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Monday, February 9, 2009

Torture and Prison Abuse Not Limited to Guantanamo

All of the attention being paid to Guantanamo and the issues of torture and human rights abuses is good, and closing the facility is a good start. But at the end of the day, we know that the intersection of political repression, torture and prison abuse did not start at Guantanamo.

In 1973, thirteen alleged "Black militants" were arrested in New Orleans, purportedly in connection with a 1971 crime in San Francisco. Some of them were tortured for several days by law enforcement authorities, in striking similarity to the horrors visited upon detainees in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.

In 1975, a Federal Court in San Francisco threw out all of the evidence obtained in New Orleans.

It would have been bad enough if the story simply ended there. But more than 30 years after the original failed investigation and torture tactics, the FBI and police re-opened the case. In 2005 several former members of the Black Panther Party were held in contempt and jailed for refusing to testify before a San Francisco Grand Jury investigating the 1971 shooting, and in 2007 eight former Black community activists – Black Panthers and others – were arrested in California, New York, and Florida on charges related to the case. These eight activists are now known as the San Franciso Eight (SF8).

The following is a trailer from a video, "Legacy of Tortue", that describes the original torture and the continuation of the police/FBI vendetta against the Black activists.

To order the video, you can visit The Freedom Archives

For more background on the case, you can visit the SF8 website and for the latest developments you can visit the SF8 blog site.

You can also view a recent interview from GritTV with Kamau Franklin, from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and Francisco Torres, former Black Panther and member of the SF8. In the video, they discuss ongoing COINTELPRO activities against Black activists.

Finally, we should not forget that closely related to the issue of torture is the issue of prison abuse. This is a harder issue to deal with, since many people, even within the Black community, have the attitude that "if you do the crime, you should do the time." But doing the time should not mean that basic human rights should be violated.

The issue of prisoner rights is made more complicated by the increasing trend towards privatizing prisons, which inherently decreases government oversight over prisoner rights. Although prison officials have said that they don't know the cause of recent prison rebellions in Texas, i would bet money that the incidents have been related to prison conditions. After all, the incidents are reminiscent of the 1971 Attica rebellion. Attica led to a limtited amount of prison reforms. What will the more recent rebellions and all of the attention being paid to Guantanamo lead to?

On that "note", i'm outta here...

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