An Eventful Week

Posted on May 27, 2009


I’ll let others who have the chops tackle the fine points on the Sotomayor nomination and the CA Supreme Court Prop 8 decision. I’m overjoyed at the former, but not as dejected at the latter as some. That may be because I don’t believe in marriage and am not gay, but it probably has more to do with the fact that everything I read months ago was pretty adamant that this would be the conclusion reached. I read something yesterday in the NYT that confirmed my own completely uninformed suspicions:

A few years ago, a second-year law student at Georgetown unlocked the secret to predicting which side would win a case in the Supreme Court based on how the argument went. Her theory has been tested and endorsed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and has been confirmed by elaborate studies from teams of professors.

“The bottom line, as simple as it sounds,” said the student, Sarah Levien Shullman, who is now a litigation associate at a law firm in Florida, “is that the party that gets the most questions is likely to lose.”

Chief Justice Roberts heard about Ms. Shullman’s study while he was a federal appeals court judge, and he decided to test its conclusion for himself. So he picked 14 cases each from the terms that started in October 1980 and October 2003, and he started counting.

“The most-asked-question ‘rule’ predicted the winner — or more accurately, the loser — in 24 of those 28 cases, an 86 percent prediction rate,” he told the Supreme Court Historical Society in 2004.

Judge Roberts had argued 39 cases in the Supreme Court…“The secret to successful advocacy,” he said playfully, “is simply to get the court to ask your opponent more questions.”

Indeed, when I watched the live feed of the proceedings, I couldn’t help feel that the anti-8 side was deluged with barbed questions, while Kenneth Starr seemed to be having a lively conversation with the judges.  Personally, I think that the predictor speaks more about court bias than it does anything else. But what do I know?

In other news today, this caught my eye:

KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) — An Afghan who has spent over six years at the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay was only about 12 when he was detained, not 16 or 17 as his official record says, an Afghan rights group said Tuesday.

Interviews with the family of Mohammed Jawad, who like many poor Afghans does not know his exact age or birthday, showed he was probably not even a teenager when he was arrested in 2002, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said.

He was picked up by the Afghan police in connection with a grenade attack in Kabul in which two United States soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were wounded. He was transferred to American custody and flown to Guantánamo in early 2003.

Commissioner Nader Nadery said Mr. Jawad was tortured and abused by the Afghan police and at Guantánamo. The commission is seeking his release and repatriation.

[The electronic version of this story is appended to another piece. Scroll to the bottom, though the article “Ex Detainee Describes his 7 Years at US Site is also a must read].

All of this, of course, in clear contravention of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, to which the US is a signatory party.

Article 37

States Parties shall ensure that:

(a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age;

(b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;

(c) Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so and shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits, save in exceptional circumstances;

(d) Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.

Article 39

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflicts. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.

Article 40

2. To this end, and having regard to the relevant provisions of international instruments, States Parties shall, in particular, ensure that:

(b) Every child alleged as or accused of having infringed the penal law has at least the following guarantees:

(i) To be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law;

(ii) To be informed promptly and directly of the charges against him or her, and, if appropriate, through his or her parents or legal guardians, and to have legal or other appropriate assistance in the preparation and presentation of his or her defence;

(iii) To have the matter determined without delay by a competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body in a fair hearing according to law, in the presence of legal or other appropriate assistance and, unless it is considered not to be in the best interest of the child, in particular, taking into account his or her age or situation, his or her parents or legal guardians;

I know it seems like common sense, but obviously, they had to make a law about it.

And thus, not only are we in contravention of the Geneva Convention and the Convention Against Torture, we’re also in a rather blatant contravention of the CRC. It has long been the aspiration of our right wing to strengthen our special  relationship with Israel. Now that we are actively involved in all of the illegal and immoral acts that state has carried out over the years–indefinite administrative detention, torture and detention of children–they’ve finally gotten their wish.

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