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Fact-Checking the American Police State

Amnesty International’s 2014/15 report on the United States brings the socially conscious little to cheer for, and it details many things that should give any American great pause.

In 2014, the Human Rights Committee (a treaty body of the United Nations) criticized the US for many issues. Criticism included: no accountability for abuses in context to counter-terrorism solitary confinement in prisons; racial disparities in America’s criminal justice system; targeted killings by drones; law enforcement officials’ excessive uses of force; mistreatment of migrants; and, the capital punishment.

President Obama acknowledged America’s CIA-backed torture and secret detention program after September 11, 2001. Detainees were subject to “indefinite military detention” at America’s naval base in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. Thirty-five people were executed in the course of the year, two of which were women. And ultimately, America failed to comply with international obligations on torture.

By the end of 2014, 127 men were detained at Guantánamo without so much as a trial or charges. There was also Congress’ opposition to closing America’s detention facility in Cuba. Prisoners engaged in hunger strikes, but transparency about their protest lacked. There were “forcible cell extractions” and forced feeding.

One lawyer alleged in court that the abduction of suspect Abu al-Libi involved the use of extreme physical and brutal force,” and that after dragging al-Libi from his car (and “using tazer-like weapons” on him), American forces blindfolded him, “bound, gagged and trussed” him.

Across eighteen states, at least thirty-five people died after Tasers struck them. Tasers have either caused or contributed to more than sixty deaths. Most victims were not armed or seem to pose “a serious threat” at the time of Taser deployment. Of course, there were the various police killings of unarmed people throughout the year: Michael Brown, Kajieme Powell, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, and the list goes on.

American police also equipped themselves with riot gear and military-grade weapons during demonstrations in which Americans exercised their peaceful right to assemble. With some frequency, they were also on the receiving end of rubber bullets, tear gas, and other aggressive technologies and tactics. Protestors as well as journalists were harmed.

American prisons violated standards for the human treatment of its prisoners. Thirty-three men and two women were also killed via the death penalty in this time frame. For some children, life imprisonment without parole was a legal possibility.

Finally, more than fifty thousand migrant children were “apprehended” crossing the Mexican-American border in 2014. Some were a mere five-years-old. US Border Patrol detained unaccompanied minors in unsanitary facilities “without access to legal counsel, translators or proper medical attention.” Detainment ranged anywhere from days to weeks on end.

For related articles and information, Amnesty International also published the following list at the end of its 2014/15 US report:

1. Loud and clear – UN Human Rights Committee makes wide-ranging recommendations to USA

2. USA should “put its money where its mouth is” and implement UN Committee against Torture findings

3. USA: “We tortured some folks” – The wait for truth, remedy and accountability continues as redaction issue delays release of senate report on CIA detentions

4. USA: “We have the ability to do things” – President and Congress should apply human rights principles and close Guantánamo

5. USA: “I have no reason to believe that I will ever leave this prison alive” – Indefinite detention at Guantánamo continues; 100 detainees on hunger strike

6. USA: Man seized in Libya faces death penalty in USA

7. Entombed: Isolation in the US federal prison system

8. USA: “He could have been a good kid” – Texas set to execute third young offender in two months

9. USA: “The nation we aspire to be”

10. USA: Call for race inquiry as execution nears

Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border. You can follow him on Twitter @mateo_pimentel.  

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Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border. You can follow him on Twitter @mateo_pimentel.

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