Imagine yourself traveling in a foreign country, and suddenly, in either circumstances beyond your control or an incident where your judgment seems to have flown out the window, you find yourself in hand-cuffs, staring blankly into the eyes of an angry police officer, who is yelling at you in a totally unintelligible language. You have no idea what you have done wrong, but it must be serious because you're being hauled off to jail. At a moment like this, while you sit scared in your small prison cell, one of the only comforting thoughts that may find its way past your fear is that you are an American citizen. Someone will surely come to your rescue soon. An attorney from your Consulate will be coming by any second to get you out of this hell.And if countries around the world abide by international law, specifically Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, you are right. But the concern of human rights organizations is now that the United States has shown a pattern of violating this multilateral treaty what is to say that countries around the world may not follow suit? As a result, they argue, it is not unreasonable to assume that Americans traveling or living abroad are at greater risk of having their legal and human rights ignored. Under the terms of Article 36 in the Vienna Convention, arresting authorities are required to immediately notify a detained foreigner of their right to contact and seek assistance from their consulate. At the prisoner's request, authorities must then facilitate communications with the consulate. The Convention is a cornerstone of international diplomatic relations and has been ratified by the United States and some 140 other nations.On June 18, a Mexican citizen was executed in Texas for murder amid failed pleas by his government, human rights organizations, law firms and prominent individuals across North America to spare his life. Tristan Montoya was sentenced to death in 1986, when he was 18 years old. According to his lawyers, he underwent a lengthy police interrogation without the presence of an attorney or the assistance of the Mexican Consulate. Tristan Montoya, a laborer with a fifth-grade education, signed a four-page confession in English, a language that he did not read, speak nor understand. If the Vienna Convention had been fulfilled, the consular offices in Mexico could have provided Tristan Montoya with a bi-lingual attorney and proper representation during the trial. In what Amnesty International calls "a blatant example of the arbitrariness of the death penalty," Juan Villavicencio was also charged for the crime, but he testified against Tristan Montoya and was acquitted in a separate trial. "By executing Tristan Montoya over the protest of the Mexican government, Texas has, in effect, put at risk Americans abroad," says William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "If our country allows for the abrogation of international treaties when it comes to foreign nationals in our country, what moral authority will we have to demands adherence to those same rules for our citizens traveling and living overseas?" According to Mark Warren of Amnesty International, Ontario, Canada, of the current 62 known cases of foreign citizens -- representing 15 different countries -- under sentence of death in the US, at least 32 were effectively denied access to their consular assistance (there are undoubtedly more, since not all of them have counsel). None of the five foreign nationals who have made the claim that their treaty rights were not honored after their arrest have won a new trial.The execution of Tristan Montoya has prompted Mexico's Department of Foreign Affairs to present the US State Department with a diplomatic note of protest. The Mexico's Department claims the United States violated the Vienna Convention by denying Montoya due process of law, and it also called the death penalty "cruel and inhuman punishment." In an open letter to Texas Governor Bush, signatories from human rights organizations, law firms and universities, wrote, "We live in an interconnected global society which functions only to the degree that all nations and states live up to their international commitments. It is this principle of reciprocity which regulates world trade, global security and the universal protection of human rights. Sadly, Texas is failing to meet a basic legal obligation to the world community, undermining respect for the rule of law everywhere."During the week of Tristan Montoya's execution, the US' violation of the Vienna Convention and Tristan Montoya's denied legal rights was the top story in most Mexican media. La Jornada, a Mexican newspaper, wrote that the execution "provoked in Mexican society stupor, indignation, helplessness, pain and severe criticism of the United States and its judicial system."In several recent cases of foreign nationals under sentence of death who were denied their consular rights, the US State Department has apologized to the nationals' home governments, following investigations by state authorities, but apologies do not prevent wrongful executions, nor cure violations of international treaties, argues Amnesty. The State Department has repeatedly emphasized the high importance that the US attaches to the Vienna Convention, but human rights organizations believe it needs to take immediate steps to ensure that this kind of blatant disregard of international treaties never happens again. Recently, a letter was sent to Bacre Walye Ndaiye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions, at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. The letter points out the systematic failure of US authorities to provide foreign nationals with consular notification and calls on the Rapporteur to make immediate inquiries of the State Department. It is signed by several attorneys representing death-sentenced foreign nationals in the USA.One of the US death penalty cases citing a breach of the Vienna Convention is that of Joseph Stanley Faulder, a Canadian on death row in Texas. Canadian authorities were not notified of Faulder's arrest for over 15 years. In the case, Texas officials eventually admitted breaching the Vienna Convention but dismissed the violations as "harmless error." In Faulder's trial, the fact that Faulder suffered a severe head injury as a three-year-old which resulted in damage to the part of the brain regulating appropriate behavioral decisions was evidence not presented by his court appointed attorney. Faulder was recently given an indefinite stay of execution by a Texas appeal court, due to evidence suggesting that the prosecution knew one of their star witnesses was lying. Taking the Vienna Convention legal issue a step further, Paraguay recently filed a civil suit against Virginia Governor George Allen and other state officials, aiming to bring an end to their continuing violations of Article 36 and the treaty between the united States and Paraguay. Paraguay is suing over the arrest and detention of Angel Breard and is asking the federal court to stop the execution and try Breard again with Paraguay's participation. Richmond US District Court Judge Richard Williams ruled against Paraguay last November, although he said he was troubled by Virginia's failure to follow international law. He ruled he had no authority to hear the case because the 11th Amendment to the US Constitution bars suits in federal court by foreign governments against American states. "Capital punishment does not address by any means the root causes of violent crime in America," says Schulz. "Twenty-five years after the Supreme Court found the death penalty to be unconstitutional, capital punishment still reflects the worst parts of the justice system: racism, xenophobia, unfair treatment of the poor and mentally unstable, and inadequate legal defense. But, whether or not one supports the death penalty, violation of international treaties by our country has to be of concern." "Tristan Montoya's execution and the other death penalty cases pending undermine the same international treaty that protects Americans' rights if they are arrested and detained in foreign lands," says Warren. "If the United States violates the Vienna Convention, it is easy to imagine other countries responding in like fashion."Jenna E. Ziman is a Washington D.C-based freelance writer. SIDEBAR:FACTS AND FIGURES ON THE DEATH PENALTYMore than half the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Amnesty International's latest information shows that: * Fifty-eight countries and territories have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. * Fifteen countries have abolished the death penalty for all but exceptional crimes such as wartime crimes.* Twenty-seven countries can be considered abolitionist de facto: they retain the death penalty in law but have not carried out any executions for the past 10 years or more, making a total of 100 countries which have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.* Ninety-four other countries retain and use the death penalty. * During 1996, 4,272 prisoners are known to have been executed in 39 countries and 7,107 sentenced to death in 76 countries. (These figures include only cases known to Amnesty International; the true figures are certainly higher.)* Amnesty International received reports of 3,500 executions in China, 167 executions in Ukraine, 140 executions in the Russian Federation and 110 executions in Iran. These four countries alone accounted for 92 percent of all executions recorded by Amnesty International worldwide in 1996. * Five countries since 1990 are known to have executed prisoners who were under 18 years old at the time of the crime -- Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, USA and Yemen. The majority of known executions of juvenile offenders was in the USA (6 since 1990).* Three hundred fifty people convicted of capital crimes in the USA between 1900 and 1985 were innocent of the crimes charged. Twenty-three were actually executed. * A US Congressional report by the House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights in October 1993 listed 48 condemned men who had been freed from death row since 1972.* Seven individuals were recently released from death row in the state of Illinois. Four of them were declared innocent of their alleged crimes not through the workings of the judicial system but the intervention of journalists and journalism students.* More than 3,150 prisoners were under sentence of death in the United States at the end of September 1996.* By the end of June of 1997, it is believed the United States will execute its 400th person since the use of the death penalty was resumed in 1977.
In 1996, more than 40,000 workers at 30 firms lost their jobs due to corporate downsizing, yet the CEOs of these firms took home higher than average salary rewards for these lay-offs, reveals a study put out by the D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies and Boston-based United for a Fair Economy.The report, "Executive Excess: CEOs Gain From Massive Downsizing," found that in 1996, the CEOs received an average increase in total direct compensation of 67 percent, whereas the average U.S. worker earned only a 3 percent raise in wages. The report also revealed that the average gap between the CEOs' salary and bonus and the wage of their lowest paid full-time worker was 178 to one."The layoff leaders' fat pay packages reveal the perverse incentives in our economy," said John Cavanagh, co-director of the Institute for Policy Studies. "CEOs should be rewarded for creating good jobs not for destroying them. These CEOs claim that they have to lay people off to strengthen their businesses. But we are skeptical when all the compensation savings go into the CEO's pockets."The report points to AT&T's CEO Robert Allen as the leader of downsizing with his announcement of 49,000 AT&T layoffs last year. Allen's salary and bonus compensation for 1996 totaled more than $2.4 million. Comparing that to the $10,500 made by the lowest-paid full-time worker at the company, Allen takes home a pay-check 232 times greater the amount."It is bad enough that CEOs profit from the pain of massive layoffs, but we also subsidize it through the tax code," said Marc Bayard of United for a Fair Economy. "Because corporations deduct excessive pay from their taxes, the remaining taxpayers pick up the tab."The report points to various ways from which the wage gap can be closed, including corporate self-regulation, government capping of deductible pay, a raise in the federal minimum wage and investor activism such as shareholder resolutions.For more information or for a copy of the 20-page report, contact Sarah Anderson at 202-234-9382, ext.227, or Marc Bayard at 617-423-2148.
Even though women are slowly advancing towards equality in numerous professional areas, a mere 25% of opinion columns in U.S. newspapers are authored by women, according to a study released by Rocky Mountain Media Watch. So where one would think that opinion pages of newspapers would publish a wide range of views about many subjects, it seems the views chosen are not so diverse.The study, entitled "Choices of Voices: Op-Ed Writers in U.S. Newspapers," analyzed op-ed pieces appearing in seven newspapers during September, 1996. The report found that 83 percent of the New York Times' op-eds are written by men. 81 percent of the Los Angeles Times pieces are from men. Next is the Washington Post at 78 percent, followed by the Chicago Tribune (72 percent), Denver Post (72 percent), USA Today (72 per cent), and Rocky Mountain News (65 percent)."The pundit gender gap does not serve citizens' best interest," reads the report. "Women experience life differently than men, and their perspectives should be given more equal airing on the op-ed page ... Young women, in particular, may look to the op-ed pages and be disappointed."The survey also noted the number of government officials who authored op-ed pieces, as well as representatives of advocay groups and guests writers unaffiliated with the newspapers. Government officials authored the most op-eds in the New York Times and USA Today. Chicago Tribune, USA Today and the Washington Post printed the least op-eds written by guests, and representatives of citizen advocacy groups were given the least space in the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.The report asks editors to reserve substantial space for the work of guest writers on the commentary pages. It reads, "The opinion pages of newspapers should be a battleground of ideas, and access to the battleground should not be dominated by a newspapers' own personnel and syndicated writers."Denver-based Rocky Mountain Media Watch is a non-profit organization that monitors the news media and challenges media institutions to resist tabloid coverage of the issues of the day. For more information, contact Jason Salzman at 303-433-6961 or 303-832-7558.
Coordinadora '96, the network that organized the first annual Latino march on Washington, D.C. last year, is objecting to a new federal law that will drastically alter the process by which immigrants can attain legal citizenship. To combat the dire effects of the 1996 Immigration and Nationality Act -- scheduled for implementation on April 1 -- the group is planning to put pressure on the national legislature and international governments, which are concerned about the social and economic repercussions of the law; and to continue community-based mobilization, advocacy and education."The bad news is that this law is a frontal attack on some of the basic rights of immigrants who are here legally or have been attempting to adjust their status through legal means," said Juan Jose Gutierrez, one of Coordinadora '96's spokespersons. "The good news is that we are seeing thousands of people who are coming forward to remedy their legal status and who are becoming active, conscious citizens, despite continued anti-immigrant rhetoric."Included in the new law are harsh punishments for visa overstays. For instance, anyone who stays beyond the period of authorized stay, will have their visa automatically voided. In addition, anyone who remains in the U.S. unlawfully beyond September 27 (and leave the U.S.) will be barred from re-entering the U.S. for three years. Those who remain in the U.S. unlawfully beyond March 31, 1998, (and leave the U.S.) will be barred from re-entering for 10 years.Also included in the new law is a "wealth test" which will prevent families from reuniting, whereby a sponsor of a family member will be required to sign an affidavit proving that she or he will support the immigrating family member at 125 per cent of the official poverty level (approximately $19,700 for a family of four).For more information, contact Juan Jose Gutierrez at 213-286-8472 x24 or Meredith Brown at 213-268-8472 x15.
The anti-environmental lobby in the West is strengthening its power by collaborating with extremist groups across the country, fostering a climate in which people are afraid to voice their opinions, according to the Western States Center, a Portland-based non-partisan research group. In its latest report, the group details the close ties between anti-environmental leaders and well-known extremist organizations that include the militia movement, the John Birch Society and the county supremacy movement.The center, which documented its findings in "Extremists and the Anti-Environmental Lobby: Activities Since Oklahoma City," points to two broad factions that comprise the anti-environmental lobby: natural resource and other corporations, and ideologically driven activist and advocacy groups. Both factions stand to profit from the weakening or elimination of laws protecting public health and public lands, and they seek to exploit economic hardship in rural communities to further their own agendas, the report argues."Extremists and the anti-environmental lobby have made a cottage industry out of selling conspiracy and hate in communities wracked by a changing economy and corporate downsizing," said Tarso Ramos, report author and Western States research director. "Rather than working toward community-based solutions, extremist groups continue to peddle divisive rhetoric and fear that manipulates people facing hard times."The study, which examines the anti-environmental lobby since 1992, tells the story of community activist Ellen Gray of Washington State. She was confronted after a public hearing by a militia member who told her, "We have a militia of 10,000 and if we can't beat you at the ballot box, we'll beat you with a bullet.""This report documents what we've been seeing for years, a convergence of anti-environmentalists with militias and far-right extremists," explained Ken Toole, Program Director, Montana Human Rights Network. "The media should remain vigilant in exposing these groups and their hateful rhetoric, because words do matter and extremist intimidation undermines community well-being."The Western States Center's main focus is to track key issues and trends in an eight-state region of the West: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and Alaska. Full text of "Extremists and the Anti-Environmental Lobby" is available at http://www.igc.org/westernstates/. For more information contact Tarso Ramos at 503-228-8866.
The top 25 arms exporters gave record high contributions to political campaigns during the 1995-1996 election cycle, new research shows. According to the analysis by the World Policy Institute at the New School for Social Research, the arms exporters gave $10.8 million in Political Action Committee (PAC) and soft money donations during the 1995-1996 election cycle, up from $6.9 million during 1991-1992 election cycle. The analysis, which updates the Institute's October 1996 report, "Peddling Arms, Peddling Influence," finds that nearly 40 percent of the funds poured in the last few months of the two year election cycle, between September and December of 1996.The study, drawn from Federal Election Committee data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics, reveals arms exporter PAC funding was up by 12 percent from its recent peak, while soft money donations by arms merchants increased by 346 percent over its previous peak.The report points to Lockheed Martin as the "Leader of the PACs" among arms exporters, accounting for more than $1 out of $5 contributed by major weapons exporting firms for the 1996 campaign. The Loral Corp. was the top giver of soft money among arms exporters."Lockheed Martin and its fellow arms merchants received billions of dollars in new subsidies from the 104th Congress. Their record contributions during the 1995-1996 are a clear sign that they will do everything in their power to keep these corporate welfare payments flowing," said William D. Hartung, a senior research fellow at the World Policy Institute.For 1995, more than half of the $15 billion in arms sales made by U.S. companies were paid for by U.S.-government-backed grants, loans and cash payments, not foreign arms purchasers like Saudi Arabia or Taiwan.In order to counter the special interest clout wielded by arms exporting firms in Washington, the World Policy Institute report recommends four major reforms: 1. Passage of Code of Conduct legislation that would sharply limits U.S. arms exports to dictatorships, human rights abusers, and aggressor nations; 2. Sharp reductions in the current $7.5 billion per year in U.S. government subsidies for arms exporters; 3. Strict limits on campaign contributions and spending, tied to a system of federal campaigns and the abolition of soft money donations; and 4. An end to the "revolving door" that allows top officials to go back and forth between arms exporting firms and arms policy positions in government.For more information contact Bill Hartung or Jennifer Wasgburn at 212-229-5808.
Citizens will now be able to track which of their publicly elected representatives are sticking to their campaign promises, thanks to a new program created by Oregon-based Project Vote Smart. "Congress Track," a new computer program, enables people to log on to the internet and track the voting patterns of their representatives and legislation daily."Often we see former candidates changing before our very eyes after they take office, forgetting the pledges they made to voters, and becoming more responsive to special interests than to people in their own districts," said Claire Scheuren, Project Vote Smart board president. "Our interns and volunteers investigate how they hold up under a simple truth test: the day-to-day scrutiny of their performance in office."The project tracks legislation through factual data on voting records, issue positions, campaign contributions, ratings and backgrounds. It also provides contact information for 8087 elected officials and candidates, including all federal, state gubernatorial and legislative office holders. The database details how representatives position themselves on such issues as the balanced budget and term limits amendments, juvenile crime, education, campaign finance reform, defense spending, taxes, the environment and abortion policy.The comprehensive information can be accessed on the Vote Smart Web site (http://www.vote-smart.org) and also over the toll-free Voter's Research Hotline (1-800-622-SMART). The site also provides a directory of links to hundreds of other sites that deal with politics and government on the Internet."It doesn't take any special formula to figure out that if you keep looking at how they're voting and where their money is coming from, and compare that information with their campaign rhetoric, your elected officials will be less likely to take the poison potion that turns them into Mr. Hyde in Congress," said Scheuren.Project Vote Smart is a national, non-partisan organization. For more information, contact Adelaide Elm at 541-754-2746.
It was five years ago when governments representatives from around the world gathered at the "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro, to discuss threats to the global environment. But countries are falling short of the agreed-upon goals, according to the Worldwatch Institute."Since the Earth Summit, human numbers have grown by 450 million, vast areas of forest have been stripped of trees, and annual emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, the leading greenhouse gas, have climbed to all-time highs, altering the very composition of the atmosphere," according to the Institute's State of the World 1997 report, the 14th annual assessment of the planet's health.The report singles out eight nations -- China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, Japan and Germany -- as "environmental heavyweights," or nations that most shape the global environment. Together, they have 56 percent of the world's population and 53 percent of its forest, and emit 58 percent of the carbon dioxide.The United States, although once considered the traditional environmental leader, has become increasingly lax in its efforts to achieve the goals established at the Summit, the report says. The U.S. Senate has not even ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the country is failing to meet the emissions targets in the climate convention by a wide margin. U.S. funding for international environmental and population programs has been also cut.In addition, the report finds that too many governments still pursue economic growth at any price, ignoring the fact that damage to the global commons, particularly the atmosphere and oceans, could severely disrupt the world's economies. "Until finance ministers -- and more importantly prime ministers -- take these problems as seriously as environmental officials do, nations will continue to undermine the natural resource base and ecosystems on which they depend," reads the report.The good news is that during the past five years, the spirit of the Summit energized the efforts of private citizens to promote environmentally sustainable development. Approximately 20,000 private individuals participated in the Earth Summit itself, and some 1,500 cities in 51 countries have crafted local environmental plans in response to the Summit's agenda.For more information contact: Mary Caron, Communication Department, 202-452-1999. Email: email@example.com. Or visit their website: http://www.worldwatch.org
In cities throughout the world, a silent "war against the poor" is brewing, and control over food distribution if one of its most effective weapons. Food Not Bombs, a non-violent activist organization, is fighting this silent war by providing free food to homeless people in over 130 cities around the world, and various city governments are trying to stop them.In San Francisco alone, Food Not Bombs members have faced over 1,000 arrests for such charges as trespassing and giving out food without a permit, since 1988. Thousands of dollars of cooking equipment and 12 of the group's vehicles have been confiscated by the police. In such cities as Montreal, Quebec City, Arcata, Whittier, Chicago and San Diego, members sharing food with the homeless population in their cities have been arrested, cited, photographed, video taped, interrogated and harassed by police.This pattern of harassment faced by the fastest growing grassroots political organizations in North America attests to the way many cities are confronting the ill of society: by criminalizing poverty."The fallout from the reduction of Food Stamps, the Welfare Reform Bill, the increase in police and money going to building prisons, and the dismantling of Affirmative Action, I think will cause a crisis to come that is larger than the Depression," said Keith McHenry, co-founder of Food Not Bombs.The organization was first formed in Boston in 1980, as an outgrowth of the anti-nuclear movement in New England. Its members are committed to the use of non-violent direct action to create sustainable institutions that prefigure a movement for social change. They give their time to gather, cook and serve food to homeless people in response to the ever-growing problems of poverty, homelessness and the lack of adequate food distribution.At the heart of Food Not Bomb's philosophy is the belief that poverty is a form of violence, and by sharing food the organization challenges this violence and attempts to highlight the injustices of poverty. If you ask the organization's members why they are choosing to volunteer, you might hear, "... because food is a right, not a privilege; because we need community, not control; or because weed homes, not jails."Project Censored, a non-profit group that culls national stories that are grossly under-reported by the mainstream media, ranked a food scarcity report put out by the Worldwatch Insitute, among its top 10 most censored stories of 1996. Lester Brown, the report's author, found that "since the bumper crop of 1990, there has been a no growth in grain production at all -- while population has grown by some 440 million people, or the equivalent of 40 New York cities."But rather than praise the efforts of Food Not Bombs members for taking on the task the government has turned a blind-eye to, city governments continue to punish the volunteers. Cities have adopted a cite-the-poor-until-they-go-away pattern of policies. As a result, shelters are overcrowded, police citations are given to people who cannot afford to pay them, and Food Not Bombs members continue to be harassed, all in the name of protesting tourism and the merchant economy.The city of Arcata, Calif., passed a preliminary injunction prohibiting Food Not Bombs from serving food to the homeless. Soon after, the police began photographing the group's members, as well as those who ate their meals. Five members of the organization were cited for contempt of court for violating the preliminary injunction, and one person was arrested."If we get a political or legal victory, it may be influential in getting some of these other places to stop the police harassment," said Lawrence Hildes, attorney for Arcata's Food Not Bombs.After numerous applications, the group was denied a permit, and now, to avoid the police surveillance that began after the initial citations, the members sometimes have to just leave the food at the meeting place."We felt that compassion towards the homeless shouldn't and didn't require legal approval," said Sam Smotherman, a member of the volunteer group.In Whittier, Calif., where there is only one church-affiliated shelter open from October to March, two members of Food Not Bombs were cited for serving food without a permit in March of 1996. One of the member's cases was dropped; the other's (Carrie Chandler), goes to trial some time in April."Why should we have to have a permit to feed people from this community?" Chandler said. "Even if we go to jail, this is something we believe in, and we won't back down."Police Officer Keith Boyer, who issued the citation, said, "We have received numerous complaints about crime in the park." Boyer said that the Police Department have received complaints from the residents who live in the homes surrounding the park where Food Not Bombs set up. They blame the influx of crime on the homeless who congregate there."A basic human right is to have food -- and not just for rich people," said Matt Hart, a member of the group. "We should be focused on protecting life, not destroying it."Police harassment continues, largely steered around food serving permits. For example, in 1989, San Francisco's courts ordered Food Not Bombs to stop serving, until they receive permits from the Parks and Recreation Department. Soon after however, the city's Parks Department voted to eliminate all permits for serving food to homeless people. The group's avenues for continuing their work legally were closed. Even so, the Food Not Bombs members continued handing out food despite the 1989 injunction barring the activity without a permit. Members of the group say they have applied for permits more than 130 times and have been denied.San Francisco's mayor, Willie Brown, said that the poor will be left alone unless they break the law. "If people violate the law -- I don't care who they are -- the law must be enforced," he said. "But we should not be arresting people for feeding the homeless. They are doing us a great service." Pledging to adhere to a more compassionate approach to the problem of homelessness, Brown promised to abolish the so-called "matrix" program (installed during the Jordan administration) that used aggressive police harassment to try to get the homeless off the street. Officers issued countless citations for various offenses, ranging from drinking and urinating in public to camping in parks."Even though there have only been two arrest of Food Not Bombs members in the past six months [in San Francisco], I'm not particularly impressed with how Willie Brown treated Food Not Bombs in the past," said Hugh Mejia, a member of the group. "... There is more Willie Brown could be doing to address homelessness in general.""In a certain sense, the homeless crisis is much worse, "said McHenry, organization co-founder. "Instead of 'Matrix,' it's now called 'business as usual.' Such is the politics of Willie Brown: don't name it, and then do it twice as much."McHenry has been tackling the problem head-on with speaking tours around the world. During his tour around Europe of last year, he devoted his time to spreading information about the organization, strategies for starting one's own chapter, human rights issues and violations in the U.S. and anti-homeless and anti-immigrant repression. A North American tour is presently in the works."Homelessness is just beginning to become an issue in these [Eastern European] countries, like the U.S. in the early eighties," McHenry said. "People are just beginning to feel the effects of cuts in social welfare and the reduction in unemployment benefits, and they're slowly admitting that there is a homeless crisis."In recent years, many European cities have adopted unyielding attitudes towards the homeless population. Already in such cities as Frankfurt and Berlin, homeless "sweeps" are beginning, where homeless people are arrested because their presence is believed to be hurting business and tourism.On June 24 of last year (St. Jean Batiste Day). more than 80 people were arrested in Quebec City, after riot police attacked a crowd of youth who were protesting French National outside the Provincial Capital. The next day, the SWAT team raided a house where members of Food Not Bombs were staying, arresting three people. They were first charged with sedition, heinous propaganda and organizing a riot, but the charges were later changed to growing marijuana. The three were refused bail because the judge said that "they are dangerous anarchists, and we don't want them out during the festivals."In Montreal, police have been targeting homeless and youth in Berri Square (renamed "Parc Emilie-Gamilin"), handing them $116 tickets for minor bylaw infractions, such as walking on the grass, taking up more than one space on a park bench or walking through the park at night. A "Midnight Snack" protest was held on July 28, 1996, in response to this harassment, and the police arrested 70 the following morning."Berri Square has been a safe haven for homeless ... to unwind from the hardships of street life when the police are not around," said Michael Caplan of Montreal's Food Not Bombs. "The police have used the new bylaw as a tool to clean up the park and choose who they want there."Whom is it these cities governments want on the streets? The few for which a massive accumulation of wealth is enjoyed; not those who have been relegated to hunger and homelessness.Now, organizations including Amnesty International, Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN), The Humanitarian Law Project and the United National Human Rights Commission have taken up investigations of the government harassment faced by Food Not Bombs members.Amnesty International sent California state and San Francisco city official letters in October, 1994, November, 1995, and June, 1996. In the letters, Amnesty states that the government attacks on Food Not Bombs are serious violations of articles 19, 20 and 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which are guaranteed under U.S. and International Law.-- Art. 19: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers."-- Art. 20: "Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association."-- Art. 25: "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing ..."Amnesty did not receive a single response to any of the letters, and so the organization declared that it may declare any Food Not Bombs members in jail "prisoners of conscience.""History judges political leaders by whether or not they respond to the great issues of their time," wrote Brown in his global food scarcity report. "For today's leaders, the challenge is to achieve a human balance between food and people on a crowded planet."But as Robert Kahn, a San Francisco Food Not Bombs member, observed, "The real martyrs are the 11,000 to 14,000 homeless on the streets of San Francisco (competing for 1,390 beds) and the millions of American one illness or one paycheck away from the streets about to join them."Last Year Kahn spent 28 days in prison for serving bagels to homeless people.
This year's annual worldwide survey of press freedom violations reports that a record 185 journalists were in prison in 24 countries, and 27 journalists were killed during 1996 because of their profession. The report, titled "Attacks on the Press in 1996," was compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to documenting, protesting and publicizing violations of press freedom worldwide. CPJ documents in detail nearly a thousand different attempts to silence journalists and news organizations last year by imprisonment, censorship, legal harassment and physical assault. The survey also documents the actions taken by CPJ -- personal appeals of CPJ board members and staff, fact-finding missions, grassroots efforts, diplomatic channels and media campaigns -- to free and protect thousands of journalists around the world.Turkey was the worst offender for the third consecutive year, holding a record 78 journalists in prison, which is 27 more than in 1995. The next five worst press freedom offenders include: Ethiopia (18), China (17), Kuwait (15), Nigeria (8), and Myanmar (Burma)(8). 1996 added three more imprisoned journalists to 1995's 182."Turkey is once again the single most egregious example of a government that criminalizes independent reporting," said CPJ Executive Director William A. Orme, Jr. "CPJ aims to direct a harsh public spotlight at this gross abuse of press freedom." Work-related killings of journalists worldwide -- totaling 27 -- is intolerably high. However, 1996 figures are dramatically lower than 1995, when 57 journalists were killed because of their work. Algeria remains the most dangerous country for journalists, with seven assassinations, bringing the total to 59 executed journalists since rebel factions began targeting the press in 1993.The report tallies the total number of journalists killed in the past ten years -- 474 -- by region and country, and it provides overviews of the status of press freedom in five world regions and assessments of more than 100 countries. Also included in the report is a special assessment of the CIA's new legal right to subvert U.S. journalists.To obtain copies of Attacks on the Press in 1996: a Worldwide Survey, call 212-465-9344, x350. A complete on-line edition of the book is available on CPJ's web site: http://www.cpj.cpm.