U.S. travel ban will kick off ‘summer of litigation’, advocates warn

The Guardian reports: Human rights advocates have warned of a “summer of litigation” in response to the US supreme court’s decision to partially reinstate Donald Trump’s travel ban.

The ban applies to people from six Muslim-majority countries and refugees, but one clause in the court’s order has raised more questions than it answers about who will actually be allowed entry into the US.

People from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and all refugees are not allowed to enter the US unless they have “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”, according to the court.

Naureen Shah, the director of Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Program, said that even as trained lawyer she had difficulty interpreting its meaning.

“As a bare minimum it introduces uncertainties into life-and-death decisions for people,” Shah said. “It’s so brazenly dismissive to that chaos it is going to unleash.”

For instance, if one American doctor agrees to provide medical care to a child injured in a refugee camp, does the child have a bona fide relationship with the doctor, or the hospital the doctor works at?

In addition, it is not yet clear how the departments of state and homeland security will explain the definition of a bona fide relationship to airports abroad.

Conservative supreme court Justice Clarence Thomas warned in his opinion on the case that the court’s decision “will invite a flood of litigation”.

Human rights advocates agreed. [Continue reading…]

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At 15 I was tortured in Assad’s prisons. I escaped, but thousands still suffer

An anonymous Syrian torture victim writes: For the 10 months I spent as a detainee in the prisons of Bashar al-Assad, I only saw my family in my dreams. At night, the screams would stop for an hour or two, and I could close my eyes and remember what it was like to be human. When I slept, I would return to my life.

Today is the UN’s International Day for Support of Victims of Torture. Unfortunately in Syria, there is no shortage of victims of torture. Tens of thousands of us have been thrown in Assad’s prisons and tortured beyond what our bodies and minds can take. Many of us die there. Those of us who have survived will spend the rest of our lives being reminded of just how evil humanity is capable of being.

I was only 15 when I was arrested and subjected to months of physical and psychological torture.

I am lucky to have survived. There were times I wished for death. As happy as I am to return to life again, I am equally gripped by sadness and pain knowing more than 200,000 prisoners are still there. My freedom feels incomplete as long as my Syrian brothers and sisters suffer behind those high walls. I am a hostage of my memory.

Aleppo is my home. I was forced to leave there in 2013 to try to escape the barrel bombs and besiegement of the city by Assad and his allies. My mother, siblings and I fled to Lebanon. At the age of 14, I had to leave school and begin working to try to sustain our family. At the end of 2014, we were forced to return to Syria because we could not afford Lebanese residence and working permits.

On the way home, I was arrested by members of a political security branch in Damascus. They accused me of taking part in the peaceful demonstrations at the beginning of the popular Syrian revolution against Assad.

This is a regime known for its oppression, its tyranny, and its corruption. But it is also a regime that stands against humanity. It is a regime that could arrest a 15-year-old, a kid, and subject him to months of torture and starvation and psychological trauma. And I am not by any means a unique story in Syria. [Continue reading…]

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In Yemen’s secret prisons, UAE tortures and U.S. interrogates

The Associated Press reports: Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaida militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme — including the “grill,” in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Senior American defense officials acknowledged Wednesday that U.S. forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses. Interrogating detainees who have been abused could violate international law, which prohibits complicity in torture.

The AP documented at least 18 clandestine lockups across southern Yemen run by the United Arab Emirates or by Yemeni forces created and trained by the Gulf nation, drawing on accounts from former detainees, families of prisoners, civil rights lawyers and Yemeni military officials. All are either hidden or off limits to Yemen’s government, which has been getting Emirati help in its civil war with rebels over the last two years.

The secret prisons are inside military bases, ports, an airport, private villas and even a nightclub. Some detainees have been flown to an Emirati base across the Red Sea in Eritrea, according to Yemen Interior Minister Hussein Arab and others.

Several U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the topic, told AP that American forces do participate in interrogations of detainees at locations in Yemen, provide questions for others to ask, and receive transcripts of interrogations from Emirati allies. They said U.S. senior military leaders were aware of allegations of torture at the prisons in Yemen, looked into them, but were satisfied that there had not been any abuse when U.S. forces were present. [Continue reading…]

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Trump targets illegal immigrants who were given reprieves from deportation by Obama

Reuters reports: In September 2014, Gilberto Velasquez, a 38-year-old house painter from El Salvador, received life-changing news: The U.S. government had decided to shelve its deportation action against him.

The move was part of a policy change initiated by then-President Barack Obama in 2011 to pull back from deporting immigrants who had formed deep ties in the United States and whom the government considered no threat to public safety. Instead, the administration would prioritize illegal immigrants who had committed serious crimes.

Last month, things changed again for the painter, who has lived in the United States illegally since 2005 and has a U.S.-born child. He received news that the government wanted to put his deportation case back on the court calendar, citing another shift in priorities, this time by President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration has moved to reopen the cases of hundreds of illegal immigrants who, like Velasquez, had been given a reprieve from deportation, according to government data and court documents reviewed by Reuters and interviews with immigration lawyers.

Trump signaled in January that he planned to dramatically widen the net of illegal immigrants targeted for deportation, but his administration has not publicized its efforts to reopen immigration cases.

It represents one of the first concrete examples of the crackdown promised by Trump and is likely to stir fears among tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who thought they were safe from deportation. [Continue reading…]

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Trump administration moves to conceal report on CIA torture by permanently placing it in Senate vaults

The New York Times reports: The Trump administration has begun returning copies of a voluminous 2014 Senate report about the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation program to Congress, complying with the demand of a top Republican senator who has criticized the report for being shoddy and excessively critical of the C.I.A.

The Trump administration’s move, described by multiple congressional officials, raises the possibility that copies of the 6,700-page report could be locked in Senate vaults for good — exempt from laws requiring that government records eventually become public. The C.I.A., the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the C.I.A.’s inspector general have returned their copies of the report, the officials said.

The report is the result of a yearslong investigation into the C.I.A. program by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, telling the story of how — in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — the C.I.A. began capturing terrorism suspects and interrogating them in secret prisons beyond the reach of the American judicial and military legal systems. The central conclusion of the report is that the spy agency’s interrogation methods — including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other kinds of torture — were far more brutal and less effective than the C.I.A. described to policy makers, Congress and the public.

It is the most comprehensive accounting of the Bush-era program that exists, and a declassified executive summary of the report was made public in December 2014 — with the support of some Republicans on the committee.

The committee, which was then run by Democrats, also sent copies of the entire classified report to at least eight federal agencies, asking that they incorporate the report into their records — a move that would have made it subject to requests under the Freedom of Information Act. That law, which allows citizens, the media and other groups to request access to information held by the federal government, does not apply to congressional records. [Continue reading…]

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Human rights workers investigating conditions at company producing Ivanka Trump brands arrested and missing

The Associated Press reports: A man investigating working conditions at a Chinese company that produces Ivanka Trump-brand shoes has been arrested and two others are missing, the arrested man’s wife and an advocacy group said Tuesday.

Hua Haifeng was accused of illegal surveillance, according to his wife, Deng Guilian, who said the police called her Tuesday afternoon. Deng said the caller told her she didn’t need to know the details, only that she would not be able to see, speak with or receive money from her husband, the family’s breadwinner.

China Labor Watch Executive Director Li Qiang said he lost contact with Hua Haifeng and the other two men, Li Zhao and Su Heng, over the weekend. By Tuesday, after dozens of unanswered calls, he had concluded: “They must be held either by the factory or the police to be unreachable.”

China Labor Watch, a New York-based nonprofit, was planning to publish a report next month alleging low pay, excessive overtime and the possible misuse of student interns. It is unclear whether the undercover investigative methods used by the advocacy group are legal in China. [Continue reading…]

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The small Texas city fighting to remain a ‘safe haven’ for immigrants

The Guardian reports: When Texas passed a law this month banning so-called sanctuary cities and empowering police officers to ask the immigration status of anyone they detain, protests rippled through the state’s major cities. Politicians and activists vowed legal action.

The first place to sue was not liberal Austin, the hub of the fightback, but tiny El Cenizo, a city of 3,800 that nestles along a bend in the Rio Grande and faces Mexico to the north, west and south.

Here, where 99% of residents are Hispanic and 15% to 20% are undocumented, a “safe haven” ordinance has been in place since 1999, forbidding local authorities from making immigration inquiries. When the new state law goes into effect in September, the failure of Texas officials to cooperate with immigration authorities will become a criminal offence also punishable by fines.

The lawsuit argues that the Texas bill, known as SB4, unconstitutionally inserts the state into the federal government’s job of immigration enforcement. SB4 is the most hard-line immigration law passed by a state since Arizona introduced SB 1070, a rule dubbed “show me your papers” by detractors that has largely been neutered by litigation from civil rights groups.

While the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, claims SB4 promotes law and order and keeping dangerous criminals off the streets, it was opposed by sheriffs and police chiefs in the state’s major cities, who worry that it will erode community trust and discourage the reporting of crimes. Critics of the law also worry that giving individual officers the option to pose immigration questions invites racial profiling and will turn routine traffic stops into preludes to deportation.

El Cenizo is now back in the national news, 18 years after a flurry of attention when it decided to make life easier for most of its residents by holding city meetings in Spanish, generating criticism from conservative groups who felt that not using English was unAmerican.

The timing is unfortunate for the 33-year-old mayor, Raul Reyes. In the week of 8 May, when the suit was filed, he was studying for his finals for a master’s degree in public administration. He also runs two businesses; being mayor pays only $100 a month. [Continue reading…]

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French president calls on Putin to protect gay Chechens

CNN reports: French president Emmanuel Macron says he has urged Vladimir Putin to ensure that the rights of LGBT people are protected following allegations of a crackdown on gay men in the Russian republic of Chechnya.

The Russian president was in France for talks with Macron, two weeks after his election victory. Macron’s call comes after widespread reports of a brutal campaign by the authorities against gay men in Chechnya, including allegations of torture and murder.

“I emphasized to President Putin…how important it is for France to respect all people, all minorities,” Macron said during a news conference with the Russian leader.

“We spoke about the cases of LGBT people in Chechnya… I told President Putin what France is expecting regarding this issue, and we agreed to regularly check on this subject.”

Macron added that President Putin told him he had started a number of initiatives with regard to the Chechen LGBT community. Previously, Putin said he would talk to the prosecutor general and interior minister regarding an investigation.

The French president has added his voice to that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel who, also during a recent meeting with Putin, asked the Russian president to guarantee the rights of minorities in Chechnya. [Continue reading…]

Reuters reports: When they emerged from talks, which went on for almost an hour longer than scheduled, Macron said they had had a “frank exchange” and both men stressed they had agreed on the need to move forward on divisive issues such as Syria and Ukraine.

But at a joint news conference after their talks, ill-feeling came to the surface over past allegations made by Macron’s camp that state-funded Russian news outlets had sought to destabilise his campaign.

With Putin alongside him, Macron repeated the accusation in a reply to a journalist’s question, saying: “During the campaign, Russia Today and Sputnik were agents of influence which on several occasions spread fake news about me personally and my campaign.

“They behaved like organs of influence, of propaganda and of lying propaganda,” he said. [Continue reading…]

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Iraqi troops torture and execute civilians in secret videos

ABC News reports: Officers of an elite Iraqi special forces unit, praised by U.S. military commanders earlier this year for its role in fighting ISIS, directed the torture and execution of civilians in Mosul in at least six distinct incidents caught on tape.

“That’s a murder,” retired Green Beret Lt. Col. Scott Mann told ABC News after reviewing the graphic footage. “There should be punishment for anyone doing it. It’s reprehensible and it shouldn’t be allowed on any modern battlefield.”

The alarming footage was smuggled out of Iraq by a prize-winning Iraqi photojournalist, Ali Arkady, who spent months embedded in combat with the elite Iraqi troops leading the fight against ISIS late last year. Since turning over his cache of photos and videos to ABC News, he says he has received death threats from the soldiers he once considered friends and has now fled Iraq to seek asylum in Europe. [Continue reading…]

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After Trump gives green light, Bahrain launches deadly crackdown on political opponents

The Washington Post reports: A raid by forces in Bahrain against a pro-opposition stronghold has left at least five people dead and hundreds detained in one of the deadliest crackdowns since protests erupted in 2011 against the Persian Gulf nation’s Western-backed monarchy.

Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said it had carried out the raid on Tuesday in the village of Duraz and officers had come under attack, including from assailants wielding explosives, the state news agency said.

Opposition activists said that the police had targeted a peaceful sit-in outside the home of Bahrain’s leading Shiite cleric and that the dead included an environmental activist.

Protests and clashes have flared for years in the tiny but strategic island nation between the Sunni-led monarchy and Bahrain’s large Shiite population, which claims it suffers discrimination and other abuses. Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

In addition to the death toll in Tuesday’s raid, the timing was striking, coming two days after President Trump publicly assured the king of Bahrain that their relationship would be free of the kind of “strain” that had occurred in the past — an apparent reference to periodic chiding of Bahrain by the Obama administration for human rights violations.

“Our countries have a wonderful relationship together, but there has been a little strain, but there won’t be strain with this administration,” Trump said during a photo session with the king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, at a conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, according to the Reuters news agency. [Continue reading…]

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A great nation does not hide its history — it faces its flaws and corrects them

 

Felicia Bevel writes: On Friday, the city of New Orleans dismantled a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee—a symbol of the Confederacy that had loomed over the city since 1884, and a direct link to the South’s dark past. The removal completed the city’s controversial decision to take down four monuments commemorating the rise and fall of the Confederacy, including statues of Jefferson Davis, its former president, and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, as well as a monument representing the Battle of Liberty Place.

“These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for,” New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a speech Friday.

But what is the right way to deal with the legacy of white supremacy? Some argue that physical monuments glorify the Confederacy and the white supremacist, pro-slavery ideology it stood for. Other protesters decry the erasure of “Southern heritage,” thereby conveniently divorcing the Confederacy from the racism at its core. And somewhere in the middle are those who understand the troubling narrative that these statues evoke, but argue that their presence is necessary because they remind us of the nation’s horrible past. Regardless of one’s personal views, one thing is clear: It will take more than removing these four monuments from the physical landscape for New Orleans to effectively deal with white supremacy. When it comes to Southern history, out of sight does not mean out of mind. [Continue reading…]

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Trump praised Philippine president’s campaign of extrajudicial killings against drug suspects

The New York Times reports: President Trump praised President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines in a phone call last month for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem” in the island nation where the government has sanctioned gunning down suspects in the streets. Mr. Trump also boasted that the United States has “two nuclear submarines” off the coast of North Korea but said he does not want to use them.

The comments were part of a Philippine transcript of the April 29 call that was circulated on Tuesday, under a “confidential” cover sheet, by the Americas division of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. In Washington, a senior administration official confirmed that the transcript was an accurate representation of the call between the two iconoclastic leaders. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the call and confirmed it on the condition of anonymity.

The White House also keeps transcripts of such calls, but they are routinely kept secret. The Philippine rendering of the call offers a rare insight into how Mr. Trump talks to fellow leaders: He sounds much the way he sounds in public, casing issues in largely black-and-white terms, often praising authoritarian leaders, largely unconcerned about human rights violations and genuinely uncertain about the nature of his adversary in North Korea.

Mr. Trump placed the call and began it by congratulating Mr. Duterte for the government-sanctioned attacks on drug suspects. The program has been widely condemned by human rights groups around the world because extrajudicial killings have taken thousands of lives without arrest or trial. In March, the program was criticized in the State Department’s annual human rights report, which referred to “apparent governmental disregard for human rights and due process.”

Mr. Trump had no such reservations. “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” he said. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.” [Continue reading…]

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U.S. accuses Syria of mass executions and burning bodies

The Washington Post reports: The Syrian government has constructed and is using a crematorium inside its notorious Sednaya military prison outside Damascus to clandestinely dispose of thousands of prisoners it continues to execute inside the facility.

At least 50 prisoners a day are executed in the prison, some in mass hangings, said Stuart Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state for the Middle East. A recent Amnesty International report called Sednaya a “human slaughterhouse” and said that thousands of Syrians have been abducted, detained and “exterminated” there.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad, Jones said, has carried out these atrocities and others “seemingly with the unconditional support from Russia and Iran,” his main backers.

The information, he said, came from human rights and nongovernmental sources, as well as “intelligence assessments.” He released overhead photographs of the facility.

Russia, Jones said, “has either aided in or passively looked away as the regime has” engaged in years of “mass murders” and other atrocities, including extensive bombing of hospitals and other health-care sites and the use of chemical weapons on both civilians and rebel forces. [Continue reading…]

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The middle class cannot afford to remain silent about police violence

Rachel Kleinfeld writes: The killing of Jordan Edwards this week should yield outrage. It should also serve as a wake-up to the rest of America. I’m finishing a book on countries that recovered from pervasive violence. While war makes the headlines, citizen-on-citizen violence, ranging from all to common homicide to insurrection and Boko Haram-like groups, kill four times as many people as wars today. Two factors serve as major catalysts for this kind of violence: Repressive policing, and a failure to police at all. The United States is teetering on the edge of both mistakes.

We’ve been here before. In 1971, New York City’s police shot someone every four days. The era’s repressive policing, in which Southern police sometimes relied on the Klan for dirty work while the National Guard was called out to quell riots and protests in the North, contributed to the spiraling bloodshed of that time. Horrible as today’s police shootings are, they have nothing on a year in which New York City alone would have accounted for a tenth of all police killings in the nation today.

But after 1971, a series of strong police commissioners cleaned up New York’s force. Other police departments around the country followed. Deadly encounters with the police went into free fall for twenty years. The slow creep of war on drugs’ policies and military equipment purchases changed police culture again – but it is possible to get better.

The U.S. can learn from its own history, and from countries like Colombia, Italy, and even the Republic of Georgia.

In each country, the key to reform was awakening the middle class. Violence tends to hit the poor and marginalized the hardest – but it is the middle class that has the voice to make change. That’s a problem, because the middle class would often prefer to avoid the problem. Follow the rules, stay in good neighborhoods, don’t wear “gangster” clothes, and many people in the middle class believe – rightly, if their skin color is white – that they can avoid violence from police and other parts of society.

So the first lesson for organizers is to make it clear: Violence doesn’t just happen to criminals. That’s why Jordan’s parents are so keen to prove that their son was an honor’s student. [Continue reading…]

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Case Farms hires vulnerable immigrants who endure harsh conditions that few Americans would tolerate

Michael Grabell reports: By late afternoon, the smell from the Case Farms chicken plant in Canton, Ohio, is like a pungent fog, drifting over a highway lined with dollar stores and auto-parts shops. When the stink is at its ripest, it means that the day’s hundred and eighty thousand chickens have been slaughtered, drained of blood, stripped of feathers, and carved into pieces—and it’s time for workers like Osiel López Pérez to clean up. On April 7, 2015, Osiel put on bulky rubber boots and a white hard hat, and trained a pressurized hose on the plant’s stainless-steel machines, blasting off the leftover grease, meat, and blood.

A Guatemalan immigrant, Osiel was just weeks past his seventeenth birthday, too young by law to work in a factory. A year earlier, after gang members shot his mother and tried to kidnap his sisters, he left his home, in the mountainous village of Tectitán, and sought asylum in the United States. He got the job at Case Farms with a driver’s license that said his name was Francisco Sepulveda, age twenty-eight. The photograph on the I.D. was of his older brother, who looked nothing like him, but nobody asked any questions.

Osiel sanitized the liver-giblet chiller, a tublike contraption that cools chicken innards by cycling them through a near-freezing bath, then looked for a ladder, so that he could turn off the water valve above the machine. As usual, he said, there weren’t enough ladders to go around, so he did as a supervisor had shown him: he climbed up the machine, onto the edge of the tank, and reached for the valve. His foot slipped; the machine automatically kicked on. Its paddles grabbed his left leg, pulling and twisting until it snapped at the knee and rotating it a hundred and eighty degrees, so that his toes rested on his pelvis. The machine “literally ripped off his left leg,” medical reports said, leaving it hanging by a frayed ligament and a five-inch flap of skin. Osiel was rushed to Mercy Medical Center, where surgeons amputated his lower leg.

Back at the plant, Osiel’s supervisors hurriedly demanded workers’ identification papers. Technically, Osiel worked for Case Farms’ closely affiliated sanitation contractor, and suddenly the bosses seemed to care about immigration status. Within days, Osiel and several others—all underage and undocumented—were fired.

Though Case Farms isn’t a household name, you’ve probably eaten its chicken. Each year, it produces nearly a billion pounds for customers such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeyes, and Taco Bell. Boar’s Head sells its chicken as deli meat in supermarkets. Since 2011, the U.S. government has purchased nearly seventeen million dollars’ worth of Case Farms chicken, mostly for the federal school-lunch program.

Case Farms plants are among the most dangerous workplaces in America. In 2015 alone, federal workplace-safety inspectors fined the company nearly two million dollars, and in the past seven years it has been cited for two hundred and forty violations. That’s more than any other company in the poultry industry except Tyson Foods, which has more than thirty times as many employees. David Michaels, the former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), called Case Farms “an outrageously dangerous place to work.” [Continue reading…]

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Trump keeps praising international strongmen, alarming human rights advocates

Philip Rucker writes: It’s no longer just Vladi­mir Putin.

As he settles into office, President Trump’s affection for totalitarian leaders has grown beyond Russia’s president to include strongmen around the globe.

Egyptian President Abdel ­Fatah al-Sissi has had his opponents gunned down, but Trump praised him for doing “a fantastic job.” Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is a junta chief whose military jailed dissidents after taking power in a coup, yet Trump offered to meet with him at the White House. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has eroded basic freedoms, but after a recent political victory, he got a congratulatory call from Trump.

Then there’s the case of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. He is accused of the extrajudicial killing of hundreds of drug users, and he maligned President Barack Obama as a “son of a whore” at an international summit last year. Yet on Sunday, in what the White House characterized as a “very friendly conversation,” Trump invited Duterte to Washington for an official visit.

In an undeniable shift in American foreign policy, Trump is cultivating authoritarian leaders, one after another, in an effort to reset relations following an era of ostracism and public shaming by Obama and his predecessors. [Continue reading…]

Roy Gutman writes: Erdoğan essentially pocketed Trump’s endorsement of the referendum, and apparent lack of concern about human rights violations, but continues to pursue national security policies that directly conflict with Washington’s agenda—even as he prepares to meet with Trump at the White House on May 16.

By any measure, Erdoğan’s actions appear provocative for a NATO ally who has been hoping to inaugurate a new era of improved relations with the United States after bitter enmity in the last years of the Obama administration. [Continue reading…]

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Trump invites confirmed killer, Rodrigo Duterte, to the White House

The New York Times reports: When President Trump called President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines on Saturday, the American leader’s national security aides saw it as part of a routine diplomatic outreach to Southeast Asian leaders. Mr. Trump, characteristically, had his own ideas.

During their “very friendly conversation,” the administration said in a late-night statement, Mr. Trump invited Mr. Duterte, an authoritarian leader accused of ordering extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines, to visit him at the White House.

Now, administration officials are bracing for an avalanche of criticism from human rights groups. Two officials said they expected the State Department and the National Security Council, both of which were caught off guard by the invitation, to raise objections internally.

The White House disclosed the news on a day when Mr. Trump whipped up ardent backers at a campaign-style rally in Harrisburg, Pa. The timing of the announcement — after a speech that was an angry, grievance-filled jeremiad — encapsulated this president after 100 days in office: still ready to say and do things that leave people, even on his staff, slack-jawed.

“By essentially endorsing Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, Trump is now morally complicit in future killings,” said John Sifton, the Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “Although the traits of his personality likely make it impossible, Trump should be ashamed of himself.” [Continue reading…]

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The Arab Spring unleashed a wave of torture and abuse

 

Nader Hashemi writes: Assad’s chemical weapons attack and the subsequent U.S. missile strike on Syria jolted our world. Most of the commentary that ensued, however, was about the West.

What are the implications for U.S-Russian relations?

Is there a strategic vision behind Trump’s new Syria policy?

What can we learn about White House palace intrigue in terms of who has the president’s ear?

What was completely ignored was a connection between these attacks and the broader politics of the Middle East.

Assad’s sarin gas attack was not a sui generis event that took place in a vacuum. It is directly related to longstanding trends that help explain the region’s turmoil. Two themes stand out: 1) the extreme measures that authoritarian regimes will adopt to retain power, and 2) the severe human rights crisis facing the Middle East. [Continue reading…]

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The cost of Trump’s retreat from human rights

Jorge G. Castañeda writes: Last month, the United States declined to appear before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in Washington, for the first time in decades.

It is a member and participates regularly in the commission’s meetings. But this time, it was the United States delegation that faced questioning — about President Trump’s executive orders to bar travelers from six Muslim-majority countries, to accelerate deportation of undocumented migrants and to weaken environmental regulations.

The refusal to appear placed Washington in the dubious company of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba on accountability for human rights compliance.

Congratulations, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson.

Granted, the United States has never been totally consistent in championing human rights abroad, nor perfect in achieving those ideals at home. It also is not a party to the 1968 American Convention on Human Rights. But in openly retreating from its self-appointed role as a defender of the ideals that underpin the compact, it is showing cynical contempt for human rights even as a goal. This practically guarantees a result we are beginning to see: Dictators and other bullies are emboldened to trample rights and liberties with impunity. [Continue reading…]

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