the pact has had deadly consequences. For years, the Soviet Union’s political and scientific leadership withheld the effects of extreme exposure to radiation on the health of the city’s inhabitants, and their future offspring.
From the late 1940s, people here started to get sick and die: the victims of long-term exposure to radiation.
While accurate data is not available thanks to the authorities’ extreme secrecy and frequent denials, the gravestones of many young residents in Ozersk’s cemetery bear witness to the secret the Soviets tried to bury alongside victims of the Mayak plant.
It is difficult for outsiders to comprehend how the residents of City 40 can continue to live in a place they know is slowly killing them.
Hot Docs 2016 Trailers: CITY 40
The graveyard of the Earth’: inside City 40, Russia’s deadly nuclear secret https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/jul/20/graveyard-earth-inside-city-40-ozersk-russia-deadly-secret-nuclear
Ozersk, codenamed City 40, was the birthplace of the Soviet nuclear weapons programme. Now it is one of the most contaminated places on the planet – so why do so many residents still view it as a fenced-inparadise? Samira Goetsche Continue reading
Department of Energy took little action against contractors, federal report says
‘They are eventually going to terminate anyone who files a concern with DOE,’ one employee told investigators
Two largest facilities didn’t implement pilot program to boost whistleblower protections
BY LINDSAY WISE AND SAMMY FRETWELL McClatchy Washington Bureau WASHINGTON, 14 July 16
When Sandra Black’s colleagues came to her to report unsafe, illegal or wasteful practices at the Savannah River nuclear facility in South Carolina, she assured them that the U.S. Department of Energy would not tolerate retaliation against them.
“Now I know that wasn’t true,” said Black, of Martinez, Georgia.
As head of the site’s employee complaints program, Black’s job required her to evaluate such concerns and protect employees who raised them.
Then she herself was fired, allegedly because she cooperated with government auditors who were investigating retaliation against whistleblowers, according to a highly critical Government Accountability Office report released on Thursday.
The report found that the DOE’s nuclear program almost never holds its civilian contractors accountable for unlawful retaliation against whistleblowers.
The Department of Energy relies more heavily on contractors than any other civilian federal agency. Ninety percent of the DOE’s budget is spent on contracts and large capital asset projects.
And yet the agency has taken little or no action against contractors responsible for creating chilled work environments at nuclear sites across the country, and has failed to create effective policies for doing so, the report says.
Only two violation notices have been issued against contractors in the past 20 years, according to the report.
“All the words that the (U.S. Department of Energy) proclaims about wanting to have a strong ‘safety culture,’ a ‘safety conscious work environment,’ and that it has ‘zero tolerance for retaliation are a pretense,” Black said at a press conference on Capitol Hill, her voice shaking with emotion.
“It is impossible to explain how devastated I am,” she said. “I did nothing wrong.”
The report was released at a news conference Thursday held by three Democratic senators who requested the investigation more than two years ago: Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts.
The senators initially had asked the GAO to get to the bottom of persistent incidents of retaliation against whistleblowers reported at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state. The scope of the GAO’s review soon broadened to the handling of 87 contractor employee complaint files at 10 of the DOE’s largest nuclear facilities, including Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C
“The three of us have been doing this a while and I think it would be fair to say we thought that we had seen it all,” Wyden said. “Today, however, it seems that there’s a whole new precedent. We’re talking about a contractor who was retaliated against for actually helping government auditors investigate retaliation against whistleblowers.”
Black’s firing was a new low, Wyden said. “Auditors couldn’t identify a single instance where someone providing information to them had ever been dealt with in this way,” he said.
“It’s clear that DOE contractors are going to go to amazing lengths to send the message to their employees that when you blow the whistle it’s going to be the end of your career,” he said.
McCaskill said the report confirmed her fears that the DOE is not taking the problem seriously enough.
“I know we have heard the Secretary of Energy and his predecessors saying that things will get better, but based on the findings of this report released today, it’s clear that things are not getting better,” she said.
The report verified that contract employees at DOE’s nuclear sites “are working in an environment that is not open, not safety conscious and hostile to whistleblowers,” she said.
One particular point of concern, McCaskill said, is the report’s finding the DOE hasn’t been making full use of a pilot program she helped put in place to enhance whistleblower protection for contract employees.
The report said the DOE has not taken steps to evaluate the pilot program’s merits and could not even tell investigators which contractors had adopted it and when.
Two of the DOE’s largest nuclear facilities, Savannah River Site and Hanford, “had not bothered to implement the program” at all, McCaskill said………
Above all, said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, the nuclear weapons contractors should be barred from using unlimited taxpayer’s money against whistleblowers in legal proceedings.
“The GAO’s findings of abysmal whistleblower protection at the Department of Energy is not by accident or coincidence,” Coughlan said. “DOE whistleblower retaliation is historic, systemic and by design, seeking to suppress public knowledge of the inside secrets of the dirty nuclear weapons business.”
Investigators say in the GAO report that Black was fired allegedly for cooperating with the agency, a claim Black made in a federal whistleblower complaint against site contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.
Black said she was pressured by her superiors to alter or close some investigative reports. She also was pressured to disclose the identities of employees who brought up questions, Black said.
In one case, a senior SRNS official told her he wanted to know the name of the “rat’’ who’d prompted an investigation of hazardous gas cylinder releases, but Black refused. She said it was vital to maintain a whistleblower’s confidentiality.
Black said she was fired in January 2015 after she talked with the GAO. Even though Black had never been disciplined in three decades of working at SRS – in fact, she had been promoted and rewarded with bonuses – human resource representatives told her she was being fired for an unsatisfactory job performance, her labor department complaint says.
Black said Thursday that her very public termination has had a “chilling effect” on other workers at the SRS, an assertion echoed in the report’s findings.
One SRS employee told auditors, “They fired (Sandra Black). What do you think they’re going to do to me?”
Others said, “They will make an example of anyone who challenges them” and, “There are eventually going to terminate anyone who files a concern with DOE.”
Those who do come forward face ostracization and long, expensive legal battles.
Walt Tamosaitis, who was fired after raising safety concerns about the handling of radioactive waste at Hanford Reservation in Washington state, spoke at Thursday’s press conference about his sense of profound alienation the day he was fired as manager of research and technology at Hanford’s waste vitrification plant.
“I was told to hand over my phone, Blackberry, badge, keys and leave the site,” he recalled. “I was escorted to the door and told not to come back. I was not given any reason for it. It was the loneliest day of my life.”
After a five year legal battle, Hanford subcontractor URS settled a lawsuit Tamosaitis had brought for $4.1 million. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/congress/article89674082.html
U.S. State Department to release human rights report on N.K. this week WASHINGTON, July 5 (Yonhap) –– The U.S. State Department is expected to submit a report on North Korea’s human rights abuses to Congress this week, and the document is likely to name North Korean leader Kim Jong-un responsible for the situation, a diplomatic source said Tuesday.
Under the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act enacted in February, the State Department is required to submit a specific report on Pyongyang’s human rights abuses within 120 days of enactment. That deadline passed on June 17.
The department is expected to submit the report this week as it is unable to delay any longer, and the report is expected to mention the North’s leader, the source said on condition of anonymity.
The report can be used as a basis for what would be the first-ever U.S. sanctions on the North over the country’s human rights record. News reports have said that the U.S. is expected to blacklist about 10 North Korean officials. Should Kim be included in the report, he is also expected to be blacklisted……..The U.S. has led the U.N. Security Council to adopt the toughest sanctions ever on Pyongyang while enacting its own unilateral sanctions on the communist nation in the wake of the North’s fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch the following month.
Last month, the Treasury Department also designated the North as a “primary money laundering concern,” a powerful sanction designed to cut off the provocative regime from the international banking system for defiantly pursuing nuclear and missile development. http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/news/2016/07/06/52/0200000000AEN20160706000400315F.html
Decades Later, Sickness Among Airmen After a Hydrogen Bomb Accident, NYT, by DAVE PHILIPPS JUNE 19, 2016 “……….Spain’s Monitoring
The United States promised to pay for long-term monitoring of health in the village, but for decades it provided only about 15 percent of funding, with Spain paying the rest, according to a declassified Department of Energy summary. Broken air-monitoring stations went unfixed and equipment was often old and unreliable. In the early 1970s, an Atomic Energy Commission scientist noted, the Spanish field monitoring team consisted of a lone graduate student.
Reports of two children dying of leukemia during that time went uninvestigated. The lead Spanish scientist monitoring the population told American counterparts in a 1976 memo that, in light of the leukemia cases, Palomares needed “some kind of medical surveillance of the population to keep watch for diseases or deaths.” None was created.
In the late 1990s, after years of pressure from Spain, the United States agreed to increase funding. New surveys of the village found extensive contamination that had gone undetected, including some areas where radiation was 20 times the permissible level for inhabited areas. In 2004, Spain quietly fenced off the most contaminated land near the bomb craters.
Since then, Spain has urged the United States to finish cleaning the site.
Because of the uneven monitoring, the effect on public health is far from clear. A small mortality study in 2005 found cancer rates had gone up in the village compared with similar villages in the region, but the author, Pedro Antonio Martínez Pinilla, an epidemiologist, cautioned that the results could be because of random error, and urged more study.
At that time, a United States Department of Energy scientist, Terry Hamilton, proposed another study, noting problems in Spain’s monitoring techniques. “It was clear the uptake of plutonium was poorly understood,” he said in an interview. The department did not approve his proposal…..
About a fifth of the plutonium spread in 1966 is still estimated to contaminate the area. After years of pressure, the United States agreed in 2015 to clean up the remaining plutonium, but there is no approved plan or timetable…….http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/20/us/decades-later-sickness-among-airmen-after-a-hydrogen-bomb-accident.html
When he was released from prison in 2004, Israel banned him from speaking with foreigners and leaving Israel, among other restrictions.
According to Sunday’s indictment, Vanunu met two Americans at a hotel in east Jerusalem in 2013, moved apartments without notifying Israeli authorities in 2014, and in 2015 told an Israeli TV anchor information related to his work at the nuclear reactor that he is forbidden from speaking about.
Japan’s ‘press club’ system, government pressure criticised by U.N. rapporteur on freedom of expression
U.N. rapporteur on freedom of expression slams Japan’s ‘press club’ system, government pressure, Japan Times BY SHUSUKE MURAI STAFF WRITER 19 Apr 16 After a week of conducting interviews, a United Nations expert on freedom of expression concluded Tuesday that Japan’s media independence is being jeopardized by government pressure, however inconspicuous it may be.
David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, also said the organizational structure of the media industry in Japan has undermined journalists’ ability to counter such pressure.
“The theoretical possibility of government regulation and organization … combined cause media freedom to suffer; media independence to suffer,” Kaye told a news conference Tuesday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.
It was his first official news conference since his original visit in December was postponed at the request of the Foreign Ministry because it was “unable to arrange meetings” with officials at that time.
Kaye pointed out there is “serious concern” about the ability of journalists to independently report on sensitive issues such as nuclear power due to the pressure exerted when the government flexes its regulatory muscles.
In February, communications minister Sanae Takaichi ominously noted that under the Broadcast Act the government can legally suspend the licenses of TV stations and networks if their programming is found to contain political bias.
Although government officials insist the remark was simply a factual statement about the law, the existence of the policy itself may reasonably be perceived as a threat to media freedom in Japan, Kaye said.
“I think this is a significant problem that the Broadcast Act allows for regulation by the government of the media,” he said, adding the law should be amended to prevent the state from being in a position to adjudicate what constitutes “bias.”
Meanwhile, Kaye also pointed out that the kisha club system in Japan — media associations formed around certain groups and government organizations through which reporters are granted access — should be abolished to regain media independence……….
The full report on Kaye’s investigation will be published in 2017 to be submitted to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/19/national/u-n-rapporteur-freedom-expression-slams-japans-press-club-system-government-pressure/#.VxbkGtR97Gh
In her job at the Savannah River Site nuclear weapons plant in South Carolina, Sandra Black was responsible for looking into concerns raised by employees about everything from health and safety to fraud, abuse, harassment and retaliation.
But in fall 2014, when federal investigators with the Government Accountability Office asked her whether she had the necessary independence to do her job, Black says she answered truthfully: She told them her supervisors had interfered with her work and had tried to intimidate her into changing her findings if they validated employees’ complaints.
Black disclosed her conversation with the GAO investigators to her bosses. A few weeks later, on Jan. 7, 2015, she was fired.
“It is so humiliating and embarrassing,’’ Black said. “It’s hard to come home and tell your family you’ve been terminated after 35 years. It was for no reason other than retaliation for doing my job correctly with integrity.’ ’’
The investigators who questioned Black had been conducting a probe into whistleblower retaliation by the Department of Energy and its contractors at the nation’s nuclear facilities. The GAO is expected to release a report this spring.
Three U.S. senators — Democrats Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Edward Markey of Massachusetts — had asked the GAO in March 2014 to get to the bottom of persistent incidents of retaliation against whistleblowers reported at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state.
The probe broadened to review other DOE sites, including SRS near Aiken, S.C.
“It defies belief that an Energy Department contractor would fire an employee who cooperated with a Government Accountability Office investigation into whistleblower retaliation,” said Wyden, a former chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
“I’m awaiting the GAO’s full report,” Wyden said, “but the firing of Sandra Black under these circumstances demonstrates to me that the culture of retaliation against whistleblowers is regrettably alive and well at DOE.”
Markey said Black’s termination is evidence of a “dangerous culture of disregard for the law” among DOE contractors, including Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the company Black says let her go.
“Rather than rewarding whistleblowers who bravely put their careers on the line to protect public safety, SRNS and other contractors have acted to retaliate against them, sending a chilling message to all employees who bear witness to wasteful, unsafe, or illegal activity,” Markey said. “DOE has historically done nothing to curb this wholly unacceptable behavior.”……….
Carolina Dust Up
Similar concerns are found nearly 3,000 miles from Hanford at the Savannah River Site, along the South Carolina-Georgia border.
Black, a 59-year-old Martinez, Ga., resident, said she’s worried workers at the 310-square-mile complex won’t come forward with safety complaints now that she has been let go………http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article65707887.html
Whether or not you believe Mr. Assange is guilty of a sexual offence, whether or not you think he is a self-publicist deliberately resisting arrest, the fact remains that the authorities could use less restrictive means without compromising the initial investigation into the allegations regarding his sexual conduct in Sweden
Liora Lazarus: Is the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Decision on Assange ‘So Wrong’?UK Constitutional Law Association 13 Feb 16 The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention handed down its decision on Julian Assange on Friday 5 February 2015 (A/HRC/WGAD/2015/54). It has been met with almost universal ridicule from a line of British officials, legal academics and the press. The decision has been described as ‘ridiculous’ by the UK Foreign Secretary, Phillip Hammond, and former Director of Public Prosecution Ken MacDonald argues that describing Assange’s conditions as ‘arbitrary detention’ is ‘ludicrous’. The press is equally incredulous. ………
Mr. Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden to answer allegations of sexual assault. The Swedish prosecutorial authorities have issued a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) which the UK authorities are bound to implement. Mr. Assange, after arrest of 10 days and house arrest thereafter, was granted asylum by Ecuador after his appeal against the EAW failed. This is when he took up residence in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012. Assange argues that he fears ultimate extradition from Sweden to the USA on the grounds of his involvement in Wikileaks.
This is obviously no small fear, given the sentencing and treatment of Chelsea Manning in the USA, and the decision of Edward Snowden to take up asylum in Russia. The Swedish authorities refuse to grant Assange any guarantee of non-refoulement to the US, and his right to asylum has also not been recognized by the UK or Sweden. ……..
Mr. Assange argues that he is not free to leave the Embassy; he would have to accept the conditions of his immediate arrest, his extradition to Sweden and his subsequent questioning there. He would have to undertake the risk that he would be extradited to the US, and the subsequent risks to his rights were that to happen.
The mandate of the UN WGAD and the test for ‘deprivation of liberty’
In order to establish its competence, and to decide upon the case, the UN WGAD has to decide whether there is a ‘deprivation of liberty’ under Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This involves a more severe restriction of motion within a narrower space than mere interference with liberty of movement. (This is explained in General Comment 35 by the UN Human Rights Committee, para. 5……..
The UN WGAD is given a very specific mandate by the United Nations and its Members to decide on these very issues. ……..
The European Arrest Warrant and the Swedish investigation
As easy as it might be in the press to simplify the issues surrounding this case, it is worth elaborating on some key technicalities. The UK authorities are acting pursuant to the conditions of a EAW issued by Sweden who are asking to question Mr. Assange on allegations of sexual assault in order to decide whether to charge him.
The prosecutorial authorities in Sweden re-opened the case against Assange, despite an earlier preliminary investigation (in which Assange had co-operated while in Sweden) that decided there was no case against him in respect of the alleged rape. There is to date no charge against Mr. Assange. The EAW has been at the core of Sweden’s approach, and there had been no attempt by Swedish prosecutors to make use of ‘mutual assistance protocols’ in which Mr. Assange could be interviewed by video-conference (a procedure available under Article 9 of Second Additional Procotol on ‘mutual assistance’)………
Assange’s lawyers have offered co-operation on this alternative a number of times. The Swedish prosecutorial authorities have refused to explore these alternatives, relying instead on the EAW they have issued. They have also failed to disclose the full case against Assange.
Assange has tried but failed to challenge the European Arrest Warrant against him in Sweden and in the UK. In a judgment handed down on 11 May 2015, the majority of the Swedish Supreme Court held that the EAW was valid, but a dissent in this case by Justice Svante Johansson also argued that the arrest warrant was ‘in violation of the principle of proportionality’, as the reasons for continued detention did not ‘outweigh the intrusion and inconvenience’ caused to Assange. According to the Guardian coverage of this case, the ‘Swedish Supreme court also stated … that the investigating authorities “must examine what alternative investigative opportunities are available to drive the investigation forward”. Former Legal Counsel to the United Nations and Legal Adviser to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hans Corell, has stated that he “does not understand why the prosecutor had not questioned Julian Assange during all the years he has been at the Ecuadorian Embassy”………….
The main arguments of Assange’s lawyers
The central argument of Assange’s lawyers’ proceed on the basis that his confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy ‘cannot … be characterized as volitional’ (para 13). He is not free to leave, because he is protecting himself from the violation of other human rights: ‘the only way for Mr. Assange to enjoy his right to asylum was to be in detention’ (para 11). If Assange were to leave he would be arrested in the UK and extradited pursuant to a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by Sweden. Consequently, he would expose himself to the risk of a ‘well founded fear of persecution’ were he to be extradited to the US from Sweden (para 12).
In the UK, Assange’s challenge goes to the validity of the EAW under UK law……….
In essence, the UN WGAD had to decide two questions. Firstly, whether there was a ‘deprivation of liberty’ as opposed to a ‘restriction of liberty’. Secondly, assuming the answer to the first question is in the affirmative, whether that deprivation of liberty was ‘arbitrary’.
In response to the first question, the UN WGAD clearly accepted the argument that Assange’s conditions are not volitional, or self-imposed……..
the UN WGAD was persuaded that the confinement was arbitrary. The most compelling grounds were those based on proportionality. In short, there could have been another, less restrictive way of proceeding. Before issuing a European Arrest Warrant, the Swedish authorities could have followed the normal practice of interviewing Assange in a British police interview room. After Assange, sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy they could have questioned Assange by video link. He could have been provided the chance to respond to the allegations against him, or provided with an assurance related to his refoulment to the US. But his conditions currently are based on the legitimacy of an EAW which two UK Supreme Court justices consider invalid under UK law, and which one Swedish Supreme Court judge considers disproportionate……….
There is still no charge against Mr. Assange. He has, under international, European, and domestic law, the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. He has offered to respond to the process in other ways, and would co-operate fully if he had a further guarantee of non-refoulment.
Whether or not you believe Mr. Assange is guilty of a sexual offence, whether or not you think he is a self-publicist deliberately resisting arrest, the fact remains that the authorities could use less restrictive means without compromising the initial investigation into the allegations regarding his sexual conduct in Sweden. ……….
Reasonable (and even judicial) minds have clearly differed on these issues, which suggests that the UN WGAD decision cannot fairly be described as ‘ridiculous’, ‘ludicrous’, or ‘so wrong’. No doubt views on this may be coloured by our particular position on the integrity of Assange’s himself. But human rights are not meant to favour the popular amongst us; they are meant to favour us all.
Liora Lazarus is a Fellow of St. Anne’s College and an Associate Professor in Law at Oxford University. https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2016/02/09/liora-lazarus-is-the-united-nations-working-group-on-arbitrary-detention-decision-on-assange-so-wrong/
WHAT I DIDN’T READ IN THE TTIP READING ROOM , War On Want, 7 February 2016 Katja Kipping was one of the first German MPs to gain access to the new TTIP reading room opened in Berlin this week, and she has written up a report of her experience. We thought it was well worth translating from the original, ‘The Opposite of Transparency’.
TTIP, the EU-US free trade deal, has secrecy written all over it. Those responsible for it live in dread of any public scrutiny. If it was up to me, I would give everyone who’s interested the chance to make up their own minds on the text of the agreement in its current form. Sigmar Gabriel, Minister for Economic Affairs and a top cheerleader for TTIP, has now set up a reading room in his ministry where since the beginning of February German MPs can each spend two hours looking at those texts on which consensus has already been reached.
A political friend of mine asked me the day before whether she could come with me into the reading room. I had to say no. After a long, tough struggle with the government, at least MPs are able to read the text, but they are the only ones. We are not even allowed to take security-cleared specialists with us into the reading room. As for members of the public, who will ultimately have to bear the brunt of TTIP, they are to have no access whatsoever to the secret text. Not what transparency looks like in my book!
Even the registration procedure for the reading room speaks volumes. Once I’d registered, I was sent the instructions on how to use the room. The first thing that I noticed was that the terms and conditions had already been the subject of negotiations between the European Commission and the USA. Get your head round that: TTIP isn’t even signed yet, and already individual countries have lost the right to decide who gets to read the texts, and on what terms.
The following extract from the rulebook for MPs who, like me, want to use the reading room reveals the attitude towards democracy that lurks behind TTIP: “You recognise and accept that in being granted access to the TTIP texts you are being extended an exceptional degree of trust.”
Now I’d always thought that elected MPs have a right to information. Yet the TTIP negotiators (and who gave them their legitimacy?) reckon they are GRANTING us access out of the goodness of their hearts. Access as a sign of exceptional trust. Whoever wrote that – did they really think that we MPs would feel flattered? To me it smacks more of totalitarianism. ‘Granting access’ and ‘extending trust’ is not the language you use if you really believe in democracy. ………
I read nothing to alleviate my concern that the US side wishes to make life more difficult for public and community enterprises and to secure better terms for transnational corporations in the battle for public tenders. I also read nothing to calm my fears that EU negotiators are prepared to sacrifice our social and environmental standards for the prospect of winning lucrative contracts for big European firms.
I read nothing that would lead me to reconsider my previous criticism that consumer protection plays no part in TTIP other than to proclaim free market competition to be the highest form of consumer protection that exists………
It is revealing in itself that the Ministry for Economic Affairs is prepared to go to such lengths in order to keep the text of TTIP under wraps. And they have every reason for doing so. Anyone who was going into these negotiations to enhance environmental protection, consumer protection and labour standards would have nothing to fear from transparency. Anyone who’s engaged in selling out democracy, on the other hand, is obviously going to want to avoid public scrutiny. If Sigmar Gabriel and the negotiators are really so convinced of the benefits of TTIP, why don’t they just make the text available to everyone online? http://www.waronwant.org/media/what-i-didn%E2%80%99t-read-ttip-reading-room
Julian Assange arbitrarily detained by Sweden and the UK, UN expert panel finds United Nations Human Rights Office GENEVA (5 February 2016) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained by Sweden and the United Kingdom since his arrest in London on 7 December 2010, as a result of the legal action against him by both Governments, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said today.
In a public statement, the expert panel called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Mr. Assange’s deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation (Check the statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17012&LangID=E)
Mr. Assange, detained first in prison then under house arrest, took refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy in 2012 after losing his appeal to the UK’s Supreme Court against extradition to Sweden, where a judicial investigation was initiated against him in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct. However, he was not formally charged.
“The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers that the various forms of deprivation of liberty to which Julian Assange has been subjected constitute a form of arbitrary detention,” said Seong-Phil Hong, who currently heads the expert panel.
The experts also found that the detention was arbitrary because Mr. Assange was held in isolation at Wandsworth Prison, and because a lack of diligence by the Swedish Prosecutor’s Office in its investigations resulted in his lengthy loss of liberty.
The Working Group established that this detention violates Articles 9 and 10 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and Articles 7, 9(1), 9(3), 9(4), 10 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Check the Working Group’s Opinion on Julian Assange’s case (No. 54/2015), adopted in December: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/A.HRC.WGAD.2015.docx
NOTE TO EDITORS:
The Opinions of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention are legally-binding to the extent that they are based on binding international human rights law, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The WGAD has a mandate to investigate allegations of individuals being deprived of their liberty in an arbitrary way or inconsistently with international human rights standards, and to recommend remedies such as release from detention and compensation, when appropriate.
The binding nature of its opinions derives from the collaboration by States in the procedure, the adversarial nature of is findings and also by the authority given to the WGAD by the UN Human Rights Council. The Opinions of the WGAD are also considered as authoritative by prominent international and regional judicial institutions, including the European Court of Human Rights.
It wasn’t the first time Rowen, a burly former Marine, had witnessed safety violations at the plant, but it was the first time he had the gumption to record the violation in a logbook, which would eventually be reviewed by the nuclear industry’s then government watchdog the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).
As for PG&E management, they were getting pretty fed up. Rowen was proving to be a real pain in the ass. Continue reading
No release in sight despite UN panel decision. Julian Assange: ‘sweet’ victory soured by British and Swedish rejection Founding WikiLeaks founder is being arbitrarily detained at Ecuador embassy, Guardian, Esther Addley,Owen Bowcott,David Crouch in Gothenberg, andJessica Elgot A UN panel may have found that Julian Assange is subject to “arbitrary detention” and called for him to be allowed to walk free, but the WikiLeaks founder remains exactly where he has been for the past 44 months – inside Ecuador’s London embassy and locked in a three-nation war of words.
Britain and Sweden immediately rejected the UN report, which declared that Assange had been “arbitrarily detained” since his arrest in 2010 and during his lengthy stay in the embassy, where he sought asylum in June 2012. The British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, described the findings as “ridiculous” and the Australian as a “fugitive from justice”.
However, the panel’s findings, leaked on Thursday and published in full on Friday morning, were a welcome victory for Assange, and a moment he intended to savour fully. At 4.01pm he emerged on to the balcony of the west Londonembassy to greet a crowd of several hundred supporters and journalists, pausing first, just briefly, to glance at the sky he has rarely seen for more than three years.
“How sweet it is,” said Assange, holding aloft a copy of the UN report while supporters shouted: “We love you, Julian!” It had been, he said, “a victory of historical importance”, and a decision reached after a process to which both Britain and Sweden had made submissions. “They lost. UK lost; Sweden lost.”
The Swedish government, however, has insisted the report changes nothing, and that it cannot interfere in an independent prosecutor’s ongoing attempt to extradite Assange for questioning over an allegation of rape dating from 2010, which he denies.
Meanwhile, for Ecuador – the Australian’s (mostly) willing host – the findings meant it was time for the two countries to allow Assange to walk free, and to compensate both him and them for the lengthy period he has been holed up in one of its few rooms……
After exhausting all his legal options in the UK and Sweden some time ago, there is no question that the report represents a boost for Assange’s legal team.
Reaching their conclusion by a three-to-one majority after a fifth member recused herself, the panel called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Assange’s “deprivation of liberty”, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and offer him compensation.
Assange, they found, had been unable “to access the full-intended benefit” of the asylum status granted by Ecuador, and “the continuing and disproportionate denial to him of such access … had become cumulatively harsh and disproportionate”.
In particular, the panel offered an excoriating critique of Sweden’s prosecution process, which they said had been in a state of “indefinite procrastination”. With Quito and Stockholm still unable to agree on arrangements to allow Swedish prosecutors access to the London embassy, Assange has yet to be interviewed over the alleged offences. Britain said on Thursday it was “deeply frustrated” by the deadlock.
But for all Assange’s jubilation, he remains in the embassy, the extradition warrant still stands, and Britain and Sweden remain adamant that the report changes nothing.
Assange also remains fearful of a potential future extradition to the US, where a secret grand jury has been looking into whether to prosecute him over WikiLeak’s publishing activities……..
the former chair of the UN working group, Mads Andenas, defended its finding, saying: “There is no doubt that the normal course of action for the Swedish authorities would have been to interview Assange in London. The extradition request was disproportionate…….http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/feb/05/julian-assange-sweet-victory-soured-by-british-and-swedish-rejection
Russian green group labelled ‘foreign agent’ in crackdown on NGOs http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/14/russian-green-group-labelled-foreign-agent-in-crackdown-on-ngos
Dauria, that has led ecological campaigns for 20 years, joins nearly 100 environmental and human rights groups hit by law preventing them from receiving funding from abroad, Guardian, Alex Luhn An ecological centre in Russia’s far east has become the latest environmental group to be declared a “foreign agent” amid a wider crackdown on NGOs.
The justice ministry ruled that Dauria, which has led environmental campaigns in Chita and the surrounding Zabaikalsky region for nearly two decades, was a foreign agent under a law that prohibits NGOs that allegedly engage in political activities from receiving grants from abroad. The label, which has all the connotations of the word “spy” in Russian, requires groups to undergo audits and declare this status on all their materials or face large fines.
The accusations stemmed from a joint programme between Dauria, Russian mining giant Polyus Gold and the UK-based Charities Aid Foundation. Dauria was in charge of selecting students for educational activities, while funding for the programme came from abroad.
Dauria head Natalya Kovalyonok, who is also a public chamber member, told local publication Zabaikalsky Rabochy that a hotline she ran for voters to report violations during elections had been deemed to be political activity, even though it did not agitate for any specific candidate.
“Obviously it was unbecoming for the region not to have its own foreign agent, and they really had to find one,”Kovalyonok said.
“Dauria is a conscientious organisation working to protect the earth, and declaring it a foreign agent is a result of … individual groups in the government trying to strengthen their position by cracking down on made-up threats,” Igor Shkradyuk of the Biodiversity Conservation Centre, who has frequently worked in the Zabaikalsky region, told the Guardian.
A growing number of environmental and human rights groups have been declared foreign agents in what Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential human rights council, has called a “witch hunt”. Nearly 100 organisations have been added to the foreign agent list, forcing many to cease activities, and the number of NGOs in Russia has reportedly decreased by a third since the law came into effect in 2012.
Last year, president Vladimir Putin signed a law banning “undesirable” foreign organisations that allegedly threaten national security.
Most recently, the Nizhny Novgorod-based Dront Ecological Centre was declared a foreign agent and fined 300,000 roubles (£2,700). Prior to that, the well-respected Sakhalin Environmental Watch was forced to return $159,000 (£110,000) it had received from Leonardo DiCaprio’s foundation after it wasdeclared a foreign agent in September. In recent weeks, the group has been fighting to contain an oil leak from a tanker that ran aground on a shoal off of Sakhalin island.
The environmental groups Bellona Murmansk, Ecodefense, and Planet of Hopes have also been added to the foreign agent list.
Then there is the horrifying reality that these experiments were taking place in the shadow of Nazi Germany; some of the scientists involved in the radiation experiments were the very men whose earlier experimental designs had tormented prisoners of concentration camps. Welsome describes Operation Paperclip, conducted under the auspices of the U.S. government. Paperclip imported Nazi scientists and supported their work, helping to confer, in the words of scientist Joseph G. Hamilton, “a little of the Buchenwald touch” on American medicine.
This valuable work represents an elegy to lost ideals, lost health, and lost trust. One can only hope it will serve as a cautionary tale.
The Plutonium Files: America’s secret medical experiments in the Cold War N Engl J Med 1999; 341:1941-1942 December 16, 1999 Harriet A. Washington
The Plutonium Files: America’s secret medical experiments in the Cold WarBy Eileen Welsome. 580 pp. New York, Dial Press, 1999. $26.95. ISBN: 0-385-31402-7
Amid the embarrassments of Monicamania and of multiple public mea culpas, the past few years have not been exemplary ones for American journalism. This fact makes the triumph of The Plutonium Files all the sweeter, because this superlative book is a reminder of the purpose of investigative journalism.
This richly detailed, subtly nuanced history of government-engineered radiation experiments on unwitting Americans is based on the Pulitzer-prize–winning series Eileen Welsome wrote for the Albuquerque Tribune. Welsome’s tenacious and resourceful detective work has unveiled the saga of a sordid, tragic, yet fascinating chapter in the history of American medical science. The book succeeds on many levels. It is a gripping exposé of governmental exploitation and of medicine’s moral failures in an era in which blind trust defined the normal relationship between physicians and patients.
Between April 1945, scant months before the bombing of Hiroshima, and July 1947, the scientists of the Manhattan Project followed the construction of the atomic bomb with a chilling second act: medical experimentation on hundreds of unsuspecting Americans. Continue reading
The Taboo Of Radiation Exposure In Japan: The Social Effects Of Fukushima, Activist Post, By Erin O’Flaherty, 11 Dec 15 “…..why is society reacting in such a way? [keeping quiet about radiation effects] In order to attempt to answer this question, let us break society into two groups: the government/nuclear power companies, and the ordinary Japanese people.
The level of intensity with which the former group have tried to diminish the seriousness of the incident and divert blame from themselves – by appealing to public well-being (avoiding panic), ‘radiophobia’, and the supposed harmlessness of radiation – leads to the obvious conclusion that they are acting to protect their own interests. Companies such as TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) wish to continue running so they can continue making money. It appears the government also wants to continue the use of nuclear power. This may be to do with nuclear power’s close relationship to war and military power, due to its association with nuclear weapons. It is no secret that the current government are in favour of restoring Japan’s military status, as evidenced by the recent changes to Article 9, which essentially render it meaningless.
The down-playing of the catastrophe of Fukushima is crucial not only for economic reasons (the issue of the continuing operation of the remaining 54 nuclear power plants); it is also vital for the implementation of the state’s military plans for the future.
In order to keep these plans, it is necessary to make everything feel normal, meaning there will be no questioning of nuclear power or of the government’s policies towards it. Information about radiation exposure would breed more empathy with the victims of Fukushima among the public, thus bringing the issue to a more personal level. This empathy could potentially cause a much larger number of people to become angry at the government and wish for the nuclear power companies to be held responsible. It is to avoid this situation that radiation exposure is intentionally not discussed in mainstream Japanese media……..
In order to break past the social stigmas and question the government and nuclear power companies’ actions, people need to start speaking out. But this is an extremely risky and frightening thing to do, especially in light of the treatment journalists may face if they discuss radiation exposure. At the end of the day, people need to make a living, put food on the table and protect their families. Thus, it is much easier to keep your head down and look the other way.
As we have seen, the social effects of the Fukushima nuclear incident are many, including displacement, poverty, depression, anxiety and social discrimination. These effects are all compounded by the media treatment of the incident: lack of information breeds fear and encourages discrimination, victims’ fears are dismissed as irrational, and the actions of the government and nuclear power companies are not questioned because it is made to appear as if everything is fine. The reason for such a reaction can be understood as the government and nuclear power companies protecting their own interests, both economically and militarily. Traditional conceptions of impurity combined with a general by-stander effect within Japanese society, also encourage discrimination and allow the status-quo to be maintained. In this way, we can see that the social effects on Fukushima victims are complex and interwoven, and that their lives have been changed, perhaps irreversibly; “Their lives will be divided into two parts: before and after Fukushima.” References: …… http://www.activistpost.com/2015/12/the-taboo-of-radiation-exposure-in-japan-the-social-effects-of-fukushima.html
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