Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Burma Military Rulers Give Hints of Change?

Burma (also known as the Republic of Myanmar) is a southeast Asian country which has been under millitary junta rule since 1962 and has been heavily influenced by soviet-style centralization and minimal citizens' rights. Since that time, it has been host to a plethora of human rights abuses, especially in the past few years as people have protested the results of the May 2008 election. It is estimated that over 2,100 individuals are being held as political prisoners. Free speech, free religion, and freedom to assemble are all rights which the current military regime does not respect. The 2009 US State Dept. Human Rights Report for the country claims that "Government security forces allowed custodial deaths to occur and committed extrajudicial killings, disappearances, rape, and torture."

This BBC article takes a more optimistic approach to things. The simple fact that the reporter was invited to cover the Burmese parade suggests "either the military want to open up to gain the legitimacy they would like for the election, and more journalist visas and invitations will follow, or it was a good opportunity to show their strength and resolve to the outside world, and the door will soon slam shut." Based on the country's spotty record on international opinion and human rights, the latter option seems to be the most plausible. Nevertheless, the increased transparency is something to be hopeful about, however shallow it might seem. In a country where very basic rights are routinely violated by the state, any sort of change for the better should be recognized.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mentally Challenged Immigrants Held in Detention for Four Years

Lawsuits against the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been filed on behalf of Jose Antonio Franco and Guillermo Gomez-Sanchez, two mentally challenged immigrants who have been held in detention for four years.  Franco, 29, has mental retardation and is the son of two permanent legal residents of the United States.  Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Gomez-Sanchez, 48, is himself a legal permanent resident of the United States.  The two men have been transferred to many detention facilities while awaiting a hearing to contest the basis of their detention.  

            It has been pointed out by human rights organizations such as, Human Rights Watch, that ICE lacks fair policies when it comes to the detention of mentally challenged immigrants.  Franco, who is unable to tell time, is unlikely to recognize that he has been detained for four years, and he is also unable to advocate for his case to be sped up.  Having been detained for four years, Franco has still not received his bond hearing, where he would have the opportunity to be released to the care of his family living in the United States. Aryeh Neier, with Human Right Watch, spoke out against the treatment of these men by saying; "People this vulnerable need the courts to intervene to keep them from getting lost in the labyrinth of immigration detention."

            Sarah Mehta, who has been investigating ICE’s treatment of mentally challenged detainees for eight months, commented that the cases of these men are not unique and that there are many more mentally challenged immigrants who are trapped in the system.  A report will be published by Human Rights Watch in 2010, which will examine the lack of due process received by mentally challenged immigration detainees.  It is alleged that the lack of proper courtroom procedures impede the right to fair immigration proceedings, which is in violation of international human rights law.