Attorneys Make United Nations Urgent Appeal Request for Mumia Abu-Jamal
FiSaraha International Film Festival
Co-host Michael Ratner recently attended the 11th FiSaraha International Film Festival in Africa’s Western Sahara Desert. He bring us up to date on the festival and the larger issue of Sahrawi refugee camps in southwestern Algeria.
He also reminds about the anniversary of the United States’ contra torture and murder of Ben Linder in Nicaragua.
After hearing reports that Catholic bishops are prohibiting Catholic charities from allowing undocumented immigrant teenagers in their care to access contraception and abortion services—even in cases of rape—the ACLU recently filed a lawsuit to obtain federal government records. The group seeks documents related to reproductive healthcare policy for unaccompanied immigrant children in the care of federally funded Catholic agencies, which do not believe in abortion. Nearly 60,000 unaccompanied minors illegally crossed over from Mexico border in 2014. Approximately one third were young girls, an astonishing 80% of whom were victims of sexual assault.
The government contracts with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to care for those children until they can either reunite with a relative or face an immigration hearing. In total the Conference has received $73 million overall from the government—with $10 million allocated for the care of unaccompanied minors in 2013 alone.
The Conference has objected to a regulation proposed by the Obama administration mandating that contractors provide abortions to immigrants who have been raped. In response to the ACLU’s request, the Conference asserts that they are within their rights to exercise religious freedom while taking care of the minors.
Guest – Brigitte Amiri, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. Brigitte is currently litigating multiple cases, including a challenge to South Dakota’s law that requires women seeking abortion to first visit a crisis pregnancy center before obtaining an abortion, a restriction on Medicaid funding for abortion in Alaska, and a law in Texas that has forced one-third of the abortion providers to close their doors. Brigitte is also heavily involved in the challenges to the federal contraception benefit, and was one of the coordinators for the amicus briefs in the Supreme Court. Brigitte is an adjunct assistant professor at New York Law School, and has been an adjunct assistant professor at Hunter College.
Proposal to Award Chicago Police Torture Victims Reparations
Victims of police torture under former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge will share $5.5 million, receive an apology and have their story taught in schools under a reparations package proposed recently. The proposal is expected to pass when the council votes on it this month.
More than 100 people accused Burge and officers under his command of torture—from cattle-prod shockings, phone book beatings, and suffocation with bags until false confessions were given—over nearly two decades ending in 1991. While some have already settled for thousands or millions of dollars, the remaining dozens can each receive up to $100,000 under the proposed ordinance. More than $100 million has already been paid over the years in court-ordered judgments, settlements and legal fees. Amnesty International USA lauded the proposal, which it said was unlike anything a U.S. municipality has ever introduced.
Besides a provision that calls for teaching the Burge torture cases to 8th and 10th graders in public school history classes, the ordinance includes a formal apology from the City Council, and psychological counseling and other benefits such as free tuition at community colleges. In recognition that the torture, and in many cases wrongful convictions and lengthy prison sentences, has impacted victims and their families, the ordinance extends some benefits to victims’ children or grandchildren.
Burge, 67, was fired from the Chicago Police Department in 1993. He was never criminally charged with torture, but was convicted in 2010 of lying about torture in a civil case and served 4.5 years in federal custody. Still drawing his pension, he was released from a Florida halfway house in February.
Guest – Attorney G. Flint Taylor, a graduate of Brown University and Northwestern Law School, is a founding partner of the People’s Law Office in Chicago, an office which has been dedicated to litigating civil rights, police violence, government misconduct, and death penalty cases for more than 40 years.