Prisoners’ Rights Attorneys Press Constitutional Challenge to Experimental Prison Units

From Center for Constitutional Rights:

Contact: press@ccrjustice.org

October 28, 2015, Washington, D.C. – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights appealed a district court ruling in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) secretive, highly-restrictive Communications Management Units (CMU). In 2014, CCR’s lawsuit, Aref v. Holder, uncovered hundreds of documents detailing the BOP’s process for designating prisoners to CMUs. Among other issues, the documents revealed that the BOP did not draft criteria for designating prisoners to the CMUs until three years after the first unit opened; that different BOP offices tasked with designating prisoners have different understandings of the criteria; that the reasons provided to CMU prisoners for their designation are incomplete, inaccurate, and sometimes even false; and that political speech exercised by prisoners was used as a factor in their CMU designation. In its ruling, the district court did not consider these documents, instead finding that the CMUs are not sufficiently unusual, harsh, or restrictive to trigger due process rights.

“The Bureau of Prisons has kept everything about their Communications Management Units opaque—from how you end up there to how you get out,” said plaintiff Daniel McGowan. “I only learned through this lawsuit that I was sent to the CMU because I continued to care about politics when I was incarcerated and because I wrote letters to my friends on the outside about social justice issues. Other people in the CMUs should have the right to learn why they were actually sent there, too.”

In addition to having their telephone and visitation access heavily restricted, CMU prisoners are categorically denied any physical contact with family members, forbidden from hugging, touching or embracing their children or spouses during visits. Attorneys say this blanket ban on contact visitation is unique in the federal prison system and causes suffering to people in prison and their families.

“Communications Management Units impose harsh restrictions on prisoners’ communication with their families and with fellow prisoners for years at a time,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney Rachel Meeropol. “All we are seeking is an explanation of why these prisoners are being singled out for such a restrictive unit, and the chance to contest false or retaliatory placements.”

In addition to appealing the district court’s due process ruling, CCR is also appealing adverse rulings on their claims that prisoners were held in the CMUs in retaliation for First Amendment protected political and religious speech.

The CMUs were quietly opened in Terre Haute, Indiana, and Marion, Illinois, in 2006 and 2008, respectively, to monitor and control the communications of certain prisoners and isolate them from other prisoners and the outside world.  Sixty percent of CMU prisoners are Muslim, though Muslims comprise only six percent of the federal prisoner population.

The documents uncovered in CCR’s lawsuit were described in detail in a recent TED Talk by journalist Will Potter.

Read the brief filed today and for more information on Aref v. Holder, visit CCR’s case page. For more on the Center for Constitutional Rights work on mass incarceration, visit our issue page.

The law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP and attorney Kenneth A. Kreuscher are co-counsel in the case.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org and follow @theCCR.

 

Write/Fax-in to support Palestinian activist Amer Jubran, unjustly sentenced to 10 years in prison in Jordan

From South Brooklyn ABCF:

amer-jubran

For more information about Amer’s case as well as a recorded statement by Amer on his sentencing, see freeamer.wordpress.com.

Please remember to send e-mails and faxes between Monday, August 10 and Wednesday, August 12, to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as the Jordanian Cabinet members listed below.

write-in

E-mails/Fax numbers:

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Fax: (41 22) 917 0008 (If faxing from US: 011-41-22-917-0008)
E-mail: registry@ohchr.org

Prime Minister and Defense Minister
Abdullah Ensour
Fax number 962-6-464-2520 (If faxing from US: 011-962-6-464-2520)
e-mail: info@pm.gov.jo

Minister of Interior
Salamah Hammad
Fax number 962-6-560-6908 (If faxing from US: 011-962-6-560-6908)
e-mail: info@moi.gov.jo

Minister of Justice
Bassam Talhouni
Fax number 962-6-464-3197 If faxing from US: 011-962-6-464-3197)
e-mail:  Feedback@moj.gov.jo

Sample Letter

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
email registry@ohchr.org<mailto:registry@ohchr.org>

August 10, 2015

Dear UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein:

I am writing to ask that you intervene immediately in the case Amer Jubran of Jordan, who was sentenced on July 29th to ten years in prison by Jordan’s State Security Court.

Amer Jubran was arrested on May 5, 2014 and detained for over two months without contact with lawyers or family, in violation of Article 9 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. A petition against arbitrary detention was filed on his behalf with the OHCHR on July 2, 2014. Mr. Jubran is an internationally known activist, speaker and writer on the rights of Palestinians and against US and Israeli policies in the Arab world. His detention and trial by the GID conforms to a pattern of repression carried out by the government of Jordan against Jordanians who criticize these policies. Such prosecution violates Article 19 of the ICCPR, guaranteeing freedom of opinion and expression.

Mr. Jubran was charged in August, 2014 under a new law that makes “harming the relationship with a foreign government” a crime of “terrorism,” further demonstrating the political nature of his arrest and imprisonment. The wording of this law is so vague that it criminalizes a broad range of political activities including human rights.

Mr. Jubran’s trial under this law, enacted one month after his arrest, also constitutes a violation of Article 15 of the ICCPR, which stipulates, “No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time when the criminal offence was committed.”

Mr. Jubran was tried before Jordan’s State Security Court, a military tribunal that fails to meet even minimum standards of judicial independence. Proceedings before the SCC violate Article 14 of the ICCPR, which guarantees “everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.” Mr. Jubran maintains that his defense team effectively proved all “terrorism” charges against him false and that the verdict of the SCC was reached without regard for evidence. His conviction and harsh sentencing were an act of retaliation for his refusal to work as an infiltrator and informant for the GID–a violation of his fundamental right to freedom of conscience and political opinion, Articles 18 and 19 of the ICCPR.

In your acceptance speech at your confirmation as the UN High Commissioner by the General Assembly last year, you spoke of your commitment to push forward the issue of human rights on the Asian continent. Such a commitment can only be taken seriously if you are willing to begin at home. Jordan is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As Human Rights Commissioner and a Jordanian, you have a responsibility to oppose the well known human rights violations of Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate and State Security Court. The unjust verdict and sentence against Amer Jubran must be overturned immediately.

Sincerely,

cc:

Prime Minister and Defense Minister
Abdullah Ensour, e-mail: info@pm.gov.jo
Fax number 011-962-6-464-2520

Minister of Interior: Salamah Hammad, e-mail: info@moi.gov.jo
Fax number 011-962-6-560-6908

Minister of Justice Bassam Talhouni, e-mail:  Feedback@moj.gov.jo
Fax number 011-962-6-464-3197