Berlin is derived from work on a play they are doing about the Detention Centre. Its due for performance in December 09 but the text will be ready (only in Swedish) in Feb. We will try to have it translated before April. This started because I said I would like to really push the Detention Centre as border idea. I’ve written on barbed wire before – its a border that really cuts into the body. A harsh theatre is required for this: http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/489/detention.html

So Aleksander and Johannes have written a play, “FÖRVARET” (The Detention Center)? It will be performed at Göteborgs Stadsteater with premiere December 2009. They say they ‘think it is very good starting point for a discussion on the complexity of border surveillance seen from an inside the border control perspective, what happens with language of emotions in the context where the “not quite criminals”, those people who have been taken into “custody”, been placed in the “detention centre”, not beeing criminals for something that they have comitted but for a border they have transgressed. This is what me and Johannes have been working out in “Förvaret”.

Aleksander says: ‘I think my other colleagues Michal Azar (philosopher (Fanon, Lacan, Sartre, Camus, postmodern thinkers)/historian of ideas (war of Algeria)/play writer) and/or Edda Manga (philosopher (feminism, postcolonialism, postmodernism)/historian of ideas (the Idea of a Just war from Victoria/bartolome de las Casas, etc)/activist, . . . ) would be great to bring since they are very much of intellectuals that can “reimplement the ideas crossing borders in terms of performativity and the “framing” of cultural and aesthetic borders back into cultural and political theory”. Also Cecilia Parsberg, artist that did many projects in on the Wall in Palestine’.

John: unfortunately we don’t have funds to invite other visitors, but if people could make their way to Berlin…

Things to discuss:
Format – ideally not too much lecture format. Lets experiment with formats. Panel discussion, round table, theatrical metaphor for seminars?

Text – three days, three themes related to Border performance. One on bodily Border. Another on Surveillance (of bodies, borders, nation states). Another one ___ detentions?

Participants: several of the PhDs have suggested good things. I will ask them to write up a paragraph for their presentations. Especially good ideas from Jen, Ray, Cristobal and Nick. So, more to come here, but at least we have a start. Comments welcome.

The main border page, with the back story to this event, is here.

[The picture is from Emile’s wish list on Amazon. Check here and read the comments].

Free Lex Wotton – Australian Injustice (International Actions)

Free Lex Wotton: Aboriginal Political Prisoner
International Day of Solidarity
London Rally
12 noon Thursday November 6th
Australia House, Strand, WC2B 4LA

On October 24th an all white jury found Lex Wotton, an Aboriginal man from Palm Island, guilty of ‘rioting with destruction’ for his involvement in the 2004 Palm Island uprising. On November 26th 2004 the people of Palm Island set fire to the local police station, court house and police barracks after a pathologist’s report claimed that the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee, a 36 year Aboriginal man in police custody a week earlier was an ‘accident’. Mulrunji died in a police cell, one hour after he had been arrested for being drunk. He suffered massive internal injuries, including a ruptured spleen, four broken ribs and a ‘liver that had been ‘almost cleaved in two’ from a huge compressive force.’ Following Mulrunji’s killing, Queensland’s then Premier, Peter Beattie declared a state of emergency. Balaclava clad Paramilitary style police, armed with semi automatic weapons, roamed the streets arbitrarily arresting Aboriginal people. Police unnecessarily tasered several people, including Lex Wotton. Houses were stormed and children were forced facedown onto the ground with guns pointed at their heads.
The officer who arrested Mulrunji, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, claimed that Mulrunji had fallen on stairs. A coroner’s inquest found that Hurley was responsible for Mulrunji’s death, as the injuries were consistent with a fierce beating. However, Hurley was found not guilty for manslaughter (by an all white jury) and has since been promoted to the position of police inspector on Australia’s Gold Coast.
In comparison Lex Wotton is now facing a possible life sentence in prison. He is being held in custody until his next court appearance in the Townsville District Court on November 7. Aboriginal Australians are still over 10 times more likely than non-Aboroginal Australians to spend time in prison, and are significantly more likely to die in prison than non-Aboriginal prisoners.  The over-policing and criminalisation of Aboriginal Australians is a clear continuation of the colonial policies that have been violently enforced on them since the white invasion.
Following Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd’s apology for past injustices to Aborigines earlier this year many people in Australia and around the World assume indigenous Australians are no longer treated as second class citizens. The continuing unjust imprisonment and persecution of Lex Wotton shows that Aboriginal Australians are still treated with racist contempt.

November 6th is a global day of action to free Lex Wotton. Lex’s friends and family are calling out for people around the world to picket Australian High Commissions and Consulates. Please send any details of demonstrations, solidarity messages and pictures of protest action to freelexwotton@gmail.com. They will all be passed on to Lex inside of prison.

Stand up in solidarity with the people of Palm Island against racism and police brutality!

Raja Petra Kamaruddin given two-year ISA detention order

Detention without trial, the Internal Security Act raises its very ugly head again in Malaysia. 

GERAKAN MANSUHKAN ISA

ISA Updates: 23 September 2008

Raja Petra Kamaruddin, editor of the popular political blog, Malaysia Today, today (23 September 2008) received a two-year detention order under Section 8(1) of the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA). The detention order was signed by Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar. Section 8(1) of the ISA states, “If the Minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary with a view of preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof […], he may make an order directing that a person be detained for any period not exceeding two years.”

According to Raja Petra’s lawyers, he will be sent to the Kamunting Detention Centre in Perak, where he will be detained for a period of two years from today.

Under the ISA, this two-year detention order can be renewed by the Home Minister indefinitely. No clear explanation or details were given the nature of the threat or national security risks. In fact, under the ISA, the Home Minister has no obligation to disclose to the public or the courts the details of the detention or release. This clearly shows that the draconian ISA constitutes gross abuse of power by the authorities.

Raja Petra’s lawyers have also filed a writ of habeas corpus at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, in a bid to release him from his detention.

Background

Raja Petra Kamaruddin was arrested on 12 September 2008, under Section 73(1) of the ISA for allegedly being a threat to security, peace and public order. He is alleged to have posted articles deemed seditious and that also belittle Islam.

Two other individuals – journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and member of Parliament Teresa Kok – were arrested on the same day as Raja Petra’s arrest. The two were subsequently released – Tan on 13 September 2008, while Kok on 19 September 2008.

On 16 September 2008, ISA detainee Raja Petra Kamaruddin, the editor of Malaysia Today, was allowed to see his wife and two children at the Bukit Aman police headquarters.

According to Raja Petra’s wife Marina Abdullah, Raja Petra spoke very softly and looked weak, pale and lost much weight. Raja Petra complained to her that he was suffering from lack of sleep because the night before, he was harassed on an hourly basis by officers who recorded statements from him. He said he was never physically abused, but was mentally abused. Marina said that his blood sugar level had dropped. She also added that her husband suffers from heart artery blockages and is on medication.

Raja Petra’s lawyers filed a habeas corpus application at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on 16 September 2008, seeking his immediate release.

Detention without trial under the ISA a serious human rights violation

The ISA provides for ‘preventive detention’ without trial for an indefinite period. It violates fundamental rights such as the right to trial, the right to legal counsel, the right to defend oneself in open court and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. It goes against the principles of justice and undermines the rule of law.